“Just when you’ve bought your mansion in Sword Art Online…”
(The Skull Reaper can’t eat you, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying)
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Genre: Game, MMO, Fantasy, Sc-Fi, Age: 13+
Released: 6th July 2012 – onwards
From the previous episode, strong players from various guilds are facing a tough boss called The Skull Reaper. With a strength of numbers, some fancy duo-moves and a sheer luck, the boss is finally defeated.
The guild members have barely scraped through. Fourteen players died on this single fight, and everyone mournfully contemplates how they will get through the last 25 levels.
Warning! May contain spoilers!
Kirito takes a break after the grueling fight and catches sight of Heathcliff’s lifebar. Although many of the other guild members were close to dying, or have a yellow lifebar, Heathcliff’s is still green.
(“It was a choice between this and another virtual game. I chose wrong…” )
Realising that Heathcliff may not be all that he seems, Kirito attacks him.
Heathcliff is caught off guard, and his status as an Immortal Object is exposed to all the remaining members.
(Heathcliff’s clothes have so much static they deflect attacks)
Heathcliff paralises everyone while he is exposed. He doesn’t remember the reason he wanted every player to be stuck inside Sword Art Online, except for his whim.
His grand plan was to play alongside the real players until the final level where he would the boss.
(Playing dead doesn’t work in Sword Art, and Heathcliff isn’t a bear)
Kirito challenges him to a fight, and Heathcliff grant it. This is the first true chance that any player would have for completing the game (since Heathcliff is the final boss), but after his appalling defeat by Heathcliff previously (episode 10), does Kirito really stand a chance?
(Heathcliff faces Kirito’s badassery)
The twin blades were given to Kirito as a hidden advantage to any player with the fastest combos. Heathcliff, being the creator of the game, already knows about all of Kirito’s attacks.
(“Damn you Heathcliff and your shield”)
Just when things are looking bad, and Kirito is in danger of losing his life, Asuna jumps in between Kirito and Heathcliff and takes a fatal hit.
(Asuna’s money and possessions get transferred to Kirito. She’s rich!)
Kirito loses his motivation after Asuna’s death, and can only offer half-hearted attacks. Heathcliff finishes Kirito off with a stab to the chest. Kirito watches as his life is slowly drained, and he is declared dead by the machine.
(That was short-lived widowhood…)
Then in a miraculous moment, Kirito resolves to end Heathcliff for the sake of all the people that had previously died in this game. He comes back as a virtual ghost, and stabs Heathcliff.
(Forget logic. Kirito can do this.)
The world of Sword Art collapses as all the players are logged out, and the levels decimate. Kirito and Asuna watch the destruction from a faraway point.
They are joined by Akahiko Kayaba, a.k.a Heathcliff’s real-life persona. He explains that everyone who died before the game was completed cannot return to their bodies. Kirito and Asuna say their tear-felt goodbyes.
(The last people in a dying world)
Kirito finds himself waking up is a hospital with an emaciated body and a desire to find Asuna in this real world. He struggles his way out of the hospital bed.
(This hospital is severely understaffed….)
Overall, just when this episode couldn’t get any more epic, the Grim Reaper is defeated, and Heathcliff is exposed, and then defeated, Asuna and Kirito die… and then we find out that Kirito wakes up!
It’s blow after blow, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat. These kind of revelations are usually dragged out in other series (shounen in particular).
Sword Art has notorious pacing issues when it comes to shock. It will reveal a lot in quick succession, but will drag out every minute of the honey-moon episode…? I’m not complaining. This episode was thoroughly enjoyable.
The series continues for 25 episodes, and this felt like an ending. I have no idea what the next episode will hold, but the series stepped up even more in my eyes.
Rated – 5/5 Epic revelations and battles.