「記憶」 (Kioku)
“Memories”

At the precipice of defeat, Asuna mounts an epic last stand, with backing from memories of Yuuki to give her the courage required to stand up to PoH in one of the most visually stunning fights so far. For me it made for a really heartwarming parallel to Kirito’s connection to Eugeo – both sets of memories provide the underlying theme powering our narrative, giving Asuna and Kirito the respective inspiration and willpower to endure past their limits. And in Asuna’s case, she buys Kirito just enough time to make a comeback.

Kirito’s Trauma

Kirito finally returns. But it is not a pleasant return to say the least. Stuck in a coma – on the verge of recovery – he is forced to relive the worst moments of his life. To many people, Kirito is this perfect Gary Stu who churns out bullshit time and time again. One that appears indomitable on the outside. However, it was really humbling to see such a formidable character be stripped down to his core essence – exposing the trauma that has been eating him alive this whole time. As we always knew from the first season, Kirito has always carried guilt for what happened to the Black Cats of Midnight. Even though their deaths came down to bad luck, Kirito always relives it as being a result of his own arrogance and complacency. Whether that is right or not is hard to say – a player of his skill level probably did a fair bit to help guarantee their safety in this virtual death game. But perhaps their association caused the guild members to overestimate themselves. And it’s totally understandable that seeing them all die one by one – especially Sachi, who was Kirito’s first love if we take the web novel into account (and a detail I wished that the light novel/anime kept).

The Final Fragment of Eugeo’s Fluctlight

And the suffering doesn’t end there. He recalls all the lives that expired before his eyes – close friends he couldn’t save, and villains whose lives he took with his very own hands. Regardless of whether any of it was his fault or not, or whether he had a justification for his actions, all come back to haunt him and Kirito can find no reprieve from these horrific memories. And the final hatchet manifests in the form of Eugeo – his best friend whose death he was responsible for. This moment utterly breaks Kirito – nearly causing him to commit suicide, even when the memories of Asuna, Suguha and Sinon try to dissuade him from undertaking that course of action. In an extremely visceral scene, Kirito rips open his chest with his bare hands – ignoring the extreme agony and gushing of blood, and prepares to crush his own heart. Fortunately, the fragment of Eugeo’s fluctlight within Kirito’s soul emerges. Kirito’s memories of Eugeo are sacred. So it would make sense that in addition to being forgiven and having his burden eased, Kirito would view it as an obligation not to crush his heart where proof of Eugeo’s existence resides. He needs to stay alive so that he can be a torch bearer who can affirm that Eugeo once existed – preventing him from being totally forgotten.

Alicization Lasting

Determination renewed – Kirito finally awakens and returns to the fold. Despite being weak and emaciated, it is he who understands the fundamental basis of the world better than anyone else, having lived in the Underworld for a lifetime. Using his incarnation through the blue rose sword, Kirito activates Eugeo’s Perfect Enhanced Armament to freeze over the entire battlefield – incapacitating the threat of any hostile Chinese/Korean player. But it’s not quite enough to dispatch PoH – who shatters the ice and continues to power up through the accumulated suffering and death that has occurred within the Underworld. Now the moment has finally arrived – all alone and with his comrades exhausted to the point they cannot assist him – can Kirito protect the people that he cares about?

Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. As always, thanks for reading this post. See you next week to find out whether Kirito can defeat PoH and save Alice from Subtilizer’s vicious pursuit.

19 Comments

    1. It was awesome to see Yuuki return – especially with Mother’s Rosario being my second favourite arc prior to Alicization. She is the reason Asuna was able to grow beyond the Mary Sue that people were complaining about, and it made for an excellent parallel to Kirito’s relationship with Eugeo – that Asuna and Kirito have both had these figures that aren’t each other who were extremely influential to their respective lives.

  1. I think the reasoning behind Kirito not waking up (i.e intense self-loathing) was actually touched on sooner in the LN but they eventually got around to it with this episode.

    Now for the fireworks to begin 😀

    kiryuu
    1. It was more self induced catatonia. Arguably Kirito could have helped Eugeo at the time but choose to do nothing and respect his wishes. But he knew full well that wasn’t an enemy Eugeo would have walked away from if he fought alone.

      In my honest opinion Kirito deeply regrets doing nothing.

      Lyfe
    2. I wish that they did more to expound upon Kirito’s self loathing. It’s kind of been subtly hinted at, instead of being firmly brought out into the open. And his character development really could have done a lot with earlier exploration of his traumas. But hey – better late than never.

      And if I recall correctly – one of the scenes that got cut out was Kirito recalling a bullied classmate he failed to stick up for. So he feels like he hasn’t changed as a person – the inaction again with Eugeo ripping open that fresh wound.

  2. I only saw the anime, never read the novel but I think it was pretty obvious also in the anime that Kirito was in love with Sachi, his affection for her was way beyond friendship.

    Chris
    1. I always felt that Kirito was too stunted to love her (and Sachi too for that matter). Her subsequent treatment reinforces that belief for me: Trotted out from time to time for trauma-rama purposes, but we only ever see her final moments because nothing else meaningful ever happened between the two. And it’s made worse (for me) by those moments consisting of her floating in slow motion mouthing silent words to him as she dies. Bleah!

      Were there nascent feelings between the two? Sure, but they never developed. Putting Sachi aside because we never got to know her to any depth, Kirito was a block of wood in that period. The other members of his harem (imouto aside) would likely not be alive either if they’d depended upon him (at that level) in a moment of true need. While I don’t think they’ve handled his trauma well, I think they made the right call in not retrofitting any romantic feelings onto Sachi. I do wish they’d stop using her like the ‘APPLAUSE’ light for a studio audience.

      Mockman
  3. And this is why they knocked Kirito out of the fight before the big Underworld war. The character has like a trillion layers of plot armor and produces dumpster truck loads full of nonsensical “get out of jail free” type resolutions to battles.

    Lyfe
    1. For this specific fight so far, I’m willing to give a pass, because the Perfect Enhanced Armourment was a thing that already existed within the Underworld. We’d seen Eugeo do it before – and fragments of his fluctlight live on inside of Kirito. So it’s logically consistent with what we’ve seen so far. Now, depending on what comes next, I might have to raise my eyebrow and approach with greater skepticism.

  4. It’s interesting to think that this episode reminded me a lot of SAO:Abridged. No, not because of the comedy (this episode was bleak and painful), but because of the trauma.

    One thing the original series was criticized and Abridged praised for was their handling of Kirito’s trauma. In the original series, it wasn’t addressed much; even in later seasons, we were told Kirito suffered, but we didn’t see much of it and it didn’t seem to impact the plot or his characterization. Abridged, on the other hand, made it one of its core themes.

    Well, guess what? The original series can do trauma too. I liked the detail that Kirito is haunted not just by the deaths of people he liked, but also enemies. Heck, Sugou and Death Gun didn’t really die, but it feels as if Kirito is trapped in a cycle of violence. As if fighting was the only way he can deal with his trauma. They’re not victories he feels proud of.

    PS: Who would have thought PoH was basically a yandere member of Kirito’s harem.

    PS:

    Mistic
  5. This was an amazing episode with so many feels hanging in the corner. Wow, Kirito is finally back and glad to see Asuna and Yuuki’s join attacked too. That was really special. Would also like to give my appreciation to Higa Takeru 🙂

  6. It was a really good episode with a really meaningful end.
    Now, I’d like everyone to recall that Kirito is probably the highest leveled person in the Underworld right now. The exp of Quinella, Chudelkin and the sword golem’s deaths have all gone to him so before we call him “bs machine-kun” we have to remember that right now, he is way stronger than even the Administrator, couple that with his knowledge about the underlying system of this world and right now I think only Subtlizer is a true threat.

    Kanmuru

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