Now two years after the first episode, Kirito is finishing up a grinding session when he comes across an incredibly rare item, Ragout Rabbit Meat, the most delicious food in all of Aincrad.
However as the cooking skill requirements for it are incredibly high and his own is hardly up to scratch he heads back to main town of Algrade on the 50th floor, intending to sell it to Egil, and just before they finalise the deal his chef arrives, Asuna. Who just happens to have maxed out the relatively useless skill and demands half in exchange for cooking it when she sees what he has. In order to cook it Asuna suggests that they head back to her house, her bodyguard Kuradeel not taking kindly to her getting close to Kirito.
After which they soon arrive at Asuna’s house, an expensively furnished place located in an area to match, and Kirito appears to be nervous around her as she shows just how easy cooking is in Sword Art Online. Once they’ve finished their meal they both feel relieved to have made it as far as they have and note that people including themselves have been growing far more accustomed to life in Aincrad, the number of frontliners slowly dropping while they remain adamant on clearing the game. From this their conversation turns to the tricks and traps that Kayaba Akihiko has been implementing on the upper floors and the danger and playing solo, leading to her effectively forcing him to agree to a party request.
So the next day they meet up on the yet to be completed 74th floor, where after a relatively cliche meeting they find that Asuna had been followed by the overly intrusive Kuradeel who has now taken stalking her as part of his duty and attempts to take her back. Kirito of course opposes him and is eventually forced into a duel that he settles with a simple flick of his sword. As such Kuradeel is left humiliated and Asuna if forced to intervene using her seniority in the Knights of the Blood as he’s about to use some underhanded measures. With the matter now settled they advance on and move through the dungeon with ease, eventually running into the 74th floor’s boss, the Gleameyes.
Now that we’ve entered the main story all that’s left to see is how they’ll cover it, and while it may have lacked the full impact that the two-year time skip had I thought that this was a good start. Kirito and Asuna’s interactions were relatively clunky but were kind of fun at the same time.
Essentially there’s just something unnatural about how they interact, Kirito despite being a top-level player capable of interacting perfectly fine with others and around Asuna as well, is suddenly overly meek around her while she’s just as forceful to him. From this episode we know that she already likes him, and from the past ones just why, however without them it’s difficult to understand why she likes him as much as she does. Needless to say alongside her always being the one to take the initiative their relationship not only comes across as somewhat forced but also one of wish-fulfillment of a completely flawless girl popping up to romance the protagonist. If it were toned down I don’t think it would have been a problem but it really could have been handled better.
That said putting that sort of stuff aside the way they interacted together was pretty fun again, given that the scene was effectively her canonical introduction it probably didn’t have the same sort of effect but it was pretty fun to see Asuna haughtily boast about maxing a skill that is usually regarded as being not worth the effort in Sword Art Online and then being roped into cooking for him. And while the whole part about her threatening him in a safe area was completely illogical based on what we already know about them, it wasn’t so bad either. The only real downside about their actions was that Kirito’s actions could be regarded as pretty dickish.
Despite that aforementioned lack of impact however, what I liked the most was how the players of Sword Art Online are just living out their lives two years after being trapped within the game, I’ve probably already talked about it in some of my previous posts but one of the interesting things about this series is that it takes a somewhat cliche story idea and sets it when they’re starting to adjust. After two years quite a few players have pretty much given up on escaping, and even Kirito and Asuna are shown having some doubts about it. In effect Sword Art Online has become a world in itself, the players effectively live their lives as they would but just within Aincrad and while digital they treat it as being just as normal as reality.