Having saved a small guild as he makes his way through some of the lower levels, Kirito is surprised when this guild the Black Cats of the Moon bring him to a nearby inn to celebrate. Yet while their leader Keita inquires about his level and asks if he would like to join them, the number Kirito gives is half of what it really is.
With Kirito’s knowledge the Black Cats quickly rise through the ranks, and one time as Keita looks through a newspaper he asks Kirito what he believes makes the players on the frontlines so strong, and while Kirito answers that it’s from hiding information Keita believes that it’s willpower more than anything. From this he starts to believe that Keita’s outlook and the Black Cat’s way of doing things that could change the way that the shrewd frontline guilds act. In this time Kirito also runs into Klein again with his friends as he sneaks out to train.
As he’s returning however Kirito receives a message from Keita informing him that Sachi has run off, so while the Black Cats search for her Kirito uses his high level searching ability to track Sachi to a nearby drain. There she confides in him how scared she is but Kirito promises her that he won’t let her die and that she’ll make it to the end, as well as that she doesn’t have to act as a forward player anymore. As a result of this Sachi starts sneaking into Kirito’s room and each night he promises her that, giving her the strength to keep going and Kirito a sense of redemption. However soon this would all go wrong when the Black Cats decide to make some extra coll while Keita buys the base they had been saving up for, and unfortunately they decide to head closer to the frontlines to do this and land themselves in a trap there, Kirito knowing that the risks for such were higher in this dungeon. As a result of this they find themselves trapped and surrounded, the Black Cats picked off one by one as Kirito carves his way through the monsters unable to save Sachi.
Some seven months after this Kirito meets with a friend of his, the information broker Argo the Rat who informs him of a Christmas quest where the boss is said to drop a revival item, of course the information for such is still cloudy. And so as Kirito prepares for this, remembering how Keita had cursed him as a Beater and leapt off the edge when he told him the news, he resolves to revive Sachi and hear her last words. On his way he runs into Klein again who attempts to make him realise what kind of state he’s in and offers to team up with him, however they soon find themselves surrounded by a particularly aggressive guild so Klein and his friends attempt to hold them off while Kirito faces the boss. Eventually Kirito overcomes the boss but the revival item in question can only be used within ten seconds of the players death, and so passing it to Klein, Klein tells him that he has to keep living no matter what.
Following this Kirito finds a message from Sachi designated to arrive on Christmas, in it she tells him that she’s likely to have died by this point but it was her fault for continuing when she didn’t want to, revealing that she had sneaked a peek at his real level and it was something that put her at ease, and that she wishes that he’ll keep living. And still with time to spare she decides to hum him a Christmas tune, ultimately thanking him for everything.
Next Episode Preview:
And since it’s up by the time I’ve posted this, next episode covers Silica’s story, after that I’m guessing it will be Liz’s turn and then the story its main stage.
As tragic as it all was this was a good episode, once again a good amount of the stuff to it was thrown out in order to keep it to one episode but the story to it was great. For once Kirito isn’t the unstoppable high leveled player but a guy who simply can’t forgive himself, and while he succeeds all it serves to give him is a slap in the face.
Call it what you will but this episode really humanised Kirito, for once he decides that it would be nice to be surrounded by friends and reaches out by accepting an invitation from a close-knit group of friends, and while he does maintain some distance between them he does seem to enjoy their warmth. Becoming friends with the guild’s leader, Keita and growing particularly close to a girl in the group Sachi, taking on the role as something of a pillar of strength for her, but then it all just blows up in his face precisely because of his dishonesty and now he can’t forgive himself. The guild is brutally wiped out, Keita curses him for it as he takes his own life, and Sachi dies believing that he would save her right until the end, anyone of those things happening would be enough to destroy someone but they all happened to Kirito at once.
Following that the general path that the story took only served to kick him while he was down, he hears about a chance to revive Sachi and regardless of everything that points to it being far too good to be true he risks everything for the slim chance of obtaining it. The Kirito we see in this episode isn’t some unstoppable steamroller who can do everything and has everything turn out perfectly, but some guy who’s refusal to be completely honest with his friends and allow them to get close to him got them killed, and as such cannot find redemption. Then we see him find the path that could allow him to find forgiveness only to find that it was an absolute lie, as if the game itself had set it all up as a way of laughing at him for even considering that. It really should have been given two episodes instead of being crammed into one but this was some great development for him, listening to Sachi/Saori Hayami hum Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer was absolutely heartbreaking.
Moving onto the brighter aspects of this episode it was great to see Klein again being as much of a bro as ever, and to some extent even try to shield Kirito from the inevitable heartbreak that he was about to even if Kirito was about to cut him down. And when he failed to do that he was visibly hurt at being unable to do that and seeing the state Kirito was in begged him to keep going, even though Kirito can’t let what happened before go it didn’t stop him from seeing Kirito as a friend who needed saving. A friend who was on a path to self-destruction. Secondly it was also nice to see Argo, Kirito’s information broker friend who was cut out of the last episode entirely (which too should have been given more time), it was only for one short scene but it was still nice to see her at least show up in the anime.