You know, I had a lot of fun last week seeing Kirito do his thing. As I said in my weekly update, Sword Art Online is most fun when it gives Kirito a sword and a target. So imagine my surprise by just how good episode 5 is where Kirito is only present in flash backs and a shot of him on a hospital bed?
See, we’re finally in the real world addressing what happened after Kirito got attacked. And this is something I’ve been dying to know given I haven’t read the source and the story was doing a good job of distracting me by building up its in-game world setting, however this question has just been hanging over the whole thing since the end of episode one. And the answer we get is satisfying in its own way, even if you have to do a few leaps to avoid the plot-holes if you actually start looking at the situation as being part of the real world and not part of a fantasy story.
However, the reality of companies and or governments conspiring and experimenting on people and souls in the development of essentially a game (I guess there are other applications but I can’t really bring myself to care in the context of this show) is not something I’m overly concerned about. Anyone overly concerned with a plot that remained firmly grounded in plausible gave up on Sword Art Online a long time ago and those of us who remain are generally happy to say, ‘okay, this is what happened so what are you going to do with that?’ And generally speaking the answers have been fun to find out. Trapping 10 000 people in a game that could kill them for over two years is a really interesting concept even if it is highly implausible. Seeing how people react and respond and the different groups and approaches made it a rich discussion point so the reality of it didn’t really matter.
So what does matter this episode?
She’s been a fantastic character all the way along, but because season one is Kirito’s story she is very much a supporting character and love interest (a really good one, but still a supporting character). In Fairy Dance she is literally the damsel in distress, the caged prize, and while she actively tries to free herself from that situation, the plot ultimately doesn’t allow it. GGO, Asuna really just gets sidelined. There’s no way around that. It is only really in the Mother Rosario arc that Asuna gets to take the lead and then my problem is that the tough Asuna who earned the title of The Flash for her incredible sword skills, ultimately gets an emotional dilemma to face and one that while there is fighting involved is primarily concerned with Asuna being a friend and nurturer. It doesn’t hurt her character but it just makes you wonder why she doesn’t ever get to be the hero given she’s every bit as solid a character and lead as Kirito.
While once again we don’t see Asuna strapping on armour and kicking in the door to save Kirito, we do see her pursuing him literally across the ocean and reaching out to whoever she needs to in order to get to him. As implausible as it is that the super secret corporation didn’t pick up the photo swap in the database allowing her access, Asuna gets an incredibly cool moment this episode where we realise she isn’t going to happily sit aside as the damsel in distress.
Now if only Sword Art Online could commit to that and give her character the story she deserves (and if you know what happens please do not tell me, I’m looking forward to finding out).