Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 18 – Back in the Game

This week, we get into Kirito’s head as he gets up from the symbolic “desk at school” and starts off to his symbolic “home”, passing Alice and Eugeo without noticing them while in transit. Higa was successful in connecting him to his friends, and process of awakening has begun. He just needs a little more time.

While Asuna is certain she can no longer even stand, she’s helped up by the spirit of Kanno Yuuki, who gives her angel wings with which to take up the fight with PoH anew. The art style again shifts to Not Fuckin’ Around Mode, and Asuna proceeds to mop the floor with PoH. Unfortunately, he’s only stunned temporarily, as Sortiliena notices his weapon is absorbing sacred resources. Within moments he’s on his feet and turning the entire force of foreign players on the Japanese.

Meanwhile, in Kirito’s head, he’s forced to walk down memory lane, specifically all of the worst memories he’s had since entering SAO, including  the death of Sachi and the Moonlit Black Cats on the 27th floor, long, long ago, and the time he carved Nobuyuki Sugou up like a turkey. These memories disgust Kirito, and he’d rather tear his own heart out than keep watching and hearing them.

Kirito is momentarily snapped out of it by the appearance of Sinon, Suguha and Asuna, but it’s still not enough for him to forgive himself. Just as Higa is pondering what fourth person could be used to, a fourth connection is established not by a person but an object: the Blue Rose Sword. The remnants of Eugeo merge with Kirito’s own memories of him to create a spectral Eugeo who urges Kirito to wake up and keep fighting, for there are so many people waiting for him.

The first thing Kirito does when he wakes up is use Enhance Armament to freeze PoH and his forces in their tracks. When even this fails to restrain PoH and he rushes Asuna, Sortiliena, and Ronie, Kirito puts up a shield around them, then pushes PoH back, neutralizing him for the moment. From there, Kirito can finally get back to his feet. An elated Asuna simply says okaeri—welcome back—and Kirito replies tadaima…I’m back.

Sword Art Online – 03

While the front line teams are approaching the halfway point of the game, Kirito wallows down on the 20th floor, where he saves the lives of a guild called the Moonlit Black Cats. They insist he join them, and he does, though he conceals his far higher level from them. While a member, they climb high, and he befriends Sachi, a girl constantly afraid of dying; Kirito insists she won’t. While the Cats’ leader Keita is off buying the guild’s first house, the rest go to a dungeon and are ensnared in a treasure box trap, and everyone is killed except for Kirito. When Keita returns and learns of Kirito’s level, he commits suicide.

Kirito goes after a level boss called Nicholas Renegade, who arrives at the stroke of midnight on Christmas, believing he’ll drop a rare item that will bring Sachi back. Klein and his men fight off the elite Holy Dragon Alliance, and Kirito defeats Nicholas, but the item will only bring back a life ‘within ten seconds’ of dying. He gives the item to Klein and slinks off on his own. That night, he recieves an auto-sent message from Sachi, in case she died, telling him not to blame himself and keep surviving to the end.

This weeks episode shows us a Kirito who hasn’t taken leadership of any group or guild, but merely wanders the game, leveling up and staying away from the front lines. But circumstances led him to saving a lower-leveled guild, and when they insist he join up, he can’t say no. This is a group of friends in real life (a PC research club), and it’s probably nice from Kirito’s perspective, at this point in the game, to see that there are close-knit ‘families’ fighting for one another. He probably couldn’t turn his back on that…only he didn’t reveal he was double their level when he joined. Thus he entered a “safe” arrangement – until he learns that one stupid mistake in the game can mean game over. It’s pretty awful to see the guild get killed one by one, but as soon as Kirito told Sachi earlier she wouldn’t die, we kinda expected her to, and she did.

Sometimes simple premises are the best when dealing with single-episode romances like that of Kirito and Sachi, so we’re glad they didn’t do too much, and were moved nonetheless. We found ourselves hoping he could keep her alive and help her overcome her fear. When she died, we hoped he could bring her back, but it just wasn’t to be (the “within ten seconds” catch was particularly heartbreaking). Sachi’s posthumous message was a touching coda to their story of tender, doomed romance. It hopefully allows Kirito to move forward and become a more important force in SAO – if not for himself, than for everyone else; something his dead leader Keita insisted the elite groups were doing.

Rating: 9 (Superior)