Sword Art Online – 10

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)

Sword Art Online – 09

Kirito and Asuna take a quick look at the boss, Gleam Eyes, but they quickly withdraw and then have lunch. Klein and his Fuurinkazen guild show up, and are excited to see the legendary Asuna in person. A squadron from the Aincrad Liberation Army also appears, and their commander gets the dungeon map from Kirito. When Asuna hears the cries of his men, she, Kirito, and Klein hurry to the boss room, where the army is getting decimated by the boss and teleport crystals are useless. Asuna rushes in, but is overwhelmed by Gleam Eyes’ power; Kirito has to bail her out. Kirito utilizes his secret dual sword-wielding skill to barely defeat the boss, with only a sliver of HP left. When he wakes up, a concerned Asuna embraces him. Later, the Knights of the Blood Oath Commander Heathcliff challenges Kirito to a duel; if Kirito loses, he must join the guild.

Kirito wasn’t fooling anyone when he said he wouldn’t engage the boss. They were fighting that boss, one way or another. Turns out, they did it to relieve a bunch of foolhardy guild members who rushed headlong at the boss with no strategy and no hope of victory. And surprisingly, it’s Asuna – not Kirito – who rushes in first to save them. Her innate decency won’t allow her to stand in the doorway and let weaker players get slaughtered. It’s a ballsy move, as she and Kirito run out of the boss room screaming in the beginning of the episode, with no interest whatsoever in engaging the guy alone. When the chips are down and lives are at stake, however, they’re more than willing to stick their necks out for their fellow players.

It’s nice to see Kirito actually break a sweat as he does this week. He even has to whip out his secret weapon, a heretofore unheard-of ability to wield two swords at once – including the one Lisbeth made him. Speaking of ladies: Asuna’s showing signs of seriously falling for Kirito. When he’s almost killed delivering the coup-de-grace to Gleam Eyes, she’s almost in hysterics. Far from indifferent to Kirito’s existence, she comes out and says she doesn’t know what she’d do if she lost him. When news of his victory gets to Blood Oath HQ, both he and Asuna are in trouble with the commander. Apparently they won’t allow him to poach Asuna, and he’s going to fight him for her. One wonders why Asuna doesn’t have a choice in the matter…


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sword Art Online – 08

Kirito manages to capture a “Ragout Rabbit”, an S-Class ingridient. He asks Asuna – who has max cooking skills – to prepare something with it, and she agrees in exchange for dibs on half of it. Going off with Kirito angers her Knights Blood Oath bodyguard Kuradeel, who looks down on all beaters. After their meal, Asuna asks Kirito to party with her once more, and he agrees. When they rendezvous the next day, Kuradeel challenges Kirito to a duel; Kirito wins easily, and Asuna relieves Kuradeel of duty. Asuna and Kirito glide through a dungeon and reach a boss room. When they peek inside, a Chimæra-like boss awaits them.

In the great vastness of the Sword Art Online world, you’d think the chances of solo “beater” Kirito crossing paths with guild member Asuna as often as he does would be remote. However, Asuna’s high rank allows her to move relatively freely, albeit with a guild member on her heels. This Kuradeel guy probably loves his job – he gets to protect a famous and beautiful young woman who has become famous for her battle prowess. But she’s a girl of many talents, and when Kirito indeed crosses paths with her, he rightly surmises that she’s a cooking ace. Asuna goes right out and laments the over-simplified manner of cooking (like smithing) in SAO, calling it boring. But as recreational cooks ourselves, we’d love a knife we could simply wave over ingredients to create instant mise en place.

Food aside, Asuna seems to be reaching out for a simpler life after watching her guild grow in size and complexity. Kirito is living such a life, so partying with him gives her a taste of his independence. They make a formidable team but are also fun to watch interact (though that accidental grope was cheap). But her rebellious behavior may get her in hot water with her guild, while Kirito definitely made a bitter enemy of Kuradeel by humiliating him. Kirito contemplates whether this is what SAO’s programmer Kayara Akihito intended – people getting so used to living in the game, they stop trying to beat it and forget about the real world. These two are the exception: they still want to win and go home.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Sword Art Online – 07

The energetic blacksmith Lisbeth meets Kirito, who requests a custom weapon, accidentally breaking the finest she’s ever made in the process. To forge a sword that will meet his needs, the two venture to the alpine 55th floor, where a crystal-eating dragon lurks. Kirito fights it off, but the wind from its wings throws both Liz and Kirito into a deep pit – the dragon’s nest. After spending the night, the nocturnal dragon returns, and Kirito grabs Liz and they ride the dragon out of the pit. Liz develops feelings for Kirito, and when she forges an excellent sword, she’s about to confess to him when Asuna arrives. She’s dejected to learn they know each other and runs off, but Kirito finds her and thanks her, promising to end the game for both their sakes.

What’s that? Another love interest who’s dead meat by the end? Nah, they wouldn’t do that again. Still, our scrawny dark knight is proving quite the lady’s man, though this romance starts out a little rough, with him destorying her prized creation right before Liz’s eyes. Her first impression of him as a haughty, arrogant little prick is well-earned – Kirito looks down upon her from a great height. She also insists she’s not an amateur in battle, than pulls an amateur move by coming out of hiding before the battle is over, nearly getting them both killed. Even so, Kirito isn’t one to let someone die alone, so he joins her down in the dragon’s pit, where they eventually engage in some pretty heavy hand-holding.

Kirito shows Liz that he has a softer side, and he quite literally sweeps her off her feet after collecting the dragon poop. Liz is a girl who’s found a niche in this imaginary world, but has been longing for something real, and she finds that in the warmth of Kirito’s hand. He shows her his prowess in combat, survival, and excitement, and she shows him her skill in, er, smithing by forging a kickass new sword, Unfortunately, after learning Kirito knows Asuna and listening to what could be construed as a lover’s quarrel, she gives up all hope of winning his heart, which is a bit of a needle scratch, but overall Liz is reasonably well-acted and well-voiced (by Takagaki Ayahi) at least she’s still alive. Perhaps they’ll reunite in the real world, when and if he beats the game.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)