Sword Art Online – 12

Kirito and Asuna visit a church in the Town of Beginnings where Sasha is taking care of children psychologically scarred by the game. She doesn’t recognize Yui. The Army’s second-in-command, Yulier, comes asking Kirito and Asuna to help her rescue her commander, THinker, who was trapped in a dungeon under Black Iron Castle by Kibaou. Yui demands to accompany them. When they find him, a powerful boss, Fatal Scythe, nearly takes out Kirito and Asuna, but Yui intervenes and destroys the boss.

Yui, an immortal object, reveals she’s an AI program designed to see after the mental healh of players, but was sidelined by Cardinal, the AI that governs SAO. Cardinal deletes her program when it detects she deleted a boss, but not before she tells Kirito and Asuna to keep helping people and says goodbye. Kirito manages to retrieve her “heart” so it’s possible to restore her program when the game is cleared.

This week SAO confirms Yui is indeed powerful, as she literally saves Kirito and Asuna when they bite off more than they can chew. It’s a pretty cool reveal, but there are consequences, as doing so leads to her deletion. Turns out all her emotions were elaborate AI algorithms. The thing is, when she had amnesia, she forgot she wasn’t a real person. And obviously, considering how much she touched Asuna and Kirito’s lives, it doesn’t matter whether she’s real or not.

Kirito and Asuna are now not only famous swordsmen with reputations for helping people, but their mutual happiness was apparently enough to attract the attention of Yui, to the point she went against the orders of the superior Cardinal program and wanted to spend time with them. This brings up some interesting issues: how many truly loving couples are in the game…and why were so many young kids SAO players? We also enjoyed the couple’s quarrel about toad meat, and the fact that neither Sasha or Yulier had any romantic interest in Kirito. The possible return of Kibaou, on the other hand…meh.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Kokoro Connect – 12

Yui, Aoki, Iori and Inaba continue reverting to earlier ages, with Iori reverting to a baby. Mihashi confronts Yui again, calling her weakling who broke her promise; they fight and Yui loses, and becomes distraught. Later, she reverts to the moment after a man tried to molest her. When Hisashi comes calling again, Yui tells her off; Aoki tries to help and he and Yui get in a fight. Aoki decides to visit Nana with Taichi to confirm his love. When he returns, he tells Yui she’s the one he loves now. He gets her out of her funk, and she gives Aoki a big hug.

This newest phenomenon continues to stir up past memories, and in Aoki’s case, past feelings of another love. He remembers that after losing a close friend in a car accident, he decided he would live life carefree and have fun so he wouldn’t regret when his end came. Yui, meanwhile, remembers she promised (a very pushy and annoying) Mihashi she’d face her in the national karate tournament, but never followed through. She stopped caring about winning all the time, to the point she now sees herself as worthless, pathetic, and unworthy of love.

Of course, none of that is true, and while Aoki’s pep talk/re-confession is a touch platitudinous, he tells Yui everything she needs to hear in her vulnerable state, and lets her decide to take a chance and embrace life – and Aoki, too. Her tearful, trembling hug with Aoki is a nice touch and represents progress both in their relationship and in her dealing with her fear of men and refusing to lose. But while some good has already come out of this phenomenon, it isn’t something that can be allowed to go on forever, so Taichi needs to be exceedingly careful how he responds to Inaba’s demand to tell her what he knows.

Rating: 8 (Great)