One month has passed and there are only 8,000 players remaining inside of “Sword Art Online”. Kirito decides to join up with a group that is determined to defeat the boss of the first floor, meeting a girl named Asuna in the process.
On December 2nd, 2022, Kirito decides to attend a meeting organized by a brave player named Diabel, who reveals to the group that his party has found the boss of the first floor – Illfang the Kobold Lord. He requests for everyone to team up together in order to defeat it, which will open the next floor. As parties begin to quickly form, Kirito decides to team up with a girl named Asuna. Suddenly though, a new player named Kibaou starts to blame the beta testers of the game for running away and taking advantage of all the different quests in order to become stronger while leaving the new players behind to fend for themselves. However, another player named Egil stands up for them, claiming that there is a guide book sold at shops that has all the notes the beta testers left behind. Thanks to the guide book, the group can now prepare to strike the boss without any problems during the next day. Later at night, Kirito decides to share his food with Asuna and learns that she joined up with everybody because she feels that it’s better to do something rather than nothing at all. The next day, Kirito meets up with the group at the first boss room and learns a shocking twist: Illfang’s secret weapon has been changed since the beta testing. Unfortunately, Diabel is struck down before Kirito can warn him in time.
As Diabel begins to die, Kirito realizes that he purposely tried fighting the boss himself because he was also a beta tester and wanted the rare item that only Illfang drops. Determined to avenge Diabel’s death, Kirito requests Asuna to help him and they both are able to strike down Illfang, thanks to the rest of the group and their own teamwork. The celebration begins, only to abruptly end when Kibou catches on that Kirito was really a beta tester and declares that he should have prevented Diabel’s death. Fearing that a conflict will grow between beta testers and new players, Kirito forces himself to act twisted and claims that he is really the legendary “Beater Player”; a beta tester who cheats to get what he wants. Kirito then proceeds to put his new dark cloak on that he received from killing Illfang, advises Asuna to join a guild, and continues onward to the second floor.
From the beginning moments of distrust to the big battle with the first boss, “Beater” proves that Sword Art Online already stands strong. When I was first watching this episode I couldn’t help but to think it was rather stupid for there to be players who didn’t trust the beta testers, but I changed my mind about this. The idea of being trapped inside this game could definitely psychologically affect someone in this context where one of the themes is a battle for survival. To me, the strongest aspect of this episode was how it handled matters of bonds and death and made both very potent in both heartwarming and depressing ways. Seeing Kirito sacrifice his own credibility in order to protect the beta testers was definitely a twist and could really, really make things even more interesting later on if he ends up on the path of an antihero. Other than the plot, the animation was absolutely flourishing here and the fighting was spot on. If anything, I think Sword Art Online just might grab a bigger audience thanks to what it showed here. Floor two is coming up and next time, the smell of death grows stronger…