By Jared Cyhowski / December 7th, 2012
I would like to apologize for having this post go out much later than I wanted it to due to a family member in the hospital. And now, onto one of the better episodes of Sword Art Online.
“Grand Quest” refers to accepting the quest of the World Tree (to enter it and reach the entrance of the upper level). The episode starts rather quickly; exactly where we left off last time. Yui makes it clear that “mommy” is up in the World Tree and Kirito flies off like a bullet in the air. That’s cool and all, but like Leafa mentioned earlier, Kirito won’t be able to make it past the barrier in the sky.
About to give in to frustration, Asuna realizes Kirito is trying to save her with Yui’s warning message. She drops the random key card she stole in the previous episode down to him so he would know she is there. Yeah it’s kind of too convenient but I’ll take it. Kirito thanks Leafa for all her help and begins the grand quest with Yui as his guide.
Of course, none of this goes as planned. Kirito runs into the World Tree and faces hundreds of enemies. The battle animation is nice but it’s not as smooth as we’ve seen in previous episodes. Then again this is a battle where Kirito is clearly going to lose. The battle feels heavier than what we’ve seen before, as he is battling incredibly strong enemies on his own. I think the enemy design is a bit boring but it does the job for resembling guards of the World Tree’s entrance. There were a few really key shots of Kirito fighting the baddies.
Just as Kirito reaches the top of the world tree he is impaled with a number of arrows and swords. It was all a bit overdone but I already felt like there was no way he was going to make it. This is the first time we’ve seen the “you are dead” screen since the time Kirito died back in episode 14. This time his death was followed by a puff of purple smoke, because clearly that’s what happens in ALfheim Online.
Now here’s a scene that’s fairly important to Kirito’s development and something I’ve been addressing throughout the ALfheim Online arc. Kirito finally realizes that he isn’t the hot shit he thought he’s been this entire time. You know, the battle when he first entered ALO, the battle with Eugene, and all those other battles in Sword Art Online and its first arc. Sure he was powerful in SAO and his skills translated just fine to ALO, but that doesn’t mean he can do everything on his own. He thought he could just take on the World Tree’s guardians but he was surely outmatched. This resonates with how I’ve felt numerous times before where Kirito somehow has the ability to overkill everything in his path. Before it felt like this was necessary so he could just reach Asuna as fast as possible, and I still hold this to be true. But now he’s hit a road block.
Thankfully Leafa storms into the base of the World Tree and saves Kirito’s diminishing soul flame. She takes a good amount of damage to save him because she clearly can’t leave him behind. She does not do this because she wants him to save the one he’s looking for, she saves him because she loves him. But then, finally, Leafa learns the truth about who Kirito has been searching for this entire time. Her name is Asuna, and suddenly Leafa’s reality turns into Sugu’s ironic shock. Kirito and Kirigaya are one in the same.
When Kirito learns that Leafa is actually his cousin Sugu, this is surely a shocking revelation. They both log out and Kirito makes an attempt to speak to his now crushed cousin. The revelation is finally scripted and Sugu makes it known that she has strong feelings for him. At first Kirito doesn’t take it seriously but Sugu’s crying words hit him sharply. Kirito fully realizes she had feelings for him in both real life and within ALfheim Online. Regardless, Kirito still loves Asuna and cannot even attempt to console Sugu. He looks to have a sense of shame in how he can’t acknowledge Sugu’s feelings and words, especially when she makes it clear why he’s been avoiding her the last few years. Well, beyond the fact he was locked inside Sword Art Online for so long.
This episode first begins with a rush, enters a dramatically disheartening battle, and then ends with pure ironic heartbreak. I was actually surprised the first time I saw the scene with Sugu revealing her love to Kirito. It feels fairly natural and it’s not drawn out. She says what she needs to say and Kirito gives his response in silence. The only part of that scene I didn’t like is the final line of the episode: “Sugu”. I guess Kirito was in shock but it just felt out of place since he didn’t speak all that much up to this point. Next week’s episode should be fairly interesting, if not incredibly awkward.
Sword Art Online streams weekly on Crunchyroll.
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