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)