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Friday, September 27, 2013

The Dance of Black and White: Sword Art Online 8

After 2 years, people have gotten used to living in SAO. With a dwindling front line, it might just be up to Kirito and Asuna to continue the change. (Source: Crunchyroll)
Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the eighth episode of Sword Art Online.
There have been two moments in Sword Art Online that have really hit me where it counts when it comes to the impact of Aincrad's grip on its players. The first moment came at the end of SAO's first episode, when it is stated how many players have already died by the end of the first month and yet no one has cleared the first level. The second moment comes in this eighth episode, where it is declared in the same matter of fact tone that players have been stuck in Aincard for two whole years.
That's real time, y'all. One can only imagine how many users have died in two years. And yet, in the war to clear the game and defeat the final boss (and in turn, rejoin the rest of the world outside SAO), it seems that ennui threatens to take over the front lines and stop the battle in its tracks.

Remember that last episode made it clear that, for many users, Aincrad had become as real as real life can get. People are making new lives in SAO, getting married, starting businesses - and in the process, getting used to being in a virtual reality (especially since users can die in this world as easily as one can in 'true reality'). And as long as the Japanese government keeps their physical bodies on life support, the virtual reality illusion can continue on and on for these people - two years, to be exact. This blase attitude has left Kirito and Asuna holding the bag in regards to level clearing.
These extreme circumstances, as well as a tasty rare item, forces Kirito and Asuna into yet another partnership, much to the irritation of Asuna's guild. Asuna's bodyguard, Kuradeel, gets into the mix and ends up having his ass handed to him by the dynamic duo and their swords. Asuna puts a stop to Kuradeel's literal white knighting and lets Kirito get the win in their impromptu duel. Kirito and Asuna work really well together, I wish her guild would butt the hell out.
Also of note is the fact that another guild's leader was watching the duel. Are they being scoped out? Or are they possibly a target for some PK? Naturally, neither one of them mention this creepy guy who vanishes as soon as the duel is over, even though he visually radiates the aura of a suspicious character.
(I'm not even going to waste too many words on the grope incident because it was stupid and gross and come on, Kirito, don't act like you don't know what boobs are. Such a stereotypical NEET gamer. Invest in one of those damn 3D oppai mouse pads already – and if you don't know what those are, here's a clue: it's NSFW.)
Whether exploring the 74th level labyrinth or eating a meal together, it is clear that Asuna and Kirito's relationship has evolved beyond a normal friendship. They have fought together and ate together and relied on each other in this life threatening MMORPG, so it's no wonder that they've grown so close. It even shows in their fighting style, knowing when the right time to cut in for the other person so they can collectively take down their foe. It's kinda obvious how hard this series is gunning for Kirito/Asuna endgame.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Asuna and Kirito prepare to face the 74th level's boss, an awful scary looking monster named The Gleam Eyes. Considering it is just them versus this guy, it's gonna take a lot more fight than usual to take TGE down. Unless Asuna has back-up hiding in the wings – which is a big no – they'll have to put their everything into this one battle if they want to clear the floor. It's obvious that Asuna and Kirito are skilled, but do they have the skills to take The Gleam Eyes on by themselves?
Sword Art Online looks like it's ready to tackle some of the meatier issues of being trapped inside a game, such as people not wanting to leave and the fact that level clearing is a matter of life or death. I can only wonder how long it will actually take for Kirito and his allies to reach the top floor – and who will be waiting there to fight them.

The next episode of Sword Art Online airs tomorrow night on Cartoon Network's Toonami block.