Sword Art Online Episode 22: Emotional Trainwreck
“I was so happy you were being nice to me. I thought you were finally giving me a chance. But…if I’d known this would happen, I wish you’d kept being a jerk! If you had…I wouldn’t have realized I like you…or been sad to learn about Asuna-san…or tried to fall in love with Kirito-kun instead!”
Hearing Yui comment that Asuna’s player ID is above the clouds in Aarun, Kirito frantically tries to get past the barrier and up into the branches of the World Tree, but fails to do so. Even Yui doesn’t have the authority to bypass the barrier, but her voice manages to carry up into the skies and reaches Asuna’s cage, where she throws down the key card in the hope that Kirito will find it and put it to good use. After Yui confirms that the card belonged to Asuna, Kirito thanks Lyfa for all she has done, and heads to the World Tree to complete ALO’s Grand Quest. A tall column greets him, and as he flies up he meets winged Guardians who block his way – their numbers increase exponentially as he rises and Kirito dies, with his Remain Light rescued by Lyfa. When Kirito insists on trying again, Lyfa finally makes the connection and realizes that he is in fact her onii-chan.
*stands up and claps*
Wow. Just wow. I’ve actually been wondering throughout the series how they would end up animating this particular section (which is said to be one of the emotional climaxes of the show) and after sitting through that, I think I can still hear Sugu’s voice in my head, pouring out her feelings to a shocked Kirito. Taketatsu Ayana is such a great seiyuu – I tend to remember her more in romantic comedies or in tsundere roles, but she pulled off her role as a broken Sugu brilliantly here. Her words cut through my heart like a knife through butter, and continued stamping on it till I was as emotionally drained as Kirito was. Both this scene and Kirito’s World Tree attempt were highlights of the episode – which makes pretty much the entire episode a highlight, since that’s all they showed xD
“This is awful. This isn’t fair…it isn’t…”
I felt it was a powerful monologue Sugu gave even in the light novel, yet I’ve been humbled to learn that there are times when animation and voice acting really helps to deliver a scene. That face right when she made the connection – it was that completely shocked face that Lyfa had on that signalled the incoming shitstorm of emotions. That face tore into my soul and ripped it apart. Violently. Up until recently, all along Kirito has maintained his distance with Sugu, perhaps because he knows they’re not direct siblings as she suggested. For an imouto who has never really gotten to know her onii-chan and lost two years of being with him because of a death game, it’s understandable that Sugu was really happy once Kirito started being nice to her again – after he realized that he had taken her for granted in SAO and may never see her again, which may subconsciously had a hand in why he helped Silica all those episodes ago. Sugu thought it was a chance, and eventually fell in love with her onii-chan but kept her feelings to herself, watching from afar while realizing his heart belonged to someone else. That was bad enough – a true unrequited love really is painful for someone. Sugu’s admitting that she fell in love with Kirito to forget about it, but all along she must have realized that Kirito had something he was so intently focused on – which was Asuna. We’ve known it for ages as viewers, but for Sugu/Lyfa to learn that Kazuto/Kirito were the same person must have been such a cruel blow to her – and she’s right, it’s not fair. It’s not fair at all, but…that’s just the way it is. I suppose it shows the sincerity of Lyfa’s love, as she fell in love twice over with the same person based purely on his actions, not realizing who he actually was. At the same time it’s even more painful, because Kirito’s literally spent the whole of the ALO arc both within and outside Alfheim Online with Sugu, and Lyfa herself has gone through a lot of experiences with Kirito. For those who are full Asuna supporters and would burn the Kirito x Lyfa ship, there you have it – Kirito’s “I’m sorry” is pretty much akin to a rejection, though it’s been evident through his focused desire and constant visits to the hospital that his heart only belongs to one person.
“You who know not the heights of heaven…do you desire passage to the castle of the king?”
The first World Tree fight was also pretty epic in itself, and though it did hold its fair share of emotional glory it remains true that this SAO fight scene was secondary to the shit that went down with Lyfa. In a way, this fight scene embodies everything that Kirito has fought for this entire arc, getting through ALO and the many obstacles that stood in his way to achieve what he came here to do. No matter what his relationship with Lyfa was, those initial goodbyes with her were necessary – Kirito has something he has to do, and he has to achieve it at all costs. The significance of the battle represents the whole Grand Quest theme they displayed – it really is the final quest that ALO has to offer, and is symbolic with the challenger’s need to fly higher and higher, up through the heart of the world. At the same time, it represents impossibility and the futility that Kirito has to experience due to his limitations as a player – it’s impossible. That’s the truth of it. The sheer number of Guardians that spawned was overwhelming, and while not very powerful by themselves, as a collective group they have unbelievably high strengths due to sheer numbers. “The Computer is a Cheating Bastard” is the perfect trope to describe this (if you follow TV Tropes) and worst of all, Kirito was only past around halfway up the area. He’s been extremely cool throughout the story, but I have to admit it was a little cocky of him to say that “a game where you can’t die is too easy”. He admits it in the end – his in-game strength is nothing but skills and status effects, and is nothing at all in the face of the all-powerful system. The barrier is a perfect example of that. It’s a bit frustrating to see him fighting so hard to get past the barrier when it’s not physically possible to, as it’s something that’s not under his control. However, I think that even in a virtual reality, when a game stops being just a game, someone like Kirito can find true strength that he needs to achieve what he wants to.
I suppose that links into Asuna – like the keycard which Kirito now has, Asuna is the driving force that pushes Kirito on even in the face of really bad odds. The feels during that fight when his emotions for Asuna were filtered into everything…man, now you want to see Sugou drown in a sea of burning fire even more. Remember, he’s behind all of this – the impossible quest, capturing Asuna, everything. Well, everything except Lyfa, that is. I would love to say that Kirito will continue his attempt to scale the World Tree next episode…but first he has a few very painful domestic issues to sort out.