Back on the 22nd floor, Kirito spends his time fishing but doesn’t seem to be having much luck when he runs into a rather elderly player, Nishida who happens to be an expert. Of course Nishida wasn’t playing Sword Art Online of his own accord when Kayaba trapped all ten thousand players within, and had instead been checking the network security when it happened.
With Gintama back I’ll probably drop this in favour of covering it instead. It’s been a fun show but at the same time a disappointing one.
True to his word Nishida quickly pulls in a fish but sadly doesn’t have the cooking skill requirements to cook it, and more so misses something as simple as soy sauce, to this though Kirito invites him over for dinner with himself and Asuna. After dinner Nishida also goes on to reveal a secret about the lake that Kirito had been fishing in, that it happens to hide the floor’s mini-boss of sorts, and as such they agree to help him out. Later that night Asuna feels as if they now bear a heavy responsibility to see the other players safely home, assuring Kirito otherwise when he notes the selfishness in his early ingame actions.
The next day they all head down to the same lake where the news of what they plan to do has drawn quite a crowd. Nishida hooking the boss before switching with Kirito to pull it in with his strength stat, however the intimidating nature of the boss has everyone running away. So with no one else to do it, Asuna steps forth and defeats it in a single blow, blowing their cover at the same time and Kirito finds a message from Heathcliff urgently recalling them. As such they prepare to head back, Nishida seeing them off and noting that he had started to grow accustomed to life in Aincrad and even if he did leave just how messed up his life would be, however having met them he now has hope that he one day will leave. Asuna responding how she had felt the same way and relentlessly attempted to clear the game as fast as possible, but meeting Kirito made her realise that their days within Sword Art Online still have meaning, believing that she put on her NerveGear in order to meet him. When they meet Heathcliff however they find a team of ten elite players had been entirely wiped out when the doors to the 75th Boss room slammed shut when they entered, as such Heathcliff now intends to lead an all or nothing assault.
Faced with this danger Kirito tries to convince Asuna to stay behind, however she affirms that without him she wouldn’t have any reason to go on and furthermore while she too simply wishes they could live in peace like they had done, she realises that there’s only so much time they could do that for given the state of their physical bodies. As such they meet up with the all the other top ranked players together, Klein and Egil revealed to be participating as well, before Heathcliff uses a rather rare teleport item to transport them before the Boss room. As soon as the fight begins however, two players are killed in a single sweep and morale quickly sinks, Heathcliff, Kirito, and Asuna charging forth to hold the Boss, Skull Reaper back while the other players deal as much damage as possible.
Now that Yui is out of the way this was an all right episode, the trainwreck is about to come to a momentary stop soon but what we saw in this episode wasn’t that bad. Seeing Kirito and Asuna’s married hijinks was pretty fun and the eventual battle with the boss was great as well.
As some comedic stuff on the side before the plot takes a serious turn I liked the fishing stuff as well, I barely consider that Kirito having poor luck at fishing as an actual flaw but the scenes were lighthearted and fun. Whereby when everyone was panicking about the monster fish that he and Nishida pulled in, Kirito didn’t seem to really know how to react, he would be cowering one moment and then the next overly calm. The first half of the episode was also a bit better in terms of interactions between Kirito and Asuna than Yui’s arc as well, there wasn’t as much between them and as such they were able to move a little closer. And alongside it, it was nice to see Asuna get some development as well, though crammed in at the last minute.
Nishida was also a character that I liked as well, as some guy who is really only stuck in SAO because of his job he’s probably one of the most innocent victims caught up in it all, he had just been doing the sort of things he always did before being trapped. At the same time he also served to show the effects that Kirito had had in the past episodes and arcs a little more clearly, instead of a teenage girl now head over heels for Kirito at the end, Kirito and Asuna had given him hope that they would be able to escape SAO. Something which he didn’t exactly have anymore after being trapped in SAO for two years, and to some point even accustoming himself to the thought of that and life in Aincrad it.
The battle at the end of the episode, though cheap in a few aspects, wasn’t that bad either. It may have been filled with shaky still shots and a CG skeleton monster, but with even Klein and Egil taking up arms to face it there was a great climactic feeling to it. The boss that they fought may have not been the last boss perse, but given the deus ex machina nature of the ending (it will literally come out of nowhere) it served well enough to give that feeling. The only thing I can really criticise is the stupidity in Kirito and Asuna’s role in it. Heathcliff may have been more than up to the task, he’s actually skilled in the sense that he doesn’t give the impression of having to overlevel everything to win, but Kirito and Asuna are the types to prioritise agility and attack power and just shouldn’t have been up to the task of tanking hits from a boss that was killing highranked players by just grazing them. Then again fights in this series don’t tend to get more creative than swinging and screaming.