Having now eloped Asuna and Kirito decide to take some time off from their guild, Heathcliff allowing it knowing that they’ll come back sooner or later, and head down to the 22nd floor as they had planned.
From this point they buy a house down there together and spend their time there together, Asuna declaring that her love for him isn’t limited to Aincrad and that she would fall in love with him again if she were to meet him in the real world. During this time she also suspects that he could be younger than her, and they decide to look into some reports of a ghost, Kirito being conscious of the other players watching them. However Kirito had hidden the details about the rumours he heard, playing them up as a ghost story just as Asuna spots the figure in question. A young girl in a white dress who callapses before them.
Believing that she might be an underage player who had gotten their hands on a copy of the game, they bring her back to their house, suspicious of whether she’s a player or a quest related NPC, and if the former why doesn’t she have a health bar. The next morning Asuna finds the girl awake but without any memories, only knowing that her name is Yui and deciding to refer to Asuna and Kirito as Mama and Papa respectively. Following this they have lunch together as a family would, with Yui insisting that she have the same thing Kirito is having. When Yui eventually falls asleep, Kirito and Asuna also find themselves conflicted by their wish to care for her and their obligation to the many other players.
So in order to solve this and find Yui’s guardian they head back to the very first floor, now an empty shell of its former self, the crowded streets that were once littered with players now occupied by a scattered few. They also estimate that around 2000 of the surviving 6000 players had chosen to simply wait it out and refused to take any sort of risk. As they walk along the streets however they come across a woman who is trying to save some kids from being extorted by some corrupt members of the Army demanding a tax. As such Kirito and Asuna decide to intervene, leaping across the Army members with Asuna taking advantage of how the safe areas don’t exactly block out the force that comes from attacks to scare them off. Having done this however Yui seems to remember something but glitches out before it can be properly grasped.
It may sound strange but I kind of have mixed feelings about this arc, on one side it provides some interesting exposition on the world of Aincrad and how things have progressed, presenting a different side to Kirito’s actions on the frontlines. However at the same time I cannot stand the weak attempts to make us as the viewers feel emotion.
In essence there is no attempt to actually make us feel it and instead we are told to or that we should, when Kirito and Asuna find the mysterious heroine of this arc, Yui we are expected to feel distraught and sympathy towards her being unable to remember anything. She has moments where she gets up on a soapbox and suddenly starts acting strange with Asuna and Kirito’s reactions serving as little more than to keep her going. This may just be me but I don’t really feel anything for Yui’s character and as such I don’t exactly consider this to be one of the author’s strong points. He excels at world building (which the anime has sadly neglected) but everything else, not so much.
Looking past the cringe worthy scenes with Yui however and just about everything else, the time we saw with Kirito and Asuna living as a married couple was pretty fun. The whole part about Asuna waking up to watch Kirito sleep felt like a weak attempt to further portray her as the perfect wife but I’ll admit that much. Even though I still feel that they’re way to young to be even considering marriage and that the development happened all too quickly, it wasn’t that bad to see them spend time together and have fun. It was short but nice and for a brief second we even saw a character that we’ll be seeing in a future episode that should present this time that they spend living in peace a little better. If anything however it may have been better to present that beforehand before running into the arc with Yui, instead of skipping ahead with some snapshots.
If there was one thing that I liked about this episode though it was the return to the first floor, detailing the world that Aincrad has become and all the little details as to how people live day by day still seems like something that’s been largely thrown out but even so the differences were clear. As opposed to the bustling city full of naive and optimistic players, it has become a somber and depressing shell of its former self, people refusing to acknowledge what’s before them as reality and taking the easy way out still reside within it after two years but they’re far and few unwilling to take risks of any sort. It also presented another side to the Army to whom we don’t already have a good opinion of, what had started as a guild founded for the good of all has become fat and corrupt, thus giving Kirito and Asuna a nice point to show off.