Kirito’s true final battle with Sword Art Online concludes..
Kirigaya quickly rides his bike to the hospital in order to finally meet Asuna in the real world. However Sugou, now mentally devastated from the pain he suffered when he was “killed” in Alfheim’s virtual reality, emerges from the shadows with a sharp blade and attacks him. But Sugou’s final blow misses and he fumbles the weapon, which Kirigaya recovers. Kirigaya contemplates killing Sugou for his malicious actions, but in the end he decides to simply leave Sugou lying on the cold ground in defeat and let him be charged for his crimes. Once at the hospital, Kirigaya finally meets Asuna again and the happy couple embraces with the thought that the true final battle with Sword Art Online is truly over.
Time passes by and Kirigaya narrates about the arrest of Sugou and how virtual online games were set back incredibly by the scandals. It’s then surprisingly revealed that Kirigaya now attends school with a majority of Sword Art Online players, and mos of the notable characters from that game meet up at Egil’s bar in real life to celebrate the final defeat of the death game. There Kirigaya further explains that he gave the “World Seed” to Egil, which turned out to be a device that can create numerous online game servers for anyone. These ultimately spread worldwide, and the joy of virtual reality gaming quickly returned.
Later, the entire group meets up inside a newly- restored Alfheim Online (now owned by a different company) and happily watches Sword Art Online’s one hundred floors being restored inside the game. Kirigaya grabs Suguha’s hands and takes her along to his next adventure with Asuna: to finally finish all one hundred floors of Sword Art Online, with no fear ahead.
Here Sword Art Online concludes on a heartwarming note, but also leaving behind plenty of bittersweet feelings thanks to the terrible direction of its second storyline. What really drew my interest in at first was the show’s concept of putting all of these charming characters together into a situation where they’re forced to survive a deadly environment. It offered thought on how one might look at virtual reality games in the future. I personally loved the first arc for having Kirito evolve from a quiet character into a guy who naturally just wants to do the right thing, even if it means dying in the process. Having a female lead like Asuna supporting him through tough battles was great, considering there aren’t many shows which have both a male and female protagonist sharing the leading role.
This all fell apart when the story is switched around completely at episode 14. Kirito quickly defeats Akihiko without conquering the one hundred floors of Sword Art Online, leading to the Alfheim Online story where he find Asuna held captive by her evil twisted fiance. The show transitioned away to different characters and environments that were less likable; besides Kirito, the only ones in Alfheim who grabbed my attention were Leafa, Recon, Yui and maybe the Generao of Blazing Blame. Everybody else in Alfheim seemed to just be there to move the plot along in the most convenient manner possible. Compared to that the first storyline gave us Asuna, Sillica, Yui, Lisbeth, Klein, Heathcliff, The Laughing Coffins, Egil, Yoruko, Griselda, Grimmrock, Kuradeel, the Moonlit Black Cats, and Sachi. The show should have left the plot inside Sword Art Online and paced itself more slowly to better develop the motives and characterizations of these new characters that appeared in the second half.
All in all, the Alfheim story was nothing more than a season of repulsive fan service, beautiful visuals, and a small pile of plot points that are better off not existing at all. It’s a shame because I wanted to like the second storyline, yet sadly the first few episodes were only okay until things took a complete nose dive. I already ranted about this enough, but everything that happens to Asuna throughout this arc was unacceptable. Having her character literally tortured and left to be a fragile puppet to be saved by the heroic male was no doubt the bottom of the barrel when it comes to poorly written cliches.
The World Seed thankfully got its execution right by bringing back almost all of the likeable characters, cleaning up the loose ends and providing a satisfying conclusion. Even after my strong distaste of Alfheim, there was still a small fragment of me that felt a little sad to see the credits roll. Was it because season 1 was at least likeable? I think it’s because deep down my mind, I was thinking “This series had so much potential, but it wasted every last drop”. I would seriously only recommend watching season 1 (episodes 1-14) for having a decent story about bonds and how human beings can perceive a false reality. The best episodes in my opinion were: “Temperature of the Heart”, “The Red Nosed Reindeer”, and “The Blue-Eyed Demon”. Each of those episodes expressed a variety of emotion and held their own individual charms, and did a lot to making the viewer care about the characters. With all said and done, I can only give Sword Art Online a C- for sadly ruining what could of been if it had just stayed away from all of edgy content and delivered a second half that was actually compelling.