This episode of Sword Art Online finally seems to set the story on track again. It may just be the best episode of the ALfheim Online arc, but that isn’t saying much. I’m just excited to see some actual plot development even if it’s predictable that Kirito will likely save the day (as he always does).
Episode 19 is called The Lugru Corridor because most of our roughly 24 minutes of animation takes place surrounding or near a town named Lugru. The overall storyline in the episode features Kirito and Leafa on the move, trying to get through Lugru and then to the World Tree. Interestingly enough Asuna does not make an appearance this time, and with good reason. The previous episode showed our captive love interest again and nothing came of it. Showing her in this episode would have been just as meaningless as last time.
The episode begins with Leafa, Kirito, and Yui in a cave. They realize they are being chased by a tracer bat from the Salamanders, a race apparently bent on killing our heroes. This scene was kind of cool because we got to see Leafa using her magic up close instead of further away like in previous episodes.
When they leave the caves a group of mages appear to take out Kirito and Leafa. Backed up against a wall of strong fortifying magic, and located on a bridge with nowhere to run, Kirito defends Leafa on the front lines. It’s only him out there and he begins to take quite the beating. Even his outrageous skill powers that have translated well into ALfheim Online aren’t enough to break the Salamander mages’ combination of defensive and offensive magic.
Yui steps in with a recommendation that Leafa should provide defensive magic for Kirito so that he may use a spell. And now begins a very interesting element in ALfheim Online. We already knew that Kirito basically has “useless” magic because of the race he chose in ALO, but his skills are actually incredible. He transforms into a massive beast, presumably taking the from of that goat monster in Sword Art Online, and destroys the squad of mages easily.
Well that was easy huh? I guess if the mages hadn’t been scared by the illusionary magic they could have still killed Kirito with their magic. But his sheer size was too intimidating for them to handle. Even the head of the mage party, G-Takusu, ran away and died by jumping off the bridge. Our party learns from a sole survivor that the Salamander mage group was sent to kill them so they couldn’t mess with the overall plan.
Conveniently we learn what this plan is a minute later because Recon was able to notify Sugu in the real world. It looks like Sigurd, the party leader of Leafa and Recon’s old gang, is working with the Salamanders. Their goal is to disrupt a private peace treaty meeting between Sakuya (leader of the Sylphs) and the Cait Sith, another race in ALO. If Sigurd and the Salamanders effectively kill Sakuya it looks like they will gain a ton of money and resources within the game. Confused yet? I know I am…
So all of this exposition is pretty much told to us as an audience. Sure there were events to move the story along but there was a lot more telling than showing in this episode. It looks like the only actual character development to occur in the episode happens at the very end. Leafa feels bad that she is involving Kirito with a Sylph issue, and she mentions that he may kill her or abandon her so she won’t be slowing him down any longer. But Kirito comes back with a statement that solidifies his naturalness with the world of ALfheim Online: This is more than just a game for him.
And this makes complete sense. There are a few main values in play here. The first is that Kirito is ultimately playing ALO to save Asuna. She is his main priority even if there are a few distractions on his journey. The other is that Leafa has been kind enough to help Kirito get closer to the World Tree, and so this could be a way to pay her back. Why wouldn’t our black knight help her out? And then there’s the fact that ALO doesn’t feel like a game to him because he lived in Sword Art Online for two years. It literally was his life for that long. Entering into a game world with the nerve gear is comparable to living a second life.
So in the end of course he will not abandon Leafa and her unexpected detour. He won’t kill her because he genuinely cares about her situation, or so the show’s creators would have us believe. And in a pure storytelling format it makes sense that Kirito would save the leader of the Sylphs, thus saving their alliance with the Cait Sith. He will potentially have multiple allies after such a stunt, and an even deeper enemy with the Salamanders (if he doesn’t completely wipe out their forces in the next episode).
So there you have it, episode 19 in a nutshell. Sword Art Online can be found streaming on Crunchyroll with new episodes airing every Saturday.