By Patrick Aguda / August 21st, 2018
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This piece will contain spoilers for Volumes 5 and 6 of the Sword Art Online light novels and the second season of the anime.
Welcome to a new addition of Building Character featuring my favorite character from Sword Art Online, Shino Asada (aka Sinon). Seeing as her birthday is today, August 21, I thought I’d write something special for her. Sinon is one of the few characters in the series to see a vast amount of character development and one of the few female characters that is not defined by her relationship with series protagonist, Kirito. She is usually seen as a cool, calm and collected person, but deep beneath that shell is a fragile-minded girl with a deep-rooted trauma.
Sinon is one of the most well-known players in a game called Gun Gale Online. She wields her special sniper rifle, the PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II, with deadly proficiency and is able to shoot targets farther than any other player can. She was considered one of the favorites to win the ‘Bullet of Bullets’ tournament and is known for her cool demeanor. However, the real Sinon is very different from the one the players know so well in GGO.
In real life, Sinon is actually Shino Asada, a seemingly normal girl who goes to high school. When Asada was younger, she was involved in a bank robbery. She ended up in a struggle with the robber to help protect her mother and ended up in possession of the robber’s firearm. When the robber went to strike again, Asada pulled the trigger and the robber was dead. This moment, along with being repeatedly bullied, led Asada to have a deep-rooted fear of any type of firearm, whether they be fake or real. The trauma is so bad, that just seeing someone put a finger gun to her makes her puke. Holding a model gun causes the same reaction.
Wanting to help cure her trauma, Asada decides to start playing Gun Gale Online at the suggestion of her friend, Kyouji Shinkawa. She starts with the hopes that constantly using guns within a game would help cure her trauma in real life. Unfortunately, even as she becomes one of the top players in the game, her trauma shows no signs of curing. Asada still has a sickening reaction to holding a model gun and bullies still hold a finger gun to her in the hopes of seeing her react to it. The problem is that Asada looks at Sinon as a completely different person. Asada sees Sinon as this cool girl that can do anything while she sees herself as this weak girl with a traumatizing past.
Asada believes that as long as she’s Sinon in the game, her trauma won’t affect her. However, partway through the Bullet of Bullets tournament, Sinon has a run-in with Death Gun. Death Gun claims to have the power to kill players in real life if he kills them in the game. He happens to use the same gun the robber used in Asada’s past and just like that, her trauma comes rushing back to her. She is no longer Sinon, Shino Asada has been transferred into the body of the once cool sniper. Unable to fend for herself due to this traumatic attack, Kirito is forced to rush-in and save the disabled Sinon. After escaping from Death Gun, Sinon reveals her past to Kirito. She reveals that she’s not strong like he is but Kirito refutes the claim that he is strong. Kirito reveals his past in participating in Sword Art Online and Sinon comes to realize that they are almost the same.
Thanks to the two working together, Sinon and Kirito find out that Death Gun is actually the work of the Shinkawa brothers, one of whom is Sinon’s close friend. After the event is resolved, Sinon is able to come to terms with what she did in her past. This is thanks to the efforts of Kirito and his friends, as they are able to find a bank teller who was at the robbery many years ago. It turns out the teller was pregnant at the time and it turns out Asada saved both the teller and her child by killing the robber. Asada, knowing she helped save two lives at that event, is able to slowly come to terms with her past. Her trauma doesn’t affect her as much and now she is able to hold model guns without much of an adverse reaction.
What I liked about Sinon’s story was that there is more to her than meets the eye. She’s not just some perfect sniper who can do anything. She has deep flaws that make her seem more human than characters such as Kirito. Seeing her try to overcome these flaws helped show her depth of character and helped endear her to me.
This huge character development storyline is not the only reason why I like Shino Asada so much, it’s that she is kind to an unusual degree. After Sinon and Kirito won the Bullet of Bullets tournament, Asada was assaulted by her once close friend, Kyouji Shinkawa. It turned out Shinkawa was behind the Death Gun deaths and wanted to personally end Asada’s life too. Shinkawa held an unhealthy obsession for Asada after learning she had killed a person. This obsession spiraled out of control and eventually led to his assault. After both Asada and Kirigaya were both able to apprehend Shinkawa, they had a meeting with Seijirou Kikuoka. Kikuoka revealed how the Shinkawa brothers were able to pull of their killings. In response to all this, Asada revealed that she would like to visit Shinkawa in prison, in the hopes that she’d be able to save him. Despite all Shinkawa did to her, Asada was still willing to forgive him and try to save him, that takes a lot of strength and kindness and I was honestly shocked when I learned of this which endeared me to her character even more.
In Sword Art Online, most of the female characters fall for the series’ protagonist, Kirito. Asuna, Lisbeth, Silica, Leafa and Sachi all were helped by Kirito in some form and then they fell for him. Asuna ends up going out with Kirito, but this weird harem that shouldn’t exist still forms around him. What I like about Sinon is that she’s not like these other female characters. She doesn’t constantly throw herself at Kirito in the hopes of winning his affection. As I said earlier, Sinon herself is not defined by her relationship with Kirito. She is a character that can stand on her own. Kirito helped move her development along but he isn’t the sole pillar for her character. Sure, there may be an interest in Kirito since he helped get Sinon over her trauma, but not to the extent of the other female characters. She seems content just being his friend and she teases and trolls him more than the other characters in the series. It’s refreshing to see a female character in this series that doesn’t swoon at the mere mention of Kirito’s name. I enjoy how she interacts with Kirito after her character story is done and it’s great to see a female character that doesn’t constantly throw themselves at him.
After watching Sinon’s arc in Sword Art Online, it renewed hope for me that Reki Kawahara could create characters with a good backstory and steady character development. She is my favorite character in terms of personality, story, development, and character design in the series. Shino Asada (Sinon) is one of the few characters in the series who is not defined by or heavily reliant on Kirito and I hope to see her utilized more often in the future of Sword Art Online.
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