Sword Art Online - "Bonds" Episode 23 Recap
Kirito, Leafa, Recon, and Yui attempt to rescue Asuna once and for all by aiming for the top of the World Tree. But, the truth of the guardians residing inside leaves almost no chance of success..
After upsetting Suguha (Leafa), Kirigaya (Kirito) tells her to meet him back inside Alfheim online. A conflicted Leafa logs back on and runs into an eager Recon, who tries to lift her spirits by confessing his love for her in a comedic moment. It works and Leafa decides to confront Kirito in a duel, but soon the pair throw their swords away and share an apologetic hug. With that, the trio decide to attempt the World Tree together to save Asuna. Once inside though, the group is soon surprised to realize that the “grand quest” is impossible to finish because there are an infinite number of guardians. Fortunately, Recon manages to create an opening by self-detonating with powerful magic, and the arrival of the Cait Sith and Sylph on the scene gives Kirito the final push needed to reach the top.
Before they can celebrate their success, Kirito and Yui are shocked to find that the final gate can only be used by the game’s developers. however Kirito then recalls the pass key Asuna dropped to him and uses it, allowing him to head directly up into the unknown…
Bonds is the first part of the climax to the second half of Sword Art Online. Kirito and Leafa’s confrontation was unexpected, though it was handled well considering their different feelings for one another. Kirigaya cares about his cousin like a dear sister while Suguha’s admiration of him resulted in conflicted feelings, but ultimately they peacefully come to terms and opt to not destroy the bond they have now.
The revelation about the guardians and the final gate at the world tree finally explain the seemingly unrealistic plot point that Alfheim Online players were unable to reach the top of the World Tree for years even after years of effort. As revealed two episodes ago the game is nothing more than a front, a giant experimental environment for illegal and inhuman research on the human mind. The animation and art style definitely take bump in the battle with the guardians; every sword slash looks very good. However, as I said back in General of the Blazing Flame, Kirito gaining so much support for his quest with so little effort is pretty disappointing. The only reason he can reach Asuna at all is because she just happened to find the right item that would let him pass through to the final episode. This is why extensive storylines need more depth; otherwise flaws like these end up sticking out like sharp thorns.