Sword Art Online Episode 21: Broken Heart
“I’m in love with onii-chan. But I can’t share those feelings. I have to bury them deep in my heart, so that I can forget them someday.”
Kirito and Lyfa have made it to the capital Aarun, where the entrance to the World Tree awaits – however as it is night time, they choose to find an inn and log out, continuing with their journey the next day. In the real world, Kazuto and Suguha visit Asuna in hospital, and Sugu acknowledges her love for her onii-chan, realizing that he is much farther away from her heart than she would like him to be. Up in the World Tree, Asuna manages to escape her bird cage and manages to make it to a system console; a room which also contains the captives Sugou is holding from SAO.
As soon as Suguha saw his face –
“Ugh…”A scathing pain pierced deep into her chest. What kind of eyes were those, she thought. They were the eyes of a traveller that sought his eternally fated partner… No matter how long it took, in this life or the next, no matter how many times he was reincarnated. Eyes filled with such a gentle, calm light, containing within them a crazed feeling of love. At that moment, Suguha knew what her heart truly wanted, and at the same time, she understood that she would never be able to reach it.
– Vol 4, Fairy Dance
Whew, mixed feelings, mixed feelings. I actually took a bit of time thinking back on the Aincrad arc straight after watching the ep, and realized how different everything was – how priorities have changed, and how there are different, but no less significant problems that the characters have to deal with both in ALO and in real life. And one of them is the ever-evolving relationship between Kazuto/Kirito and Suguha/Lyfa. Sugu as an imouto is much closer to Kirito than she was before the SAO incident – it took two years of Kirito being trapped in SAO for Sugu to really treasure her time with her onii-chan now that he’s been released. That’s why it was so painful for Sugu to visit the hospital with Kirito, because like the LN suggests, she’s being shown the barrier that stands between her and her brother – she’s being given a clear indication that her love is unrequited, and that Kirito has eyes only for Asuna. She’s so close, yet so far at the same time, and the proof is right in front of her.
At the same time though, Sugu is now very sure of her feelings, and while she can’t love her onii-chan Kazuto, the Sylph Lyfa will instead open up to the swordsman Kirito. Oh, the irony. I don’t know the extent to which Lyfa is using in-game Kirito as a replacement for her unrequited love for Kazuto, as Lyfa does seem to show a genuine interest in Kirito, and trusts him enough to break unspoken etiquette of not bringing RL problems to the virtual world. Kirito has also been his natural self throughout the arc, and similar actions back in SAO has landed him the love of various other girls in the past. It’s just that this time the affections he’s gathered have more consequences than he’d expect, and I’m both looking forward to and dreading the tense time when Lyfa is mercilessly run over by a truck full of emotions.
Remember I said that I would hate nearly every single time Asuna appears in this arc? Well, I stand by my words. I knew her escape attempt would fail, but that didn’t make it any less tense – the long white corridor as well as the dramatic music racked up the suspense with every step Asuna took, and it was just really unfortunate that she decided to hang around for longer than she should have by looking over the human experiments Sugou was conducting. I suppose this is the “truth of Alfheim” the title is referring to – the confirmation that Sugou is mentally torturing people in their dreams and recording the limits of their negative emotions so he can control them in the future. I don’t know which is worse – the idea of the experiment itself, or that he has willing accomplices to help him, in the form of huge purple slugs that I think are actually humans. What a great sense of humour this guy has. After not seeing her freely move about for so long, Asuna was especially cute up until the slugs took their tentacles out, riiiight as she was about to log out. It was just me gritting my teeth and hoping that they would put her down without raping her after that, but I’m sure the tentacle fanservice will be the topic of discussion if you’re into that sort of thing. To be honest, she would have made it if she hadn’t decided to run straight towards the system console and had hidden behind the cylinders, or even waited for the slugs to leave – but at least she has the key card, which will definitely be useful in the near future.
So Kirito and Lyfa have now reached the city at the heart of the world – which does look really amazing, with its huge towers and buildings. It’s population is diverse too, and there are players of various races all mingling with no sense of the usual race aggression or wariness that we’ve seen so far, mostly between the Sylphs and Salamanders. Yui has managed to locate Asuna’s presence high up above the clouds, and you can tell by Kirito’s look that he’s not going to waste any more time and work straight towards rescuing her now. Overall, I liked how the episode jumped back and forth between the tension with Asuna and the real world life of Kirito and Lyfa – but my main question is why an entire section of the LN, the underground ice field Jötunheimr was skipped. Was it an issue of time constraints in order to fit within the 25 episode limit? I don’t know if we’ll get it as a part of the BD extras (similar to how Saber vs Berserker was cut out in Fate/Zero, but was part of the BD) but they can probably justify their reasons for it. It’s not exactly an important part of the ALO arc – it’s true that a side story (Caliber SS) later on features Jötunheimr, but I would have still liked to see the evil-gods, Tonkii as well as the battle between Kirito and the veteran hunting party of Undines. Or if the story structure didn’t leave much time for Jötunheimr at all, maybe I should be happy it was cut out, as it would have almost certainly been rushed?