Sword Art Online – Episode 25 – “The World Seed” – The Real World and the End

SAO Ep 25

    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

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Sword Art Online – Episode 20 – “The General of the Blazing Flame” – Alliances and the World Tree

SAO Ep 20

   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

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

SAO 19

     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

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

SAO Ep 11

  “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 – 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 – 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