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

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    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

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

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   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

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     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

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     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 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