「曠野の決闘」 (Kouya no Kettou)
“Duel In The Wastelands”

I’ll be honest, until the end of this week’s episode I just wasn’t feeling the SAO-vibe I was looking for from the first season. Luckily, a weird combination of things came together and reignited my passion for the show. Yes, I kind of understand why everyone loves Sinon so much now.


I’ve heard the stories of just how crazy PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can mess up your life depending on just how stressful the trauma was. Even with a negative stigma behind it because of a few bad apples who try to make fraudulent claims, I thought it was really cool how the writers are continuing to use the idea of death at more than face value. Seeing how the first season really drilled the value of life into our heads, it was a pleasant surprise to see that those same values are still playing an integral part of the story. From the villain to the main characters, there’s no questioning that there are definite consequences to killing another person and it looks like we’re on a journey to see how different individuals deal with it.

Now I know that there are people out there who probably found the pacing of the whole ordeal a bit too quick but if I had to pick, I think i’d prefer this style of quicker storytelling that gives the action a ton of space to do its thing. Sure it would have been nice to see Kirito get fleshed out a bit more since there hasn’t been a trace of these emotions up until now but you take what you can get right?

Sinon Is Chou Kawaii

Continuing with this “being honest” theme I started the post with, I didn’t like Sinon very much when we first met her. While her story did get the emotions rolling, something about her attitude toward life and how she decided to deal with the other crap in her life just didn’t rub me the right way. But from the moment that Kirito met her and subsequently revealed his true gender, I’ve been completely in love with her tsundere side. While I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me hnnng inside, something about letting Kirito hold her in a provocative position and gently forcing him away got me all flustered. In a good way!

Looking Forward

With the qualifiers for BoB officially done, I’m getting excited thinking about what’s going to happen during the real thing. Besides hopefully getting to watch Sinon show off her cuter side, I can’t wait to see the eventual battle between Death Gun and Kirito. Because after that ominous shot of him at the end glaring at Kirito, I have a feeling he’ll be making a few changes to his hit list.

P.S. In my own personal rankings, I can’t help but feel that Asuna is in danger 😐



    1. You know, at the rate they are going with the Gun Gales Online arc, they will probably finish around episode 12 or 13.

      This means they may also adapt the Mother’s Rosario arc, which is my personal favorite arc.

      1. Judging from the SAO II Anime Phone Strap I got from Japan a week ago, I think it’s all but confirmed there will be Mother Rosario. (there are GGO Kirito+Sinon on one side, Asuna and ‘Zekken’ on the other side)

  1. Well the result of that match was never in doubt, a little wave of the Kirito wand lightsabre photon sword and victory comes his way 😛

    Regarding the Kirito PTSD personally it seems incredibly contrived at this point. The problem with it is not the trauma itself; it actually continues the trend of reasonable “traits” given to Kirito as of late. No, the issue lies with it being introduced now instead of during the actual SAO arc (it would had added a huge amount to Kirito’s development); for those who haven’t read the LNs this all but came out of left field. Really seems like an attempt IMO to further pound into the audience Kirito’s “uniqueness” because some might get the wrong idea that Sinon is a more prominent character or *gasp* further developed; whatever Sinon has or can do Kirito does better or has worse, he can never be usurped.

    Nitpicking aside I’m looking forward the showdown on the Death Star II between father and son Beater and PKer, overseen of course by the Emperor mastermind(s) behind Death Gun. Whatever the faults of our precious little snowflake, the GGO arc has so far made up for the Aincard one plenty.

    1. Real-life wise, the author probably sat down with an actual editor at this point and discussed his main character’s faults and merits.

      “Yeah, he’s superman now. This is fine, since you wrote him in this age where this is appreciated. But if you want him to last into the future, you better give him some decent faults.”

      Personally, I agree that putting the human in Kirito is a bit late, but I’m in the ‘better late then never’-camp. Kirito is becoming more interesting in my mind, so I can finally stop watching SAO for just the boss battles and the waifus 😀

      1. Reki Kawahara sitting down with a professional editor came well after his story was written, and while some re-writing was done for publication, I kind of doubt what you are talking about was one of the changes/additions.

    2. Frankly, even for those of me who did read the LNs, Kirito’s PTSD seemed contrived, and failed to evoke any particular emotions from me, because it happened in exactly the same way: late, with no signs of it having shown up until now.

      I would like to clarify that I’m not one of the Kirito-haters, per-se. Him generally being successful at what he does doesn’t bother me, and him attracting girls only bothers me because it’s just breaking their hearts since he and Asuna are OTP. But still, in this case I couldn’t feel what it seemed like the author was trying to do with Kirito.

      1. I did read the LNs and liked this one in particular, but I hardly feel it is contrived. The shortcomings of the irregular pace of the Aincrad Arc do make it seems a bit out of the blue, but if one connects the factors that Kirito in prior series was hesitant to kill and had dealings with Laughing Coffin it isn’t that unexpected.

        In my opinion, because GGO isn’t about life and death Kirito can freeze up and times and not die. If he froze up against Kuradeel, he is dead, if he questions why anyone is dying in Aincrad he is just not going to survive against floor bosses. Although, there is also a factor that Aincrad and Fairy Dance arcs don’t allow too much introspection by Kirito without it seeming uncharacteristic (Aincrad Arc) or really out of place when other matters have greater concern (Fairy Dance). Of course any SAO argument has been rehashed many times before, so hardly new ground to defend.

    3. I also read the light novels and this was pretty much my only gripe with the arc since it felt sort of foreign; the SAO arc did not have enough character and story building, and the raid on Laughing Coffin would have been a great addition to Kirito’s development (maybe it will be added into the SAO Progressive series). Otherwise, the GGO arc is still one of my favorite arcs in the series and so far the anime has good pacing and the episodes have been entertaining to watch.

    4. @SpacyRicochet

      Agreed and it’s what I have read elsewhere too. The reason I find it an issue though is SAO’s adaptation came out nearly two years after the relevant LNs (IIRC). It wouldn’t have been difficult IMO to slot in these SAO flashbacks from the GGO period into the SAO arc (not the first time source material would have been shuffled around). Using the PTSD info then would have patched over some of SAO’s characterization faults and made Kirito a more rounded character, possibly ameliorating some of the hatred he has built up due to those same faults that SAO’s adaptation left in place.


      I find the whole sh*tstorm surrounding Kirito to just be funny, most of it deals with issues that are very easy to solve as the PTSD reveal here highlights. If Kirito had been written by a more experienced author quite likely the whole “Kirito Gary Stu OP plz nerf” arguments wouldn’t even exist. It’s not so much Kirito is a Gary Stu, it’s that there is little else to distract from the Gary Stu.

    5. Yeah, I get what the intention was, but it still doesn’t really give me any feeling of sympathy by this point. As you mentioned, if it was applied during the actual SAO arc, or even in the ALO arc, it would make much more sense and could’ve helped develop Kirito’s character. You’d think this issue would’ve come up between Kirito and Asuna shortly after he killed Kuradeel, especially since Kirito himself almost died because of him.

      The way it just appears now makes it more like an issue just thrown in to force an “understanding” between Kirito and Sinon to quickly soften her up to fall for him faster.

    6. i agree with all of this, but if i had to come up with something to justify Kirito’s sudden characterization…

      the entire thing about SAO was that they were completely cut off from the outside world; nobody could know with 100% certainty whether or not their bodies really died when they’re killed in the game. and in the same way that there is the disconnect between a person’s personality and online persona (iirc Laughing Coffin’s whole thing was that they were indulging in their violent fantasies in an online world), there might have been desensitization to violence among players.

      of course, managing to get out of SAO into the real world meant facing the reality of what he’d done, but it was also something he shared with many other SAO survivors. i’m pretty sure none of them would want to talk about it ever again, in a kind of “we all know what we did, but it’s behind us now” kind of way.. and maybe he got therapy in rehab too, who knows.

      the appearance of Death Gun in person and directly confronting Kirito about SAO means Kirito has to now face the consequences of his actions on a personal level now, and that’s something different to him, probably.

    7. The SAO arc could have benefited from a less direct adaptation. The novel was originally written for a competition as a single novel, which is why the story feels rushed and has so many time skips. Later on the author added stuff through side stories. The anime version just had the side stories showed into the middle with one episode each, and it doesn’t really make for a coherent story.

      The SAO arc had a quite strong premise, but I can’t help but feel it was somewhat wasted. Even the author seems to feel like it, as he’s basically rebooted it with Sword Art Online Progressive, which seems to be going through the story slower and more indepth.

  2. Asuna? Who is that?

    It seems like Kirito is still coming to terms that Darth Gun is his father.

    Other than that, this episode was just…..


    Show Spoiler ▼

  3. It isn’t easy to live with someone’s blood on your hands. At least if you are normal human and not complete monster.
    Kirito and Sinon indeed do have a common burden to share. I wonder how will they carry it?
    Only flaw I saw in this episode was Kirito being victorious. While the story made Sinon’s aim messed up by her conflicted feelings, there is no way a bit of doki-doki would make her miss that bad, repeatedly. And Kirito for once could taste defeat… She could make a tsun scene about not going easy AFTER the battle.
    As for the Darth Gun, revelation that he is a survivor of the Laughing Coffin makes theory that he is really behind mysterious players deaths even more plausible, since this at least gives him the willingness to kill, given a chance. The only things that needs to be explained are HOW he does it and WHY he choses this or other person for victim…

    1. The anime’s portrayal is lacking in some information, and the bit with the aiming circle confuses the issue. Sinon wasn’t unable to hit Kirito from her first position. She missed him on purpose, because she was trying to get him to react to her. She shot all around him, trying to get him to do something. She was so furious that he wasn’t taking the match seriously. She felt as if he was insulting her; belittling everything she had done, and everything she was trying to do by competing; saying that she wasn’t worth the effort to even bother fighting her properly.

      That’s why she shot at him, but deliberately didn’t hit him. That’s why she abandoned her position and went out in the open to yell at him.

    2. So basically the screen writers weakened Sinon to make Kirito appear that much more powerful? And SAO fans wonder where the hatred comes from 😛

      Why you would change the source in favour of Sinon missing due to conflicted feelings is beyond me, that version of events suits Sinon’s personality more than the adaptation’s version IMO.

      1. And you know what bothered me the most? that Sinon’s conflicting feelings in regards to Kirito didnt even feel genuine or well-fleshed out to actually feel believable that it would throw her off. See, it’s ok for Sinon to be rattled and therefore her gameplay becomes affected, but when the development towards that point feels clumsy and artificial (this is a case of forced writing which is clearly evident with the whole kirito PTSD thing), it just becomes a face-palm fest to see Sinon off; the reason behind it is not well-developed enough. And now that people in the comments are saying that Sinon purposely missed in the source material, this development is even more disappointing and only supports my point. i found this ep disappointing.

  4. The Gary Stu is strong in this episode.

    Even under the horrible effects of PTSD, Kirito still can see Sinon’s eyes from her scope 10 meters away! Not only that, he also cuts a freaking bullet in half and still has enough time to make the Best Girl fall for him even more!

    Truly a man among men

    1. >Kirito still can see Sinon’s eyes from her scope 10 meters away!

      Keep in mind that it’s a technique which only works when you fascinate someone so much that she abandons her ideal sniping position to have a face-to-face.

      1. Pissed off?

        Heavens no. In fact I’m enjoying this season very much. I love it how the Light Novel that I’ve read 1 year ago was made into such a high quality anime. I also love the fact that the makers of this anime stayed true to the novel, especially how Gary Stu Kirito is.

        I also know what you mean when you said I’ll be pissed of later on, but I’m way over it since season 1. Kirito has been a badly written protagonist, and he always will be. I accept that fact and simply enjoy Sinon’s Ass Online!

  5. First half was a nice flashback and character building scene with Kirito and the Laughing Coffin raid. That really has come back to haunt him huh.

    Second half duel was Kirito being Kirito. Swooning da gurls.

    1. I’m assuming its because since they’re in a lobby they can’t use their guns (I’m not sure what you’re asking)

      But its important to consider that you kind of have to think the mind of Deathgun. When he first shot a person (the screen showing the person), he did it in front of everyone and directly introduced himself without any worry. As a result, I think Deathgun is not killing anybody so then people can see for themselves his skill and murderous intentions in action (plus there is an explanation to how Deathgun is killing people which will help understand why he entered the tournament in the first place).

  6. Riiiiiight so Kirito has PTSD NOW and apparently it gives him nightmares about killing people. Except for that one time when he SUBJECTED A HUMAN BEING TO AGONIZING TORTURE OUT OF SELF GRATIFICATION. Ever going to address that dear author? I guess not. Can’t actually have Kirito guilty of something morally reprehensible. Might actually give him some manner of depth.

    Honestly I’ve been giving this arc a chance and sadly its biggest flaw is once again Kirito. I personally find it more grating because Kirito feels even-less relevant here. At least Kirito had reasons to be around on the last two arcs, here he fells like he just had to be around GGO because of REASONS. The sudden shoehorned character traits here don’t help at all. Sinon is the meat of GGO since she actually has a developing character arc but its undermined because Kirito has to be around to upstage her at every opportunity.

    1. I assume you’re talking about his fight against Sugou in ALO. I do not recall any sort of self-gratification on his part, just him being furious at Sugou for what he did to Asuna. And torture? Sure he stabbed the guy through his right eye, but that strike killed him off almost immediately, so I don’t see how that qualifies as torture. What Sugou did to Kirito though, was torture; both physical and mental. Sugou was just too much of a coward to set the absorption to 0, in case Kirito managed to strike back at him.

      1. 1) It wasn’t a fight because Kirito used his Deus Ex Machina powers to nerf his opponent to a non-threat.
        2) Kirito proceeds to abuse his power by maximizing the pain threshold then SLOWLY, DELIBERATELY, SLICE his opponent to pieces while his opponent SCREAMS IN AGONY THE WHOLE TIME.
        3) It was nothing more than a revenge killing (i.e. self-gratification). As I pointed out he was already a non-threat.

        That entire sequence (compounded by the awful attempted rape only seconds before) was one of the worse things I ever watched on fiction just for how unpleasant it was. The fact that entire thing is swept under the rug and Kirito faces no consequences makes it worse. Remember kids, its okay to torture your enemies if they deserve it, doing so will make everyone praise you as a hero!

      2. So you blame Kirito for the rapist intention of the villain and for the anine snowing the villains death in slow motion. Kirito is not the master of the universe so is not responsible for your bad day or other things out of his control.

    2. I’m not going to condone what Kirito did but look at it from this point of view.

      Sugou kidnapped and falsely imprisoned hundreds of former SAO players(Their minds) in his game and performed illegal experiments on them. He did not care once about their well being or state of mind, or even if they died, he was happy to keep them as his lab rats as long as it suited him.

      Then he falsely imprisoned Asuna and basically acted like a complete creep towards her, and at the same time did not once show the slightest bit of empathy towards her.

      Now when he sexually assaulted Asuna in his game, he also used his Admin powers to basically restrain Asuna, and at the same time prevent Kirito from interfering. Kirito had no choice but to retaliate with Kayabas help because 1) He had to stop what he was doing to Asuna, and also because Sugou was pure evil(Without Kayabas help he would have lost and would have had no way of helping anyone).

      What Kirito did was justice. Sugou was made to feel the pain he had caused others around him with no ill effects on his real body. By defeating Sugou, Kirito was able to 1) Free Asuna, and 2) Get the former SAO players freed from his control. So yeah, Kirito did good.

      1. Wow this really must be a touchy subject for some people, I had a feeling with all the downvotes people had when discussing that it may have been the case. None the less, everything mentioned in my reply is sourced from the ALO arc and the Light Novels. Feel free to look that up anytime.

        Apologies to the 3 people I upset with my answer.

  7. My gripe with this rather major development of Kirito’s is that this flashback feels a fair bit too forced. Laughing Coffin has been shown every so often in the first arc, and it was made apparent that they were a pretty dangerous bunch. So why didn’t that flashback exist as an actual episode, rather than something the writer most likely (no offense) made up to progress Kirito and Sinon’s relationship? Right now I feel like the whole flashback wasn’t meant to be, and only serves as a convenient insert for this arc.
    Similarly to what fragb85 said, I feel like Kirito is not as relevant as he should be. In fact, Death Gun’s existence as a past-SAO player seems like one of the only things keeping Kirito from being completely irrelevant. Which is really a tad bit strange, since the aforementioned flashback portrays the guys at Laughing Coffin as a bunch of psychopaths (look at those insane expressions, for example), rather than murderers with a self-proclaimed political/philosophical message, which -to me- is the vibe that Death Gun seems to be giving.
    If else, I don’t really see the point of what Death Gun is doing in a world where player-killing (in the literal sense) cannot be overlooked, unlike SAO, where the players saw it as a chance while they were locked away in Aincrad anyway.

    1. In the novels, the raid incident was briefly explored in the Aincrad arc after Kirito killed Kuredeel. I’m kinda surprised that they didn’t animate this the first time around. It would have made sense sequentially and made the anime a bit more stronger in its story-telling. Oh well.

  8. I was really hoping they were going to flesh out the flashback into an episode or two to give it more substance, instead it reveals pretty much what was shown in the light novel which yeah… it comes surprisingly out of left field which I can understand why some people don’t care for it.

    What you have to remember though is pretty much everything was written afterwords, The only arc that exists in the original light novel was the very first episode, then it jumps to when Kirito kills the rabbit and goes through that part to the end of SAO. No other characters are introduced outside of Agil, the knights of blood, Klein, ect. the ‘harem’ everyone refers to doesn’t really exist in the original book, it all was added later when it became very popular.

  9. Yeah I would have appreciated if this flashback was shown in the first season instead of just randomly inserting it here when it’s most convenient. You can’t even blame the adaption for that since I’m being told it was written like this in the novel too. Just seems like an excuse to say “Alright guys we need Kirito to suddenly get emotional NOW so he can have a heart to heart with Sinon!”. I really wanted to see this event fleshed out.

    I don’t remember if they even talked about this laughing coffin incident in the first season. So excuse me if I had no attachment to this situation I was suddenly being told about that we should have known about. For the record I have no problems with Kirito freaking out but the execution the episode came off as rather sloppy to me.

    That aside…..Are we sure Sinon won’t die of embarrassment next episode? Seriously if all the players saw what happened during that fight I’d go hide in a hole forever if i was her. Which reminds me. Has Kirito ever gotten into a serious fight with a girl yet? Since it isn’t his style to slay women (that part was funny since he just went from having PTSD to being a sassy gentlemen………never change Kirito). Lucky none of the laughing coffin folks were girls eh? 😉

  10. sigh…another girl falls into the harem.

    i honestly liked the episode cause it fleshed out Sinon more but it seems that girls just fall for him because he’s good at video games and is melodramatic. Which is totally opposite of reality but I guess that’s what viewers want to see, women fall for guys who do nothing but play games and have a lot of drama. it just seems to cliche and repetitive. well i’ll continue to enjoy this formula of SAO II

  11. Been a fan of Sinon since her initial reveal, like her more than the entire Season 1’s cast. Then again I guess I’ve always tend to gravitate towards the strong tsundere type.

    And lol, Kirito sure works fast. Claimed Sinon for his harem already. Hands on waist and all.

  12. Personally, I feel that the story’s pacing has actually been a bit slow. Having read the books, it made sense to take this long, due to the author addressing nuances of the world/characters.

    We miss out on some of that context in the anime. I love it, but a few of my friends have lost much of their interest in the series. I can’t blame them, as the stakes aren’t quite as high here as in the original SAO. Hopefully, the BoB tourney will win over the fans that still feel this way!

    Really unsure what they will choose to animate next, however. The next arc in the story is more character study (setting up philosophy and concepts for the subsequent arcs) than actual do-or-die plot. Still, such things didn’t seem to hinder “Log Horizon,” so it would be somewhat callow to fault SAO for it!

  13. Now that they showed us a little bit o the original SAO, I miss it.

    The original SAO had that sense of urgency, aggressiveness, desperation… That’s because they were all fighting for they lives so they couldn’t afford to lose.

  14. In defense of Sinon, after seeing Kirito just walking in without even trying to hide. In the point of view of Sinon it’s like a sign of disrepect or insult to her, then she lose her focus, irritated and annoyed and just fired a couple of rounds.

  15. I think, for SAO players, the Laughing Coffin incident is considered a taboo for them.
    It’s the incident that most players decided to defend themselves by killing off another person. So for those who have experienced these ‘killings’, I would say it’s legit for them to feel frightened about these past horrors.
    Show Spoiler ▼

    That aside, I’m more worried about the pacing, this is going to be 25 episodes, right?
    If GGO ends at 10, I’ll give Mother’s Rosario 5(at most), the rest is either fillers or original animation? Doesn’t sound good to me at all.

    1. I agree, but also think it was traumatic for those involved. They had to deal with laughing coffin because of what they were doing in the game, but at the same time knew that when they or them die, that’s them dead in the real world too.

      I thought the flashback was quite sad, especially when those 3 players cornered the LC member and couldn’t go through with it as he wouldn’t surrender and ended up being killed as a result.

  16. I really enjoyed this episode, from Kirito’s PTSD symptoms, to the SAO flashbacks, the gun battles themselves in GGO, and even the hints of empathy Sinon felt after Kirito’s self-deprecating declaration.

    I do have to say, Takaii, with respect, I disagree on Sinon’s character. I find tsunderes in general to be a lot of fun and Sinon showing shades of that is no different but to say her characteristics up to that point were unattractive rings a bit off. This is only my personal view, of course. I like the dichotomy of Sinon and Shino and I think her self-imposed exposure therapy as a way to overcome her holophobia was admirable, if a tad misguided in its execution.

    I’m definitely excited at the potential for more of the real-death-has-real-consequences theme we’ve been getting these last couple episodes.

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