Sword Art Online II – 19

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It took until just five episodes left in the damn show, but SAO II finally delivered something I’ve been yearning for since the second season was announced: an episode with Asuna as the focus, doing things. While part of me is content we got an episode like this at all, I’m pleased to report that it was a damned fine episode in its own right.

By now we’re well aware of the inner turmoil Kirito, Asuna, and the others carry with them, even though only Kirito has gotten that much screen time to explore it (as well as Sinon, whose turmoil came from the real world, not the game). What we haven’t seen is much of Asuna’s struggles with that turmoil, and just how cold and uncaring her family is to her situation.

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Asuna leaves her very cold bedroom to the huge, stodgy dining room where her mother scolds her for not being five minutes early for dinner. The dinner starts off relatively innocuous until Asuna realizes her mother is using this opportunity to tell her she plans to marry her to a countryside banker and move her to a better school so she can start college early.

This dynamic works because while Asuna’s mom is basically the villain here, she’s decidedly not evil, only cold and pragmatic: she didn’t come from money, but married into it, and she’s determined to make sure Asuna avails herself of the opportunities she’s been given in life.

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And that’s all well and good…if ignoring the fact that Asuna “one of those children who spent two years killing each other.” Her mom’s phrasing seems to be designed to underplay just how traumatizing the experience is, and shrug it off as an unfortunate inconvenience, but she can’t just wave away the emotional scars, nor the bond she formed with Kirito. Her mom’s checked into him as well (again, devaluing him by calling him a child), and forbids her to choose him as her mate.

When Asuna questions her judgment after subjecting her to the criminal Sugou as her first betrothed, her mom dismisses that as her father’s choice, not hers. Asuna is forced to retreat, but not before tossing that dig about her mom being ashamed of being from poorer parents.

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Asuna doesn’t want the path that’s been laid out for her; it’s a path laid out by parents who may on some level care about her happiness, but are forcing their own definition of happiness upon her, “for her own good.” It’s pretty tough love, and unlike Kirito, whose family situation is just peachy (aside from his sister briefly being in love with him), it’s made diving into ALO a kind of emergency release for Asuna. With the weight of the world and her parents’ expectations bearing down on her, ALO is where she has strength and agency.

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Yet even in the virtual world, Asuna admits she hasn’t done much and is worried the Lightning Flash Asuna of yore is gone, along with her innocence. Fighting Zekken — whom she’s surprised to find is a girl — is a way of validating whether she’s still “got it”, which in turn could give her more strength to face her problems in the real world.

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Zekken is a perfectly nice, polite young lady, but the surprise of her gender throws Asuna off at first – as does her ridiculous speed.

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Taking a step back and another deep breath, Asuna realigns her resolve, remembering why she’s there: not just to prove she’s still a power in ALO, but to blow off some steam. The difference in the two halves of the fight are like night and day; in the latter half, Asuna goes all out and is able to keep up…

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…Right up until Zekken turns it up and breaks out her overpowered, almost-cheating special skill. At this point, while Asuna’s resigned to losing, she’s not upset by her performance; it was a duel she can look back upon with satisfaction. Then, at the last second, Zekken holds back her blade and ends the fight. It turns out she wasn’t necessarily looking to win the duel either…only test her opponent. And Asuna passed.

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Before the duel, Kirito confided in Asuna that he thought something was fishy about Zekken, as if she were a “product of the full-dive environment.” I don’t understand that term any more than Asuna, but it is an unsubtle hint that there’s more to Zekken than just a duel-loving heavy user. The fact her player name is “Yuuki”, Asuna’s last name, is also telling.

Kirito’s suspicions are confirmed when Yuuki flies Asuna up into the sky to formally ask her to “please help [them],” meaning whatever Yuuki is, there’s more than one of her, and as powerful as she is, their duel impressed her enough to believe Asuna could be of help. And I’m sure that notion alone raised Asuna’s spirits considerably. This episode sure raised mine!

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Sword Art Online II – 18

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And now, your SAO II Moment of Zen:saoii18mz

Sword Art Online II – 17

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Nearly as quick as a fairy archer’s kick to a frost giant’s nose, the Norse Mythology / Excaliber (not “ur”) quest is wrapped up.  King Thrym turns out to be far less of a threat than I thought, and he’s dealt with in the episode’s A-part.

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That’s accomplished due to more teamwork by the party, and in this case, again I find myself forgiving the sheer size of said party, for no other reason then…well, look at the size of the boss! You need a forward team laying down melee attacks while others stay back and offer ranged attacks and support spells. It’s all pretty by-the-numbers…then Freyja has Kirito find Mjolnir and transforms into a He-Man-garbed Thor!

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OMG ASUNA DOES SOMETHING THIS WEEK!

Not does her sudden gender-swap kill Klein’s brief and only love interest to date (not that it really mattered, since she was virtual), but gives the party the edge they need to bring down Thrym, as Thor proves quite the large and effective decoy, keeping Thrym’s hands full as the rest of the party can attack at will.

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SUUUURRRRRRRRRGE!

Klein wins Mjolnir as a reward (though he sucks at hammer-wielding), and the party moves on to the lowest level of Thrymheim where Excaliber rests. It’s at this point that both Kirito and I remember that he summoned the holy sword once before, after his foe failed to do so…

Yeah, I kinda wish the sword had turned into an creepy, annoyingly haughty cartoon character.

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After it’s removed, Thrymheim crumbles and the party starts falling with it, but Tonkii arrives on cue to bear them to safety. It’s at this point that Kirito holds Excaliber uneasily in his hand, and, deeming it still too heavy, throws the thing into the dry lake.

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This seemed like a stupid thing to do, and Sinon, agreeing with me, quickly retrieves it with an arrow enchanted with a retrieval spell. I thought she did this because she wanted it herself, but she just gives it back to Kirito, making him promise to think of her when he uses it. A little out-of-character this week, aren’t we, Sinon? Also, why are you giving it back to him? He’ll just throw it away again!

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Okay, that helmet is kinda cute…

Then Urd appears along with her sisters Verdandi and Skuld to thank the party and officially end the quest, and Klein instantly falls for Skuld and asks for her contact info even though she’s just a virtual NPC and not a real woman and he just met her. This strange and somewhat pathetic move somehow earns Klein Lisbeth’s respect…though maybe she’s being sarcastic?

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We cut to Kazuto showing Shino and Sugu his new “mechatronics” demo which allows his digi-daughter Yui fly around the bar, and is it just me, or is the episode running out of stuff to do??

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Finally, we end with a big New Year’s feast in the real world, with Kirito taking care of the check with funds he presumably earned in the GGO arc. Overall, this episode was a little disappointing and safe. It wrapped up a fairly inconsequential sidequest, but seemed to have difficulty filling the running time. I’m wondering if one or two more lightweight sidequests are all that’s left in store for the last seven episodes, which would be an even greater disappointment.

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Sword Art Online II – 16

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The stakes of the group’s New Years “Just For Fun” Optional Quest for Excalibur are raised significantly when Yui realizes that because ALO uses the same Cardinal architecture for creating random quests drawn from human mythology, literature, and history, the natural conclusion to their present Norse quest is Ragnarok, a “final battle” that will destroy the world, meaning the entire ALO game map, wiping out everyone’s progress.

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That’s like your Playstation packing up without warning. Yes, this has happened to me, and it sucks. So now that this is no longer playing around, this episode get sback to the basics of SAO: RPG-style battles filled with physical and magical attacks and defenses. We also finally get why the party is so big; even the minotaur-like guards on the “easier” of the four floors are tough customers that require sustained onslaughts to bring them down. The only thing missing from the battle are flying numbers showing how much HP and MP is being lost or spent.

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That tough battle is eventually won thanks to contributions from everyone — yes, even Asuna and Silica fight! — and they move down to the next level, but run into an ice cage where a beautiful damsel is imprisoned and, well, Klein can’t help himself, succumbing to his “Bushido” and freeing her, even though everyone (including him) is pretty dang sure It’s A Trap!

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She turns out to be not just any wench, but Freyja, Norse goddess of love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr (sorcery), war, and death. Not a bad addition to the party, in other words…and Hey, none of the other girls seem to have an interest in Klein, but Klein needs love too!

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With Freyja now part of the fray, Kirito goes over the plan with everyone: Nothing fancy, just observe the upcoming boss’ moves, look for patterns and weaknesses, and take the bastard out before the medallion turns completely black and they lose all the hours of progress they’d amassed in the game thus far. This one’s for all the marbles.

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Freyja immediately exhibits a boon of having her in the party, as she casts a spell similar to “Bubble” that no one else wields, which increases everyone’s Max HP by at least 50%. Combined with Asuna’s party buffs, they’re as prepared as they’ll ever be to face King Thrym. My only nitpick would be that they didn’t get a little more intricate and thorough with the support spells, the way one must do in RPGs prior to a big fight.

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Once in the King’s Chambers, the party is flanked by fantastic wealth, obviously meant as a temptation to draw them off their path or even just delay them until Ragnarok arrives. King Thrym himself, being a frost giant, is suitably imposing, haughty, and mocking, dismissing the intruders as nothing more than flies sent by Urd to annoy him with their buzzing.

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Before the battle begins, Thrym notes that Freyja is with him, and that she was sent to his fortress to wed him, an offer he’s kept open, but imprisoned her because he suspected she was trying to steal from him (likely Excalibur). He also loads up three separate health bars, meaning he’s no Yiazmat (by God that guy was a pain in the ass), but he’s no Goomba, either

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Sword Art Online II – 15

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With the BoB behind us and a week removed from a recap, I was eager to get back to Sword Art Online, and maybe get some more scenes in the real world between Kazuto and Shino. Alas, Sugu tells Kirito that someone’s after the Holy Sword Excalibur, and he’s back off into MMOLand.

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Sinon unfortunately just becomes one of the gals, with cat ears and a tail that’s seemingly specifically there for Kirito to pull in jest. Kirito and Sugu gather Asuna, Yui, Klein, Lisbeth, and Silica to complete their rather large and ungainly party of eight. I can’t say I care all that much about Klein, Lisbeth, or Silica; but they’re here, and I suppose they’ll have a unique use as this arc progresses.

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The characters descend into the frozen wastes of Jotenheimr, which is below Alfheim but above Niflheim. There, Sugu summons her friend she rescued from baddies: a very cool-looking eight-winged elephant-octopus thing she named Tonkii that kind of freaks everyone else out a little but proves helpful.

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Once the party boards him, they fly through the skies of Jotenheimer until “Urd, Queen of the Lake” appears to deliver quite a bit of exposition about the arc to come. She and her two sisters are of the Hill Giants, who were subjugated by the Frost GIants led by King Thrym of Niflheim who ascended to Jotenheimer and disconnected the roots of Yggdrasil, turning the verdant paradise into the arctic wastes we see.

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He did that with Excalibur, which means if Kirito & Co. can retrieve it, the frozen castle Thrymheim that is lodged in the rock ceiling will descend and return Jotenheimer to its previous state. Since he wanted to grab Excalibur anyway, Kirito and Urd’s goals match. I’m not sure what to make of this all yet, but the striking visuals of the new landscape were marred by the sudden gaggle of old and not entirely compelling characters.

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11 Pink-Haired Anime Characters of October

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Is it mere coincidence that so many characters appearing in anime this month have pink (or pinkish) hair?

Well, actually yes…yes it is a coincidence.

But who cares! Let’s go down the rolls of eleven Fall 2014 characters who sport the somewhat unnatural but very visible hue atop their heads, in alphabetical order:

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1. Amira

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis • CV: Shimizu Ai

There are really two Amiras: the innocent, curious young woman (with pink hair) riding horses, imbibing and dancing for the first time…and the bad-ass demon warrior whom even hardened knights can only tickle with their magic. Her hair is also very very pale pink…though I wouldn’t call it strawberry blonde.

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2. Asami Lilith

Trinity Seven • CV: Hara Yumi

Lilith is a teacher at the Magic Academy, and introduces the protagonist Arata to the magic world. A bit of a prude, it’s nevertheless clear she likes Arata, as most of the other girls in the show do. I guess her hair is more rose than pink, but I’ll allow it.

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3. Ersha

Cross Ange • CV: Koshimizu Ami

Also spelled “Elsha” in some places, We haven’t seen much of Ersha yet, but among the older First Troop pilots, she seems to be the nicest and friendliest, and doesn’t have any particular beef with Anget. Of course, who knows, she may tear Ange’s kidney out and eat it next week…the show could go that way. In any case, Ami is one of our favorite seiyus.

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4. Kanzaki Tomoyo

InoBato • CV: Yamazaki Haruka

While she’s tended towards the common “I like the protagonist but will NEVER EVER admit it!” pattern so far, Tomoyo is still one of our favorite pinkhairs because of her playful, knowing chemistry with Jurai. Also, she can stop, slow, or speed up time. Sure, her hair is more crimson than pink, but according to Wikipedia, pink is really just a pale crimson!

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5. Kawaganare Momo

Ai Tenchi Muyo! • CV: Touyama Nao

Momo is voiced by Touyama Nao, wears flip-flops instead of loafers or uwabaki, and duh, has pink hair. She also definitely wears panties. But seven episodes in, there are more questions than answers about her, like what she really is and where she comes from. But of all the girls Tenchi comes across, she’s the least hostile by far.

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6. Kodachi Nagi

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai • CV: Tanezaki Atsumi

Another rosehead like Lilith whom we’re still including. We’ve only seen a little bit of her, but one thing we already like about her is the fact she’s voiced by Tanezaki Atsumi, who also voiced Lisa in Zankyou no Terror. She also seems to be orchestrating the creation of Kakei Kyoutarou’s harem.

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7. Komine Sachi

Grisaia no Kajitsu • CV: Shimizu Ai

Sachi is almost always in a maid outfit, because friends say she looks good in it. She is also extremely eager to please and dedicated to satisfying demands. In other words, a “good girl.”

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8. Mine

Akame ga Kill! • CV: Tamura Yukari

Mine’s story is pretty simple: she and her people had everything taken away from the empire, she has a big gun that become more powerful the bigger the pinch she’s in, she likes Tatsumi but would never let on, and she has very pink hair and clothes.

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9. Noredo Nug

Gundam: G no Reconguista • CV: Kotobuki Minako

Unlike a couple other pinkhairs on this list, Noredo isn’t really interested in hiding the fact that she likes her man Bellri. But it doesn’t look like Bell likes her quite the same way, a point underscored when he seems suddenly smitten with new girl Aida, who has coral hair. “Noredo Nug” is also such a bad name it’s good.

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10. Serizawa Miyu

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai • CV: Satou Rina

School radio host and friend (or past friend?) of Misono Senri. She has a cotton candy thing going on with her hair.

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11. Shinozaki “Lisbeth” Rika

Sword Art Online II • CV: Takagaki Ayahi

We probably shouldn’t count Rika for a couple reasons: she’s little more than a cameo in SAO II, and she only has pink hair when she’s “Lisbeth” in ALO. Still, here she is.


That’s all for now. Expect more lists of characters with similar traits in the near to distant future!

Sword Art Online II – 02

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This week backed up a bit from Sinon’s introductory scene last week, setting up that scene with a bit of team strategizing, and then barreling right into the action, which barely lets up thereafter. The episode is dominated by one big, elaborate, very slickly-animated, thrilling battle. Just two episodes in, and things are looking good here at SAO.

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In GGO, Sinon is the sniper in a six-man crew of player-hunters, but their latest prey appear on the horizon with a new face attached to a big, cloaked body. Sinon is uneasy about this unknown, and wants to take him out first to eliminate that unknown, but the team leader Dyne overrules her. Sinon shoots the known Minimi gun-holder first, and can’t take out the stranger after, as he dodges. Then he pulls the cloak off to reveal…a minigun.

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Turns out the big man is Behemoth, a noted bodyguard-for-hire whose smile on the battlefield only further fuels Sinon’s intense desire to kill him, proving she’s the strongest on said battlefield. When her team loses a man, Dyne wigs out, but Sinon calms him down and directs everyone to execute a pincer attack. Behemoth still won’t go down, even after Dyne lunges at him with a gutsy suicide attack that buys her time to find a new nest.

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But even high up in a huge, awesome half-collapsed skyscraper, as Sinon’s crosshairs focus on Behemoth, his focus on hers, and she loses her leg, dodging a lethal shot only barely. As she plummets to the ground, she executes a number of bullet-dodging acrobatics before finally regaining her bearings and delivering a perfectly timed headshot. Sinon 1, Behemoth 0; Game over. “Sinon” awakes in the real world, unsatisfied. She won, but lost two comrades and a leg. She’s not as strong as she wants to be. Not yet.

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The episode could have cut to credits right then and there and I’d have been perfectly happy, but instead we get Bonus SAO, as we check in on Leafa, Liz, and Silica still chillin’ in ALfeim Online, gathering loot. Kirito and Asuna are also there with Yui, happy as clams. Staring up at Aincrad, Kirito ready to discuss something with Asuna—most likely the mission Kikuoka gave him last week. The day he inevitably crosses paths with Sinon should be something to behold.

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Sword Art Online – 25 (Fin)

Kazuto arrives at the hospital and is attacked in the parking lot by Sugou, but Kazuto is able to fight him off, barely stopping himself from killing him. He then reunites with an awake Asuna, meeting her for the first time in the flesh. Sugou is arrested and the VRMMO industry takes a throrough beating. A month after waking up, Asuna is on the mend and visits Kazuto in school. Agil holds an SAO reunion party at his bar. The World Seed Kazuto gave him is spreading across the net rapidly, enabling people to create their own online worlds. ALO is now run by a new company, and the floating castle of Aincrad appears there, where Kazuto, Sugu, and all their fellow players plan to clear all 100 floors anew.

Long ago we’ve learned that if there’s no body, don’t trust a death, and Sugou only died in ALfeim. Sure enough, the real Sugou gets one last chance to remind us just how squidly evil he is, believing he can simply murder Kirito right there in the hospital parking lot and none will be the wiser. Luckily, his painful ordeal caused real-life damage, including to his depth perception, so Kirito is able to “defeat” him again. And then we get the much-anticipated first real-life meeting between Kazuto and Asuna, and it’s everything we could have hoped for. After going through all this rigmarole to save her, we weren’t going to be satisfied with her sudden death, or any other deviation from this happy ending.

We’re particularly glad SAO resolved pretty much everything with an episode to spare, because we got some welcome time with all the former SAO players Kazuto had befriended, including Agil, Klein, Lisbeth and Silica, and it seemed fitting to end their collective ordeal with a party. The only odd-man-out, besides a somewhat irritated Lisbeth, is Sugu, who is still clearly upset that she wasn’t the girl he chose, but we like how he makes it up to her by inviting her to help him replay SAO from start to finish and beat it properly (We wouldn’t be surprised if Asuna wanted an extended break from VRMMOs). Finally, “The Seed”, the Kayaba-penned open source MMO program Kazuto decides to release into the virtual wild gives the genre an optimistic future.


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 – 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)