Category Archives: Sword Art Online II

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 24: Mother’s Rosario

Review:

So here we are, the final episode of Sword Art Online II. We are initially shown a scene where the Sleeping Knights are introduced to Asuna’s usual crew of friends, followed by a montage of images that you would expect to close the episode, not necessarily open it. One thing you can be sure of is this: if you were expecting another episode of new and fun experiences for Yuuki, then you will be wrong. This episode is quite sad, and I don’t think I need to tell you why. If you’ve been keeping up with this story arc then you should already have a good idea of where this is going. If you are a crier, then prepare to cry.

Unlike the first season, which sort of went out with a bang, this season ends on a somewhat more sombre and sober note. There are certain joyful outcomes to be celebrated, to be sure, but where the first season had an ending that was pretty much victorious all around, this season ends with something that can’t be reversed. The events of the episode are the kind that force us to grow up, whether we like them or not. When I say us, I use the term in general, of course—I don’t expect this episode to grow us as people, but when we experience these events in our own lives, we inevitably grow. If you cry over Yuuki’s situation, then be sure to rejoice over another character’s that is revealed later on. Also, make sure you stick around after the credits.

In closing, let me just say that there are some powerful themes here if you take the time to reflect on them. Most predominately is the impact that a single life can have. With this being a Christian review site, I think it should be clear that the most impactful life ever was that of Jesus, but people have still left an impact long after their deaths. We see this in the large crowd that gathers to see Yuuki within ALO, we see it in the fact that she contributed so much to the Medicuboid research, and we see it in her contributions to Kirito’s research. Love and friendship can also be seen in the relationship between Asuna and Yuuki, particularly in how Asuna rushes to Yuuki’s side when she gets a particular phone call. Did you pick out any other themes? Discuss them in the comments below!

A Christian Perspective:

Yuuki mentions that she used to question whether or not she had the right to exist, and then explains that she eventually realized that it is okay for her to live. While I don’t remember the exact statements she makes, I know she basically came to the conclusion that she had the right to live, which is good, because as human beings all of our lives have value. Granted, I don’t have a particular verse for this, but I’m fairly certain it’s a common theme in Christian circles. If nothing else, we were all created by God, and therefore were created for a reason. If that doesn’t give us worth, than what does?

Furthermore, we cannot neglect the contributions that Yuuki’s life provided. While I already discussed these in the review itself, her contributions were to the Medicuboid research and to Kirito’s project to blend the lines between reality and virtual reality. I think we sometimes fail to see the impact our lives are having on those around us—or, perhaps, the impact of our lives does not come until our lives are over. The fact is, it is easy to get discouraged about the value and meaning of our lives when we see the people around us doing great and amazing things. As Christians, how easy is it for us to get discouraged when we see someone like Billy Graham preaching to thousands of people while we are afraid to even approach one man on the street?

The fact is, though, that we all have an impact. Maybe we won’t preach to thousands, but maybe we will make a difference in a single person’s life. I once told my wife (while we were still engaged) that if I made a difference in even one person’s life, then my life would be worth it. Maybe those weren’t the exact words I used, but you get the essence of what I meant. The point is that we may not see something like this as having much significance from our own perspective, but we can never measure the impact it has on the person whom we’ve helped. Only they know how much we’ve actually done for them. The best we can do, then, is to emulate Jesus in our lives as best we can, helping those who need it and sharing the news of our Savior with them. Even if we don’t contribute to some life-altering discovery, our lives are still worth it if people meet Jesus because of us. After all, that’s the impact that has an eternal effect.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Leafa cleavage; there is one point where Yuuki is looking up and sees a blurry image of what might be a naked woman

Violence: A collection of scenes showing in-game monsters destroyed

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Yuuki mentions dying in the arms of the one she loves, referring to Asuna—not sure if homosexual or not

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 23: The Dream Begins

Review:

We continue our trip down the path of character development this time around. As you probably surmised from the end of the previous episode, Asuna intends to give Yuuki the experiences she couldn’t otherwise have via Kirito’s project. As such, we get to watch as Yuuki is able to experience school and to visit a place that she never thought she would see again. As a result of their time together, Asuna is finally able to find a way in which to communicate her emotions to her mother, which leads to the first potentially tender moment we have seen between the mother and daughter, along with a scene of young Asuna. The episode wraps up nicely and shows that event the hardest of hearts can be softened.

Overall, it was a very nice episode. There was no action, though, and very little time spent in ALO, so if that is what you were looking for then you will be disappointed. One nice little touch is the subtle reveal that Yuuki’s family was Christian. While visiting a certain place, Yuuki mentions that her mom used to pray, and that her mom used to tell her that God would never give us more than we could handle. Yuuki comments that she didn’t want to hear the Bible’s words, but rather her mother’s words—but now she understands why her mother told her that. Yes, this sounds a little harsh (although lets focus on her present realization, not the negative reaction she had when she was younger), but it is still a nice little inclusion to see this hint that Yuuki comes from a Christian family. It was also nice to see the warm reception that Yuuki received from the rest of the students at the school. The writers could have made some of the students cruel for the sake of conflict, but that would have tarnished the beauty of what was going on, and besides that all of these students probably remember what it was like to be confined to a virtual world for an extended period of time.

At this point, Sword Art Online II only has a couple of episodes left, and the pace of the story is certainly moving towards resolution—Asuna has accomplished the goal for which the Sleeping Knights hired her, and the primary conflict of the arc has been resolved. Now all that’s left is to see how this story line will resolve. If the information presented to us (and the suggestions of people commenting on Crunchyroll) is any indication, then we may be headed for a real tear-jerker. Only time will tell. If you’ve stuck with it thus far, then do stay for the end.

A Christian Perspective:

We can learn a lot from Yuuki’s attitude in this episode. Since we are now one episode removed from her big reveal, I don’t see a need to be cryptic: we know Yuuki is dying, and we know that she hasn’t had the greatest life. It would be really easy for Yuuki to break down after finally seeing the outside world again and lament at how unfair it is that she has to die so young and miss out on so much. She could, but she doesn’t. Instead, Yuuki is grateful for everything Asuna does for her, and she appreciates what she has. How many times do we become ungrateful over trivial things? The neighbor has a nicer car, or can afford a better vacation. His kids have a full scholarship, while you’re stuck footing half of your child’s bill. So on and so forth. These things may not be fun (especially that last one), but they will all eventually pass. Yuuki’s situation will not. She knows that she is living on limited time, and that there’s no changing her fate, yet she simply enjoys the opportunities given to her and is thankful for them.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Yuuki’s attitude is a perfect example of this. She may be a fictitious character, but the next time we’re feeling ungrateful, let us Yuuki’s situation (along with the relevant Bible verse, of course) and ask ourselves if we really have it all that bad.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: None

Blood/Gore: None

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 22: The End of the Journey

Review:

In this week, the action-oriented scenes take a backseat to dramatic content and the explanation of Yuuki’s situation. After her sudden logout three days prior, Asuna has been unable to contact her new friend, and no one seems to be giving up any information. Siune shows up, but doesn’t offer Asuna any real explanation as to why things are the way they are, and simply logs out when the questions get too hard. One has to ask, though, why Asuna seems to hesitate for so long before trying to stop the log out process. In this episode, she doesn’t jump up until around the time Siune is actually logging out. Had she grabbed Siune’s arm as soon as she started making the sweeping motion, perhaps Asuna could have stopped the process. That’s neither here nor there, though, as Asuna does eventually get her answer and, as you may have guessed, it is tragic.

How much you will enjoy this episode will probably be affected by how emotionally invested you are in the characters. Those who enjoyed this arc will be more likely to be touched by this episode than those who have only stuck with it or found little enjoyment at all in it. There is a lot of talking, with only a few scene changes throughout the process, but it really is the beginning of the conclusion to the Mother’s Rosario arc. Yet again, Asuna can credit Kirito for helping her out, although how he obtained the information he possessed is not really explained. Perhaps the next episode will reveal this, or perhaps it will forever be a mystery. It’s hard to say too much about the episode without spoiling anything, really. If you tend to cry at sad scenes, then prepare to cry in this one. If you tend to look at the brighter side of things, then it is reasonable to suspect that the project Kirito is working on to bring Yui into the real world may go on to have a much deeper and more meaningful purpose. We will have to wait until next week to find out, and there will probably be more emotional moments to come, but let’s stick with it and see how this wraps up!

A Christian Perspective:

Spoilers ahead.

So, in this episode we find out that Yuuki is dying. What we don’t see, though, is a person who is broken, scared, or destitute. Instead, we see someone who is at peace with her fate, ready to accept it. While this may not have always been the case, it seems to be now. As Christians, we should be able to face down the possibility of death with at least as much peace of mind as Yuuki (if not more). After all, we know where we’re going. If we’ve come to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, then we know that we have eternal life in Him, and so the prospect of death should be a minor thing to us. Note that I said “should be”, because it often isn’t. Maybe some of us struggle more than others with a fear of dying, but I’d reckon that we all have feared the idea of dying at some point in our Christian lives. Yuuki may not be real, but let’s still consider her resolute acceptance of her impending death and find even more confidence to face our own impending deaths (whether they be tomorrow or 80 years from now) in the arms of our Savior. If you are reading this and do not know Jesus but would like to (and thus have confidence when your day of death comes), then please consider the information below:

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-is-the-romans-road-to-salvation-scriptures-and-commentary/

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: None

Blood/Gore: None

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 21: The Monument of the Swordsmen

Review:

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.

Content Guide:

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

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: 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

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 20: Sleeping Knights

Review:

This is an interesting arc. On the one hand, you have Asuna’s adventures in Alfheim Online, which presents a fun, fantasy filled adventure. On the other hand, you have the real life drama that is happening between her and her mother. While there is certainly more focus on the former than the latter, the scenes between Asuna and her mother certainly leave a heaviness in the mind of the viewer which gets carried into the game world. This arc also gives insight into how something seemingly pointless to one person is meaningful to another. To most people (and especially non-gamers), the quest that Yuuki’s group has hired Asuna for would seem like a pointless waste of time; however, to that group, the mission has meaning, and is therefore important. While life certainly requires proper prioritization of events, we all have things that we enjoy that other people just wouldn’t get.

So here we have this group of players who simply want to defeat a boss, get their names on the stone in the first floor, and ultimately make a fond memory together while they still have time to play as a group. As if this goal wasn’t hard enough by itself, the threat of other players trying to take the boss kill also looms over our heroes’ heads—a threat that doesn’t come out until it’s (almost) too late. Again, it really shows a difference in perspective, as a non-gamer would likely look at something like this in real life (or perhaps even this show) and think it absurd that people are being this competitive over something in a video game; however, it is clearly meaningful for all of the players involved.

Another notable aspect of this episode is the ever-present sense of dread that comes after Asuna’s confrontation with her mother this time around. To be fair, Asuna is at fault this time around, as the problem truly arises from a time management issue, but her mother’s threat certainly does a good job of putting paranoia in the mind of the viewer. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen; instead, we are treated to a fairly epic ending, which certainly promises plenty of action in the next episode.

A Christian Perspective:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9:10

This verse applies nicely to the principle cast for this particular arc. Asuna’s new friends are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goal of defeating the boss with just their party, even if it means dying and going back to start all over again, or facing a horde of players that far outnumber them. In other words, instead of getting discouraged at the frustrations they have, they continue on with all their might, applying themselves fully to the task at hand. While I may not be the best person to give this advice, we as Christians should learn from this, as the Christian life will inevitably be a journey of ups and downs, highs and lows, and much like the characters in question we also have an ultimate goal in mind: finishing the race and living eternally with Jesus. Certainly a much grander goal than defeating a video game boss, to be sure, and therefore worth even more effort than what the characters are putting into their goal.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Asuna has flashbacks about a battle in SAO where players are being killed by a boss; typical in-game violence of sword fights with monsters; a monster is cut with a sword; Asuna flicks another character in the forehead; PvP sword-fighting action

Blood/Gore: The red marks that indicate damage in-game; a flashback to Heathcliff killing Asuna shows a giant red streak across the screen, which could possibly symbolize blood—red fragments are also shown coming from her body

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 19: Zekken

Review:

If you’re rich, then you have no worries, life is easy, and you get to do what you want. That’s the common perception, right? Well, take a look at Asuna’s life in this episode, and tell me you still feel the same. While having dinner with her mother, Asuna discovers that it is her mother’s desire to send her to a different school. It is also revealed that her mother is trying to set her up with an arranged marriage (as we all probably guessed from the flashbacks in the previous episodes). If you think having your life planned and decided for you is easy, then sure, Asuna has an easy life; however, if you’ve paid any attention to Asuna’s character, then you know that this is not what she wants. Her mother goes on to further say some disparaging things about Kirito, and I have to wonder: does she have any gratitude for the guy who saved her daughter’s life?!

To put it bluntly, this episode does a good job of exposing what Asuna’s life looks like outside of the small snippets we’ve gotten previously. One thing that was not surprising was her mother’s criticism of Asuna’s gaming. Even as a gamer, I think I would be hesitant to let my child play games again if I had lost her for two years to a death game. That being said, it doesn’t even seem to register to her mother. All her mother seems to care about is the wasting of time. If you can’t tell by now, Asuna’s mother is a frustrating character, and I don’t see her winning any fans from her introduction. All of this leads up to Asuna realizing that there is a stark contrast between her real self and her game self, and that she was only a warrior within SAO.

This, inevitably, leads into Asuna’s duel with Zekken, and what a duel it is! We get a nice comedic moment somewhere in between the drama of Asuna’s real life and the beginning of her duel, but when the duel starts it is all business. Honestly, this may be one of the best fight scenes in the entire SAO series, so if you like blood-pumping, sword fighting action, then you will want to see this episode. We also see Asuna get fueled on by her previous declaration that she was not a warrior in real life, and this seems to kick the duel into overdrive. I do not have the words to describe this duel, other than the aforementioned blood-pumping.

Sword Art Online certainly has its up and down moments, and thankfully this episode is one of its up moments. What this will do for Asuna’s character development is anyone’s guess (unless you’ve already read the light novels, of course), but one can certainly hope that it will actually help in that regard. Regardless, this is already looking to be a better second half than the ALO arc of the original SAO anime.

A Christian Perspective:

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

So this Christian Perspective is more of a reflection/question than a lesson. As we know from the Scripture above, God expects us to honor our mothers and fathers, but where is the line? At what point are we able to say, “Okay, you’ve taken things to far?” It is probably safe to say that it is not dishonoring our parents if they wants us to do something illegal and we refuse, but what about in Asuna’s case? She is basically defying her mother, refusing the school that her mother wants her to attend along with the fiancee that her mother has chosen. Is this breaking God’s command to honor her mother? Or has Asuna’s mother overstepped her boundaries? What complicates the fact is that there is a cultural barrier here. As an American, I know nothing of arranged marriages. Certainly, our parents can try to strong-arm us into things, but at the end of the day they cannot force us into anything against our wills. I don’t know how things are in Japan, but from what I can gather (and granted, this is from anime), it seems that arranged marriages aren’t necessarily unheard of, even in this day and age. Also, my (limited) understanding of biblical history suggests that marriages in Hebrew culture may have also been arranged. So some may argue that arranged marriages are God’s will (although I don’t recall Him ever specifically commanding the practice).

All this boils down to what I hope will be a lively discussion from my readers. Do you think Asuna is in the right to refuse her mother’s desires, or is she sinning and refusing to honor her mother by rejecting her mother’s will?

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: Asuna’s mom is drinking what is presumably champagne

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Asuna cleavage; Leafa cleavage

Violence: A man falls from the sky and crashes into the ground; Asuna and Zekken engage in a pretty intense duel, so you can expect plenty of clashing swords; Asuna punches Zekken in the stomach

Blood/Gore: Just the red marks to indicate damage in-game

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 18: Forest House

Review:

Another day, another arc. This time we’re launching into the Mother’s Rosario arc, which appears to be a popular portion of the overall series. Why? Well, I don’t know, but I guess we’re about to find out. That being said, this isn’t a very eventful episode, although it certainly begins to set the stage for what is presumably the rest of the plot for this arc. Upon finding out that the New Aincrad is getting updated with more floors—including the one on which they had their cottage—Asuna and Kirito, along with their friends, make it a point to clear enough floors to reach floor 22, which allows them to reestablish the home they had begun during their days in Sword Art Online. The battle leading up to this is, perhaps, the most exciting thing to happen.

Outside of this, there’s a lot of talking. Asuna, Liz, Leafa, and Silica are sitting in the aforementioned cottage doing their homework while Kirito sleeps. Don’t ask me how they’re doing homework within a video game; it’s just happening that way. Throughout these conversations, we find out that Asuna was previously in Kyoto , and various flashbacks show her wearing a kimono, doing something in regards to her family’s business. We also see her approached by three young guys who appear to be more interested in her than she in them. Another scene shows her alone in a room with a guy. Whether this is suggesting that her family is trying to set up an arranged marriage or not is yet to be seen, but if it is then let me go on record for saying that Asuna’s parents are jerks. At this point, I’m sure they know that Asuna and Kirito are in love with each other, and they certainly know that they owe a lot to Kirito—nothing short of their daughter’s life! If, after all of this, her parents try to force her into an arranged marriage Ffor the sake of their business (or whatever other reason there may be), then that’s just low in this writer’s opinion.

In addition to this (and perhaps more central to the plot) is a conversation about a player called Zekken, who has shown up and issued duel challenges to anyone willing to take up the offer. The reward is learning a unique sword skill. We find out through this that not even Kirito was able to defeat this player in a duel, but it is also revealed that during the duel Kirito spoke something to Zekken that no one was able to hear. This, of course, intrigues Asuna and causes her to set her sights on challenging this new player. Thus, the stage is set for this arc. How, exactly, this will play out long enough to fill the remaining episode count for this season will simply have to be a case of “time will tell”.

A Christian Perspective:

Full disclosure here: this perspective may not be exclusively Christian, but it’s something worth thinking about in this episode.

It seems that, all things considered, Asuna and Kirito are all-to-eager to get their little house in Aincrad back and regain the pseudo-life they had in Sword Art Online. For all of the bad memories you would think SAO would induce, they seem awfully eager to get back to what they had. Furthermore, it almost seems like they would rather spend time together in the virtual world than the real world, despite all of their efforts to escape the virtual world in the first place. I could be way off base here; it just seems like they’re very eager to get back to a their previous status in the virtual world, instead of enjoying their time together in the real world. Consider the beginning of the Excalibur arc, when Asuna states that she wanted to see Kirito one more time before going back to Kyoto. One would think that being together in real life would be preferable to in-game, but ultimately it’s in ALO that they enjoy their time together. Granted, Kirito’s whole reason for calling was because he wanted the claim Excalibur, so there may not have been many other options open, but it’s just the whole culmination of things and especially the consideration of how quick they were to jump on returning to the status of their old virtual lives, despite having the chance to live their real lives together.

There’s a spiritual lesson here for us Christians. Initially, Kirito and Asuna were trapped in a death game, with no guarantee that they would make it out; in fact, it was probably more likely that they would die without ever seeing the real world again. As we know, they do make it out, but I’m talking odds here. Life itself is, in a way, a death game. We’re all involved in it, yet if we just go about our merry ways we will face eternal death in hell. It could even be argued that the odds are in favor of that outcome, for Jesus did say:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. – Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

Whether you agree with my assessment or not, it can certainly be said that Kirito and Asuna were given a second chance at life when they survived and escaped SAO, just as we are given a second chance when we put our faith in Jesus. Yet, it seems like the two of them are still hung up on the virtual world. Sure, there’s no chance of death now, but you would think that a reevaluation of one’s priorities would be in order after all of that. But don’t some people do the same thing with Jesus? They come, they taste the freedom He offers, they follow Him for a while, and then they walk away and go back to whatever it is they were rescued from in the first place. Perhaps this is a bit of a harsh example to draw against Kirito and Asuna (although it does seem that Kirito’s goal is now to bridge the gap between reality and virtual reality), but I think I’ve made enough of a case for it.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Leafa cleavage

Violence: Standard fantasy combat, with both physical and magical attacks used

Blood/Gore: Just the red lines that appear to indicate in-game damage

Other: Characters use magic within ALO

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 17: Excalibur

Review:

The final part of the Excalibur trilogy is upon us, and a nice portion of the episode is devoted to the final battle between Kirito’s party and Thrym. There’s certainly plenty of action to go around, but one does have to question how much tension there truly is in this fight when Yui is able to not only tell them what Thrym’s next attack will be, but when it will be. It seems like it would take some of the challenge out of the fight if you knew exactly when you should dodge, although even this advantage does eventually fall through. In the end, the final battle almost feels like it was more of an event battle when all things are considered. Viewers familiar with Norse mythology may not find as much enjoyment in this episode, as the plot follows some story within that mythology, or at least as far as I can tell. The “plot twist”, if you will, was discussed in the Crunchyroll comments section, so I personally had at least an idea of where the plot might go.

It’s honestly hard to think of much to say in regards to this episode. Based on my points above, you can see how it is easy to start dissecting the various elements of the fight and finding flaws, but in the end I don’t know if this was ever meant to be a particularly serious entry into the Sword Art Online mythos. If nothing else, the Excalibur mini-arc was a fun and refreshing break from death games, psychotic rapists, and murderous siblings. Realizing that Kline’s weak demeanor towards attractive women is probably what brought victory to the party adds another amusing level to the conclusion of this particular arc.

A Christian Perspective:

So in the first part of this trilogy I drew a connection to the fall of man and the destruction of Jötunheimr, so it only seems appropriate that this episode allows for a comparison of the restoration of Jötunheimr and the establishing of a new heaven and a new earth.

Revelation 21:1 – Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

As Thrym’s castle crumbles, we see the rebirth of Jötunheimr, with greenery and life returning to the desolate land. As imperfect as it may be, we can compare this to how God will one day create a new heaven and new earth after the events detailed in the rest of the book of Revelation. Of course, what God will create will ultimately be beyond anything that the creators of Sword Art Online could have depicted in this episode.

Content Guide:

So I have to apologize this time around, as I seem to have lost my notes from this episode. From what I can recall, there was of course the typical violent content you would expect, female characters with cleavage, and a close up of a man’s butt. I will update this review at a later time if I come across my notes.

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 16: The King of the Giants

Review:

Do you like action? Do you like battles? Of course you do, and this episode presents a nice battle early on in the episode. While there may not be a whole lot of tension in terms of whether or not Kirito’s crew will be successful, it is still fun to watch as they duke it out with an enemy duo, and to ultimately see how they overcome the trial, and, as with last week’s episode, it’s really just enjoyable to watch some good old fantasy-style action. Of course, there seems to be something of a purpose lurking beneath all of this (more on that in a moment), but in the end this story line is just pure entertainment in this writer’s opinion. It’s also quite humorous to see Klein wrestle with his own conscience over whether or not to rescue a female NPC even though the rest of the party is pretty convinced it’s a trap.

So, in terms of plot, we do find out a little more about the ALO AI this time around. Apparently, it seems like the Cardinal System is able to continue spawning quests, which is what lead to this current line of events. If the current quest line is seen to its conclusion, then there will be a final battle that will destroy the world tree, or something like that. So, as I said, there is something of a plot here, and a pseudo sense of peril, but compared to a couple of brothers murdering people, it really seems like light fare.

This episode also gives us a bit of insight into how the combat works in ALO. It is mentioned—possibly in the previous episode, but definitely in this one—that sword skills were introduced into ALO. As we’ve already seen, Kirito is still our favorite dual wielder, and we get to see him in action this time around. What’s interesting, though, is how the dual wield system works (or doesn’t work) in ALO. I won’t say anything, I’ll let you all see that for yourselves. So, if you have any interest in how the ALO game system actually works, then you may get at least some insight in this episode. If not, then just enjoy the destruction of some gigantic monsters.

A Christian Perspective:

So…. I feel like I actually had something in mind for this as I watched the episode, but I don’t remember what it is now. Kids, learn from this: take notes of the things you want to say in your reviews.

That being said, I’d rather not leave you all with nothing, so please take this consolation point I came up with:

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:10

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”” – 1 Samuel 16:7

So, how do all these verses tie in and relate to this episode? Well, let’s look at Klein and Freyja. The rest of the party was ready to leave her in her ice cage, convinced that the quest to free her was a trap. Klein began to go along with their decision, but ultimately could not bring himself to do so, instead choosing to free her from her imprisonment and to take her along with the party. Now, my whole point will fall apart if this thing turns out to be a trap in the next episode (I know nothing about Norse mythology, and apparently the events in this storyline are pretty much following whatever mythological story this is based on). Assuming that Freyja is not a trap, though, we see the Galatians and Luke quotes put into action here: Klein has indeed done good to a person here (well, an NPC, but cut me some slack), and certainly he has done what he’d want others to do for him. I’m sure if asked, Klein would quickly say he wanted to be saved from an ice cage. Furthermore, the other party members were quick to become suspect and abandon Freyja in case she was a trap; however, Klein could not bring himself to do it. While his personal motives weren’t all that noble, it still is a good lesson in not judging by outward appearances. This idea is a little more redeemed by the fact that Freyja buffs the party’s HP before they head into the final battle with Thrym.

Content Guide:

Language: 2 “d**n”, 1 “j**z”, 1 “ba***rd”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Leafa cleavage; female NPC cleavage; a close up of the female NPC’s cleavage as she hugs Kline

Violence: Kirito and Company do battle against in game enemies

Blood/Gore: Only the red marks that appear to indicate damage

Other: Characters in ALO use magic

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 15: The Queen of the Lake

Review:

From guns and a gritty, apocalyptic type landscape back to the fantasy and bright settings of Alfheim Online? I can dig it. I’m much more of a fantasy guy, anyway. This episode launches us into the Excalibur arc, which is apparently a side story within the novels. From what I’ve read, it takes up about half a volume of a light novel. I’ll take it, though. It’s nice to have a break from all of the drama that has taken place throughout the SAO story thus far, because unless something drastic happens, it looks like this will just be a story about friends trying to conquer a quest in a fantasy game.

Apparently Kirito and Leafa accidentally stumbled upon another area of Alfheim Online, completed a quest, and thus discovered a legendary weapon: Excalibur. Some time later, the existence of said sword seems to have become common knowledge. Of course, what kind of MMO fanatic would Kirito be if he didn’t desire to obtain the sword for himself? So, in proper order, he assembles his ever faithful harem (and Klein) to assist him in his quest. As the party enters this new area of Alfheim online known as Jötunheimr, they find that other players have in fact flocked to the area; however, instead of saving the elephant/jellyfish hybrid as Kirito and Leafa did, the other players seem to be assisting the multi-armed giants, instead. Eventually an NPC appears and explains that Jötunheimr used to share in the bounties of Yggdrasil until Thrym, king of the frost giants, cast Excalibur into Urd’s lake, severing the root of Yggdrasil that fed Jötunheimr and thus causing the land to become a frosty wasteland. As the quest goes, Thrym has promised Excalibur as a reward to the players who will help in his goal of eliminating the animals of the hill giants. Apparently Thrym’s goal is to advance up Yggdrasil. So, of course, Kirito’s party is tasked with retrieving Excalibur first and putting an end to Thrym’s plan.

Okay, if you want the dark, gritty, plot-driven stories, then you’ll probably be disappointed. For me, though, this is great. I am much more a fan of fantasy settings, and while I certainly didn’t dislike the GGO arc, I already feel more attracted to this current series of events. We also find out that Sinon has come over to Alfheim Online as a Cait Sith, and we get our first look at her new avatar. Overall, it was a fun episode, and it sets the stage for a nice in-game adventure, even if it may be short lived. My one complaint with this episode lies with a particular scene concerning Asuna. You see, when Kirito goes to assemble his friends, he makes a phone call to Asuna. This results in a cut-away to another scene that shows Asuna in the bath. Of course, the artists aren’t content to just let us know she’s in the bath—they have to let us see (almost) everything. It’s not a quick one-shot, either. She is shown in a few different poses, and while I can’t say for sure (because I kept my hand over the screen of the computer to block as much as possible while still being able to read the subtitles), it’s possible that there was also a shot of her bare butt. The whole scene lasted less than a minute, but it’s more than enough time for any male viewers who don’t want to be tempted with bare flesh.

So, there you have it. If you are willing to forgive SAO for it’s Asuna moment, then you have a decent episode. In fact, the time stamp is in the Content Guide, so if you want to avoid it altogther, then you may do so. If you’re worried about missing content, here’s what you essentially miss: Asuna is going back to Kyoto (not sure what this is about) and wants to see Kirito one more time, then Kirito calls, asks her to meet him in ALO, and she agrees. That’s pretty much it. So go, enjoy the episode, and skip the Asuna nudity.

A Christian Perspective:

I watched this episode in two days, and after watching the majority of it during the first day, I was really drawing a blank on a connection to draw. The best I had was something about friends coming together to support each other. Then, as I rewatched a bit of the scene describing what happened to Jötunheimr, a parallel hit me: Jötunheimr was the Garden of Eden, Exaclibur was sin, and the resulting world was fallen. This, of course, makes Thrym the equivalent of Satan. So let’s look at this a little deeper.

As we see in the flashbacks, Jötunheimr was once a beautiful, vibrant land that fed from the roots of Yggdrasil. Likewise, the Garden of Eden was paradise, where God walked and interacted with man. The residents of Jötunheimr were happy, and Adam and Even were happy. Then, Thrym casts Excalibur into Urd’s lake, severing the root of Yggdrasil that brought blessing to the land of Jötunheimr. Likewise, when sin was introduced into the world through Adam and Eve eating the apple, the perfect existence that man had was shattered. Much like Jötunheimr became a barren wasteland, man was cast from the Garden of Eden into the outerworld where:

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3: 17-19)

In both instances, the introduction of something that was not supposed to be in the world disrupted the order of things, destroyed the blessing that had been received, and threw the inhabitants into a hard existence. The one place where this comparison falls apart is that the residents of Jötunheimr suffered not because of decisions they made, but because of Thrym’s own desires. Adam and Eve suffered the consequences of disobeying God, and received banishment from the Garden of Eden as their due punishment for their disobedience. Still, I found this to be an interesting connection, and I hope you do, too.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: Klein is shown drinking in-game

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Leafa cleavage; 3:55 – 4:34 Asuna is shown in the bath, naked–anything overtly explicit is covered (meaning you see the equivalent of cleavage, bare skin, and maybe her butt–I kept the screen covered, so I can’t say for sure)–and she is shown from multiple angles throughout; Sinon cleavage; 10:58 – 11:00 there is a moment where Kirito grabs Sinon’s tail, and a freeze frame is shown with Sinon in something of a provocative pose; a female NPC shows cleavage; the end credits show a flashback to Sinon in her underwear within GGO

Violence: Fantasy game violence

Blood/Gore: Just the red marks that appear on players and enemies when they’re injured

Other: Characters use magic within ALO