Sword Art Online – Episode 19 – “The Legrue Corridor” – The Chance for Peace

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     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

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Sword Art Online – Episode 18 – “To the World Tree” – Going Renegade

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   ALfheim Online has interesting politics and some really interesting characters too who we had never met before. Suguha/Leafa and her relationship to her party, as well as her people, the Sylph’s relationship to the Spriggan, and the constant threat of the Salamanders. This episode does a good job with all of that, with the weakest part once again being Oberon.

   The story involves Leafa going renegade when her party attempts to force her to stay and keep her away from Kirito. Things get more complicated when Recon warns her that the party may not be all that appears as a Salamander tracker tracks them.

The Pros: World Politics – The Sylph hate the Spriggan and the Spriggan are apparently more aligned with the more aggressive damage based fairy species. It’s really cool and the drive for the World Tree is a great drive.

Recon/Nagata – Recon goes to Suguha’s school but tested out because he was so smart. For him life and the game overlap and the was animated as his avatar, which is why I’m writing his avatar name first. He’s annoying in a lot of way but not useless…so far more comedic relief than anything who crushes on Suguha. Hope we see more and that he grows.

Suguha/Leafa – Leafa continues to crush on Kirito while developing a friendship with him. She is all about her agency and freedom and it makes her awesome. When Recon is a creep she smacks him and she challenges her party and goes renegade because she believes in Kirito’s quest. She is one of the best parts of the series.

Kirito – Kirito continues to be a great guy and having learned from his experience with Asuna’s guild he stands up for Leafa and calls out the leader by telling him that players are not items. It was really powerful and shows how unselfish he is.

Asuna – Asuna is watching Oberon and finding out the code for the cage. She is also given hope when Oberon mentions that Kirito is alive.

Yui – Yui continues to speak bluntly and is comedic and smart as she enjoys just being around humans and seeking to understand them. It is awesome.

The Cons: Oberon/Nobuyuki – Oberon continues to be creepy. The only good thing about is his eventual defeat.

  This was a great episode that I’d recommend. It is wonderful seeing the politics come to the forefront and show that things are more complicated than they have ever been. I’m curious to see where it goes and how the world unfolds as we have 9 different species and people have two lives now…both inside and outside the game.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episode 17 – “Captive Queen” – Asuna’s lack of Agency and Obviously Evil Villain

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   In this episode we find out who Leafa is in the real world and get to know the world of “Sword Art Online” better but also see that the problem at the start of this arc is still a major problem. Asuna’s in a cage with no agency and the villain can’t even be bothered to be compelling. I got a feeling this will be a problem through this arc.

    The story involves Leafa taking Kirito out for a drink and him learning that reaching the top is the way to beat the game as King Oberon will give the winner the ability to have constant flying and not have to rest. After this we learn that Oberon is really Nobuyuki and that he can wipe away the minds of the characters he controls like Asuna making the mission more dire.

The Pros: Leafa/Suguha – In this we learn Suguha and Leafa are the same person and that like Kirito knew “Sword Art Onlnie” she really knows “ALfheim Online.” She forms a friendship with Kirito pretty fast and teaches him how to fly without the controller and tells him about Oberon’s quest and that is what they all need to beat the game.

Asuna – Asuna threatens Oberon/Nobuyuki and fights him as best she can having no weapons and being in a stupid cage. She also watches the lock showing that isn’t remaining passive. I hope she gets to destroy him.

Kirito – Kirito is great as usual and we see how complicated his friendship with Leafa could become as she doesn’t know about Asuna. He’s very much the good guy in this and we see his protector instincts when he is with Yui as they are both trapped in the game. He is also the one who figures out that it will take a person from each race to reach the top of the World Tree or defeat the Guardians protecting it on the lower level.

The Cons: Oberon/Nobuyuki – Creeper is creeepin and threatening rape. Can’t wait till this character gets killed. Weak writing and weak character.

This episode was alright as Asuna did fight verbally even though she couldn’t physically. Still hate the fact that she needs to rescued and that is what is driving this plot, but the world of ALfheim online is interesting at least.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episode 16 – “Land of Fairies” – Adaptation and New Rules

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     “Land of Fairies” is when we finally enter ALfheim online and Yui returns as well as being introduced to a pretty cool game that I would play. The world of ALfheim online is pretty complex and captures the modern MMO far better than “Sword Art Online” did. The character designs are pretty great as well.

     This episode begins with Kazuto meeting up with Andrew (Agil from “Sword Art Online”) meeting so he can learn more about the game and the screenshot. He promises to save her and enters the game as Spriggan due to it’s dark look and taking the name Kirito. He soon finds himself trapped in the game once more with none of his items but still all his skills. He is later pulled into a fight to protect a player named Leafa from the Salamanders and the story unfolds from there.

The Pros: Alfheim Online – The world is really cool. There is a giant moon and tons of forests and temples that make up the area where 9 different Fairies live and battle. It really is a rich world.

The Different Fairies – The fairies have different specialties, like Leafa’s race can heal, and Kirito’s race can use illusions. It’s a great dynamic and all of them compliment each other.

The World Tree – The World Tree is in the center of the game and at the top is where Asuna is being held captive. It’s far away and has lots of enemies to fight to reach it, showing that it is meant for the end game.

Andrew/Agil – A bartender in real life and a blacksmith in the game and an all around great guy. He has Kirito’s back and gives him the first information of what he’ll be up against in the game. “AndAndrew

Yui – Yui is back as the tear when activated made her a guiding PC who helps Kirito learn the basics of the game. It is great seeing her again too, even if she doesn’t have game breaking powers anymore.

Leafa – Leafa looks like Asuna’s avatar and is great fighter as she only loses when she is outnumbered and being targeted from a distance. She is tough and a great leader.

Kirito/Kazuto – It is a lot of fun seeing Kirito learn how to fly and fight and seeing that his stats transferred from “SAO” even if non of his equipment did. He has to start at the beginning again which is new for him but it makes it great too as he has to have an arc because of it.

This was a solid episode that makes me excited to see more of Elfheim online and meet the other Fairy races. The world is rich, well designed and the aesthetics are really cool. Leafa and Yui are both great characters as well.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episode 15 – “Return” – Return to Reality and the Game

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  “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

Sword Art Online – Episodes 13-14 – “Escaping the Game Arc” – Kayaba’s Story and a Reason to Live

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   So we have now come to the end of the first arc of the series, and really the show could have ended here and it would be a favorite. I’m a little worried to see what they’ll do for the reset of the show as it could easily get bad as for what felt like the point of the series has past. We finally get to see what Kayaba’s agenda has been and who he has been in the game as well as bringing the arcs of our characters to a close in a pretty powerful ending. The series isn’t done though so I’m curious where they will go from here.

    The episodes are “Edge of Hell’s Abyss” and “The End of the World.”

    The story involves Heathcliff calling the Knights of the Blood to take on a powerful boss who took out folks from every guild. This lead to an all out assault and Kirito and Asuna being called back from their leave of absence from the Guild. From here they are reminded why beating the game is so important as all people in the game are in hospitals on life support and could die if not freed from the game. In this quest this leads to the reveal of who the final boss is and a showdown.

The Pros: Nishida – Nishida was in charge of the security company for Sword Art Online and failed big time. His way of dealing with being trapped in the game has been to fish and it is in fishing with Asuna and Kirito he finds a reason to live once more. He was a great character, it was nice seeing an older player in the game.

Klein – Klein is back and we see him and Agil doing a great job against the Skull Reaper and how much he cares about Kirito when Kirito is facing the final boss and apologizes for just leaving him when they were playing.

Agil – Agil is the character who helps all lower level players get stronger. He also does a great job against the Skull Reaper and is one of the few folks doing damage against it. Like Klein it was great seeing him again.

The Skull Reaper – This boss is awesome! It looks like a giant centipede made of skulls and bones. It is deadly too and kills most of the high level players in one it. It makes it’s defeat all the more rewarding and gives perspective to the despair the survivors feel afterword in regards to how far they have to go to beat the game. The Reaper was the boss on level 75.

Heathcliff / Kayaba – Heathcliff and Kayaba are one in the same and he sees himself as the Demon King helping level the players up so he has a worthy enemy to fight at the end. His pride and sense of justice get in the way though as he lets Kirito duel him which leads to Kirito just barely beating him, but Kayaba manages to kill Asuna in the process. Later he recounts in the game world as Sword Art Online crumbles that he’s been in the game so long he’s forgotten why he made it in the first place beyond it being something new and beautiful. He is a complex character but in no way a hero.

Asuna – Asuna risks her life for Kirito which makes it possible for Kirito to beat Heathcliff/Kayaba and free the players from the game. She dies happy though as she found a reason to live, found joy in each day in the game and in her relationship with Kirito. She also has time with him after and they swear to find each other again. It’s unclear what dying in the game means right now…but her story did feel done here, just like Kirito’s.

Kirito – Kirito defeats Kayaba! He does it just barely by willing? himself to live and make the final hit, which is alright. He also apologizes to all his friends and nearly says “I love you” to Asuna. He is a great protagonist though. He is the loner who doesn’t get people who has a great community in the game and in the end fights to free them. In the end we see him wake up after his last moments with Asuna as he says her name and leaves the hospital room.

Dying Dream – The dying dream is beautiful. Kayaba, Asuna and Kirito watch a sunset as the Sword Art Online crumbles and they have their last moments together and share how much they loved one another.

Waking Up – Kirito wakes up, his hair is long and we see that he was truly trapped in the game. Getting up he goes into the light saying the name of Asuna.

   This was a great story, though not as good as the Yui arc. At least now since the show isn’t done maybe there is a way to find Asuna and bring back Yui? I just hope things don’t end up too happy. This was such a great ending because we do lose people, people do die and you can’t save everyone. It also completed the arcs that were started at the beginning. I’ll keep watching but wonder how the story that has completed here can be beat by the story to come.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10

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Sword Art Online – Episodes 11-12 – “The Yui Arc” – A.I. Worth Fighting For

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  “The Yui Arc” is really good and shows just how messed up the creator of the game Kayaba is. In this we see one of the most sympathetic A.I.’s who is a game changer while still managing to keep stakes in the game. She changes Kirito and Asuna in ways they don’t expect and she is one of my favorite characters on this show.

    The episodes in the arc are “”The Girl of the Morning Dew” and “Yui’s Heart.”

     The story involves Asuna and Kirito getting married and living a life of peace out in the wilderness until they discover Yui. A young girl who doesn’t remember who she is but adopts them as her mother and father. Her nature is revealed when they return to the “Town of Beginnings” and are forever changed from it.

The Pros: The Family – Yui, Kirito and Asuna make a great family! There is a contrast between them all with Yui developing tastes similar to Kirito but being more attached to Asuna. Even when Yui discovers what she actually is their love for one another doesn’t change and more than anything what she wants is to be with them. It’s a powerful relationship they have.

The Cabin in the Forest – The Cabin in the Forest is Asuna and Kirito’s escape where you get to see them truly make a life together. It is wonderful as they are teenagers in love and sometimes they clash but the core love they have for another doesn’t change as they end up experiencing great loss and joy.

Yui – Yui is the mysterious girl who ends up being the A.I. in charge of looking after players well beings. Kayaba locked her out of the game and she watched everyone suffer from being trapped in it. Eventually Asuna and Kirito’s relationship lead to her seeking them out as they were building a life in the game. In the end she sacrifices herself to save them and the leader of the Army who got trapped in a dungeon by Kibaou. This leads to the GM trying to destroy her program, though Kirito manages to hack and turn her into an item, saving some part of her for he and Asuna to bring back.

Asuna – Asuna is shown to be really motherly in this as it is her drive that leads to them trying to find Yui’s parents. It is also her decision to go on the rescue mission to save the leader of the Army guild. She feels everything strongly and when they lose Yui it nearly breaks her though she finds solace with Yui’s heart and makes it a necklace, swearing to use it bring her back later.

Kirito – Kirito is the cautious one in this and a bit of a troll to Asuna (telling ghost stories) but at the core a good guy. He does all the missions Asuna does and honors the fact that they fight together. They are a team and as a loner player afraid of losing people this takes a while for to accept. It is how he grows and we see that he wants to be with Asuna in the real word, even though he has trouble accepting it.

The Ending – Yui risks her power and is deleted after she saves Asuna, Kirito and the good members of the Army from a really powerful boss. It is great seeing her story from her point of view and that in the end she just wants the joy of being the child of Kirito and Asuna. It makes her death all the sadder.

 This is one of my favorite arcs in the show as it ties everything back to the beginning and we see how the game is bigger than it appears to be. Yui is one of the most human characters and she is an A.I. Asuna and Kirito also live a real young love relationship and they question and grow as they go through the story. This arc is a joy to watch and the best in the series so far. I highly recommend it.

Final Score: 10 / 10

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