Sword Art Online Episode 15: Caged Bird
“I’ve…become such a crybaby, Asuna.”
Upon returning to the real world, Kirito realizes that Asuna, along with 300 other players have not woken up from their coma, and remain trapped under the confines of their Nerve Gear. He continues visiting her in hospital, and one day meets an unpleasant man named Sugou Nobuyuki, who is a Full Dive programmer and plans to arrange a marriage between himself and Asuna without her consent.
OP Sequence – Innocence by Aoi Eir
And so we reach the second arc of SAO! Commonly called the ALO arc, it’s also going to be the last one animated for this season of the show. They may do more in the future depending on how popular sales are, which is actually quite likely. Anyway, the first thing that caught my attention was the new OP – not by Kalafina as some would have hoped from the trend of Fate/Zero, but it was still pretty awesome. It lacked the urgency as well as the “epic” factor that the original LiSA one brought, but Innocence is still pretty darn cool, and it tugged at my heart to see some of the ALO cast, like Lyfa, Sakuya or Alicia Rue. And we saw Yui, too! Cue the large cheesy grins.
It’s true – Kirito’s returned to real life. It’s a bit disappointing not being able to see him wearing his big black trench coat any more, but it seems he still likes the colour black, which is quite reminiscent of his time in SAO. In real life, he’s slightly less cooler, but you can still see hints of the Black Swordsman Kirito – someone that can be outspoken when needed, yet is generally quiet and reserved. Rehabilitation must have been really hard, and is definitely needed if you’ve spent the last two years in a coma on a hospital bed. No matter how exciting an experience SAO was, you can’t forget that it was still a death game, and inside Kirito’s also experienced some trauma over his time in the virtual reality space.
Really, though, most of that is triggered through Asuna’s condition. The dream sequence was so simple yet powerful, and when the apple dropped and Kirito was left alone, it became obvious that something was horribly, horribly wrong. And that was the fact that even after Kirito defeated Heathcliff, 300 people still hadn’t woken up, and one of them was Asuna. Oh shit. I get a horrible feeling in my gut seeing Asuna lying there so helplessly – somewhat like a Sleeping Beauty from a fairytale, where only a kiss from a prince will wake her up. Her prince is Kirito, however this is real life, and sadly it’s not really in a teenager’s power to be able to do anything. His only real card was his information on SAO, and that was handed over in exchange for info about Asuna.
Well, Asuna will very clearly be taking a back seat for the remainder of this arc, and in replacement is Kirito’s imouto, Suguha. Now, my feelings over this are…mixed. I don’t really mind Sugu, and she’s a decent enough character really. It’s just that Asuna’s always been the one at Kirito’s side, and with Sugu replacing her it just doesn’t feel the same. Voiced by Taketatsu Ayana, she’s the main female heroine of ALO and clearly in love with Kirito. She probably started kendo training to get closer to Kirito, who was still stuck in a world of swords and battles. What I found really bittersweet even though I don’t support Kirito x Suguha was that Sugu knows her love is unrequited – she is aware that Kirito is visiting Asuna on a regular basis, and that he has a pent-up inner turmoil over her. Sugu is actually Kirito’s cousin, and so it’s not a direct form of incest – but does that make it okay? I know some fellow LN readers who are hardcore Asuna fans and were pissed at the swap, though some of them have mellowed out as the series went on.
The kendo battle was kinda exciting xD Sugu is a talented kendo practitioner, so I was actually really interested in seeing how she would fare in comparison to Kirito, the Black Swordsman who defeated Heathcliff, the god of SAO. Of course, as this is real life Kirito doesn’t really have the advantage, and unfortunately against someone who practices traditional kendo on a regular basis, the Kirito who relied on assisted sword skills was at a disadvantage there. All of Kirito’s remarks and references to SAO were really nostalgic – even the sheathing motion and sword stance that he made with his shinai.
Okay, time to talk about Sugou Nobuyuki. Working at Asuna’s father Yuuki Shouzou’s company, he’s in charge of Full Dive technology and can be compared to the antagonist shown in the second arc of Accel World, Noumi Seiji. That, guys, makes him an absolute fucking cunt. I am not joking, some of the facial expressions he made were very similar to the insane hate-inducing grins Noumi made, and I wanted to punch his face through the wall when the creep started sniffing precious Asuna’s hair. He pisses me off so much. Clearly, Kirito wanted to do so too, but the sad reality is that this is the real world – and Sugou is a high-ranking office person with money in comparison to Kirito, the regular teenager. Sugou is the man in charge of Full Dive, in a company that took over the SAO mainframe after Argus collapsed. Hmm, I wonder whose fault it could have been that 300 people are still in comas? Yeah, this bastard over here. When Sugou’s character were just words in a novel, I already hated him with a burning passion, and that increased even more seeing him animated. To top it all off is his role – the groom in an arranged marriage to Asuna, one that she most certainly does not approve of. FFFFFFF-
Egil’s email is what really starts everything off in this arc – the revelation that someone has a picture of an elf in a cage that not surprisingly looks like Asuna. Of course, this elf is in a VR game, which makes this game Kirito’s next destination. Despite only just leaving the world of SAO, Kirito is going to be diving in once more to save his love – and that is what separates this from the first arc. His motivation is now not to escape the death game or clear floors, but to rescue his girlfriend from the clutches of the evil king trapping her. SAO is not so much a sci-fi epic as it is a love story, and this arc in particular will be proof of that.