Alright, I’m going to say something extremely controversial this week. See, I genuinely enjoyed the second half of this episode. Quite a bit in fact. Sword Art Online can actually be very good when the focus isn’t entirely on how ridiculously powerful and badass Kirito is supposed to be which, in truth, has been the major focus for most of the ALO arc. What Kawahara Reki seems to frequently forget is that MMORPGs aren’t about the individual, but what the many can accomplish when they combine their strength. The same can also extend to all other mediums – Stilts and Stereoman even wrote a post on the subject. All through ALO, Kirito has worked alone. Leefa has been with him every step of the way, but always pushed to the back whenever there was anything important to be done. The Sword Art Online arc never had the issue to quite this extent. Until the final moments where everything suddenly came down to Kirito, progress through the story – through the game itself – had been facilitated by co-operation, either with large groups of players, or with Asuna.
The latter half of this episode brought that back, and with it, the things that actually made the first arc enjoyable to watch. For once, someone else is allowed to do something cool, even if it did involve killing themselves in the process. How we actually take this action depends on our mindsets as viewers. In many parts of the western world, suicide attacks are seen as cowardly – a way to take out others without having to deal with the consequences that follow. But in Japan, there was a time where such actions were glorified as a noble sacrifice fuelled by bravery. That’s quite a clash of views. Regardless of how you personally see it, Recon did actually demonstrate remarkable courage compared to most other characters of his particular archetype – he actually managed a successful (ish) confession to Leefa. It was that courage that gave Leefa what she needed to actually face Kirito. Had it not been for Recon’s outburst, she would likely have walked away from the issue forever as she’d obviously intended to at that moment.
Amidst the action brought by the Cait-Sith and Sylphs, something else happens. This episode marks the very first time Kirito has actually viewed Leefa as an equal. Instead of asking her to stand back and provide him with healing support (which, admittedly, he did do earlier in the episode) he finally allows her to fight alongside him and protect his back. Now that wasn’t so hard was it? There was even a shot earlier in the episode, mimicking the first OP, which worked nicely with this context in mind (credit entirely to the director for that). This arc could’ve been a lot less painful had this development come about much sooner – had Kirito actually decided not to relegate others to trivial roles.
While the duel in the first half of the episode was well handled and the fact Kirito didn’t win was a nice touch, it felt like a lot of this half was too drawn out in comparison to how rushed the climactic battle ended up being. In fact, a lot of ALO has felt rather drawn out – why couldn’t more of this time have been spent on the climax? Or the endgame cavern interlude that was present in the LN? Its conclusion came too quickly leaving Kirito once again as the likely sole focus for the final two episodes. Personally, I would’ve preferred it had far more attention be given to the combined forces of the Sylph and Cait-Sith in battle than to Kirito and Leefa floating in circles.
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – Leefa confronts Kirito, Recon proves himself useful, and some unexpected – but sorely missed – guests arrive! #SAO
- The concept of an unbeatable quest is a fair one. Given that Sugou has his labs at the top of the tree (why not keep them somewhere not physically accessible through a door in the game instead?) it’s hardly surprising that the whole quest would have been designed entirely for show.
- What is he playing baseball? That’s not how you swing a sword!
- I laughed at the sword just casually drifting on by.
- Some rather rare Kajiura choral music this week! There hasn’t been all that much of it over the course of SAO which is kind of sad really. Vocal works tend to be amongst her best.