Sword Art Online – Episode 23 – “Bonds” – Alliances Payoff

SAO ep 23

     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

Sword Art Online – Episode 22 – “Grand Quest” – The Show’s Lannister Moment

SAO ep 22

    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

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 18 – “To the World Tree” – Going Renegade

SAO_E18_BD

   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

SAO Ep 17

   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 15 – “Return” – Return to Reality and the Game

SAO_E15_BD

  “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