If you’re looking for blood-pumping action, then this episode will fill you up with everything you want. We finally get the chance to see the results of Kirito’s attempt to take on a raid party by himself (well, almost—an unexpected ally does show up). On the other side, we get to see Asuna, Yuuki, and company take on the other portion of the raid team, which is enough to fill the action quota for the episode… but we still have the boss fight! Seriously, if you are a fan of fantasy action then this episode should more than satisfy you. If, on the other hand, you prefer the more sentimental, relationship-centered scenes, then fear not, because they are here as well!
Without spoiling too much, the episode does eventually slow down, and we get the opportunity to see Asuna and her new found friends spending some time together and simply enjoying each others company. The atmosphere of them simply hanging out at Asuna and Kirito’s (in-game) home is certainly a stark contrast to the earlier conflict laden scenes, and it helps to show that there is a certain camaraderie that has formed beyond Asuna simply fulfilling a task. Having scene the next two subsequent episodes, I can say that this episode also does a good job of building up to a bigger reveal, as certain actions from the Sleeping Knights (and particularly Yuuki) definitely raise questions. It just goes to show that the series doesn’t have to be about life-or-death situations within a video game to be dramatic or serious.
A Christian Perspective:
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. – Hebrews 13:12
Okay, there are definitely stronger themes in this episode, but this was one that I could tie to a specific verse. I will discuss one other point after this. So, when everything is all said and done, Asuna openly and willingly invites the Sleeping Knights to her in-game home for a party. While this certainly doesn’t have the same implications as opening one’s real home to people you barely know, I imagine it probably still shows a level of friendliness regardless of whether it’s real or digital. It can also be a reminder to us as Christians that we should be just as willing—if not more—to open up our doors and invite people in.
Anyway, a better theme to draw from this episode is probably one of self-sacrifice for those you love and care about (and even for those you barely know). Let’s face it: Kirito puts himself in an impossible situation by standing in front of the raid party. Sure, he’s a skilled player and can probably hold his own for a while (we don’t really get to see the full event), but I don’t think it would be realistic to expect him to defeat all of them. Again, this point obviously loses some of its weight when we consider that it’s simply a game, but for the characters in this show, the game is something important. While ALO does not delve into penalties for dying, I know from playing World of Warcraft that there can be penalties for dying, such as damaged gear (which then costs in-game money to repair). So, minimally, Kirito could have wracked up an in-game cost that he didn’t have to incur; however, he loves Asuna, and so did not seem to care about the personal cost, whatever it may be. The same can be said of the unexpected support that shows up for Kirito.
More to the point is Asuna, who is sacrificing her time (which has a more relevant application to real life) to help a group of people she barely knows. Sure, it’s just in a game, but there will probably be seemingly trivial things throughout our lives that people will ask of us. God doesn’t give us the option of only choosing to help people when the request is significant (let’s not forget that Jesus Himself willingly did something as simple as washing feet)–we are simply to serve. You never know what opportunities we may have in the mundane tasks. Maybe carrying an old lady’s groceries will give you the chance to talk about Jesus and lead her to salvation. You never know.
Language: 1 “h*ll”; 2 “d**n” (admittedly I didn’t label my document, so I had a file with nothing but these language notes… by process of elimination, I figured it must be for this SAO episode. I now take more care to label what I write)
Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Violence: Plenty of player versus player and player versus monster action
Blood/Gore: At worst, the red marks indicating in-game damage
Other: In-game magic