Kirito loses to Heathcliff in a duel and must join the Knights of the Blood Oath. His first training mission is to clear a dungeon on the 55th floor with Godfrey and Kuradeel, who apologizes for his past behavior. When they stop for lunch, Godfrey and Kirito drink water laced with paralysis poison. Kuradeel is a former member of Laughing Coffin, a criminal guild. He brutally murders Godfrey, then turns on Kirito. When his HP goes critical, Asuna swoops in to save him, and Kirito saves her when she lets her guard down, killing Kuradeel. They spend the night together and agree to fall back from the front lines for a while and get married.
In something like Bleach or Naruto, a battle between a protagonist and a powerful foe or rival can potentially take up dozens of episodes, but here on SAO, it’s literally over in the first five minutes. Kirito loses (in what’s a quick but awesome exchange of sword blows in a Roman-style colosseum), and must join Asuna’s guild. This makes sense; the stakes weren’t that high. All it meant was if he lost, Kirito would have to confront his fear of association stemming from the Moonlit Black Cats and losing Sachi. He tells Asuna this and they share a heartfelt embrace. She tells him not to worry, because she’ll protect him – and we believe it, not just because Asuna is a proven badass, and far stronger than the Cats; but because she actually proves it not too much later on.
It can be said all it takes for evil to succeed is for good to not see evil’s treachery coming. Indeed, both Kirito and Asuna’s inherent goodness and mercy almost get them killed. A good job is done initially showing Kuradeel as genuinely contrite and willing to move on, but when he shows his true despicable colors, he inadvertently serves as the catalyst for advancing the Kirito X Asuna initiative. For this, we forgive his overacting. Watching her in All Business Mode taking out Kuradeel is awesome to watch, and credit where it’s due: Kirito gives Asuna a kiss when she most needs it, and when his intentions couldn’t be conveyed any more powerfully.
She seems to overestimate the level of those intentions when she suddenly kills the lights and cyber-strips in front of him, ready to go all the way. It looks like we’ll get the second straight episode in which the guy turns down a half-naked girl’s advances, but they do indeed sleep together. (We initially thought he didn’t, but on second viewing, he did. Thanks for keeping us on our toes, readers!) This is illustrated in a very subtle sex-cut, going from an Asuna power punch to…er, a lamp…to Kirito waking a content-looking Asuna up post-coitus.
Having shared her bed, he’s now ready to wed her…and settle down for some time in a lower level. Considering they were both almost murdered by a fellow guild member, Heathcliff shouldn’t have a problem with that. We’re glad their relationship has progressed so quickly, and with more than a cour left, there’s plenty of time to test them. We can’t help but think how awesome it would be if they beat the game, wake up, and meet in the real world…amarite? but unlike Kirito and Asuna, let’s take this one step at a time!
Rating: 9 (Superior)