Sword Art Online II – 18


We start in a warm and familiar log cabin in the forest on a cold and snowy night…


Perhaps well aware its audience would only tolerate so many recaps, SAO II wisely avoided a re-telling of what was a brief, self-contained Excaliber arc. What we got instead was still lightweight enough to make Colin Chapman blush, but rather than a random, partially-baked, pulled-out-of-its-ass Norse-loaf, both distinct halves of this episode were steeped in the SAO we’ve lived through and emotionally resonates the most for us. It was a warm, cozy episode.


Full-size Human Yui > Tinkerbell Yui. There, I said it.

God, I almost forgot Yui was once normal-sized! Yes, we go all the way back to the halcyon time of almost perfect contentment on Aincrad’s 22nd Floor, a log cabin in the forest where Kirito and Asuna fell in love and built a home and family. Unlike Kirito, Asuna didn’t really like her home and family in the real world, so when they lost their cabin, it was like losing the only home where she’d ever been happy.


So when Egil notifies Kirito and Asuna that the 21st through 30th floors of New Aincrad are open for exploration and clearing in ALO, they jump at the chance to find and reclaim that home. Their friends and family help out, and unlike the Jotenheimr arc, there’s an actual important purpose to their fighting that I care about. The boss on Floor 21 puts up a fight (on Christmas Eve!), but with their usual excellent teamwork the party brings it down and advance to the next level.


Asuna’s well-earned jubilation at returning to Floor 22 to find their cabin just as they left it, and Yui returning to her normal size after they press they “Buy” button together…I’m not gonna lie, I got a little glassy-eyed myself. It’s a beautiful little moment; filled with joy. And now we know why in the episode’s cold open the gang was in that cabin!


The timing couldn’t have been better for Asuna, either. As the daughter of a super -rich aristocratic family in Kyoto, her family subjects her to meet-and-greets and omiais with sketchy rich douchebags. There isn’t any indication she’s being forced into anything, but it’s clear ALO isn’t just an idle escape; it’s where she finds strength and control over her life. There, she has a family in Kirito and Yui and the rest of the gang. But still, you’d think her folks would let her choose for herself after she came so close to being freaking coma-raped last season.


It’s at her home in the cabin in the woods where she’s having a study sleepover session with Kirito, Yui, Sugu, Liz, and Silica, where she learns of Zekken, a mysterious but singularly powerful dueler offering a unique eleven-hit combo sword skill that matches her preferred setup to the one who beats him (or her; they’re continually referred to without gender).


Liz, Sugu, and even Kirito have already gone up against Zekken and lost, so it would seem to fall to Asuna to get the job done and win that skill for herself. That’s a good thing, as it would be nice to have Asuna front and center kicking ass again, as we’ve only seen the slightest tastes of her in action thus far this season.


When Asuna is shocked Kirito couldn’t beat Zekken, Liz has a very good theory for why he lost. Sugu remarks that Kirito wasn’t slacking off, but nor did he dual-wield. As Liz puts it, Kirito will probably only ever fight with everything he’s got if the game is no longer a game, such as it was in the days of SAO and when he was fighting to free Asuna. It’s a nice bit of analysis from Liz, another one we hear far too little from.


No green-bobbed Slylph Asuna? BOOOO!

Just kidding, Blue Asuna will do just fine for the upcoming fight. A new ending sequence prominently shows a girl who somewhat resembles Asuna but isn’t Yui or anyone we’ve met before, and furthermore matches Zekken’s general color scheme. Combined with the way the gang talked about Zekken without specific gender articles, this girl is probably Zekken herself. I for one am excited to see where this new Asuna-centric arc takes us.


And now, your SAO II Moment of Zen:saoii18mz

Sword Art Online – 02

After a month, over a fifth of SAO players are dead, many of them beginners. Diabel, a self-proclaimed knight, calls for a meeting to deal with Illfang, the boss of the first level. The players form teams, with Kirito pairing up with a mysterious hooded girl named Asuna. A beginner named Kibaou demands all Beta testers apologize and offer reparations for allowing the 2,000 newbies to die, but another player, Egil, tells him the Betas provided help in the form of a guidebook, which includes info on Illfang.

The next day, Diabel leads the force to the boss room and they battle Illfang and his sentinals. Diabel is killed trying to take out the boss on his own, and Asuna and Kirito finish what he starts. Kirito gets a rare item – a cloak, and other players accuse him of being a cheating Beta, or ‘Beater’. He releases Asuna from his party and moves on to the second level.

With players dropping left and right and no progress being made, they decide to join forces and coordinate their efforts, and it nets them results. Kirito seems content to stay on the periphery – both of the original meeting held by Diabel and the battle – but in the heat of said battle, he becomes the focal point, and ultimately the slayer of the first boss. He had help from his new…well, not quite friend, yet, but his temporary partner Asuna, who walks quietly and carries a quick sword.

We liked Kirito and Asuna’s very subtle interacitons, starting with his sidling up to her at the meeting and ending with her unexpected airheaded comment about Kirito’s name being right in front of her nose the whole time. We also didn’t mind Diabel, someone who tried to be a real hero and ended up inspiring Kirito to rise to the occasion; or Egil, who tells the hot-headed Kibaou to cool his jets when it comes to dividing the players. Finally, Kirito makes a conscious choice to embrace the reputation he’s earned, and to stop hiding in the background. Now it’s not just about surviving, but winning…and getting butter for his dry bread.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)