Episode 5: A Crime Within the Walls
Episode 6: Illusionary Avenger
*Spoilers follow. You’ve been warned!*
A few weeks ago Sword Art Online presented a series’ first: a part one! The creators decided to take more time and play with the plot, spanning over two episodes (A Crime Within The Walls, Illusionary Avenger). We are fortunate to see some character development between Kirito and Asuna, and also figure out the mystery behind a few deaths in the episodes. The series has received criticism before for having awkward pacing, so maybe this time a few episodes to cover one side story will do the trick.
Episode 5 begins with Kirito and Asuna attending a meeting at the front lines. Asuna gets angry with him, they take a nap, and then go on a date: a murder mystery date. You know what I’m talking about right? You go on those dinner dates where people start to act out a murder mystery and it’s your job to watch things play out. I haven’t done it myself but there’s a first time for everything. All right I’m just kidding, maybe they weren’t on a date but someone was indeed murdered. Somehow a character is killed within the town and towns are considered safe zones in Sword Art Online.
Think about that for a second. If you were locked into a game where if you die, you die in real life, wouldn’t you be scared if one of the only safe places was actually a lie? Or maybe it’s something of a mystery, as Kirito and Asuna can’t figure out how another player was impaled by a sharp blade inside the town. The only witness to the murder is a girl named Yoruko and she states that no one was around to kill her fellow guild-member.
The gist of the story, as revealed over two episodes, is that a man named Grimrock wanted to kill his wife Griselda. It was thought that he killed her because of a rare item drop; a particular ring that automatically went to her even though she was fighting with the guild. The ring was worth some fine gil, so of course Grimrock wanted the one ring to rule them all. Because he was married to Griselda within the game, once she dies her item inventory is then shared with Grimrock. That sounds like a solid conclusion right? Well, it wouldn’t be anime without some form of a dramatic twist.
It turns out that Grimrock was actually married to Griselda in real life. When they were both locked into Sword Art Online Griselda began to open her eyes to a new life within the game. Grimrock couldn’t handle that change and thus killed her to preserve his memories of the Griselda he once knew. Murder is not illegal within the MMO so he selfishly killed her before he lost her completely.
This sounds like a viable story, right? It makes sense but simply put the two episodes together didn’t seem to feed off one another. I can see why the short story was expanded to two episodes, but reaching the conclusion almost felt rushed and obscure. I understand the episodes were supposed to represent a horror mystery, but instead it got a bit confusing with the multiple teases of what could be the truth. Characters dying, coming back to life, seeing a ghost when you’re not supposed to, a murder guild that showed up out of nowhere and quickly disappeared just like that… These elements were interesting but they weren’t developed enough in my opinion.
The main component that was developed is Kirito’s relationship with Asuna. From the time they spent with each other napping to sharing some food and talking about marriage, the connection between these two characters is slowly blooming. We are always shown a contrast in their personalities and how they get along, but at the end of the day they need to get over whatever preconceived notions they had for one another.
It feels like we’re farther than just six episodes into Sword Art Online and it’s probably because the story jumps around its own timeline. The negative effect of this is it’s hard to relate with the series’ characters in a way that another title would build relationships over time. One episode Asuna is just a solo player and the next she’s a leader at the front lines. The loss of gradual progression is striking and leaves any connection to particular narrative development in the dark. Let’s see how things roll on, shall we?