Miss my review last week? You can find it here!
This week features the thrilling conclusion of Squad Jam 2 and the reveal of Pito!
This one gets some trigger warnings: Fake blood, dismemberment and later… abusive & stalkery relationships
Pito and Llenn pick up where we left them last, on geyser flatlands of Squad Jam 2, with both M and Fuka out of the main fight. After a brief chat , Llenn baits Pito by throwing shade on Sword Art Online.
It works splendidly.
With Pito distracted, Llenn makes a run for the inner thigh, followed by cutting Pito’s jugular. It’s not enough, though, bringing Pito down to 20% of her hit points. Snagging P-chan, she aims it at Llenn.
P-chan misfires, and after a failed rush at Pito, Llenn ends up dangling from Pito’s fist from her wrists.
Pito, knowing something was up, makes M confess to stacking the odds to make Pito’s final game Pito vs Llenn. He admits, she executes.
Fuka, who had been trapped by M, sneaks free using the knife in her hair and lops off Llenn’s hands from just above the wrist (upper forearms), launching Llenn for an improbable attack for Pito’s neck again. (Yes, with her hands gone and… Just go with it.)
Llenn talks Pito’s heart rate down before the kill, encouraging her to keep living even if she dies in-game before savaging her to death at the neck again, so they can make good on their promise to meet offline.
Of course, since the final team was basically just waiting for either Pito or Llenn to come out victorious, the moment after Pito is killed, Team Llenn/Fuka are taken down as well, granting them second place.
After cheers and jeers from the audience about being cheated of their grand showdown between LF and T-S (the other remaining team), the episode shifts back to the real world.
It’s a few days before Karen’s 20th birthday, we catch up with SHINC (aka the Rhythmic Gymanstics Club) briefly, and then head on a trip with Karen and Fuka/Shinohara.
Goushi picks up Karen and her friend at the airport, meeting Shinohara in the real world for the first time. He fills them in on how he was an overweight, repressed, socially shy person who fell deeply “in love from afar” (infatuation) and “followed her” (stalking). He wasn’t very good at it – Pito invites him over, humiliates him, reads him the riot act, and then blackmails him into her service.
Anyway, Goushi takes Karen and Shiohara to a nightclub where Elsa Kanzaki is playing (which is perfect because Karen had promised Shinohara tickets for participating in Squad Jam 2 with her). Goushi tries to misdirect Karen about who Pito’s real-world form is, but she’s not fooled… It was Elsa all along.
I always kind of knew that M was crazy for Pito. And that he was under her control somehow. I just didn’t know that it was going to a “romanticize the stalker/stalkee relationship” place.
Writing stalker/victim relationships is tough, especially where – in this case – it presents the opposite scenario that most people find with stalking relationships. It flips the balance of power to Elsa the moment that she acknowledges it, and despite how Goushi says he loves Elsa, he also admitted that the blackmail initially kept him from running (even though he talks about it fondly as though it were the “best outcome he could hope for”).
Elsa and Goushi’s lifestyle, including the high stakes of life and death game, is definitely not recommended for couple goals and is closer to the manipulative edge of Fifty Shades at a glance. (Based on what we’ve seen, there’s no direct signs of aftercare in their current relationship, etc. Even Karen acknowledges their relationship dynamic in the stinger.)
Goushi says they were “happy” until SAO broke Elsa’s spirit, kicking off her death game obsession. By contrast, what the viewer sees: Goushi is fearful to the point of tears more than once in-game, and relieved tears at other points. He’s not happy now. He’s terrified. And if he’s “exhilarated but terrified” you don’t get to see it.
It’s hard to take their relationship with a grain of salt and still not be concerned.
It makes sense that Pitohui is Elsa, though. It adds up. Aside from the reasons that Karen gives in the episode, Elsa couldn’t attend the first Squad Jam and sends M in her place, as well as being forced to watch the game replay with narration from Goushi instead of joining in real-time.
Also, the rainbow in the final moments of GGO as Pito sings victoriously just before getting mauled by Llenn clears any doubt.
All in all:
The series itself has a lot to try to wrap up in the end, but it manages to gather most of the loose ends, and really succeed in the one thing that drove Karen online. She in finding a hobby, something other than her schoolwork, Karen’s led to unexpected friendships and a way to spend time with one of her other friends even though they were in completely different cities.
As a whole, the series works, despite much of the events from the first Squad Jam onwards being driven by Elsa’s desires, even if it isn’t made clear right away.
One final thought: there is a loose end that didn’t get wrapped up with a bow. We still don’t know why the legendary P-chan comes to life in the heat of a life-or-death battle. I hope we get an OVA for it. After all, returning to the world of GGO one day, even for a breather episode, could be fun.
Gun Gale Online - Episode 12
- Goushi texting Karen about Elsa goofing off instead of prepping for her concert. It's the best ending, based on the circumstances, really.
- Karen and Shinohara’s unamused expression when Goushi candidly tells them that he was stalking Pito/Elsa. It was a SAVING GRACE as a watcher to know they were pretty horrified as well.
- Goushi, probably every time Elsa punishes him.
- Goushi’s backstory – in context or out of context, it really sets a spooky precedent for “love at first sight” becoming “be careful what you wish for” in a roller coaster way that I hope I never see again.