Previously on Sword Art Online:
Kirito & Leafa make it to Arun, the capital of Alfheim and the city at the base of the world tree. As the pair travel through the immense city, Yui senses Asuna at the top of the tree; causing Kirito to race to see her. Spoilers Ahead!
Kirito races to the top of the World Tree to see Asuna, but is blocked by an invisible barrier. After numerous attempts to break through he decides to reach the tree through the “Grand Quest” despite Leafa’s objections. After being rescued by Leafa, Kirito reveals the person he is trying to save to her, and revelations begin to come to light.
The action returns in this episode but the overall themes here are desperation, loss, and love. Each represented in different ways by the characters the episode focuses on.
Asuna appears as she hears Yui calling her name, but doesn’t do much besides drop a key card that will most likely play into the climax.
Kirito is the text book definition of desperation here as his relentless pursuit to see Asuna begins to scare Leafa. He willingly puts himself in danger just for the chance to see her again. This all the more evident when he takes on the Grand Quest and actually dies (only in the game obviously), lamenting over the fact that he was too cocky about his abilities because of SAO. Feeling loss as he feels Asuna slipping further and further away from him.
Speaking of the “Grand Quest” it is certainly an overwhelming sight to behold as it is a huge tower that is populated by automated guards, the higher you go, the more appear and the more lethal their attacks become. The action scenes here a pretty well done and very fluid as Kirito makes his way in and Leafa goes in to save him.
Speaking of Leafa, she also gets significant development here as she finally learns that Kirito is Kazuto, the pure shock of the moment causes her to log herself out. Things get even more awkward between the two when Kazuto tries to talk to Suguha and she reveals her feelings for him and how she moved on to “Kirito” only to realize that he was the same person. She also says that she found out they weren’t really siblings when he was in his coma.
Now while this scene is kind of sad seeing as unrequited love is a sucky thing to experience, it is hard to get fully attached to Suguha’s dilemma since she and Kirito are cousins. While not brother & sister, they are still related by blood so the situation is still a bit uncomfortable (which Kazuto does allude to). This doesn’t take anything away from Suguha, she is still a good character, it’s just the romance subplot was a bit uneeded.
It would have made more sense if she was angry that he was playing VR games again (which Kazuto initially thinks she’s mad at him for).
While having some hiccups in the story “Grand Quest” is still a somewhat enjoyable episode with nice action, fluid animation, and some decent drama. The quest continues next week as Kirito once again tries to ascend the World Tree.
Author’s Note: Don’t forget to watch the premiere of Sword Art Online this Saturday at 1AM on Toonami!