Sword Art Online – 24

Kirito and Yui materialize in the same white corridor where Asuna was once in. Yui breaks through the walls and they find themselves in the World Tree’s branch system. Kirito spots the birdcage and they race to it, and reunite with Asuna. They need a console to log her out, but before they can do so Sugou materializes, dispersing Yui and immobilizing both with gravity magic. He strings Asuna up and starts to undress and molest her in front of Kirito, who hears the voice of Heathcliff. Kirito gets up and logs in as Heathcliff, then resets King Oberon to Level 1. After defeating him, he logs Asuna out. Kayaba Akihito’s digital afterimage gives him “The Seed”, a new world of some kind, and then Kirito logs out, thanks Sugu, and bikes to the hospital to see Asuna.

We’ve long since written off Nobuyuki Sugou/King Oberon as an absolutely irredeemable, One-Dimensionally Evil Bastard. The video game database GiantBomb has four criteria that exclude a character from this category: “1.) a traumatic or tragic experience in the past that affected their mental state, 2.) a potentially misplaced sense of justice; seeking revenge from a wrongdoing committed against them or someone they cared about, 3.) a potentially misguided belief that their actions will not only benefit his or her self, but the world around them as well, and 4.) ultimately reform their ways and become good.” Sugou has none of these qualities, so yeah, he’s PURE EVIL. In case you doubted it, this week he chains Asuna up by her wrists, starts tearing her already-skimpy clothes off, and starts lapping up her tears with his tongue. You have to hand it to SAO, they were not going to hold back with this guy.

Anyway, he’s clearly decided he’s going to have his way with her, in front of Kirito no less, so it’s a good thing there’s a hint of Heathcliff still floating around this world to aid Kirito. You have to wonder if his desire to possess Asuna body and soul clouded his judgement, causing him to overlook technical stuff beyond his control that lurked in the bowels of the game he stole. In any case, finally Kirito, Asuna, and Yui reunite (this happens early, and it’s a beautifully cathartic little scene), and then, once Kirito has had enough and heard the voice of Kayaba Akihito, he exacts righteous vengeance upon King Oberon, making sure to maximize the pain he can feel before slicing him to bits. Our only concern now is, can Kazuto get to Asuna before Sugou? The episode doesn’t seem all that worried, but we are. When he was killed in the game, he woke up. He’s still a hella dangerous guy. If we were Kazuto, we wouldn’t rest until the real Asuna is in our arms and Sugou’s behind bars.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sword Art Online – 14 (Fin???)

The coalition led by Heathcliff, Kirito, and Asuna defeats the boss, at the cost of fourteen lives. With 25 floors left, players wonder if they’ll really be able to clear the game. Then Kirito figures out that Heathcliff is really SAO’s creator, Kayaba Akihito, who confirms it, telling him he’d be the final boss. As a reward, he gives Kirito the chance to duel him right there, and Kirito accepts. When he’s about to get skewered, Asuna breaks her paralysis and takes the blow for him, and dies.

Kayaba then kills Kirito, who is able to bend the game laws to stick around long enough to kill Kayaba. Kirito is reunited with Asuna in the sky above Kayaba’s Ruby Castle as the game deletes itself. All players are logged out. A malnurished Kirigaya Kazuto wakes up in a hospital bed, removes his NerveGear, and gets up in search of his love, Yuuki Asuna.

Holy Flerking Schnit! We picked the wrong week to go on vacation…it should have been after this episode, which ends everything we knew only halfway through the series! The final boss is revealed. Asuna dies protecting Kirito. Kirito dies killing Kayaba. The game is over. The remaining episodes will be called Sword Art Offline, amirite? (Rimshot!) Seriously, we’re bowled over by what just happened, and haven’t a clue what’s to come. This was no cheap plot twist – to us it was a bold and risky move that changes everything –  as long as it holds up.

As soon as Asuna died, we knew something fishy was going on. When Kirito died, well, duh, he was going to show up somewhere, not just end up in a void. But we weren’t prepared for the awesome beauty of the last scenes: SAO’s always excelled at backgrounds, but the vistas here take the cake. But perhaps most powerful is the feeling of enormous loss we felt right along with him both when Asuna died in SAO and when he wakes up, unsure of where the real Yuuki is. Such is the strength of his love, he’s able to stand up and walk looking for her. We’ll have what he’s having in his I.V.!


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Sword Art Online – 13

After catching a huge legendary fish with an old man named Nishida, Kirito and Asuna are summoned back to the front lines by Heathcliff. The KBO guild are the first line of attack against the newest boss, The Skull Reaper. The boss is extremely powerful – able to kill a player in one strike – to the point only combined coordinated attacks of Heathcliff, Kirito and Asuna will have any effect.

We feel a little cheated over the first third of this episode. Sure, there was a very sweet and intimate bedtime scene between Kirito and Asuna, but for crying out loud, the rest was all about catching a daggone FISH. It was just filler! But in case you haven’t grasped the depths of Asuna’s love for Kirito: she cried herself to sleep every night until he came along; he became her only reason for living, if he were ever to die, she’d kill herself; and she wants to date and marry and grow old together with Kirito, even if it’s in hospital beds hooked up to machines. That last point is the first serious mention of interest in what could be going on with peoples’ bodies in the real world.

Asuna’s absolute devotion forces us to take a good long look at Fayt Leingod Kirito and ponder: is he worth all the fuss? Don’t get us wrong, he’s a nice guy, who’s saved Asuna’s life and the lives of countless others. But now it’s as if Asuna doesn’t consider herself an individual anymore. She’s either going to be with Kirito, or she doesn’t exist. For his part, Kirito is fine with all this devotion-bordering on-obsession, but can’t quite match her desperately intense passion. All of Asuna’s lovey-dovey talk could also be foreshadowing her death, but we highly doubt the series will pull a stunt like that on such a popular character at this juncture, if ever.


Rating: 6 (Good)

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)