If the show had been more like the finale episode of the series in it’s second half, this show could have been great. Rather than focusing on creepy rapist and the victimization of one of our heroines why couldn’t we have dealt with Kayaba’s dream and the survivors of “SAO” doing that dream rather than the Mario and Daisy mission to save Peach…so much missed potential and this episode showed what could have been for the second part of the series…
The story picks up with everyone waking and Nobuyuki trying to kill Kazuto but being defeated and brought in by the police as the survivors of SAO go to school together and work on the Seed and making their own MMOs.
The Pros: The Seed – Kayaba in his dying moments or his echo gave Kirito a World Seed so that all people could create MMOs…basically he created an open source system that Kirito made free. Why couldn’t we have seen this guy in the first half? Still, that was good ending.
Kazuto and Asuna – Seeing these two fall in love again is great as well as how they are both awkward to those around them as they are trying to get used to knew things, the affection and love is still there though and it is adorable.
Kirito and Leafa – These two become siblings again and Leafa dances with Kirito after her dealing with being an outsider to some degree to the SAO community.
SAO Reunion – The reunion is great! All the usual suspects are there such as Agil, Rika, Keiko, Klein and others. It is great seeing them party and celebrate the beating of the game…which could have happened in the first half of the season if they hadn’t fridged Asuna.
The Return of SAO – The final bit is SAO returns and Leafa and all the old squad go to beat the game that is back.
I’ll do a write-up on the show as a whole later but if it had ended on the first arc with Asuna free we could have a favorite anime, sadly the second arc came around and proceeded to ruin all of the good will built up as it ruined one of the best characters in the series…I’ll write about other arcs they could have done for part 2 in the assessment of the show, for now here is my score for this episode.
Final Score: 9 / 10
This episode is the final objectification of Asuna as well as giving us a retreated of tropes that were already covered in the first half of the series. There is very little that is good that can be said about this episode and I’ll get into that more later.
The story involves Yui and Kirito rescuing Asuna only for Oberon to trap them and begin raping Asuna while Kirito is slowly dying. He must find his inner power and beat the game to rescue her.
The Pros: Oberon’s Death – Oberon gets tortured but Asuna doesn’t get the kill after everything she went through. This character deserved much worse than what he got of being slowly cut to pieces and fully aware of it and experiencing the pain of it all. Was too good for him.
The Cons: Kirito the Hero – He finds his inner power and Kayaba’s echo reminds him that he was there fight and break the game because of his will. We’ve already been here there is no reason to do this again.
Asuna’s Rape – Asuna gets declothed and licked and a whole bunch of other horrible shit while Kirito is trapped because of the gravity and his own sword stabbed in his back. It’s presented like Sansa’s rape scene and is gratioutous and serves no purpose except to victimize one of the strongest people in this show who has been victimized for the entire second part of this arc. Really “Sword Art Online?” What purpose did this serve?
Oberon/Nobuyuki – One dimensional baddie rapes an innocent victim he’s been harassing this entire episode and the entire second half of the series. This is not good writing and this character served no purpose but to victimize Asuna and glorify Kazuto/Kirito. What a waste.
The fact that a character getting tortured is a pro shows just how far down this episode is. The players and Asuna being freed doesn’t even mean anything until the next episode because the tonal shift and rape on screen kind of make that feel meaningless. Serious “SAO” writers, what were you getting at with this crap? It is weak writing that does nothing and is like the writers are actively trying to sabotage their heroes (Asuna) and their show.
Final Score: 1 / 10
This…was actually another good episode. We don’t have any of the victimization yet and we see some great teamups and a lot of potential to show what the second arc could have been (Alliances and Raids in action working together). So I’m going to cherish this blip while it’s still around because the next episode is really bad.
The story involves facing the Guardians again except this time Alicia and Sakuya have arrived to help as together they face off against the Guardians to get Kirito his opening so he can reach the top of the World Tree to save Asuna.
The Pros: The Action – The action is great! It’s quick and flowing and really makes the most of the three dimensional space as well as showing just how threatening the Guardians are but also showing the players power as well.
The Alliance – Cait Siths have dragons and they are awesome! The Sylphs have swords that shoot lazers too, so that is pretty cool. It is great finally seeing an Alliance in game too…I wish that had been the focus of part 2 not Asuna in the place of Princess Peach.
Kazuto/Kirito and Leafa/Suguha – This is the episode where they fight it out in the game and later find a new way to relate to one another as Kazuto admits that he regretted being distant from her and everyone and that why he is trying to beat the game and save Asuna is so that he can move on. Suguha admits that after she find out she became attracted to him because of how kind he was to her after he came out of the game. They later make a great team up against the Guardians. They and the Alliance eventually break Kirito through and he uses the Admin Card to get through the locked door and enter the top of the tree.
Recon – Recon returns as the Red Shirt whose sacrifice shows there is chance to break through the Guardians and also buys them time before the Alliance arrives. It was a cool moment.
This was a solid action episode, the creepyness is coming up though. I’m going to cherish these action moments while I can before the dive into the abyss of some of the worst that anime has to offer.
Final Score: 9 / 10
One of the odd things the second art of this show did was have Kirito’s sister in the family he was adopted into completely crush on him. This is the episode where we see where all that goes as they finally learn who they are in the game and have to deal with the reality of it. It’s actually handled pretty well, especially after the worst of things that was last episode.
The story involves Kirito taking on the Guardians in the World Tree alone and dying in the process. After Leafa rescues him he tells her Asuna is above leading to her realizing who he is after she confesses too. From here they have to deal with their relationship.
The Pros: The Guardians – The Guardians are weak, but there are so many of them that they equal a boss. They have great designs and look like Fairy Knights with lances and bows and arrows. They also manage to kill Kirito pretty quick.
Kirito’s Death – This is where Kirito realizes he needs help and that he just assumed he’d be good at this game because he was at “Sword Art Online.” It is a great wake up call for him.
Leafa/Suguha – Rescues Kirito so he won’t respawn at the beginning and learns that Asuna is who he is trying to save leading to her logging off after she had confessed her love to him. Complete Lannister moment as Kirito’s neutral face can be taken lots of ways.
Kirito/Kazuta – Kazuta does the best he can after the confession and when she says that the feelings developed for Kirito so she’d get over him it just got worse and that it all started when she learned he was adopted. It was very “Legally Blonde” in a lot of ways since it never got as bad as Cersei and Jamie.
I guess there is this beat before we jump into the abyss of some of the worst of anime again so I’ll give this episode credit where it is due. Also it’s great to finally see their relationship develop and Suguha finally have the chance to deal with her feelings.
Final Score: 9 / 10
This is where the series takes a sharp tonal shift and where it lost all potential to be great as it went for cheap victimization while downplaying the victimization and stealing Asuna’s agency just as she claims it this episode. Yeah, this episode was terrible and sadly it isn’t the worst example of what happens to her, the worst is yet to come in regards to one of the most empowering characters on this show. Okay, here we go…
The story involves Asuna’s escape and her discovering the lab where the 300 other players are being experimented on by Oberon. She makes it her mission to free the other trapped players. Elsewhere Kirito and Leafa arrive at the World Tree.
The Pros: The Trapped Players – Seeing them as brains floating over a metal tube reminded me of something out a Philip K. Dick novel so I enjoyed that, shame more wasn’t done with those other trapped players.
The Cons: The Slugs – Who the crap makes their avatar a purple slug? Really? They are already made to look bad and being uninteresting and what come is worse.
The Rape of Asuna – One of the Slug Scientist rapes her with his tendrils…yep, it happens and the only way she gets to fight back and show us the Asuna who is Kirito’s equal is biting the tendril making it drop her and stealing the Admin Key. It is still played off as no big deal by the animators though and even played as a joke given the other slug calls the one who did a perv. God damn it anime…
There was almost nothing good about this episode besides Asuna stealing the key and managing to fight back at the end. The scene was gratuitous and pervy and did nothing but establish what we already knew…Oberon and his men are bastards. If only this would be the last time this happened…
Final Score: 2 / 10
After finishing up “SAO” this is an episode that I wish we could have had more of. This was an episode that politics, showed character advancement within the game and dealt with politics between people as well as showing potential for future plot advancement to avoid the Kirito Show. It hadn’t lost all it’s dignity as some of the episodes near the end did that really showed the worst of what can come out of television and anime.
The story picks up where we left off with Sugu and Kirito racing to save the potential Alliance from the Salamander attack. They arrive just in time leading to a faceoff and Kirito’s first real opponent within the game.
The Pros: The Peace Conference – The Peace Conference between the Cait Sith and the Sylphs is awesome as we see them come together against the main threat and the Sylphs deal with their betrayer as well after Kirito’s duel. It’s awesome and we see their Alliance go towards it’s original purpose of tackling the World Tree.
The Duel – The Duel between the General and Kirito is awesome and we see Kirito get hurt until he uses Leafa’s sword to use his duel wielding ability he had in the last game. This is the only way he is able to beat the General and his Demon Sword stopping the Salamander army.
Kirito – Kirito shows awareness in this and he seems to be receptive to accepting help realizing he doesn’t really fully know this game.
Asuna’s Escape – Asuna having memorized the pass code uses it escape her cage. Finally a moment of empowerment for Asuna has been trapped and victimized way too much in this series thus far as it is.
The Faction Leaders – Sakuya of the Sylphs and Alicia are awesome! We see that they are smart, independent and see the bigger picture of the end game. Wish they could have received more development.
The Cons: Kirito Alone – Kirito does the duel alone, I would have almost preferred the other leaders being involved too since they were the ones being threatened.
This was the last great episode except maybe the final episode of this series. The rest from here really take a major tonal shift downhill…and were hard to get through because so much of it was gratuitous. I understand why one of my friends stopped watching the show soon after this episode.
Final Score: 9 / 10
This episode shows us that Kirito or the Spriggans can do much more than illusion and also that there is a larger plot going on as the Salamanders have been the main threat and are acting in accordance with a Sylph leader, including the hunting of Kirito and Leafa.
The story involves Leafa and Kirito finding they are being tracked by a Salamander raiding party who are working for a Sylph who wants to end the treaty that is going to be formed between the Sylph and Cait Siths leading Kirito with the choice to work with her and help the peace conference from being destroyed or continuing his path the The World Tree.
The Pros: The Salamanders and Fairy Politics – The Salamanders are the Fire Nation of this show, from being the primary threat and their constant hunting of the heroes as well as their dark motif. They are the largest of the factions it seems as destroying the peace conference will get them the equipment and power they need for a run at the World Tree.
Nagata/Recon – Nagata is really into the game as in the real world he reaches out to Suguha after he gets captured by the betrayer Sylph and the Salamanders and left in the sewers to die. He shows he is courageous when he finds out about the betrayal and their attempt to break up the possible treaty.
Yui – Yui shows how great she is as a guide and sets things up so that Kirito’s spell will do the most damage and that he will be shielded from the Salamander attack through the shield Leafa casts. It’s really great that she isn’t just an observer.
Suguha/Leafa – Leafa shows how invested she is in the big picture of the game as she goes back to protect her Fairy leader when she knows the leader and peace conference are at risk from the betrayal and Salamander attack. It was well done.
Kirito and the Battle – Kirito is very much the Kirito of old as he is willing to put himself at risk for strangers and he talks to Leafa about how he was much more selfish. He also uses his ability to change into an awesome Gleam Eyes type monster that reeks havoc showing that Spriggans or at least Kirito’s power lies beyond much more than illusion.
This was a great episode with the only thing that didn’t quite work was the cliffhanger ending. We aren’t to the peace conference yet, but besides that fact there are great moments between characters…be they Recon and Leafa or Kirito and Leafa. Nothing but good payoff this episode.
Final Score: 9.8 / 10