“Return” kicks off the Fairy Dance Arc and picks up 2 months after the events of Kirito beating the game. It is quick at establishing relationships and motivations and is tragic too as we some of the horrible fallout from “Sword Art Online’s” existence and what it has done to a few of the players, including Asuna.
The story involves Kazuto/Kirito getting used to living in the real world again as he is seen as a hero for what he did in SAO. From here he develops his friendship with adopted sister Suguha and visits Asuna in the hospital. He soon finds an enemy in Asuna’s father’s business partner Nobuyuki who wants to own Asuna and keep her asleep and tells Kazuto that he is the only one keeping her alive since his company bought the fallen server of SAO and pays for it’s upkeep. He is given hope though when a screenshot is shown of ALfheim Online and it looks like Asuna is trapped in that game.
The Pros: Suguha – Kazuto’s adopted sister who took up sword fighting to please their father is a great character, she also has a bit of a crush on her adopted brother and is super protective of him. It is she who is able to be there for him when he feels powerless to save Asuna.
Kirito/Kazuto – Kazuto is his usual shy self and still dealing with the baggage from his adopted father as we see him always trying to be tough which is keeping him from facing how much he misses Asuna and how much it is tearing him apart, especially when Nobuyuki arrives on the scene. This is one of the episodes where he is at his lowest.
The Fight – At one point he duels Suguha as he is curious if what he learned in the game he can use in reality, and he does a good job though she is physically stronger and beats him. It was a really well done fight.
In the Real World – How the real world is drawn is very pristine and reminds me of “Sword Art Online.” This was purposeful as even in the real world we have antagonists and skills to learn, at least in how the show presents things.
The Cons: Nobuyuki – This guy is a creeper, from touching Asuna’s face and smelling her hair…treating her like a thing basically and telling Kirito he doesn’t care about her and that she hated him in the real world…he is obviously evil with no depth at all. Not a good antagonist.
Asuna’s Agency – Asuna is literally trapped in her body and the cage. I miss the Asuna who was Kirito’s equal and them working to save one another.
This arc isn’t as strong as the first first with Kayaba, but it is still interesting at least. I want to see what happens and learn more about ALfheim online. I also like seeing Kazuto having to deal with the world he always chose to retreat from…it makes him compelling.
Final Score: 7.5 / 10