One month into the ordeal that Sword Art Online has become to its players, two thousand have died as Kirito and some of the other players are only just preparing to face the first floor’s boss.
To do this a player who fancies himself as a knight in the romantic sense, Diabel forms a coalition of players to challenge the boss together, declaring that the battle will represent whether the game can be beaten, and must be won to bestow hope upon those in Starting City who have surrendered to the belief that there isn’t a way out. As part of this he orders the members of his coalition to form parties of their own, obviously Kirito struggles with this idea but spotting a lone cloaked figure, Asuna to his side he wastes little time in teaming up with them. However before they can move on, a player known as Kibaou steps up and declares how Beta Testers must compensate the other players simply because, only to have another player Egil step forth and counter that Beta Testers have done that by publishing what they know in a free guide booklet.
Following this Diabel dismisses them all for the night, and as he and Kibaou make peace, Kirito meets up with Asuna and gives her some cream he had obtained from a quest, and learns her reasons for fighting. Telling him that she simply wishes to remain herself but refuses to lose to the game no matter what. On the next day their coalition makes its way to fight the boss of the first floor, Diabel dispatching commands as the multiple teams take out the bosses’ underlings before facing the boss itself. At which point Diabel steps forth alone but makes one fatal mistake, he failed to consider whether there would be any differences from the beta test, in his last moments confiding to Kirito that he too had been a beta tester and that he was after the boss’ drop bonus, Kirito noting that while he too had been a beta tester he didn’t abandon other players as he had.
From this Kirito and Asuna charge in to fight the boss but while they manage to hold their own for a moment they still find themselves overwhelmed, with the other players led by Egil charge in to by them some time to recover. Kirito and Asuna then teaming up to unleash a devastating team attack that defeats the boss, however while they managed to overcome the boss and rejoice at their victory, this isn’t enough for Kibaou who declares that Diabel wouldn’t have died if Kirito had shared his information, the other players following suit as dissention towards beta testers rises. To this however, Kirito steps up and declares that he’s something else entirely, that while many beta testers are still the same as they are, he was able to rise above them and as such earns the insult Beater. Taking all their ill sentiments towards beta testers upon himself as he prepares to move on, Asuna only just noticing his HP bar and with it his name.
“Yume Sekai” by Haruka Tomatsu.
As of writing this I haven’t entirely read the short story that this episode was based upon just yet but it was still a nice episode, initial inconsistencies aside I really like how they’re better developing the relationship between Kirito and Asuna and with it their characters as well. Other than that Kirito’s actions towards the end were also nice to see.
The whole resentment towards beta testers did seem kind of contrived, two months would give them the upper hand in both knowing their way around Aincrad and how things are done, yet at the same time they wouldn’t really be that much different from the other players. They too would be crippled by the fear that’s caused the players to only just decide to advance (while a vast majority will end up squatting in the first town), while those who ran forward would be more likely to get overconfident and pay dearly for the risks they would take, with a sixth of the two thousand dead consisting of beta testers and just as Diabel did in this very episode. However Kirito’s words attempted to redirect that resentment towards himself, by acting like a douchebag at the end he tried to make it so that guys like Diabel who inspired hope and united players, as well as the other surviving beta testers wouldn’t be hated or killed due to it, something this selfless was just nice to see from him.
Above that however what I liked most about this episode and with it the way the show is being set out, was how it’s better developing the relationship between Kirito and Asuna (voiced by Haruka Tomatsu), in the novel everything just somehow falls into place with little to no build up. Asuna quite literally shows up already having had a crush on him for six months and their relationship just moves forward in leaps and bounds until it meets the point that the story needed, I can understand that the author was really limiting himself page wise but a bit more development would have been nice for this. And by reordering the side stories that take place in the two year time skip and that he later wrote it’s doing just that, we even got to see Egil.
A few characters may have been removed and a good deal of the build up thrown out but I thought that it did this well enough in this episode as well. The full extent of Asuna’s reckless fighting style and almost suicidal way of existence in SOA may have been downplayed but it was still able to portray her character adequately, from that small scene between her and Kirito we saw that she was a girl who didn’t quite consider everything in SOA to be real and was in a way lost, her only goal was to clear the game and to recklessly fling herself forward to do so. Well perhaps I’m paraphrasing from the novel a bit too much, but what we saw of Asuna in this episode was still pretty nice, as well as how she and Kirito met in this episode without truly knowing each other. It was a nice fateful meeting of sorts.