Sword Art Online - "Grand Quest" Episode 22 Recap
In order to save Asuna from her imprisonment, Kirito clashes against the hundreds of guardians that reside inside the entrance of the World Tree.
Kirito learns from Yui that Asuna’s presence is just right above them at the top of The World Tree. Anxious to save Asuna’s life, he bids farewell to Leafa and heads inside the main dungeon alone to rashly challenge the guardians inside. Hundreds of guardians begin to form inside and Kirito rashly fights against all of them in order to reach the peak of the environment. Leafa enters the zone to pursue him, but only nearly makes to the checkpoint to her dismay. Kirito insists that he will continue until Asuna is saved, and the mention of her real name leads to Leafa realizing that “Kirito” is none other than her cousin Kirigaya. Suguha anxiously logs out Leafa and leaves her false brother to his quest, despondent as she reflects on how much she cares him…
In this episode fights occur, truths are revealed and the final battle inside Alfheim gets underway next episode. The guardians of the dungeon are beautifully realized, with their designs communicating a real sense of strength. Kirito’s rampage against them recalls past events in Sword Art Online, back when Asuna was still around to be there for him. Fashbacks to that time fuel the power of the entire fight, as we sense how Kirito’s emotions push him through failure and drive him to rely on brute strength alone. His growth as a character is apparent to those who remember the beginning of the series, a time when Kirito was at his strongest fighting alone. But his bond with Asuna molded him into a person who doesn’t desire that solitude anymore, and this becomes a breaking point for him when he learns the truth about Leafa’s real-world identity as his cousin and her deep feelings toward him. One may view this as incredibly awkward, but the writing echos and supports the truth of a younger sibling greatly looking up to an older figure. In the end Kirito must save Asuna, and Suguha must learn to grow as a person.