Sword Art Online Episode 24: Gilded Hero

“It’s time to finish this fight. Between the king of thieves and a gilded hero!”

Pi202

Summary

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.

Impression

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.

Pi182

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.

Pi183And 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!]

Pi208

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.

Pi214I 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.”

Pi220

Vantage

Heavily Rotating

You may also like...

21 Responses

  1. Linzz says:

    Am I allowed to fangirl over Heathcliff? AH YES, I AM /FANGIRLSOVERHEATHCLIFF AND NO ONE CAN STOP MEH. HAHA Well, I really do find his intentions pretty much absurd at the beginning but as an MMO Player myself, I do sometimes wish that the RPWorld is as real as being dead when killed. Still, HE STICKS TO THE GAME RULES UNLIKE SOME OTHER GM OVER THAR.

    THAT WAS A GOOD PLAY, THOUGH SUGOU. HAHAHAHAHA GOOD PLAY, MAN.

    Kirito: System ID Heathcliff
    Me: OMG THIS IS IT MAN, THIS IS IT!!! *pauses player and circles around*

    Yeah, pretty much weird on my part. XD

    • Vantage says:

      His intentions may have been absurd, but at least his integrity still stands – he kept his word and released all the surviving SAO players, and decided to intervene where he honestly thought the odds were unfair.

      When Kirito got up and invoked GM status, my only thought was: “This…is justice.” xDDD

    • Eva says:

      *HIGHFIVES* You weren’t the only one. I was fangirling too!

  2. Arimpact says:

    I gotta say, when the molest started with cloth being ripped off. I was more amazed with the director’s decision to incorporate all this than anything else, Granted since the source material is like this they don’t have much of a choice but the majority of the time I was still like “wow.. they really went all out, you don’t usually see the villain made into such a hateful character.” I sorta just auto shut my anger emotion down in order to watch this, otherwise I feel I might somehow hate my memories of this ep..

    Sadly, as much as I’d love to, the scenes in this ep also means I have to cross off my manager as someone who I can recommend this anime to. -.-

    A whole ep left for conclusion huh… I hope 80% of that is Kirito X Asuna time together.

    • Vantage says:

      Yeah, usually there’s a line between an antagonist and a villain, but Sugou crosses both of those and becomes a character that we, as fans, hate with a burning passion. It makes us connect with the show and the protagonists better as a result. And you should recommend it anyway! One not so SFW episode shouldn’t be that much of a deterrent xD

      The vast majority of next week’s ep is the conclusion…there’s something not quite finished yet that will be addressed next week too.

      • Arimpact says:

        I read the ep discussion on animesuki forums and a good number said Suguo was so over the top this time that it was just comical for them. That irriates me a bit cause ppl like him totally exist in the world and what was shown might be OTP for past anime standards but not at all real life, I don’t understand why people can’t relate that. Suguo’s a well directed villain in this ep I thought, especially in terms of breaking new ground which i guess others translate to OTP.

        So ya…. this isn’t the first NSFW ep, lets not forget our beloved tentacle rape ep :P. That was offense #1 and I started to hesitate, this was unfortunately the nail in the coffin, lol. Maybe I’ll just lie and say SAO is only 14 eps and show him the first arc. It had quite a bit more meaningful substance than the fanservice loaded arc 2 anyhow.

        @Wonderer ROFL that’s freaking hilarious! I’m Chinese so I can read that page. They aren’t saying anything you wouldn’t imagine if it was in English though. :)

        • Vantage says:

          I can see where they’re coming from, and from a few other sources I’ve read there are people who found the whole scene totally hilarious. It must be the facial expressions…but comical was not how I imagined it when I read through the Fairy Dance arc for the first time, so that probably influenced how I saw this final battle. He came off to me while reading it as a very insane guy that happened to have evil intentions for people who had already suffered enough.

          All these NSFW scenes are coming back to me now…that Silica plant tentacle scene, implied sex with Asuna…fun times xD

          And “Sugou Must Die” is a very wise phrase indeed. Such a pathetic guy…

      • Linzz says:

        Villain? I’m surprised people use that word on Sugou…HE’S A PSYCHOOOO A PSYCHOOOOOOOO!!!! D8

    • Wanderer says:

      Well, the fact that there’s a “Sugou MUST DIE” fan club on facebook should tell you a lot about how many fans hate him with a burning passion. Although yeah its not in English…

      https://zh-tw.facebook.com/shuthangdeath (note: scroll down for fan art)

  3. Eva says:

    When Sugou started molesting Asuna I wanted to vomit, it was very sickening to watch- not to to mention pissed me off and become more eager for the much anticipated part where Kirito beats the living shit out of him.
    That said, I felt a little unsatisfied with the scene Kirito pwning Sugou. I clearly set my expectations far too high, but I was really… REALLY HOPING to see more of the fight. It felt too short.
    What I didn’t realize until then was just how big of a coward Sugou.

    Good to hear though that he will be in agony for the rest of his life.
    So Kirito, nice touch with the face first stab.

    • Linzz says:

      Well, too bad they didn’t focus much on Excalibur than I had imagined it to be. But… well, Sugou’s death’s choreography was fantastically made. HOHOHOHOHOHO

      • Arimpact says:

        i was surprised how plain the Excalibur looked, maybe they are just trying to make it look weak in Suguo’s hands but for the best game i thought it looked worse than Sigurd’s sword

    • Vantage says:

      I remember being very moved when I first read this in the LN, but the only time I felt anything similar in this ep was during that initial reunion between Kirito, Asuna and Yui. Yeah…it did feel a little short – remember that there is also a link to the real world this time round, and nothing has changed IRL, with Sugou still being a candidate for marriage to Asuna…

      Sugou was stabbed through the right eye ^_^ Very satisfying.

  4. TheVicious says:

    Great episode and review. Looking forward to the second season (not even going to question it now, considering the popularity…)!

    • Vantage says:

      Thanks xD Yeah I think a second season is very likely to happen, it’s just what form it’ll take – I know a later arc could fit into a movie, while the next arc after this might be good for a one-cour series.

  5. Train says:

    This episode was like a rollercoaster, alternating between happy and touching moments and the whole final battle.
    The family reunion between the three was really happy, although short.
    Now about the part Sugou had them both trapped, THAT WAS REALLY, REALLY CREEPY. I mean, wth, i knew Sugou had some “issues”. But what he did crossed all the lines, he was such a sycho in that part. Poor Asuna ;; , and poor Kirito for having to watch that while being rooted to the ground by that bastard. Seriously, that scene was hard for me to watch, it was sick( in a bad way), Sugou, you bastard! At least he had what he deserved later, which was kind of fitting to “everyone’s most hated anime bastard of the year”. Just one question i had, concerning the “pain absorber level being below 4 affected the physical body ” thing, did his body get affected somehow or just the sensations of what happened in the battle?

    The battle wasn’t what i had in expectation, but then again i understood why: Sugou wasn’t a warrior like Heathcliff or Kirito, he was actually a coward, hiding behind his GM powers and in his real life company power as well. Kayaba’s appearance, giving Kirito his ID was boss though, encouraging Kirito like that and all, i guess he wasn’t a bad guy after all( even if he did trap and contributed in the death of many), he was more of an antagonist than a villain; Sugou being the latter. Altough Sugou had the best sword of ALO, the battle was pretty one sided, Sugou was pretty desperated the whole battle and Kirito wasn’t merciful at the end, altough i found it to be kind of brutal, after all they( Kirito and Asuna) have been through both in ALO and in SAO, plus everything Sugou did to Asuna in that room, i didn’t think he would hold back even a little bit anyway, and well, can’t say Sugou didn’t deserve that for being a whole other level of a bastard, i felt some pity for him though.

    Sugou mentioned( while freaking out over the fact, Kayaba’s ID still existed within the server( Seriously? You copied his( SAO’s) server, didn’t you see something like this eventually coming?)), that Kayaba was dead. I don’t remember any confirmation of it in the anime, did i miss it somehow? Dunno you guys, but i think he brings a lot to the anime/novels, even if he is ” a bad guy”. Well, he left Kirito a gift, The Seed; I likely have an idea of what that seed is. xD
    Kirito leaving to see Asuna in the end, while the END Song was playing in the back was really beautiful, well done producers, well done.

    Little sad SAO is going to end, but hopefully it will be the first of many seasons :D

    Ps: Good job doing a great coverage of the whole season Vantage. xD

    • Vantage says:

      If it’s below a certain level, the brain signals that transfer virtual pain to the user probably become too strong, and so it’ll literally affect the body – he’ll be feeling actual pain in his face even after logging out. Well, he deserves it xD

      The entirety of Sugou’s power came from his status as a GM – he had no actual skills he could fight with. Even with the strongest sword, having no experience even using a normal one makes having Excaliber completely useless. And hopefully, we’ll get more adaptations of the later arcs SAO has to offer us.

      Thanks xD