Previously on Sword Art Online:
With the help of Leafa, Recon, Sakuya, & Alicia; Kirito ws able to conquer the Grand Quest and reach the top of the World Tree. However when he and Yui reach the top they realize that the door to the city at the top is locked by the administrators. Using the key Asuna dropped, Kirito & Yui are able to make their inside. Spoilers Ahead!
Kirito & Yui manage to make it to the top of the World Tree and immediately make their way to the trapped Asuna. Upon finally reaching her cage, the three have a tearful reunion that is cut all too short by Sugou. Capturing Asuna & Kirito in newly introduced gravity magic, he proceeds to torture Asuna while Kirito watches helplessly. Preparing to give up hope, Kirito recieves help from an unlikely source.
Let me go on record and say that this is probably the worst episode of Sword Art Online, and it completely ruins the entire ALO arc (which was teetering anyway) not from just a personal standpoint, but a story and character one as well; but I’ll get into all of that in my series overview. Let’s break this episode down by degrees.
The episode marks the end of the ALO arc and it goes out with more of a whimper than a ban and the episode comes off as both disappointing and satisfying. Satisfying in the sense that the arc is over and Kirito & Asuna are reunited but disappointing in the steps that it took to get that point.
Sugou or “Oberon” is easily the worst part of the in the sense that he is just not that interesting as a villain and it shows. his dream is to be a god (of course) and be just like Akihiko Kayaba (creator of SAO and main antagonist in the first arc in case you forgot) but Sugou is nowhere near as interesting as Kayaba. Whereas Kayaba was at first and ominous force that held the lives of thousands in his hands (even hiding in plain sight later on), Sugou is just a whiny, obssessed pervert who is into molesting 16 year old girls. Although it is still satisfying to see him get his comeuppance.
He traps Kirito & Asuna in a gravity magic spell and proceeds to chain and molest Asuna in front of Kirito who is helpless to stop it (I could create a speech on how these scenes ruin Asuna’s whole character, but that’s for another time). That is until Kirito gets some help from Kayaba, which allows him to essentially hack the game system and beat Sugou (another thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense).
On the positive side the action (what little there is) is done relatively well and Kirito’s desperation about what’s going on in front of him can be felt to a degree, and Although the scenes between Asuna, Kirito, & Yui are quite touching and show the bond between the “family” they aren’t enough to block out the bad points.
“Gilded Hero” is not a very good conclusion to the arc and actually makes the entire ALO look pretty week compared to Aincrad’s. While animation is crisp and boasted some good scenes, the are ouweighed by the more glaring problems. The quest ends next week as we take a look at the final episode of SAO.