Sword Art Online II Episode 18 Review: Virtual Homecoming
The next story in Sword Art Online II begins in episode eighteen. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this story will shift from being Kirito-centric to having Asuna be the main character. An update is applied to New Aincrad that unlocks floors 21 – 30, and rumors of an incredibly powerful player begin to spread across ALO with countless players trying their luck against this adversary. While the pacing may be slower in this episode than usual, the next batch of story kicks off with a good start.
One thing I noticed that surprised me (and was mildly disturbing) was how connected ALO is to the real world. Silica is able to do her homework while she is logged into the game, and apparently it is possible to do other activities like read novels while in the game. On one hand, that level of immersion sounds awesome. On the other hand, there is a great deal of danger in being able to immerse yourself so deeply into a game that the lines between reality and virtual reality blur into non-existence. Without a great deal of self control and grounding in your sense of reality, it could be very possible for a player to forsake the real world and live in a virtual world until their body expires from lack of nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have been able to study for exams in college while sitting in one of the many beautiful environments of Azeroth the way that Kirito and his friends do in ALO.
With the update to New Aincrad, the floor where Kirito and Asuna’s house is located is unlocked. Naturally, the couple is determined to get their old virtual home back. Especially Asuna. You can tell this is something she really wants when she breaks formation, stops doing her job (which is healing the raid) and goes straight into DPSing the boss without any regard for the aggro she might pull. In a real MMORPG, I can imagine the raid lead would probably be uttering some colorful words while threatening to subtract DKP for that little stunt. In a very heartwarming moment, Kirito and Asuna successfully find their old home and purchase it.
Of course, the whole house subplot is mostly just a prologue to set up what will likely be the real storyline for this particular segment of Sword Art Online II. During a cozy little hang out, Liz and Leafa tell Asuna about a player know as Zekken that is being labeled as an invincible player. Apparently he has never fallen below 70% health and has crushed over thirty opponents in duels. This person has even defeated Kirito, which shows how insanely strong they are. Asuna decides to attempt to defeat this player and acquire the skill that they are offering as a reward.
Overall, it really felt like this episode was building up Asuna as the new main character. It shows some scenes about Asuna’s life and how she has to deal with a lot of unpleasant people simply because she comes from a rich family. Asuna may be able to rock a Kimono, but I think that she is in her true colors when she is wearing an AmuSphere and logging into ALO to be with Kirito and her friends. She even admits that she isn’t particularly close with her family, so it is no wonder that she would feel more at home in ALO than anywhere else. In an odd sort of way, perhaps getting trapped in SAO was one of the best things to ever happen in Asuna’s life. Of course that is dwarfed by her meeting Kirto and other SAO players, as that seems to add a great deal of happiness to her life.
The next episode is called Zekken, which is the name of the invincible player. I imagine in this episode Zekken will actually make an appearance rather than just showing up in flashbacks. Not only that, but I imagine that a new character will be introduced as well. Both the opening and ending depict a young girl with purple hair and pointy ears. In the ending she seems to be fairly close with Asuna, so it seems that in the very near future Asuna will encounter this new player. Given that she is prominently featured in the ending like Sinon was, it is likely that she will play a major role in whatever events are to come.