Sword Art Online Episode 24: Gilded Hero
“It’s time to finish this fight. Between the king of thieves and a gilded hero!”
Kirito makes it to the top of the World Tree with Yui’s help, and manages to locate Asuna’s birdcage and reunites with her at last. Their reunion is abruptly cut short with the arrival of Sugou, who warps the location and uses his powers to chain Kirito down to the floor, suspending Asuna in the air and messing around with her body while an enraged Kirito is forced to watch. Feeling helpless at his situation, Kirito laments and has his willpower restored by an echo of Kayaba Akihiko, who gives his system ID for Kirito to use in order to defeat the Fairy King.
Personally, I experienced a mix of everything this episode – unlike the last, which was overflowing with feels and left me with a huge smile on my face, this week left me slightly more sober and peaceful, but with a smile on nonetheless. The epic, badass feelings weren’t there as much as I thought they’d be, and thinking back on it it rather makes sense; as Sugou lived, he died. Pathetically.
The top of the World Tree at sunset is actually really similar to how the skies above the floating castle Aincrad are – really peaceful and tranquil, and it’s fitting for Kirito to finally meet Asuna again in such a setting, albeit while she’s locked up in a cage. Having a floating city in the sky would almost be ruining the natural scenery and sunset that I’m perfectly happy with, though all the ALO players probably won’t be too pleased to get confirmation that their single, long-running goal within the game is actually impossible to complete. I felt something I haven’t felt for a few months now, since the Morning Dew Girl side story actually – the feeling of watching a family interact, which is the impression I got of their reunion. It’s just so precious and pure, and is something that should never be taken away and destroyed – oh look, here’s Sugou.
As always, he’s an insufferable bastard, and it’s striking how similar he is to Noumi from Accel World, to the point that they both meet their end in Volume 4 of their respective light novels. Admittedly they are by the same author though. He’s freely admitting to Kirito that he’s messing around with emotion and thought control technology with the former 300 SAO players, which is actually enough to put him in jail should that get out (and shut down RECTO Progress, and therefore ALO for good). His desire to control the human soul pretty much confirms his god complex – he was unable to surpass Kayaba Akihiko while studying together, and so he decided to be the god of a virtual world, deciding to use data, numbers and technological methods to fashion himself as a Fairy King, dancing all alone on his stolen throne. He made passing the Guardians impossible with his fake power, and locked up Asuna with his fake power, which is why Kirito’s response to how he reached the World Tree filled me with pride – “I flew here, with these wings.” Kirito may think he’s a gilded hero, but in the end he’s shown repeatedly that he has the courage to keep fighting even when beaten, overcome all his obstacles and do the impossible. I admit it’s very cliché, but hey, it’s a love story after all.
And it’s because it’s a love story that everyone’s OTP of Kirito x Asuna stays strong, and whenever it’s trampled upon the hate of the entire fandom turns mercilessly to the bastard that dared to even step near the ship. Today we bring you the object of our hate – fucking Sugou. Out of all the times he’s molested her, it’s never been as bad as this. I’m actually quite glad all I did was clench my fists, because during those scenes I felt a very strong urge to punch the nearest thing I could see into next week. Seriously, what the fuck man? What the fuck? Stop defiling her, you bastard! I don’t know how it is over there, but in the vast majority of countries I’m pretty darn sure that licking someone’s tears is harassment, while chaining them up, ripping their clothes and molesting them is intended rape. Not cool at all. I mean, there were boobs, but we didn’t even see much =/ And no-one was in the mood for it anyway, with Kirito stuck on the floor, impaled on his own sword.
“I’m going to accept reality.”
[Then you give in to it. To the power of a system you once denied.]
“I don’t have a choice. I’m a player, and he’s a GM.”
[Those words make a mockery of our battle. Our fight showed me the power of the human will. And the possibilities held by the future. Stand up, Kirito-kun!]
I think it’d have been different if Sugou wasn’t so much of a coward, and had actually fought Kirito properly instead of abusing the System Command to change the pain absorber level and chain Kirito to the ground. In the light novel, his coordinates were actually fixed to that position instead of him being stuck on his greatsword, and so it was much more of an ordeal for Kirito to stand up and fight. It was quite similar to that time when he challenged the Guardians while fighting solo – and the realization sank in that he has no power in the face of a higher being. But it’s when confronting that higher being that he realizes that the game isn’t just a game anymore, which gives Kirito the mental willpower to override the system and fight. With a little help from Kayaba Akihiko of course. With his mind still present and talking to Kirito and Asuna from the time when Aincrad collapsed, there’s no way he’d die that easily. Or at least, ingrain a little of his consciousness into the roots of the system – and remember, the core programming of Alfheim is based upon the one used in the original SAO mainframe.
I suppose the word that’s most apt for my feelings during that battle would be satisfaction. The use of the ID Heathcliff was fitting for Kirito to utterly destroy Sugou, who still tried to cheat and generate Excaliber, the strongest sword to use against him. It’s the hard work that makes achievements in MMOs so rewarding – and for a legendary weapon to appear at a single command is a bit sickening, and no fun at all. Kirito was right to use his own black sword to defeat Sugou, which reminded me once again of Noumi’s pathetic, snivelling defeat as he just screamed and cried, though I suppose Sugou was doing it out of pure pain – with the pain setting at Level 0, meaning that the sucker will definitely be feeling the electrical after-effects of the battle despite it being in the virtual world. I hope he does. He deserves it – not only for what he’s done to Asuna, but for all the horrible experimentation he conducted on helpless SAO survivors, who have probably gone through enough mentally for the last two years. Sugou’s torso being spiked by Kirito’s sword like that should have made me wince, or feel pity, but strangely enough, my cold, unfeeling heart felt nothing at all.
“I believed in you. No, I still do. I always have and always will. That you’re my hero. That you’ll always save me.”
The battle and its aftermath was very similar to a fairy tale which is fittingly told in the land of the fairies, in which a hero overcomes all the odds to rescue the helpless princess from the hands of the evil, and in this case perverted, king. After all that time Asuna spent trapped in various virtual worlds, it seems a bit unreal that for her, everything’s all over – she can finally log out and return to the real world, something she’s been unable to do for over two years now, ever since that day in SAO when Kayaba appeared and told them all about the death game. Kayaba himself left a parting gift for Kirito, the Seed – or the World Seed, as mentioned in the preview for the next (and final) episode. I won’t go into details on it this week, but take it’s name quite literally, as well as remember the technology available to them in that time. I’m sure Kirito himself won’t choose to delete it, as I’m certain that he had many other feelings besides hatred during his time in SAO. For us, our time with this show is nearly over, but for Kirito and Asuna, their time together has only just begun. Next week will properly wrap everything up, and hopefully provide a fitting conclusion to the show in what will regrettably be the last, but not least, episode of SAO.
“Is it all over?”
“…Yeah, it is. Everything.”