What’s it about? A few years after players were trapped in the VRMMO game Sword Art Online, a new popular VRMMO appears on the market: Gun Gale Online. The game offers its players gun-based combat and gritty realism instead of swords and sorcery. One of these players is LLENN, an avatar of a tiny girl all decked out in pink.
Have you ever thought, “Sword Art Online has a cool concept but man, Kirito sucks!” I know I have! If you, like me, have little-to-no tolerance for perfect male heroes surrounded by women throwing themselves at him but enjoy the core concepts of SAO, you may have seen promos for Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, with its female protagonist and thought, “Hey, this might be kind of cool!”
And it might be! But I have no idea yet, because the first episode has nothing to do with the overall plot.
The first episode features LLENN participating in a large-scale battle royale, with actual military professionals among her opponents. With no real plot and only the barest character development, the experience was closer to watching a PUBG match than an anime episode. Watching other people play video games does nothing for me, and the episode bored me silly.
But what about LLENN herself? Series about playing video games have almost exclusively male protagonists, with Recovery of an MMO Junkie and a few entries into the .hack franchise standing mostly alone in a sea of dudes. That alone makes her groundbreaking. There’s not a whole lot to her character thus far to judge her on, since the episode was pretty much entirely about gun combat with no plot or character development. All we have to go on is her design and how she interacts with the other members of her team.
LLENN wears pink. A lot of it. Exclusively, in fact, and her gun is the same aggressive shade of shocking pink. I know that, at least stateside, there has been a sort of “reclaiming” of pink by the feminist movement. Personally, though, I don’t buy it.
Working with small children, I see exactly the extent to which marketers push pink onto little girls. Most of my female charges have at least one pink item of clothing on every day. Toys often come in two color swatches: one in greens and blues and reds, one in pinks and purples “for girls,” including Nerf’s Rebelle line. In Japan, Super Sentai shows always have a pink ranger as the Designated Girl. If the yellow ranger is female, she’s the tough, cool one while the pink ranger is the soft, feminine one.
Automatically rejecting pink as “girly” has misogynistic undertones, yes, but when the only girl in the entire episode is dressed in a particularly eye-smarting shade while playing a game contingent on stealth? Nope, no thanks. Please let her wear clothing just as practical as literally every other character in the episode.
The character dialogue is mostly LLENN and M going into the gritty technical details of their strategy, the enemies, the environment, and their weapons. Again, not much to say here… although M—a big burly dude with a craggy face—was pretty much constantly the one explaining things to LLENN. It’s not until the end of the episode that we get to see her kick some ass.
If LLENN is so good at that one part of the game, why does she have no idea about the team’s strategy? Why does she have a costume that sticks out like a sign saying, “Hey! Shoot me!” It just doesn’t add up.
I feel like I know nothing about Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online other than that it has lots of detailed guns in a grittily realistic environment. If I wanted that, I could just watch Call of Duty commercials on repeat and get pretty much the same amount out of it. I know nothing about LLENN—who she is, what she wants, why she plays. As far as I’m concerned, the series hasn’t started yet.