Kirito, Asuna, and Yui are finally together again, but the locks placed on Asuna are unbreakable. Before they have a chance to come up with a plan, the fairy king makes his grand entrance. (Source: Crunchyroll)
Spoiler warning: Post contains spoilers up to the series finale.
I am incredibly torn about these last two episodes of Sword Art Online, which make up the true finale of the series. Episode 24 was actually okay, although marred by a heavy handed deus ex machina - but it's Kirito's series, so what else do you expect? Episode 25, on the other hand, felt lackluster, manipulative, and useless; it was a ten-pound weight dragging down what few moments of decency this anime had left. I wish SAO had ended in twenty-four episodes. Maybe I would have loved it more.
Episode 24 was the episode in which Kirito finally beat the crap out of Sugou. And it was pretty awesome - but the way it went down was gross. Why? Because in order to happen, you have to endure several long moments of Asuna being suspended by chains, having her clothes ripped off, her dignity shredded, and being assaulted by Sugou. Just so Kirito can go into righteous rage mode about his Aincrad wife and whoop the man messing with Asuna.
Let us rewind a bit. Yes, Kirito and Yui reach Asuna in the cage! It is a very tearful, emotional reunion! And then everything goes to hell because, surprise surprise, Sugou was actually paying attention to what was going on. Yui is suspended or kicked out, it's not really made clear, but Kirito and Asuna are soon feeling the pressure from Sugou, who uses his moment of power over them to gloat and grope. Augh, it's the creeper gross schoolboy arc from Accel World all over again.
I wanted Asuna to save herself. I wanted Asuna to land the killing blow on Sugou, as payback for all the pain this man has put her through in both the digital and real world. Instead, this is taken away from her and she is reduced to a damsel in distress with tears running down her cheeks, unable to do a thing as she watches Kirito and Sugou battle it out. And I hated it so much.
Speaking of Sugou, I still don't have a good feel on him as a character or a villain. Yes, we end up learning his true machinations for opening Alfheim Online, but none of it makes any sense. Why? For the money? The power? It's an awful elaborate and drawn-out process to control minds.
You think Sugou find a way to use human beings as guinea pigs without running the risk of being caught by someone who would love to tear him down, i.e. Kirito, not to mention by himself, thus reducing any chance of his minions growing a conscience and tattling on him. Sugou was hideously underdeveloped, which just made hating him that much easier.
(Sheesh, Sugou is underdeveloped? Alfheim is underdeveloped! Few things differentiate Alfheim from Aincrad: there's fairies and cat folks and everyone can fly and their leaders are Oberon and Titania and for some reason the ultimate weapon is from Arthurian legend? None of this makes sense! I need more data!)
But in the end, Kirito defeats Sugou with the power of love and deus ex machina - how else would you explain the assistance from a certain 'ghost in the machine'? Or the fact that Yui ended up okay, that none of the SAO/ALO players suffered any permanent neurological damage from being jacked into Sugou's system, that Asuna's body has not been permanently injured. But hey, all's well than ends - uh, Suguha?
I honestly have no idea what is going on with Suguha. She clearly still has feelings for Kirito - err, Kazuto. Or Leafa still has feelings for Kirito. And Kirito is okay with that? But Kazuto is with Asuna, right? Of course, look how lovey dovey they are in the real world! But the dance between Leafa and Kirito! Show, are you trying to have Kirito have his cake and eat it too? You can't honestly tell me that Kirito and Leafa's relationship will never coincide with Kazuto and Asuna's, or that Suguha's feelings for Kirito will never leak into her relationship with Kazuto.
That's really one of the main reasons I hated the final episode. I mean, that and the heavy moments of information dumping, courtesy of voice overs by Kirito's ever wise voice. It's okay, all the online games shut down! But then the World Seed became active and we brought them back! And all the players are okay and living normal lives now! Kermit flail! Of course, the series doesn't show any of this explicitly. We are just told to trust the fact that things unfolded beautifully for everyone involved and no one was seriously harmed.
(Well, except for Sugou, who is in serious trouble with the law, but screw that guy, right? What a jerk.)
Honestly, I could have done completely without episode 25. Just cut the whole damn thing. Take episode 24, cut out some of the gratuitous Asuna torture porn, tack on a scene with Asuna and Kazuto at the hospital, tearfully reuniting after Kazuto kicks Sugou's ass, and call it a day. We all could have been so much more easier and could have missed all the schoolyard drama, the weird double love triangle, and all the heavy-handed exposition.
It's a shame that Sword Art Online ended on such a note. I really enjoyed the first half of the series, but the Aincrad arc has been rather spotty - and it finishes on a bad spot. Although I should be happy that Asuna and Kirito ended up together, with Yui, and that the series did not veer towards a bad end. I'm just left wondering where the series is going, since it doesn't seem like the Asuna/Kazuto/Suguha arc was truly resolved and it's obvious that Kirito is going to keep dipping into virtual worlds and playing the hero with his friends.
Don't worry, though. Sword Art Online 2 is supposed to air later this year! Oh, Kuroyukihime-senpai, save us all. Then take Asuna with you and make a better series!