Kazuto has been back in the world for two months, during which he’s been regaining his strength and visiting Asuna, who is still in a coma at the hospital. One day he meets Sugou Nobuyuki, a research chief of the company that now maintains the SAO servers, of which Asuna’s father is the president. Sugou wants to marry Yuuki Asuna, and warns Kazuto to stop visiting. Kazuto’s little sister Suguha, who is keeping from him the secret that they’re actually first cousins, walks in on him crying and tells him not to give up. Kazuto receives and e-mail from Egil of a photo of Asuna.
This episode had some considerable shoes to fill – after the series totally blew itself up, the question “What’s the heck is next?” hung like a blue moon in the night sky. And we want to be categorical about our thoughts: the episode pulled it off. We had no idea what to expect, but it filled in the blanks nicely, as the teenage gamer formerly known as Kirito – now Kazuto – tries to get on with his life after two years stuck in a virtual MMORPG.
First of all, all those hundreds of hours have made him pretty dang good at fighting, although is style isn’t anything like the Kendo he used to practice. Even in a weakened state, he can use his SAO fighting style to keep up with his quarterfinalist sister in an impromptu sparring session. One really awesome detail is when he makes the motion to sheathe his sword on his back – something that had become a reflex in SAO is still with him in the real world. He also has nightmares, but they’re not about the horrors of the game, they’re about his lost love – who isn’t dead, but trapped between worlds…which is worse, in our opinion.
Then there’s his sister, who looks to play a prominent role in the episodes to come. Yes, another girl in love with him. And because she’s not really his sister, part of her thinks she has a chance (Sugu is appropriately voiced by Lil’ Sis Expert Ayana Taketatsu). But Kiri–er…Kazuto’s heart is still firmly in the hands of Asuna. And seriously, that Sugou guy is a grimy, NASTY little shit, taking advantage of his clout with her father’s company to wrangle a marriage out of it, even though Asuna is in a coma and hates him. Something tells us Kazuto isn’t just going to settle for his little sister…he’s not going to let Sugou have his way.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
P.S. New OP and ED! The OP previews another game in which everyone has fairy ears and Kirito has a new girl with green eyes, while the ED focuses on Sugu with her unrequited cousin-love. Both are okay.