Sword Art Online – Episode 12 – “Crimson Killing Intent” – Feelings Revealed

SAO Ep 10

    This was a good episode to show the complexity, danger and nature of Heathcliff, a chance for Asuna and Kirito to get closer and sadly the reveal of a once more pretty obvious villain. It was an entertaining episode though and I like where it takes the story.

The episode picks up where we left off with Heathcliff duling Kirito so he will join their guild. He defeats him and on Kirito’s first mission a member of the guild is shown to have a hidden agenda and takes his revenge against Kirito.

The Pros: The Duel – The Duel is very cool as we have a very defensive player (Heathcliff) versus a very offensive player (Kirito). Kirito nearly wins too until Heathcliff pulls off an impossible move that shows there is more to him than meets the eye.

Heathcliff – Heathcliff wins the duel and is actually shown to be pretty reasonable as after Kuradeel’s assassination attempt he lets Kirito and Asuna live their dream of getting married and buying a house together.

Kirito – Kirito finally opens up in this! After he loses he tells Asuna about the guild he was a part of who he lied about his level too who ended dying and how he blames himself. It’s a great moment and we see how Kirito losing has advanced him as a character and he is open about his feelings towards Asuna.

Asuna – Asuna has also changed as we see her voicing her concern for Kirito and in the end saves him from Kuradeel. She is willing to leave the guild too and wants to have a life with him and find him the real world. It’s really touching that she has found a way to live in the game and I really like seeing her in action.

The Cons: Kuradeel – This guy was obviously evil (how he’s drawn gives him a slightly demonic look) so his betrayal came as no surprise. He was way too overpowered too as we see him nearly kill both Kirito and Asuna when they are out level him. The only good thing about this character is that it lets Kirito and Asuna get away from the Guild.

This episode was fun though Kuradeel brought it down. He wasn’t compelling as a villain and his betrayal could be seen from miles away. For me the best parts of the episode were the love story and the duel, which made it worth watching.

Final Score: 8 / 10

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Sword Art Online – Episodes 8-9 – “Defeating Level 74 Arc” – Politics of the Game

SAO Episode 9

   This arc completes a few arcs that are started earlier. We see how Asuna and Kirito’s relationship has developed and also the drama around Level 74 and beating the Boss who is there, who has a really cool design. This arc also leads to something bigger, though what I’m waiting to see how it payoffs and where this series goes.

    The episodes are “The Sword of Black and White” and “The Blue-Eyed Demon.”

     The story involves Asuna breaking from her guild to her own thing and the drama that comes from that as well as their finding the Boss on Level 74 and what comes from that in having to face it with only Klein.

The Pros: Level Designs – The Level Designs are really cool. From Asuna’s area where she has a giant lake and an ancient temple. The level the boss is on is also really cool with it’s dark shadows.

The Action – The action that was in this episode was really good. Especially the action in fighting the boss and the duel Kirito fights with Asuna’s horrible bodyguard who is threatened by any Beater and is a big stalker. So glad to see him lose.

Klein – Klein makes a brief appearance in this episode and is crushing on Asuna until he respects her attraction to Kirito and Kirito’s to her. It is really cool how he changes from the crushing guy to the guy looking out for his friends. He is also one of the three who takes out “The Gleam Eyes.”

Asuna – Asuna is Kirito’s equal throughout the entire episode up until the end and they have a great dynamic as she makes a rare dish and becomes close friends and more with Kirito over everything they are going through and there plan to take a break together for a while. She does a good job showing that at the core she just wants to live and the game is not living, it is still being trapped and away from those to care for outside who suffer. That never changes within her character and shows how good she is.

Kirito – Kirito is good at actually respecting others in this, though that is largely because he mostly interacts with Klein and Asuna who have had his back on multiple times and who he has not had to rescue. They are just as capable as him and that is where his respect is derived from I think.

Guild Drama – The Knights of Blood are also a bit terrible and won’t let Asuna do her own thing. In this way is is good to see them shutdown by Kirito and to see Asuna break away while still being part of the team. There ultimatum is so stupid though.

Level 74 Boss – The Gleam Eyes has a great design, it looks like something out of “Diablo” with it being a blue creature with both a ram and bull mixed into it’s design. It’s like a minotaur but more and seeing it wipe out an entire guild is good at establishing the threat before Klein, Kirito and Asuna take it out.

The Cons: Asuna’s Lack of Agency – Asuna is at one point fought for between Kirito and the Guild Leader where she has no power in the choice that others are making for her. She can stay solo with Kirito or Kirito has to join the guild of she loses. Her agency is suddenly taken away.

    This was a solid arc though the ending brings it down from being as good as it could have truly been. I really liked the Boss and level design and up until Asuna’s agency is taken away we see some great interactions between her and Kirito. She isn’t someone to be fought for, she can be fight for herself. I hope the show gets back to that, though with the upcoming fight against her Guild Leader I’m not counting too much on that sadly.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episode 7 – “Warmth of the Heart” – Relationships are Complicated

SAO Episode 7

     This was an alright “Sword Art Online,” it introduces us to Lisbeth who is a weapons master who creates a weapon that is used in a later episode. The disadvantage is that it kind of shows within this world all romantics interests revolve around Kirito. Kirito is good in some ways but he also has issues in how he treats others, even if he aims are good. He will steal another’s agency if he feels they aren’t strong enough to face a Boss.

 The story involves Kirito going to Lisbeth to get a rare weapon made. Together they go to a higher level and end up being trapped in the lair of the boss but finding what they were looking for in the process. From here it is dealing with their feelings and finding a way out of the lair alive with the metal they need for the weapon.

The Pros: Asuna – Asuna is Lisbeth’s friend who recommends Kirito to her in the first place. She is truly a good friend too as she has her back throughout the entire episode and stands up to anything Kirito might have done.

X’rphan the Wyrm – Sweet looking Boss. Basically a giant Ice Dragon that Kirito does not end up killing.

Lisbeth – She is a pretty awesome blacksmith who has a pretty solid amount of respect for herself. Kirito shows her how she can be better and she is good at standing up to him and later through their adventure together wants to be his exclusive blacksmith. She finds her self respect again after getting past her crush of him and is off to finding herself is awesome and just being friends, so that was good to see. I just wish she could have helped in the fight. Kirito does everything.

Kirito – Kirito is a dick, even if he means to protect people he also has a habit of being a dick in the process rather than using people’s skills to help beat the boss…unless they are Asuna. He is a good guy at his core but he still has ways to go to get over the people he has lost.

Cons: Everyone Loves Kirito – There are quite a few characters who are essentially love interests of Kirito. I guess this is part of being a main character in an anime but it is super annoying. This is the 3rd character and I really hope there aren’t more. Kirito needs to be reminded of his humanity not how good he is at the game.

  This was an enjoyable episode, though the fact that every women has been in love with Kirito or an antagonist is troubling. Definitely an overall problem with anime as a whole. I still really liked how she was able to move past him though, even though Kirito really annoyed me a bit sometimes in this episode. Still, I’d recommend if you are enjoying the show so far.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episodes 5-6 – “Death in the Safe Zone Arc” – Empowerment and Control

SAO_E06

     This was an arc that started out slow in “Murder in the Safe Zone” but really pics up in the part “Illusionary Avenger.” Like prior episodes it gives more of the dynamics of how the world and game work and shows how the game has changed people for better and for worse. We also get some great moments between Kirito and Asuna.

      The story involves a murder in the Safe Zone which leads to Asuna and Kirito’s search to find the killer. They soon find themselves pulled into a greater conspiracy that revolves around the drama of the Golden Apple Guild whose leader was killed after recovering a rare item that the majority had agreed on to sale.

The Pros: The Premise – The mystery is very cool, how can someone die in an area where codewise no one should be able to die? This mystery drives the plot as we soon find out that appearances can be deceiving.

Agil – Agil returns! As he is the one who is able to figure that Grimlock made the weapon that Caynz “died” on. It was great seeing him and the fact that he’s a merchant who makes his own items is really cool. He has a pretty good life within the game and a good friendship with Kirito.

Asuna – Asuna is the leader of the Knights of the Blood and has become driven at getting out of the game but after moments of enjoyment and rest with Kirito she soon finds reason within the game and builds a great friendship with Kirito. She is also the one who captures Grimlock.

Kirito – Kirito is great in this as he is pulled out from being a solo player to interacting with the wider world. He makes a good team with Asuna too and ends up saving Yolko and Caynz from the Laughing Coffin Guild.

Schmitt – Schmitt is a member of the Holy Dragon Alliance and is actually an interesting character. He betrays Griselda because he fears for his life but he lived in regret with it ever since. This leads to Yolko and Caynz sparing him and him growing and finding the courage to stand and not betray again.

Grimlock – Grimlock is a messed up guy who loved the idea of a submissive wife so when when Griselda because a leader he killed her to hold onto the wife he had once had in the real world. It is sad how this still applies to folks too and we still it often where the family or husband will kill their spouse for being independent. It is super messed up.

Griselda – Griselda’s story is about empowerment as in the game she becomes a leader and is respected by her guild who see her like family.

The Reveal – The reveal is cool with the attempt to kill Yolko and Caynz, Shmitt’s confession and the arrest of Grimlock along with him being called out on his sexism and evil. This was the best part of the episode. It is also revealed that when hitpoints go down gear or items vanished and that was when Yolko and Caynz had used their stones to warp out to make it look like they had died.

How the Game Changes People – The game changes people for better and for worse. Grimlock might have been a nice guy before but the game made him feel powerless and he became a monster, Griselda felt powerless before but the game empowered her. In a way this illustrates the power of second chances.

Okay: Yolko and Caynz – It is their gambit to reveal Shmitt as the killer and they do a good job at it but almost end up dead from being used by Grimlock. I wanted more on why they like Griselda and their relationship to her, which is why they are okay and not a pro.

The Cons: The Laughing Coffin – Great design but they are just kind of there as another player killer guild. No individual was distinct so there wasn’t much to go off of with them.

The Ending – Griselda’s ghost appeared, really? It broke the game and made no sense. Only makes sense if other dead characters have echoes too or another world was designed for dead players to go.

This is a good two-parter that I would recommend. It has great minor character and solving the mystery is fun.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episode 4 – “The Black Swordsman” – Policing the Game

SOA Episode 4

   “The Black Swordsman” is a fun episode, though I think a lot more could have been done with giving Silica and Rosalia better motivations…we didn’t really see their process of becoming who they were and that took away more power from the story as in the end they felt like tools for Kirito and not much else. Still a good episode though.

     The story involves Silica seeking to resurrect her pet dragon after she leaves her guild where she is being bullied by Rosalia. Kirito helps her level up and get to the location that will resurrect her dragon but they find they are watched and the truth of what is going is soon revealed.

The Pros: Kirito’s Gambit – The episode is really one giant Kirito’s Gambit in order to capture player killer Rosalia. It is really cool how he does it too as he lures her out by joining the only surviving member of the Guild she was exploiting.  It doesn’t end there though.

Policing the Game – When Rosalia is revealed Kirito kills her, saying he is willing to go red (bad) for a few days since he is a solo player and protecting others is worth it. To this end he is the closest thing the game has we have seen to a police force.

Kirito and Silica – There relationship is strange but entertaining. They are friends but Silica has a crush on him. Kirito talks about how helping Silica is like helping his sister who protected him from his abusive guardian. There are some great character moments between these two.

Okay: Rosalia – She’s a red lady with a cool voice actress but not motivation beyond selfishness. I wanted to know why she had become a player killer and not knowing cheapened her as an antagonist.

Silica – Silica has the cute thing going on but needs to be rescued most of the time and there are some weird moments that try and objectify her which I didn’t like at all. She felt like a character trying not be fan service but being made fan service anyway. Really disliked that.

This was a good episode that shows how the world of Aincrad is developing further. We see that there are players who have gone bad and also how much power Kirito has as being a much higher level player going back to lower levels in the game. It was fun, but the issues in regards to Silica and Rosalia are hard to ignore.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episode 3 – “The Red-Nosed Reindeer” – The Measure of Loss

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   This is a predictable and sad episode that was really enjoyable. The theme I’m noticing in the first 3 episodes is one of loss and from it finding the strength and resolve to move on. Kirito is through whose eyes the process takes place as he is our stand-in and they do a good job of it since he is a loner the experience of first friendship and being part of a group or new to him. This gives the episode power.

     “”The Red-Nosed Reindeer” is about how Kirito finally joins a group of noobs he was helping advance through the game but as he is helping them find their confidence the lie about the level he actually is comes back to bite him when the group decides to tackle monsters on a higher level.

The Pros: Moonlit Black Cats – This is a great guild who is all about sticking together and being a team more than anything else. Sadly it is that drive that is their destruction as they are willing to take more risks when they learn of Kirito’s true level.

Keita – Keita is the leader of the guild and a good guy but he is also a bit naive as he is never fully there for Sachi and her missing her life she left behind. For him it is all about the team and the game and when he loses the Team it is too much for him and he rejects Kirito.

Sachi – Sachi is afraid and her arc is finding confidence and a reason to live in the Game. She finds that with Kirito and even comes to love him as she sends him a message before her death showing deeply she was thinking about him after they slept together and talked by the river. Her death is sad since she is a full character and her fears about the world and what she left behind are relevant.

Peace and Death – Sachi is seeking death at first because she sees it as the only escape from the game. This is a theme of the series too as so many feel trapped and death is the only thing that will stop the endless struggle.

Klein and Fuurinkazan – Klein is back and his guild is great as we see him defend Kirito when Kirito is seeking the item that can bring back the dead. He has no ill feelings towards Kirito and Kirito is really cold to him until the end when he gives him the item that can bring back a character if it is within ten seconds after they die.

Kirito – Kirito’s arc is moving on from his guilt and also embracing his Loner identity further. After he loses Sachi and the guild it is too much until Sachi’s Christmas Present arrives and in her song he can stop blaming himself and live how he had inspired her to live. It’s a touching scene.

Okay/Con: Divine Dragon Alliance – These guys are mostly faceless evil Paladins, which is okay I guess but overused. There isn’t a face to them either so right now they are just a faceless evil faction. I like the name though.

The Cons: The Lack of Nicholas the Renegade Fight – Nicholas has the item that can bring back the dead but sadly we don’t get to see the fight. He has an awesome look and a cool entrance just for us not to see it. Didn’t like that, this is a game and boss fights are one of the coolest aspects of a game.

This was a good episode with loss though it missed a major opportunity with Nicholas and the Divine Dragon Alliance. This episode was good and it did a lot in showing Guild Life and Kirito’s development and had a death that mattered. I’d recommend it for sure.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Sword Art Online – Episode 2 – “Beater” – Illusion of Kirito

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   Episode 2, “Beater” does a good job of establishing just how dangerous the game is…both in how dangerous the npcs and the players are since there are no extra lives and do overs. We also see how the world is politicizing from the desperation of the players and see how Kirito ends up defining himself.

       The story begins a month after the first episode and we see Diavel attempting to unite the players to take on the Boss so that all of them can move on from the 1st level. When he says they will form parties to take them on Kirito joins another loner Asuna as the angry Kibaou attacks the Beta testers, blaming them for the deaths they could have prevented in the game.

The Pros: The Politics – I like that there are those who are angry because they are powerless to leave the game. Kibaou felt believable if misguided and I like how Agil defends the Beta testers and points out how they helped. Diavel is great as the face of the players too and the loners like Asuna and Kirito are a great touch as well.

Illfang the Kobold Lord – This boss is awesome and actually manages to kill Diavel! He has a secret move that isn’t in the Handbook and goes through a lot forms and kills countless players. I liked the design too as Illfang looked like a Demonic Dog.

Diavel – Diavel is the revolutionary out to unite the players and he does a good job too as he is the spark that makes Kirito think beyond himself. He wants to protect the players from their worse natures and free as many as he can. For these reasons his death means something.

Kibaou – Kibaou is the one looking to start a fight as he feels powerless in the game. To this end he targets the Beta Testers and nearly succeeds on a few occasions, the first time he is talked down by Agil and the second time Kirito lets him be the focus of all the player’s anger. He is a good antagonist for this reason as he reasons make sense.

Agil – I really like Agil. He is a large and calm guy who can see the bigger picture. He is also the only person of color we have seen in the game so far. He is really talented too and has an awesome weapon!

Asuna – Asuna is the loner who has trouble connecting to others like Kirito. She is also one of the best in the game and it is her and Kirito who save the day. She holds onto her humanity and reminds herself of what matters. To her the game has a danger of pulling her in and she wants to stop it.

Kirito – Kirito’s arc continues as we see him fear for his life when Kibaou wants to punish the Beta Testers and later see him see the bigger pictures when Diavel dies for the players. It is that helps him see beyond himself and beating the game and he becomes the face that the angry players can hate while he resolves to help the noobs. I really liked his arc in this.

   This was a powerful and fun episode. It was better than the Pilot and did more with more characters. It also introduced a lot of characters I think we will see later. This really showed how dangerous the game really is and that it changes people for better and for worse.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10