The Better Mary: SAO Versus OBC

This is basically the main reason I have a problem with Sword Art Online: It’s a power-tripping fantasy that betray the reality of a form of escapism: the MMORPG. When you escape the escape it isn’t just meta, it’s just sad. For reference, this season’s Log Horizon plays the game by the rules. That is proper escapism where the Accountant can play her real-life class in this fantasy environment to her advantage, or the Post-doc raid leader can do it like the best of them (disclosure: My long-time WoW raid leader was also a Phd student that turned into a post-doc and then got a real job so he can’t play much anymore). Log Horizon deals with the human elements in a MMORPG; Sword Art Online deals with the human elements in a loser and it works well because he is in a MMORPG. Well, I guess that can be pretty appealing too.

Speaking of which, Outbreak Company is along the lines of Yet Another Light Novel about the really hardcore otaku mindset. Instead being stuck in a MMORPG he is stuck in an actual fantasy world of sword, magic, half-elves and moe dwarf children. OBC’s form of escapism is a little more honest in that he simply wants to live his otaku world in this new world, and the magic of fiction gives him the ability to do so in the form of an excellent Soft Power dig. So instead of fighting monsters or whatever they do in SAO, the protagonists in OBC instead educate children on anime, manga, and video games, usually in the form of either playing/reading/watching them, or talking about these things. This is right up my tiny crack of an alley, but its general appeal has more to do with the way it addresses the physical and emotional needs of the otaku by the way of traditional interpersonal characterization, accessible humor, and, well, cute girls. In other words, put yourself in his shoes, I’m sure you can do a better job; it invites you to do as much.

So to me, both stories derive a lot of entertainment value as self-inserts, although they may not be pure Mary Sue archetypes. Let’s do this Baka-Raptor style.



Just to be fair, this contest is just based on the first 9 episodes of both series.

Round 1: Who is more badass?

Kirito > Shinichi always.

Advantage: SAO

Round 2: Who is clear-headed and acts less like an emotard?

Shinichi easily. At gunpoint, would you rather play a MMORPG or run a culture export company in a hostile environment? I think most people would prefer the former, Shin’s got a harder life.

Advantage: OBC

Round 3: Who has better taste in men/women/things?

Myucel ~= Asuna

Petralka’s ZR ~= most things in SAO

The tie breaker goes against the fact that More Deban is still a problem unsolved, because Lisbeth and Silica are great.

Advantage: OBC

Round 4: meta factor

SAO is an anime about people stuck in a game.

OBC is an anime about an allegory of expanding otaku culture beyond Japan

SAO has fantasy magic and swordplay.

OBC has a lizardman blowing on a NES cartridge.

Advantage: OBC

Round 5: Meme factor

Two years, folks, two years.

Advantage: SAO

Round 6: Gender Equality

Do I even need to go to this? I mean OBC is by no means a progressive feminist take on things, but really?

As a note, a girl in OBC actually said “would you stop talking to my breasts?”

Advantage: OBC

Round 7: Race Equality

Do fairies count? OTOH, racism is an actual issue in OBC. Granted it’s kind of a comedy copout between elves and dwarves. SAO stays clear of it (other than… beaters?) while OBC somewhat bungles it.

Advantage: SAO

Round 8: Who would you rather be?

Honestly? I would rather be neither of them, because in some capacity I am both already–I play MMORPGs and I write about anime/manga/etc in a meta way, for public consumption. Maybe I would rather be Myucel, and learn Japanese or something. Being a socially-shamed, racially-oppressed, half-slave girl is kind of not a desirable thing however.

Advantage: Tie

Score:  3-4

I guess this means someone should license OBC hard and fast.

6 Responses to “The Better Mary: SAO Versus OBC”

  • vendredi

    I couldn’t help but feel that the whole MMO setup in SAO really was never the point; the “trapped in an MMO” premise is simply used to have a fantasy adventure, and doesn’t ever really seem to try to explore the connotations of virtual reality, gaming culture, or other expected themes.

    The way it was used reminded me of the more typical “protagonist discovers magical gateway/mirror/wardrobe that transports him to another fantasy realm”, except this happens via the magic of VR headsets and such. I feel it’s fundamentally different from .hack and Log Horizon in that sense.

    • omo

      The MMO setup explains and sets up certain things. I think it does explore some aspects of the things you are talking about, such as player behavior.

      For the most part though it doesn’t play any real role in the story though.

  • jpmeyer

    One could argue that the whole everything in SAO isn’t the point (which is why it’s so frustrating.)

    Outbreak Company isn’t remotely as smart as I desperately wish that it was, but it’s still fun nonetheless. (Like how they use it as a throwaway joke when they first set up the school, rather than an actual point of contention, that they’re more or less flooding 12 year olds with porn.)

  • lovelyangel

    Of the three series, I strongly prefer Log Horizon. The world is less silly, the characters are more likable, the rules are more consistent, and intelligence is actually valued more than in the other two series.

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