Essentially a perfect adaptation.
Much like Scilica’s side story adaptation, Lizbeth’s was done extremely well. Both side stories took up about ~70 pages in the light novel, and they were extremely “easy” adaptations [lax on mechanics, low characterization, primarily actions and combat(which is easy to adapt)]. Murder Mystery’s adaptation took about ~140 pages an episode, or a total of ~280 pages, while Aria’s adaptation covered about ~250 pages in one episode. Anyways, this was a great adaptation, the soundtrack especially shined during this episode; I’ll enunciate on the mechanics/relations that the adaptation was either ambiguous on, or could not cover.
Weapon Groups: There are two primary weapon groups in Sword Art Online. Player-made weapons, and weapons that are dropped by monsters. Kirito’s first weapon is titled as the «Eludicator»; it’s classified as a «Demon Sword», or a high-level monster drop. High-level weapons, both crafted and dropped have unique names. Lower-level crafted weapons have generic names, such as «Bronze Sword» and «Iron Sword». Player-made weapons are typically better than dropped weapons, this creates a “pride” of sorts for blacksmiths. As we know, it’s taboo to talk about the “real world” in Sword Art Online, otherwise people would not treat the game as “seriously” as they should [if they die in SAO, they die in real life; since there's not a predictable future where they will clear the game, they have to treat it as their "real life"]. That mentality transcends over to craftsmen; much like how people take pride in their professions in real life, blacksmiths take pride in their works [it's typically an unspoken rule to never lose to a dropped weapon].
Flight: The typical rule for combat against monsters with flight, such as Dragons, would be to hinder its flight first with longer-ranged weapons [such as Halberds, or throwing weapons]. But since there’s such a large difference in level between Kirito and the Dragon, he “defeated” it without the rudimentary recommendations. He simply jumped [due to his high speed stat], and “defeated” the dragon.
Lizbeth: Most players in SAO treat SAO as their reality, Lizbeth does too, but she always subconsciously considered SAO to just be an emulation of actual feelings. This changed with the introduction of Kirito.
Quoted from Page 72 of Volume 2:
I didn’t feel any coldness. I felt human warmth. I felt like I had finally figured out what was the longing that had settled in a corner of my heart ever since I came to this world. Because I was afraid of becoming aware of the fact that this world was an illusion— that my real body was somewhere far away, unreachable no matter how hard I tried, I continued to set goals for myself and focused everything on my job. I convinced myself that leveling up my blacksmithing skills and expanding my store was my reality. But some part of me always realized that this was all a fake, nothing more than simple data. What I starved for was true human warmth. Of course, Kirito’s body was also data. The warmth that I feel now were just electronic signals for my brain to react to. But I finally realized that it doesn’t matter. I can feel his heart–– whether in the real world or in this simulated world, this is the only truth.
In a way, Lizbeth does fall in love with Kirito. But it’s not a two-sided relationships, it’s a one-sided admiration. It’s similar to Senjougahara and Araragi from Bakemonogatari; she initially loved him because he helped her when nobody else would, but he did it purely out of the goodness of his heart. She eventually grew to love him for other things, and he grew to love her. Except in this case, Kirito will not have a chance to fall in love with Lizbeth; he has Asuna. After he realizes that Kirito is the boy that Asuna was going to meet [the guy that she's "in love" with], she gives up her chase for Kirito. Asuna’s her best friend; she’s not going to screw her over. Although the pairing may be disliked by a few, it’s a bit like Clannad’s. Nagisa is by no means, my favorite heroine; but shit would not have worked the way it did without her as a character. Most people are awed by Clannad’s emotional aspects, that they fail to realize the ingenious character development for Tomoya [growing from a boy to a man; he needed Nagisa for that -- her naive, affable, and kind nature were indispensable].
Kirito: We see his core beliefs accentuated in this episode. He doesn’t like grouping with other players, he’s the engimatic solo player in everybody’s eyes. His previous experience with his guild’s demise, his prior MMORPG experience, and the death of Sachi served as the core for his convictions; his interactions with Asuna and everybody else further galvanized them. Do keep in mind that SAO is not a harem; the majority of the side characters are transient, you won’t see them very often. The author himself even wrote a note at the end of Volume 2.
Besides that, there’s one more thing that I must apologize to everyone about. Even though the four female characters in this book are all different female players, their male counterpart, as discussed earlier, was always Kirito-san. Even though there is no way for me to explain myself to everyone properly on this point, I painfully excuse myself, and ask that everyone please use the “even though the criminal and victim change every time, the detective is always the same person” mindset you have when reading detective novel series… you can’t do it right? Sorry, sorry.
The author has a personality, that’s awesome. When you read the light novels, you could tell that the author was a novice at MMORPGs, but he was so eager to develop the mechanics of the world he was crafting. It became integral to the book; the adaptation doesn’t mention most of the mechanics, which kind of sucks. I understand that directors do want to be “creative” of their own accord, but I always assumed that a “great adaptation” was due to how great the director was at intertwining his own direction with that of the original author. Nevertheless, this was a great episode. SAO would be much better if it wasn’t rushed, but it has to be [fitting two arcs into one season].
Good episode, probably one of the best ones yet for me. I kind of hold high standards for SAO’s adaptation, they’re a bit too much at times, but I do try to remain realistic. SAO’s my favorite light novel, I want the anime to do great too.
Murder Mystery Part 2
[Summary of the actual mystery, Character interactions, Clarifications]
Murder Mystery Part 1
[Sleeping, Duels, Solo Players/Guilds, Inns, Guilty Thorn, Ring, Names; Kirito-Asuna Interaction, Egil, Heathcliff]
The Black Swordsman
[Beast Tamers, Floors of Residence, Real Life, «Tracing», «Anti-Criminal Code Effective Area», Level Disparity, «Flower Garden», «The Aincrad Liberation Force»; Scilica, Scilica-Fina Interaction, Kirito-Side Character interaction]
[Kirito’s «Tracing», Inventory System, Gameplay, Switching, «Anti-Teleportation Zones», Level Psychology, Time Skip, Boss Fight ; Kirito-Guild interaction, Kirito-Sachi interaction]
Aria and its Shitty Adaptation
EDIT: In the web version of SAO, there was a rather interesting change between the interactions of Kirito and Lizbeth.
“Instead of asking to hold hands, Lizbeth asks Kirito if she could go over to his sleeping bag. Kirito says yes, and Lizbeth strips down to just a camisole before slipping herself into Kirito’s sleeping bag. Kirito then timidly wraps his arms around her; Lizbeth asks him to hug her tighter, which he does, and she basically passes out while climaxing (?) in his embrace.”
I wouldn’t have minded the scene, but I am kinda glad that it wasn’t done. It’s like Nisemonogatari, everybody associates nudity w/ a sexual connotation. SAO already seems like a harem to those who have not read the light novel, I’d rather not see the adaptation build onto that.