In preparation for the boss fight on the 56th floor, taking place around a month after the last episode, Asuna as the sub-leader of the powerful guild, Knights of Blood proposes that they lure the boss into the village to attack NPCs while they make their move. A plan that Kirito can agree with.
And back to stressing out about assignments.
Following this Kirito meets another old friend, Egil and notes that he couldn’t have guessed that Asuna would be where she is now, and some time after this Asuna finds Kirito taking an afternoon nap instead of preparing for the boss battle, and while she’s opposed to wasting time like that he somehow manages to convince her to do the same as she lies down right next to him. Leading to her waking up to find him watching over her and demanding that she compensate him for it, noting over dinner that even in safe areas it’s possible for a player to challenge a sleeping player to a duel, manipulate their window, and kill them. So as such she thanks him.
Soon after this however they’re alerted to a scream where they find another player impaled in a safe area but are too late to save him, failing to find the duel’s winner as they deduce how it must have happened, and decide to work together to solve this mystery. As part of this Kirito and Asuna meet a companion of the victim, Yoruko who was the one who found her companion Kain impaled and is still in shock. Following this they decide to have the murder weapon investigated, Asuna mentioning her friend Liz but knowing that she would be busy they decide to meet Kirito’s friend and usual merchant Egil, during this Asuna has a problem with him being so formal with her. And upon meeting up with Egil they’re able to uncover more of the blade’s details, that it’s known as Guilty Thorn and was forged by a player known as Grimlock, however Asuna stops Kirito before he can test whether it’s capable of harming players in the safe area.
With this information they meet up with Yoruko who reveals some information that she had withheld, that Grimlock, Kain, and her were all members of the same guild Golden Apple however conflict arose when they found a rare item as whether to sell or use it. Upon voting it was decided that they would sell it and split the profits, however their leader Griselda disappeared once she went to sell it. From this they believe that the suspect must be a member of Golden Apple, Grimlock’s relationship with Griselda suggesting that he’s hunting down the three who opposed the sale one by one, Kain, Yoruko herself, and another player called Schmidt who’s now associated with the same guild Klein and Fuurinkazan fought off, the Divine Dragons Alliance. They then decide to meet with Schmidt who’s simply shocked that Kains is dead and what it means, Yoruko suggesting that it’s Griselda’s ghost out for vengeance which Grimlock as a right to, however as Schmidt moves to oppose this, Yoruko falls from the windowsill, a dagger like that of Guilty Thorn embedded in her back.
Finally an episode that doesn’t have its story poorly crammed into one, let alone with characters other than Klein like Asuna and Egil making a return. I know to be fair this story is covers around twice as much ground but even so I don’t think how the previous episodes were handled was entirely excusable.
Sure that stuff was being covered in the past episodes were short stories but it stops us from becoming invested in the characters by delegating them to one episode each, the second episode saw significant cuts all over the place, Sachi’s death had little to no impact, and Silica didn’t have much time to leave an impression at all. By the time we got to know the characters they were already gone. However with this episode we see characters we’re already familiar with return, time that would be used to introduce them used for the story, and some degree of suspense for it towards the end. Where we’re left with a case of mysterious murders and are left to speculate about them, of who’s possibly behind it, their motives, and just how they’re capable of it with an amount of uncertainty.
However saying that none of the characters weren’t reestablished wouldn’t exactly be true, Egil came back as a pretty good friend of Kirito’s, and compared to who she was in the second episode Asuna appears to have gone through a complete transformation. Compared to the rash single-minded girl who would risk her life without a second thought, she’s become a lot more obstinate and absolute, whereby she’s still focused on completing the game but she doesn’t let it consume her, and will even band or plan with others to do so. In a way I just think that this episode did a much better job at establishing her than the second episode, this is who she is and the girl we saw in the second episode doesn’t have the same sort of impact without seeing this first, let alone how she ran into him in this episode was pretty significant for her as well.
Furthermore even the relationship between them was reestablished in such a way, while Kirito was able to recount their past meeting Asuna did nothing of the sort and instead saw Kirito as a lazy unrealistic (or over realistic) guy who despite being one of the frontliners, stops to nap and smell the roses too often. Over time that will change and she’ll start to see the way he sees things and lay back a little, but my point is just that, this could be better considered the point where they first met and their prior meeting is kind of ineffectual without it, it was done in a fateful meeting sort of way where part of the enjoyment was that they ran into each other before that. Other than that it was also nice to see Asuna’s cute side emerge, seeing her take a nap and then demand that Kirito let her compensate him was a little forced but her interactions with Kirito are kind of cute.
Also on a side note, I don’t know why but I’m enjoying the detail put into the architecture and backgrounds.