Previously on Sword Art Online:
Kirito met a smith named Lisbeth and joined her a mission to retrieve a rare ore. After a mishap involving a ferocious dragon, the two manage to make it back to her shop in one piece; Kirito strengthening his resolve to win the game and free the people trapped in it. Spoilers Ahead.
After finding a rare rabbit in the forest and capturing it, Kirito once again encounters Asuna and asks her to cook it for him. After she agrees the two go to her house and proceed to cook the meat, talking about the state of the world of SAO. The next day, Kirito accompanies her to the dungeon on Floor 74, where they enter the domain of the floor boss, the blue-eyed demon, Gleam Eyes.
This episode deals with both the state of affairs in SAO and the relationship between Kirito & Asuna. The date at the beginning of the episode is October 7th, 2024; this means that it has officially been two years since Kayaba trapped all the players within SAO. This ties into Kirito & Asuna as they talk about how different things have become within that time. People, who were once ruled by fear, have now become complacent and have adjusted to the virtual world. Fewer than 500 players are on the front lines and less and less people seem interested in leaving the game.
We get a small glimpse into how Asuna’s life in her guild is, as she is constantly followed by her “escort” Kuradeel. She feels some pressure to preform as well as upholding the image of the strongest guild in SAO, lamenting over the fact that her new found status was caused by the guild growing bigger, which is why her demeanor changed over the course of the series. She doesn’t want all of the responsibility thrust upon her but she really has no choice, because she wants to go back to the real world. Kirito also comments on how the people have changed and even remarks that there are times that he barely remembers what life was like before SAO, but seeing Asuna’s resolve to return home makes him more determined to win the game. Their converations are natural and light hearted as Kirito is still intimidated by Asuna to a degree as she basically bullies him into partying up with her, but the two do respect one another’s abilities.
Duels are explored a bit more as Kirito has to face off against Kuradeel in order to prove he is able to protect Asuna. The battle is very short but it does what it needs to as Kirito totally outclasses the proud Blood Oath member. Kuradeel himself is mostly there to serve as the “loyal following orders” stick in the mud that Asuna has to deal with.
This episode is another good one in the series as it shows how people in Aincrad have changed and that most of them don’t want to go back to the real world. The fight to survive continues next week as Asuna & Kirito face off against the Blue-Eyed demon.