Kirito has agreed to a duel with the head of the Blood Alliance Knights. If Kirito wins, Asuna is free to leave the Knights and if he loses... (Source: Crunchyroll)
Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the tenth episode of Sword Art Online.
Sometimes, I wonder how many of my dear readers who have already seen all of Sword Art Online chuckle to themselves when they read this in my previous SAO review: "I'm looking forward to the duel between Kirito and Heathcliff to see who wins; the final result could possibly shift the current dynamics of the show in an all new direction - for better or for worse." Because, oh boy, the aftermath of this one duel is a doozy - and that is putting things lightly. Kirito is known for getting into oddball situations on a regular basis, but this latest one makes every other situation look like kindergarten-grade material.
So Kirito and Heathcliff duel, and to the surprise of no one, Kirito loses. As a member of the Knights of the Blood, Kirito must now wear the standard white-and-red uniform instead of his trademark black long coat. It is during this transition from infamous loner to KotB member that Kirito confesses to Asuna what happened to the last guild he was a member of. It's a huge step for Kirito, who until this episode has been extremely hesitant to talk about what happened with his old guild members and the event of their deaths. It's also one of the bigger flags throughout this episode related to Kirito and Asuna's relationship.
Naturally, being a Knights of the Blood member ain't easy (just look at the guild name!), as what should have been a routine training exercise turns into a digital bloodbath when fellow member Kuradeel turns on Kirito and Godfrey; you may remember Kuradeel as Asuna's annoying bodyguard who Kirito whooped in a duel several episodes before. While we weren't looking, he became a member of the Laughing Coffins, effectively becoming a player killer - and kill he does, taking out Godfrey with the aid of poison.
What happens next is pretty amazing. It has to be seen to be believed. In short, Asuna arrives and saves the day, but it is Kirito who performs the final blow, taking out player killer Kuradeel in order to protect Asuna. With a "fuck you, you murdered me," Kuradeel dies as classy as he lived. It is this moment, above all, that bring Asuna and Kirito together; they kiss on the spot where, only moments ago, they were fighting for their lives.
First of all, we can't ignore the fact that Kirito just killed someone. However, it's not a usual player killing because it was done in self-defense while most PKs happen due to personal disagreements or because the player killer just feels like it. For Kirito and Asuna, it was a matter of life or death; Kuradeel would have been all too happy to cut their limbs off and throw them off a cliff. But Kirito killed Kuradeel and now he has another life hanging over his head.
Second, there has always been a "will they or won't they?" vibe about Kirito and Asuna's relationship, which up to now has always hung heavily on the "they will" side. But this episode really cements that relationship beyond a doubt, with Asuna throwing around such phrases as "I can't die because I have to protect you" and Kirito putting his body in harm's way to protect Asuna's life and telling her that "my life belongs to you." Yeah, I wrote down a lot of quotes from this episode - but these two loveable goofs were so quotable, I could not help it.
The episode ends with Kirito and Asuna making plans to buy a house in a quiet spot of Aincrad and get married. In other words, it's about as serious as it gets. Are they abandoning the front line? Considering that Kirito has vowed to make sure Asuna sees the real world again, hopefully not. Plus, this would not be any much of a series anymore if it just became the married adventure of Asuna and Kirito. But they've already dedicated themselves to each other, and it's going to take an act of God to separate these folks.
Now I'm thinking about my predictions from the previous post and laughing. Possibly shift the current dynamics? Possibly? Hell, our main leads are about to get hitched - that is a shift for the ages. Sword Art Online, even at your most ridiculous, you never fail to amaze me. Shine on, you virtual diamonds, you. Shine on.
PS: The Weiss Schwarz company has started releasing a Sword Art Online collectible card game for those SAO fans in the United States. If you spot it at any of your local card shops, let me know! And if you have over a hundred bucks in disposable cash, Aniplex has released the Sword Art Online limited edition Blu-Ray set, containing three discs of Aincrad goodness.