Kirito spots Yoruko’s killer on a rooftop and pursues him, but he escapes via teleport crystal. When food Asuna made expires, Kirito gets the idea that the deaths of Kains and Yoruko were faked through use of simultaneous armor expiration and teleportation. He tests the theory by visiting Griselda’s grave, where Yoruko and Kains are questioning Schmitt, then ambused by a PK guild that Kirito scares off. Meanwhile, Asuna apprehends Grimlock, who had his wife Griselda killed because she changed from his wife in the real world. After discussing the perks of marriage, Kirito and Asuna add each other to their friends lists.
SAO will run for 25 episodes, so it can afford to take the odd sidequest, but we’re relieved this particular one didn’t extend past two episodes. While it was a competantly wrapped-up mystery with a twist ending, neither the mystery nor its participants were particularly novel or interesting. It as just kind of there. To be candid, we just couldn’t connect with this guild and its ring pacts and death-fakers as much as we did with Sachi, Silica, or even Klein. In fact, the best parts of this episode were those with Kirito and Asuna, as their mutual trust and friendship grows.
Sure, Asuna can be a tsundere at times, and Kirito can be too quick to play the weary victim, but as we said last week, they make a good team, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they became one on a more permanent basis. Asuna wouldn’t be sharing her homemade food or taking “hypothetically” about marriage if she didn’t like Kirito, even if he is a somewhat innocuous lone wolf. Both are pragmatists and mindful of the future. While their encounter with Grimlock (or -rock, whatever) showed that “storage sharing” isn’t for everyone (especially if the couple was involved in the real world), it definitely has its advantages.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Three weeks after the body-swapping ceased, the group is focusing on club activities, but they start acting strangely: Inaba makes a move on Taichi; Yui smashes a table and beats up guys; and both Taichi and Iori are unconsciously drawn to one another. They get answers for their behavior when Heartseed pays them a visit: he has unleashed their deepest desires, to the point where their usual self-restraint cannot prevent their bodies and voices from doing whatever their minds want deep down. They agree to stick together and play it by ear, and under the circumstances, Iori and Taichi agree to maintain their distance.
As it turns out, Kokoro Connect isn’t just going to be about body-swapping. That arc got better and better, we like how the godlike being Heartseed is now imposing a new behavioral experiment on the unwitting StuCS, one that further explores their personalities. As a result of “unleashing their deepest desires”, they all start acting like amplified versions of themselves. Inaba’s hidden feelings, Yui’s fiery temper, Aoki’s white knight complex, and Taichi and Iori’s budding romance – all of them come to the surface. We like how gradual this was: starting as a mystery before Heartseed steps in and lays it all out – we also like how the atmosphere of the scence changes whenever he’s around, like his aura is a pall over their lives.
Most interesting is how realistically and rationally Taichi and Iori deal with their new situation vis-a-vis their feelings for one another. Moving too fast could jeopardize their relationship before it can get started, and right now, they’re not sure they can control themselves if left alone together too long. As a result, they limit contact to phone conversations. We must say, other than Hazuki and Rokka, this is probably our favorite couple of the season. They’ve certainly faced some odd challenges, but so far they have the fortitude to brave the storms and stay true to one another. Iori’s anticipation of learning more about her true self through this phenomenon is also an intriguing prospect.
Rating: 8 (Great)