Okay guys. It’s time to resume the war. Sword Art Online: Alicization – War Of The Underworld continues where it all left all. That weird cliff-hanger of Kirito being hit by the surge and that very weird Asuna coming down to save him as an angel. Sheesh. I suppose that Kirito has defeated the God of this (VMMORPG) world, he now has to face the demon. Sure, ‘God’ was the demon but now it is the real demon’s turn to wreak havoc since Administrator is gone. I guess restarting the game from an earlier save point is out of the question. Oh wait. Did Kirito even save his game somewhere?

Episode 0
Sometimes dubbed as Sword Art Online: Alicization episode 24.5, if you have a lousy memory, don’t worry, we have this recap episode just to refresh all the important moments in this long running arc.

Episode 1
Big shock! We see Alice living back in her hometown with Selka. The shock? Kirito is now a wheelchair ridden vegetable!!! OMFG!!! Somehow he is so attached to his sword and Eugeo’s that it’s like his bolster? Alice takes him out for a walk. Flashback shows after Kirito was struck with the certain power outage, he became a vegetable. Alice just regained consciousness and with Bercouli arriving, she told him what happened. In turn, he told the other Integrity Knights about the imminent threat from Dark Territory. Hence they started training and recruiting but with Alice hearing some of them badmouthing Kirito (after all, he killed the Pontifex which led to this problem), Alice took him back to Rulid Village. So everybody just let her go like that? Arriving at the village, her father of course is shocked to see her returned. Because she was still a criminal, they can’t let her live here and hence a nearby cabin in the outskirts of this already remote village. Could have been sex-with-Asuna-but-Alice-this-time-v2 only if Kirito is not a vegetable! Alice makes some money by helping villagers cutting down tough trees. Like this cocky greedy Nigel Barbossa who is shaming his men for not being able to take down this oak tree. Damn those sexist men think Alice can’t cut it down too. We’ll see who has the last laugh when Alice slices it down with a strike after getting ‘permission’ to borrow Kirito’s sword. Barbossa wants to hire her for other jobs but she is sufficient just doing this. To make things worse, other men knock off Kirito so as to take a look at his sword. Luckily Alice tells them off. Don’t mess with her. They leave but you can tell they aren’t too happy about it. Alice starts to think if this is the kind of world they are fighting for. Back home, they are visited by Eldrie. This guy has finally found them and hopes Alice would come back to help the Integrity Knights. So she took off by herself, eh? And were so busy preparing that they didn’t even notice she was gone for a while? Eldrie mentions they have taken steps to stop the invasion (like bombing the cave entrances) but they still want her back. Thinking Kirito is the reason her heart is astray, he wants to eliminate him but Alice digresses. Kirito fought with his own justice. Otherwise how could all the Integrity Knights lose to him one by one? With that, Eldrie leaves. That night, Kirito starts to act strange. Fire over the horizon. Dark Territory attacking?

Episode 2
Alice drops in on the villagers who are thinking of protecting the village instead of running. All because Barbossa wants to protect his property. Hence Alice reveals casts away her shoddy robe to reveal her Integrity Knight armour, shocking everybody. Using her authority, she dismisses Zink’s orders and to have everyone evacuated. Alice then singlehandedly fights off the goblins and orcs with her powerful move, sending many of them fleeing. As the village is being rebuilt, Alice takes Kirito and flies back to the capital to fulfil her duty and hopes to return here when all this is over. Now we return to the siege on Ocean Turtle. Kikuoka and co have escaped and are minimally controlling things in this sub-control room. Other staffs have also taken refuge in other rooms. They realize the terrorists won’t aggressively use bombs to blow up the place because of the proximity of the Lightcube clusters. Even though the baddies got control of the main room and STL room, at least the silver lining is that their intention isn’t to destroy it. Judging from their gear, they aren’t with any official army and it is safe to know they know about this Project Alicization. Hence their goal is to seize ALICE. The good news is that they can’t interfere or eject Alice’s Fluctlight but Kikuoka’s side also can’t do the same. Noticing the destroyer is not doing anything, it is believed that the terrorists have ties with the top brass in SDF. They can’t attack not at least until Alice’s Lightcube is secured. Hence everything now relies on Kirito as he is the only one who can retrieve Alice’s Fluctlight. However, some mumbo jumbo sci-fi talk reveals that he might not be in the best position to do it. After that attack, his neural network was severely damaged. Placing him here was to treat him but diving into Underworld somehow didn’t block his memories. He has been living in this simulation for 2 years and hence he managed to contact the outside world via reaching Axiom Church. Something about him attacking himself and his own Fluctlight, this causes his self-destruction and ego deactivated when the outage hit him. Thus there is this black hole in his brain scan image that shows he has lost the ability to make some self-image decisions. His Fluctlight is unscathed but is only reduced to reflexive actions triggered by deeply ingrained memories. In short, a vegetable. Oh Asuna, your worried face so worried.

Episode 3
Remember those mysterious guys whom Kirito and his harem fought way back in the first episode of that GGO spinoff? Yup. They are the terrorists. Led by Gabriel Miller, he was approached by a couple of MIBs from NSA who hired him to steal Rath’s technology. Apparently, the damn Americans can’t have the Japanese gain such technology and destroy the military balance in the pacific. So how? Steal their technology first! Hence the raid on Ocean Turtle. Because they made some backdoor deal with the SDF, the Japanese military will not act for 24 hours. Also, say America is not involved! Damn Americans… Now in the main control him, his men, Critter and Vassago Casals are pointing fingers at each other for being locked out. Miller puts his foot down to order them to start thinking of a way to hack in. From what I understand, they have this idea to dive in to smoke out Alice. But all the high ranking accounts have been locked out and they can only dive in as a normal citizen. However they noticed the Dark Territory has the positions of Dark Knight and some Emperor available. Hence Vassago and Miller are going to dive in as these roles respectively. But Critter can’t put his mind around this warning about some final load test that keeps popping up. After Higa finishes explains about Kirito’s self-image thingy and perhaps all that he needs to turn him back on his feet is somebody to forgive him, you bet it is Asuna’s turn to dive in. After all, she has some great sword skills and need somebody to escort and protect Alice to the altar and eject her Lightcube. They have no time because that final load test is when Dark Territory invades the human empire. Thanks to Kirito destroying Axiom Church, who knows what will happen. And what convenience, Yui updates Kirito’s harem and friends about Asuna diving in. Be on standby… You don’t know when help is going to be needed. We now return to Underworld whereby in the Obsidia Palace inside Dark Territory, Dark Knight Lipia Zancale reports to her commander, Vixur Ul Shasta that the Pontifex is dead. Shocking as it sounds, he believes it is time to make peace. He believes Bercouli now in charge, they have a chance. The problem would be the Council Ten. Worse come to worse, he may have to eliminate some of them, especially the chancellor of the Dark Mages as she harbours desires to become emperor. All this bad news, Vixur suddenly proposes to Lipia to be his wife?! But more bad news. Some seal to the throne room is broken. Because Miller and Vassago have revived as Emperor Dark God Vecta and Dark Knight respectively.

Episode 4
When Miller was a kid, he was told insects can live without a head for a while because they have no brain and thus their entire body acts as their brain. This has him thought where would their soul be. In that case, for a human who cannot live without a head, where is their soul? It must be in the brain. And so he was interested in the soul of Alicia, his childhood friend. When he dived in, he saw a vision of her. Now that he has revived as the Emperor, all the tribes and guilds rush to assemble and serve before him. Vixur asks his intentions so Vecta did not hesitate he wants death and destruction. He only wants the Priestess of Light and therefore gives permission to everyone else to kill all other humans. Everybody rejoices that it’s war time. Vecta retires to his room as he makes contact with Critter. It has already been a day here but in the real world just merely minutes. He warns that he must not die or he’ll lose access to this super account and the next login will just be a grunt. When he goes to bed, Lipia offers her body to him. However Vecta could see it coming she was going to assassinate him. Swiftly he pins her down and demands her goal. She claims she is doing this for herself and that this war must stop or else history will be set back by a few hundred years. Vecta kills her. Then it’s like her soul exits from her head. Something Vecta had seen before. The time he killed Alicia, the same thing happened. He absorbed her soul and saw her memories. He loved it. Now he also sees Lipia’s memories. He loves it. Imagine the soul of Alice. He wants that sweet soul. Next day as all tribes and guilds gather before the launch of their attack, Vecta makes it known about that assassination attempt. He dares anyone to do so but must be ready to face the consequences. Then he shows the decapitated head of Lipia. This sends Vixur into rage. A Dark Mage poisons him. Before he dies, Vixur turns Super Saiyan but his tornado mode cannot put a dent on Vecta. He realizes too late that because this man knows nothing about life or love, he cannot be killed with a murderous intent or sword. Vecta orders the assault will go on as planned as all the tribes and guilds praise their awesome supreme commander. Meanwhile Alice has reached the eastern gate. It is breaking down. She sees an invading horde from beyond the horizon. Out of time, huh?

Episode 5
Alice returns to Eldrie. He’s happy to see her. But not so for vegetable Kirito. She thinks he will be a liability impeding her ability to fight against Dark Territory. She reasons otherwise. Then Bercouli comes by. Is he going to kill Kirito? Then some lightning flash attack that is being deflected. Bercouli’s attack was towards Kirito. Kirito deflected it proves he stopped it with his own willpower. He is alive but his mind is somewhere else. Bercouli believes he’ll be back someday. In the tent, Alice thinks of kissing Kirito to wake him up? Oh, somebody outside the tent. Tiese and Ronie. They heard about Kirito being here. Alice shows them Kirito’s current state and believes they will accept this reality. Of course they are overcome with emotions. Tiese even hearing Eugeo’s voice comforting her he will always be with her. Alice asks if they love Kirito. Some excuse why they can’t because of the sin they’ve committed. Alice disagrees and somewhat shows her original Alice form that would had been had she not become an Integrity Knight. All in all, thanks to Kirito, right? Conveniently, the duo will look after Kirito and take the burden off Alice’s hands. Next day, skip whatever Alice talk with Bercouli on Kirito. Also skip her talk with Fanatio who is grateful to Kirito for fighting with her as a true swordsman. Also skip whatever catfight they almost got into… In the strategy meeting, the battle will start once the eastern gate is destroyed. Something about this long narrow dark ravine means lack of resources for both sides and hence unable to launch powerful art techniques. They also have to spare some for healing. Alice theorizes there could be vast resources built up in the ravine over the years and there should be someone who can harvest it in that short amount of time. Fanatio points out only Alice can do it as she has surpassed the skills of an Integrity Knight. After the meeting, Alice says her goodbye to Kirito. It’s like she’s signalling some death flag of her own. She hopes her death might wake him up and bring a miracle to save the land once more. After all, he was the one who defeated Administrator. And then she goes to say her goodbye to Eldrie too. I guess we need to make this guy forget about Kirito and feel his gratitude for his mentor. Whatever. And now both sides of the divide wait for the moment when the eastern gate collapses.

Episode 6
Okay it’s here. The bloody massacre and mayhem of the war. Deusolbert who is manning the front line of the right flank fires away with his flaming arrows. Damn, he took out a bunch of goblins! But there’s more. Manning the front line of the left flank is Fanatio who is dealing with the giants. The Integrity Knights isn’t all doing well. Eldrie’s unit got smoke bombed, allowing goblins to run through since the Integrity Knights cannot simply swing their swords or risk striking their own. And there’s an Integrity Knight, Renly who has already cowardly abandoned his post and hiding in the storage room. When Fanatio unleashes a powerful attack, the hit missed the giant boss. He got so scared that it caused some programming bug whatever. This turns him into some berserker and as he is about to kill Fanatio (somehow her STL got jammed whatever, rendering her unable to move), an Integrity Knight, Dakira protects her. Using all her power until she is bleeding in every orifice to push the giant boss back. With her death, Fanatio powers up like mad and unleashes a powerful attack that slices the giant boss in half. Deusolbert has finally run out of arrows. The flatland goblin boss and his henchmen try to sneakily pin him down and clobber him. A soldier protects him and as the goblin boss is about to kill him, Deusolbert powers up and uses his own sword as a flaming arrow to strike through and burn not only the goblin boss but the rest of his waves behind! Alice is hovering in the skies. Did she just accumulated the souls of the dead into one big ball cluster?

Episode 7
Flashback shows Administrator viewed Renly as broken and deemed a failure. Renly thinks he would only be in the way. Tiese and Ronie then come in to hide Kirito. I guess that’s enough hiding for Renly. And then a goblin comes in. Yeah, everybody’s f*cked. Renly sees Kirito’s shaking hands. He thinks he wants to protect everybody despite being unable to move. More flashback as he was sparring with a friend in some tournament. But Renly broke his sword and slashed through him, killing him. Now he moves as he throws his spinning blades to decapitate the goblin. With his renewed confidence, he goes out and slice all of the goblins. Then he faces off with the mountain goblin boss who tries to get psychological with him, taunting him as a coward for being stationed this far back. Renly admits he is a failure. But not his weapons. And with that, the green boss got split in half. I guess Renly’s ready to go back to his unit now. The dark mages use some flying beasts for aerial assault but were swiftly taken down by Bercouli’s defence. Then they try some wide range incineration projectile thingy. However when they start chanting, nothing comes of it. They are stumped because with so many casualties in the battlefield, the souls of the dead would have been enough. I guess they’re too late since Alice already gathered them all in her ball. Then she uses it to unleash a devastating hellfire blast. Wow. It takes lives to take lives. Literally. So more dead souls, bigger ball, deadlier firepower next time?

Episode 8
Now what? Eldrie in depression because his unit failed to protect the frontlines and the enemy got as far back to the supplies section and luckily Renly took care of it? And that’s shameful? Oh dear. Alice needs to waste time assuring otherwise. They are then confronted by the ogre boss. He was caught in Alice’s hellfire but somehow survived. Observing that power came from her, he knows she is the Priestess of Light and wants to take her to Vecta. Then the war will end and the ogres can return to the grassland. So shouldn’t he take her with him since she sounds willing to go? Instead he attacks her and gets killed. Dark mage boss reports to Vecta about the unexpected art used by the Integrity Knights. He learns that lives and blood were used for this and since 3000 lives are all that she needs, he gives her permission to sacrifice the orcs. Orc boss doesn’t agree to this when dark mage boss tells him to gather his men for the sacrificial ritual. But his men are willing to die for Vecta and so that’s that. Alice tells Bercouli what she has learnt. She intends to head to the Dark Territory herself since the Altar is located there. Bercouli agrees on a condition 1/3 of the men accompany her and he will be part of that group. Alice prepares to head into the Dark Territory, the same time the dark mages begin their ritual. Orc boss can only watch in pain and hatred as his men die before his eyes. Now that a huge dark ball is summoned, it is directed towards Alice. Nothing can stop it, right? Oh well, time for Eldrie to be a hero, using himself as distraction to let the dark ball eat him. Even when he is dead, somebody gave him a push so that he could use his final push to absorb it all. Yup, his life going into negative! I wonder why he still isn’t dead at this point. Oh, it’s to have that final reconciliation and goodbye with Alice. After he dies, Alice gets mad and charges into the enemy lines. She’s like a villain burning them all down. Dark mage boss fears to be killed so she kills her own comrades just to stay alive. Alice then announces herself and this catches Vecta’s attention.

Episode 9
Vecta orders the next group to advance and take Alice in unscathed. This means the pugilist guild is now rushing into combat. Strangely, Integrity Knight Scheta wants to handle this one. Meanwhile Vecta allows Vassago to go sneak up on the enemy’s supply. Sneaky Vassago kills the unsuspecting guards as they patrol around the dark woods. A bulk of this episode focuses on Scheta fighting off the pugilist boss. Because of her poker face and lack of emotions, nobody can read what is on her mind. There is more than meets the eye to her. She has this very thin and flexible sword that can slash through anything bestowed by Administrator. She detected Scheta’s deep passion to slash anything and hence made her this sword. Gee, if she could slice up anything with ease like how she did to many of the pugilist members, shouldn’t she be fighting in the frontlines from the start? So the pugilist boss is the only one who is hard enough whom she can’t easily slash. Sword versus fist. See who is harder. You can say that both enjoyed fighting each other but had to abandon this fight since the main forces have caught up. Vassago thinks Ronie is her next victim but she’s smart enough to use not her sight to sense him. She calls out for reinforcements. So does Vassago. With the supply side compromised, Bercouli calls off whatever ambushed he had intended and request Alice and Renly to support the supply side. He will deal with the incoming enemy forces himself. Well, something will work out. Just before Vassago could kill Ronie, then this goddess Stacia pops up and opens a chasm to swallow up the enemies. Wait a minute. Doesn’t Stacia look like Asuna?!

Episode 10
Before Asuna dived in, she was told that this Stacia’s powers include altering the land. Because it puts a heavy load on her Fluctlight, she has to stop once she feels pain. Ronie and Tiese praise the aid of the goddess but Asuna denies and that she is just human who wants to see Kirito. What convenience. She is shocked to see him in his vegetable state and when she hugs him, damn, some movements and reaction from Kirito. Judging from this little reaction, I think he moved more than he did than the entirety of this season! When Asuna leaves the tent, Alice attacks her, thinking she is the enemy spy. Woah, ladies fighting over Kirito?! Did this turn into waifu wars?! They are stopped by Bercouli who believes Asuna isn’t the enemy because her ground opening move saved him from death at the hands of the enemy. Bercouli then has everyone gather to let Asuna explain. It’s a bit hard to explain what the outside world is. Nope, it’s not the divine realm either. She adds her mission is to extract Alice from this place. Once that happens, the war will stop. Alice is after all targeted by the Underworld who wants nothing more than to destroy this world. They deduce that Alice is wanted because she broke the seal on her right eye. When Alice remembers Administrator quoting the code 871 on it, Asuna realizes there is a mole among the Rath staffs. Asuna believes because Alice was able to go against the rules and broke the seal, the enemies could find her valuable in the other world. But Bercouli doesn’t understand. If this is the case, doesn’t this put Alice on the same level as humans in the other world? Asuna can’t say that for now and wants to take Alice to see the other world for herself. It is not utopia and it is far worse than here but there are still many who want to protect it. Like Kirito. There’s your buzzword. But for now, they will focus on defeating the enemies at hand. Asuna will join in and hopes to leave Vecta in her hands. Later that night, the waifu wars continue. Oh God… Asuna and Alice trying to outdo each other who spent more time with Kirito. Oh my God, Ronie! You want to join in this waifu wars too?! Liena too?! F*ck. The more the merrier. Thank goodness they decide to be more civil and talk and trade info about Kirito.

Episode 11
Administrator once talked to Bercouli how she felt death every day even in her dreams. Because she doesn’t have control over everything yet. Now Bercouli understands what she meant. Kirito time interrupted when Bercouli sounds the alarm. It seems the enemies are trying to cross the chasm with a flimsy rope? Apparently Vecta told them to do it and he doesn’t care if there are casualties. Of course this makes some mad but they can’t disobey their emperor. Of course it gets worse when the Integrity Knights come by to take them all out. Critter has synced the Underworld time with reality. Then he sends a tantalizing invitation to players in America to join this battle. Real blood. Real slaughtering. Oh yeah! Sign me up! Damn bloodthirsty violent Americans! Yui detects this and makes an emergency call to Shino and Sugu to take a taxi now and head to this address. Taxis are available at this time in Japan? That’s Japanese service for you! Kikuoka then gets a call from Rath’s Roppongi branch. A couple of ladies came knocking on their door asking to contact Kikuoka. They warn about the time synchronization and it seems they are going to dive in too. Meanwhile Yui is telling the rest of Kirito’s friends of what is happening. I don’t know about this Alice thingy who has existed since the first SAO and hence linking everybody together. Sounds complicated. Whatever the reason, they’re all going to save Kirito, right? However the problem is the time difference in reality. Right now it is the wee hours of morning in Japan and in America it is noon time so you bet there are going to be a lot more active players right now in America. Also, instead of starting from scratch, Yui suggests they can convert their current character data with all the cool stats to Underworld. Of course there’ll be problems… Lisbeth speaks to all the ALO players and pleads for their help. But when she relays the issues that they cannot log out, will feel real pain, will die and no guarantee they can convert back their character data, she is met with brickbats and scorn. They have no love lost for those SAO survivors. Lisbeth doesn’t give up and continues talking about their reality, truth and connections. Hope those tears did the trick. Back in Underworld, those damn bloodthirsty American players have arrived!

Episode 12
Those Americans attack the Dark Territory side. I guess as long as they can kill, anybody is fair game. Asuna alters the landscape to prevent further havoc. When pugilist boss sees Vecta flying over, he gets mad. Knowing he did not tell them about the other enemies, he does what Alice did last season as he gorges out his right eye. In his rage, he jumps over the chasm and saves Asuna from being slaughtered by the Americans. He then offers a deal. If she can create a sturdy bridge to let his men cross over, he will fight with them against the Americans. Meanwhile, Alice wanting to get to higher ground to incinerate more enemies, this proves fatal as she gets snatched by Vecta. So when everyone else receives this news, pugilist boss finds out from Asuna that it is the end of this world if Vecta gets Alice to the Altar. Pugilist boss wants the Integrity Knights to go after them. Because Dark Territory clans cannot go against the emperor, they might be given orders to fight against them. With Vecta already achieving his goal, it means the Dark Territory clan can do whatever they want. Hence their only choice is to stay back to fight the Americans and buy them time. He also has Asuna give Vecta a message once she catches up to him: That they are not his damned puppets! Vassago has awakened back in reality. He learns what happened and looks like Miller is now taking his solo action, proving that he has gotten the Priestess of Light. However it is detected the Integrity Knights are coming after him and it is going to be troublesome if they do so. Hence Critter is waiting for a second wave of Americans to log in and crush them. Vassago then remembers he lost to Asuna. This means Kirito is here. He wants to go back but with no more Dark Knight super account left, Vassago seems to have a special account for another express pass. Asuna and the Integrity Knight are now surrounded by the next wave of Americans. Renly going to sacrifice himself to make a path? Don’t be. Because here comes another angel to wipe out a bunch of those players. Is that you Shino?! Yes it is.

Kirito, So Thou Art Offline: Waifu Wars
Sighs… They really know how to extend the drama. Instead of making this a continuous double cour, they took a season break before airing the big finale. Hey, it’s all just a game, right? Sure, not for these people putting their lives on the line. I guess we too have to wait with baited breath for the liberation of Underworld. But I am guessing how things will turn out and it shouldn’t surprise me. Unless… And yeah, I find it that this season’s final ending scene to be similarly weird as last season. Because last time we had angelic Asuna extending his hand to save Kirito. Now we have Shino doing the same for Asuna. Is this going to be a trend as slowly Kirito’s other friends and harem join in the battle?

One of the weirdest expects in this season is Kirito being a vegetable. Yes, it was really bizarre to see the best swordsman in all virtual games to turn into some vegetable retard. So much so you could say that the recap episode at the beginning was the most that we will ever get to see him in action or acting normally. But this isn’t the first time that this series has done without Kirito as its main star. Remember that GGO spinoff title? The one where some little pink munchkin was running about and blazing away her opponents? Yup. That. However that was a spinoff but this is the real SAO main series. So to see Kirito being wheelchair ridden like as though he has turned into some grandpa waiting for the day he will kick the bucket, sometimes it also feels unsettling. Sometimes it feels like they are disrespecting the main character but I suppose this is all part of the plot and that at this point it is all too early to jump to conclusions. The great Kirito who defeated Administrator is now reduced to this? Hmm… Not very nice indeed… And he doesn’t even make any sort of appearance in this season’s final episode. Like as though he went missing. Not very nice indeed…

Hence some of the characters from last season won’t come back, namely Eugeo and Cardinal. Of course Administrator and Chudelkin too but they do appear in flashbacks. An excuse for never seen before scenes of them. So for Eugeo, I guess no BL yaoi for you fujoshi out there! He is happy living with the original loli Alice. In some alternate timeline. Hopefully. No wonder Kirito is so vegetable this season… Cardinal got her best hug last season. Yeah, she really needed it. All up to you now, Kirito. Oh wait. Make that next season.

With Kirito out of the main picture, this give rise to Alice as she temporarily takes Kirito’s place as the main character. Alice to the fore. It is most probably her indebt to him that makes her look out for him as much as he can. After all, we’ve seen what Kirito had done for her last season. I’m sure the feelings of the heart had something to do with it too (remember those few trolling scenes of her trying to take advantage of his vegetable state and kiss him?) but with Alice being more of a poker face and the imminent threat of Dark Territory getting in the way, I suppose no time for some disabled romance. Hah. Even AIs got feelings, you know. Yeah, virtual technology is this advanced. At least in this series. We got a little taste of the waifu wars although it started a bit late after Asuna dived in. Better late than never. Now we just need the rest of his harem to jump in and complete Kirito’s harem. The more the merrier. The stronger this team will be. Then we can get along fighting for his attention once the war is over. Real 3D girls and 2D girls fighting for his attention. Damn Kirito, you lucky bastard!!!! You better break out of that vegetable state soon or else there will be another kind of war that will be even more devastating!!!! HAHAHA!!!!! Oops…

Alice doesn’t take 100% of the spotlight as there are some episodes that are dedicated in focusing on a few new Integrity Knights like Renly and Scheta. While they have an interesting background, but it still feels short and like some sort of diversion. I mean, there are 30 over Integrity Knights and it would be a shame that we can count all of the known ones with just our fingers. I’m sure a good number is missing but adding a couple of them makes it look like they have a few more good Integrity Knights on their side. Still, I find it hard to relate them since their flashback is rather short as it just points out their flaws and then during the fight, they realize what is important and overcome it. There. Now the Integrity Knights can look like they have more reliable men on their side instead of just showing the usual ones that we already know and introduced from last season. Oh right. RIP Eldrie. In a way it is a good thing so we won’t have this dude get in the way of b*tching Alice x Kirito romance. Heh. If that ever is a possibility but with Eldrie out of the way, definitely no Alice x Eldrie possibility.

Strangely, I find myself to be more fascinated with the dark factions of Dark Territory. I noticed I was more glued and interested in watching them whenever they appear rather than the Integrity Knights or the recent waifu wars. Perhaps it is because there was not much data and info given about the Dark Territory in last season. So it seems that there are a bunch of lives on the other side outside of the human empire too. It’s a shame that they are being casted as the bad guys because some of them really seemed to have potential and interesting back story. But with Vecta being the cruel ultimate emperor, whatever he says is divine. Hence some dark tribes like the orcs and pugilists could have had better characterization if at least their side were fleshed out more. In some ways, I think I would side and sympathize with them rather than the Integrity Knights! Really.

Action wise, this season doesn’t disappoint as the war between both sides get brutal and bloody. But just as to show how powerful a single Integrity Knight is, that is why the Dark Territory side has the numbers and hence the cliché moment of taking a whole bunch of them out with their single powerful move. Don’t mind if we rake up the body count. Yeah, it feels like all those initially like the goblins and the giants exist in great numbers just to die in the battlefield. Some lesser human soldiers also die but we don’t see much of it. After all, a few Integrity Knights can take out a huge horde. Sometimes the impact of the powerful move is so great that the sound effect also affected my speaker and I have to tone it down so as not to turn my entire room into some sonic boom shockwave or something. And when those bloodthirsty Americans joined the fray, I guess they’re only there to add to the body count. Wow. So many online American players at the same given point in time? I’m sure those players who jumped right in only to be instantly killed by the powerful Integrity Knights are going to have some rage quit issues.

I still never understood all the technical terms and jargons. While the war of the Underworld is the main focus, there are still some scenes back at Ocean Turtle. Safe to say that I am still in the blur of all those jargons and that is the main reason impeding me from appreciating and enjoying this season to its fullest. I guess only the blood and gore speak to me, something a simpleton like me can understand. So whatever linking and synching all those virtual technological stuffs, nah, not really interested even if it is part of the plot. Like when they show certain characters going berserk and then their STL Lightcube being affected or something, like WTF is going on? Is this some excuse to tell us why they power up and could do more than their usual? Yeah, everything is just pixels and codes, right?

It is interesting to see and note that there is a possibility that humans may create AIs that are on par with real human beings, complete with their own independent set of thinking and emotions. As always, there is always debate and up in the air for discussion its pros and cons. When AI becomes too life-like and intelligent for us, probably that is when the nightmare begins. Or in today’s era, perhaps we’ll make more memes and jokes about AIs having rights and feelings! Hahaha! Oops… It is also interesting to see how many people will actually sacrifice what they have achieved just for others or the greater good. It’s a good opportunity to see their real character. So would I exchange my stats and put my life on the line for Kirito? Uhm… Erm… Uh… Let’s move on to the next topic, shall we?

This season’s art and animation is on par with last season. Superb stuff to say the least. You bet they can’t skimp on the quality as this series is such an important and popular name. But there are some CGI moments that are weak. Especially those that are of the battlefield and in the background. You won’t notice the first time round when the focus is on the main battle in front. But if you look closely to all the grunts and foot soldiers fighting each other, you can see the CGI animation is somewhat lame. This season’s opener is sung by Haruka Tomatsu. Resolution is your typical rock outfit that fits the pace of this season. But it is the ending theme, Unlasting by Lisa that attracts me. It is a slow ballad and despite its sad and gloomy outlook, it is also somewhat sounds beautiful and dramatically powerful.

Overall, this season isn’t all that bad but my only pet peeve is that they had to split this second half into 2 cours. I suppose we are heading into the final stretch of the longest arc in the series and they want to make the finale as epic as it is acclaimed to be in its original works. There is some great action this season but depending on your preference, that could be bad or good. And that factor is Kirito. Non Kirito fans will not matter since we can see how other characters are also capable in defending themselves instead of relying on the main character. But Kirito lovers might be crying foul for what they have turned him into this season. Oh well, this is to be expected if you’ve read the light novel. Hopefully when the final of the final comes around, the anime will do justice to its epic awesomeness. A lot of AIs died for our entertainment, you know.

After that rather tepid and lukewarm alternative spinoff story that was Gun Gale Online, I guess Sword Art Online (SAO) fans can now be happy that the next season of SAO would be continuing and adapting one of the more popular and important arcs of the series, Sword Art Online: Alicization. Yes, having an SAO series without the main character Kirito seems so off and weird. Even weirder for me was that I was having a hard time trying to pronounce or remember Alicization. I don’t know how, but I keep initially remembering and pronouncing it as alkalization. Heh. I thought with all the toxic acidity of online players in VR, maybe some sort of neutralization and alkalization is needed to bring things back to order. Damn, I’m getting side-tracked here…

Episode 1
In this 1 hour special, we start off seeing a young Kirito and Eugeo taking turns trying to chop down a tough cedar tree with their axe. Not making much progress. And this is all the mark that Eugeo’s 6 generations of chopping have left! They take a break when Alice comes by to give them her lunch. Because Kirito suggests getting some ice so their food can last longer, they believe the End Mountains hosts the coolest ice. However there is talk about breaking the Taboo Index in which the Integrity Knight of Axiom Church will whisk you away. Then there’s this legend of this hero, Bercouli who entered the End Mountains and faced off with a huge white dragon guarding treasures in the cave. He defeated it with a sword. Next day, the trio make their way into End Mountains. They stumble into a cave and find that the legend was indeed true. Dragon bones, treasures and a sword too heavy for the kids to lift. They aren’t here to steal loots and got the ice they want but realize they forgot which exit they came from. I guess it’s not down to guts, huh? Too bad it’s wrong as it leads them to Dark Territory. They see an Integrity Knight defeating a Dark Knight. The latter somewhat hypnotizes Alice to cross over to the Dark Territory. Although her fingers only touched the Dark Territory, this violation is detected. The trio return home without realizing the consequences they will be facing. Because tomorrow, an Integrity Knight flies into town and arrests Alice. She will be questioned before being executed. Kirito wants to save her but is of course no match. Eugeo is paralyzed in fear while the villagers hold down Kirito and they can only helplessly see Alice being whisked away. Kirito wakes up from this simulation world but doesn’t know why he is crying.

We now see Kirito and his harem trying to take down a group of formidable PK players in GGO. They manage to give our heroes the slip and escape with minimal casualties. Later Asada talks to Kirito about entering the next BoB tournament so they can face off with the legendary Subtilizer. With Asuna joining them, the topic changes to Kirito’s part time job as a tester of some virtual game. Asuna is worried because it is taking a toll on his health. This job that Kirito is doing is a new next generation full dive system developed by Rath. The thing is, to keep the secrecy and anonymity, any memories created in the VR world will be erased. Though he is certain it doesn’t put the stress on the brain like previous models. Then they talk about where the soul of a human’s body resides. Not really getting into all these terms now but that’s what Fluctlight sounds like. Hence the Soul Translator (STL) from Rath supposedly reads that Fluctlight. Yeah, it’s getting heavy so I’ll skip this. Anyway, Kirito’s experience was that he couldn’t tell he was in the VR world. Like as though it is a realistic dream. The only thing Kirito was told that the project is called Underworld. Like the one from Alice In Wonderland? As they part, Kirito tells Asuna he plans to go to America where the technology for full dive is more advanced. He wants her to come with him. But of course. And yes she will. Oddly, they kiss in the streets. Nobody watching? Soon they are confronted with a guy who is the last surviving member of Laughing Coffin. The guys go at each other and both are struck down. However Kirito was injected with a strange serum.

Episode 2
Kirito wakes up in this familiar VR world. Strange. Can’t log out. He also retains his memories of the real world. He then sees Eugeo trying to chop down the tree. Kirito makes up a story that he has amnesia so Eugeo thinks he is a Vecta, those who got abducted as a prank by demons and then released. Whatever. Kirito tries to test if Eugeo is an NPC but nothing conclusive as he might be a test player with restricted memories. Eugeo will accompany him to town but he needs to finish his job of chopping this tree. Kirito hangs out with him and learns he has a childhood friend named Alice taken away for stepping into the Dark Territory. He believes she is still alive in the central city. With the other terms like Taboo Index, Kirito can’t help feel they sound familiar. After learning how to draw out the interface, he also learns Eugeo’s Calling (fate) to chop down this demonic tree because as long as it stands, they can never expand their wheat fields. And they’ve been doing it for 300 years and 7 generations! Chipping it bit by bit every day! Kirito tries to help out with his sword skill but as expected, no significant impact. At the end of the day, Eugeo brings him back but is confronted by this arrogant Zink who thinks he is going to be the best swordsman as per his Calling. Because he badmouths Eugeo’s pathetic Calling, Kirito shows his swordsman skills to shut him up. Kirito temporarily lives in a church run by Sister Azalia and he gets acquainted with one of the young nuns, Selka. Kirito ponders about the people of this world. Like as though they were born and raised here from the start. Are they copies of souls of newborns who were raised in virtual worlds? The only explanation is that they could be artificial Fluctlights.

Episode 3
Kirito’s goal is to go to central city but with no money, he believes he needs Eugeo’s help. So he hangs out with him and learns Selka is Alice’s younger sister and some high level sacred art that could stop life from decreasing. Of course this means you have to be a lot powerful like those high priests in Axiom Church. Eugeo then drags this heavy Blue Rose Sword from the legend to show it to Kirito. That Bercouli legend again. It is believed this sword is made from divine intervention. With Eugeo still regretting he couldn’t save Alice, Kirito tries to help using this sword to strike the tree. Will it make a difference? Just lost 1 HP… Maybe he strike at the wrong place so Eugeo believes if he masters this sword, he can cut down this tree faster. But for now, back to the old fashion axe chopping. Later Kirito talks to Selka since she is now learning the sacred arts in place of her sister. He thinks she likes Eugeo as she is sad he hardly smiles ever since Alice was taken away. Selka was never told the reason Alice was taken away so Kirito tells her. Next day, Azalia wonders if Kirito has seen Selka since it is unusual for her not to be around. Then when talking to Eugeo about this, it dawned to him she might have gone to End Mountains since Kirito said too much. They have to bring her back before Integrity Knight does. Kirito will take responsibility and take Selka to run away from the town since Integrity Knight will only fly in the next day. Then they hear Selka’s scream. In that cave, they see unconscious Selka being kidnapped by goblins. Sure they’re not going to rape her?! Eugeo was so worried he gave away their position. Now the goblins notice them, their big boss tell them to kill those white boys because they cannot be sold. So do they rape young girls first before selling them? Eugeo is paralyzed with fear.

Episode 4
Kirito quickly devices a plan to fight the goblins. He gets the big boss while Eugeo gets the small fries. Thank goodness for his grass light that keeps them at bay. Kirito heavily damages the boss but takes some serious damage too. This makes Eugeo feel the need to save him or it will be just like Alice’s case. So he recklessly swings his sword and gets a fatal strike in his guts. Ouch. Oddly, Eugeo somewhat remembers the promise made with Alice and Kirito during their younger days about dying together. Mad Kirito now turns into Goblin Slayer to decapitate the boss. The other goblins flee. Kirito frees Selka and wants her to heal Eugeo. She is unconfident and comparing herself she isn’t Alice. Can we just try? Selka and Kirito transfer some of their life force to save him. Kirito then hears Alice voice telling him she will be waiting for them at the central cathedral. In the aftermath, Eugeo felt strange about that promise since Kirito only just came, right? But it felt like he was there before with them. Kirito uses Blue Rose Sword on the tree since his skill levelled up after defeating the goblin boss. Damn, the tree takes a massive damage!!! Eugeo pleads to Kirito to teach him swordsmanship as he wants to go to central city to save Alice. He has been regretting that for every day that he didn’t do anything. He wants to be strong so as not to repeat those mistakes again. Under Kirito’s guidance, Eugeo finally cuts down the tree! The village holds a party and because Eugeo completed his task, he has the right to choose a new Calling. Without a doubt, he wants to become a swordsman. Later he talks to Selka about his goal to bring back Alice with Kirito. She wishes him well but promises all of them must come back alive. Kirito and Eugeo soon leave the village. It’s going to be a long walk…

Episode 5
Before we forget this simulation is real, we return to reality. After Kirito was attacked, Asuna sent him to hospital and he has been in comatose state ever since. Although his condition stabilized, he might have suffered brain damage when his heart stopped for a few minutes. He needs to be transferred to a facility with better equipment. That was also when Kikuoka popped up to suggest this facility where Kirito could get the proper treatment. However when Asuna visited, they were told Kirito was to have no visitors and the supposed ambulance that brought him here never actually arrived. Asuna and the girls discuss about Rath and STL and Asuna with Yui’s help detect the last known location of Kirito’s heart monitor. The trace stopped at a port warehouse. Heading there, Yui even checked the security cameras that a helicopter took off on that day. There is a possibility that Kirito was taken overseas. Remember how Kirito went all out to save her? Now it’s her turn to save him. Trying to remember what Kirito said that may have been related to his job. Hmm… Medicuboid… Rinko… Shigemura Lab… University in California… Speaking of Rinko, she receives an email from Kikuoka that needs her participation in a project. She also receives email from Asuna. Rinko and her assistant, Mayumi Reynolds arrive on a pyramid-cum-oil-rig platform dubbed Ocean Turtle. Heading inside the command centre, here is Kikuoka. He welcomes them to Rath and is happy the last of the 3 indispensable people for this project has arrived. The other being Takeru Higa of Shigemura Lab who is devoted to continue Kayaba’s work. When Kikuoka refuses to disclose the other indispensable person, that is when Reynolds reveals herself to be Asuka! Surprise! Did Kikuoka not feel suspicious why Rinko accepted his invitation so easily? Asuna found her email on Kirito’s PC and sought her help. She has a friend who could hack things and that’s why she easily passed all the background checks. Asuna demands to know where Kirito is now.

Episode 6
Kikuoka claims Rath is the only place with the technology to heal Kirito. Something about using STL and Fluctlight and generate new neural network. The purpose of this experiment is to create a bottom-up multi-purpose AI. All AI are created via top-down approach. You programme it and it learns from there. However its drawback is that they are unable to handle situations that they have not learnt. So by using bottom-up approach, they try to copy a human soul and store into this Lightcube as medium for a human brain. Despite successfully copying a human soul, it seems they missed something. He has Higa show them a clone of himself. The clone is panicking and thinking he is the real Higa and wants out of this dark space. In the end, the programme crashes. They have tried copying 10 souls but none of them could bear the thought they are just a copy. Hence the next answer is to raise them from the start. Thanks to virtual worlds and the Seed, they managed to create a small world and start out a small civilization using Rath staffs. Using acceleration, in 3 weeks, 300 years passed in the virtual world and its inhabitants grew to a massive 80,000 population. A governing body called Axiom Church created laws known as Taboo Index. All inhabitants obey the laws without question. This is when Asuna realizes the project is to create AI designed to kill. Asuna knows Kikuoka didn’t say this to Kirito because he wouldn’t have participated in this project. Even AI have rights? Sure, they lack physical bodies but they are the same as living things. Kikuoka understands her concerns but to him, 100,000 AI lives are worth far less than an actual soldier’s.

As for why he needed Kirito, he needed someone who has years of experience in moving in virtual worlds. There was a girl influenced by Kirito who broke the Taboo Index. Ironically she is named Alice, the same name as this project. She is a highly adaptive AI known as Artificial Labile Intelligence Cybernated Existence AKA ALICE. Their goal is to convert a Fluctlight into Alice. Welcome to Project Alicization. Asuna manages to see Kirito lying in the machine. She is surprised he has a personal nurse: Natsuki. Unlike Kikuoka who ‘deceives’, Natsuki is a real nurse. Just that she graduated from the SDF nursing school. Later Rinko confesses to Asuna about the atrocities she did to all former SAO players. Although Kayaba planted a bomb in her chest to force her to collaborate with that project, it was fake. If Rinko was ever caught, she would not be implicated. Flashback shows Rinko started liking this nerdy and scrawny Kayaba. Oddly they dated and it’s not like he was ever interested in her but never pushed her away either. When Kayaba became a murder suspect for that SAO incident, she went to his lodge to kill him but couldn’t. Asuna doesn’t bear any grudges towards Kayaba or her. She is grateful that she managed to spend time living with Kirito in that world. It’s one of her best days of her life. Even though Kayaba’s crimes are unforgiveable nor if amends could be made, they have to continue to face what they’ve done.

Episode 7
Back to the virtual world. 2 years have passed since Kirito and Eugeo entered the city of Zakkaria. They honed their sword skills, entered a sword tournament, won and are now part of the garrison. Under the tutelage of Sortiliena “Liena” Serlut, their skills are further honed. Kirito narrates he has learnt the mechanisms of this world. In short, if you are filled with confidence, this could be enough to give you some power boost enough to rewrite the laws of the world. Kirito spars with Liena and loses. He has never won against her. Even if she is this good, she has never won against the top student, Volo Levantein. She also believes Kirito couldn’t beat her is because he is hiding some sword techniques. As she will be graduating soon, Kirito promises to show her his greatest skill as her graduation gift. Later Eugeo feels worried because if Kirito’s memories returns, he might return to his world. Kirito assures him he will not go home even if that happens because they made a vow to become an Integrity Knight. They are only here now because of each other. Kirito sees a blacksmith, Sadore to get some special sword done. It is going to be costly but will give it to free if he could swing it. Of course he flawlessly wields it and gets it FOC. While he is practising with it, he falters and attracts the attention of Volo. Normally it is forbidden to train on rest days but he will overlook this because he too is guilty of doing that. But he won’t let him go because somehow he got a puny dirt on his shirt. So they’re going to settle this via duel with real swords. Stop-short matches aren’t Volo’s style but he gives Kirito the choice. In turn, he throws that decision back to him because he is the one being punished.

Episode 8
Liena warns Kirito that Volo’s family tradition means his sword absorbs the blood of his enemies. He plans to convert Kirito’s sword strength into his and feed on it. Kirito believes Volo also has the power of imagination. As they fight, Kirito sees his entire family giving him strength. Sure, Kirito has his too. His friends and harem. But the killer support is the cedar tree! Yeah, his imagination must be so strong that his sword grows bigger! Enough to withstand Volo’s strike. Kirito could have faltered had not Azurika (the dorm supervisor) stopped the match. Liena holds a mini celebration for Kirito in her room. She reveals that Volo’s family sword skills originally belonged to her family. But a distant family displeased the emperor and they were forbidden to pass it down. So they develop other weird sword styles but Liena is nonetheless proud to master them. She believes Kirito’s style is different because he doesn’t feel inferior compared to those trained in traditional styles. That night, a couple of noble bullies who aren’t fond with Kirito’s win, Raios Antinous and Humbert Zizek destroyed his little garden. Kirito is sad because those flowers don’t bloom here and he is trying hard to bloom them in foreign soil via his imagination. The flowers are also a great significance to him as it symbolizes Kirito trying hard in a foreign land, not knowing if he could ever return. Then a mysterious voice gives him hope to ‘feel’ the meaning of magic. What do you know? They revive! Wow. Truly the power of imagination. On the final exam day, Liena faces off with Volo in the finals and beats him. Did the power of imagination do its tricks again? She graduates as the officially top ranked student of the academy. Kirito and Eugeo became ranked 5 and 6 respectively after their advancement exam and are promoted to elite disciples. Yeah, they’ve got a couple of cute trainees of their own, Tiese Shtolienen and Ronie Arabel.

Episode 9
As Kirito mentions, you can infuse your sword with some sort of pride of feelings to make it stronger. So what goes for Eugeo? Alice. But of course. Eugeo continues his training and his mocked by Raios and Humbert. They offer him to teach him and Eugeo shocks them by accepting a lesson from Humbert. Eugeo uses his unconventional skills to dodge his attacks and Raios is forced to end the match with a draw. Raios offers his lesson next time but gets irked when Eugeo replies he doesn’t mind it now. Eugeo tells this to Kirito who thinks that they may be acting arrogantly because they are reluctantly obeying the laws of Axiom Church. As long as the Taboo Index is not violated, you can do anything you want. When Tiese and Ronie complain to their mentors about their friend, Frenica Cesky being made to do inappropriate chores by her mentor, damn it’s that Humbert name again. Then they talk about noble’s pride in which nobles must use the power and privilege they have to protect the weak. That pride is more important than any law or regulation. So the guys confront Raios and Humbert. Of course they play dumb over Eugeo’s accusations. So it seems Humbert who was reeling from the draw tried to train more. This means having his muscles sore and hence having Frenica to massage him during bath. Eugeo is so mad he wanted to strike them but thankfully he didn’t bring his sword. He manages to keep his cool but warns them if there is no improvement, they’ll consider asking the instructors to investigate. Raios dares him to do as he please. Later Kirito warns Eugeo that they may be targeting him. Because had he lost his cool and done something wrong, they may use it as an excuse as impropriety and punish him with maximum penalty. So stay cool always. Then Eugeo tells Tiese the actions he has taken. He also wants to apologize to Frenica since this incident stems from that duel. However Tiese isn’t in favour in setting them up to meet. Instead, she tells how she will take over as head of her family after she graduates. Then she will marry to a guy with similar rank or a rank above her. She fears her future husband will be cruel. Can we see where this is going when she asks Eugeo for a favour while being THIS close to him? She is confident he will represent their academy at the Swordsmanship Tournament and compete in the Four Empires Unification Tournament and get a high ranking. She didn’t say it but I’m guessing she wants him to marry her when he achieves that tall order. I hope he didn’t get the wrong idea by accepting this.

Episode 10
Kirito realizes their disciples are late for cleaning. Suspecting something amiss, he goes to check on them. As Eugeo waits, Frenica comes in to tell that she confided in Tiese and Ronie about yet another inappropriate order. They went to talk to him on her behalf and have never returned. Eugeo realizes they were the target and not him. He rushes to their room and demands their whereabouts. They lead him to their room in which they are tied up on their bed. Raios claims because they have acted inappropriately, something they can use the higher Taboo Index judiciary to punish them as their family noble rank ranks higher than theirs. Hence they are going to rape them before Eugeo’s eyes! Eugeo is paralysed due to the Taboo Index he is bound to. But seeing the poor girls scream and pleading for help, I guess something activated in his eye that ultimately explodes? This allows Eugeo to move enough to cut off Humbert’s arm. Raios now uses this excuse to execute Eugeo. Before he can decapitate him, here comes our Kirito to clash swords with him. So great their clash that the windows shatter! Eventually Kirito cuts off both Raios’ arms. The scumbag panics as he loses blood. Strangely, he experiences some weird digital glitch before dying. Our heroes rescue their disciples but some strange system admin detects, traces and reports this incident. Next day, Azurica heals Eugeo’s eye (you mean he didn’t get treatment after that?). However she is here to hand them over to the Integrity Knight. In a way, she gives them encouragement because Eugeo was able to break a seal that she was never able to break. Now he is able to go where she was unable to go. The duo are shocked to see the Integrity Knight picking them up. Alice?! Alice Synthesis Thirty to be precise.

Episode 11
When Eugeo tries to touch her, she beats him up! Do that again and you’ll die! With Eugeo very certain she is Alice, Kirito suggests playing along so they can get into the central cathedral. Before they depart, Tiese and Ronie are kind enough to give them their swords? Of course confiscated by Alice. She is kind enough to let them speak for a minute? At least they say their final goodbyes. We take a break and return to Ocean Turtle. Asuna is surprised a robot is moving around on its own. Ichiemon is created by Higa and fine-tuned by Rinko. From what I understand, they are trying to make an AI robot auto-balance like a human’s body to create a near perfect humanoid body. We return to the central cathedral. Kirito and Eugeo are imprisoned in an underground cell. Kirito wonders if this Alice was the real one, what was that cave incident Alice spirit whisper thingy all about? Could there be a spell that manipulates memories? They use the chains to destroy each other because they’re both the same high level, using them against each other is like wearing down the other’s life! It works! Video game logic! I guess they can escape easily because nobody escapes here before so no guards or even if there are, they’re sleeping. Making their way through the labyrinth garden, Eugeo who is still bent and determined on bringing Alice back hopes that bringing her back to their hometown would blow away the fake memories. This gives Kirito an idea on how he could retrieve his lost memories. They are confronted by an Integrity Knight, Eldrie Synthesis Thirty One who claims Alice is her mentor. She had foresight that they would escape and had him stationed here for the night. He will send them back to their prison but first he is going to exact punishment.

Episode 12
Eldrie is formidable with his whip as Kirito and Eugeo cooperate to fight on the same footing. When Eugeo finally recognizes him as Eldrie Woolsburg, the winner of the Four Empires Unification Tournament, Eldrie panics and denies it all. He believes he was summoned by Administrator from the heavens as an Integrity Knight. As Eugeo discloses more info about him to revive his memories, Eldrie then ‘stops working’. This funny prism in his forehead must be impeding his memories. Before they can do anything further, an archer Integrity Knight starts sniping at them. The duo make a run for it. A voice in Kirito guides them safely into a portal. She is Cardinal and the sole librarian of this great library. There are records of everything here from the start of this world’s creation. But the records here are all fabricated by the pontifex of Axiom Church. All to preserve their rule over the people. This makes Kirito realize that Cardinal is a system supervisor and that she is actually the Cardinal System. She might be the system supervisor but the one who holds all the admin privileges is no other than Administrator who is also her elder twin sister. Otherwise she would not be stuck in here. Time for some history. When this world was created 450 years ago when humans descended on this world (employees of Rath), these Gods taught their children how to live before logging out. But one of them was filled with malice and selfishness that gave rise to nobles and Axiom Church. When the first political marriage was done centuries ago, Quinella was born. She tinkered with the sacred arts that include killing cute forest critters and healing the people’s wounds. With the people awed by her godly powers, Quinella started to rule over them and as time as the city grow, so did the tower they built to worship her that she resided. To continue her rule so that no one would be above her, she wrote laws that became the Taboo Index. However she grew older and fragile but just before her death, she somehow managed to open a list that contains every command (it is rumoured she may have help from outside admins). This allowed her to restore her youth and be ageless. Quinella went a step further as she doesn’t want the Cardinal System to have equal authority with her. However she ended up fusing her soul with it. That is the reason for the existence of this system as if there is any slight irregularities that skews the balance, it will be soon detected. Hence the constant observation of ‘players’. Now that Quinella is no longer human, she seeks to continue ruling and preserving this real forever as both supervisor and rule, the pontifex of Axiom Church.

Episode 13
After 70 years of rule, Quinella realizes her soul’s capacity to preserve her memories had reached its limit. She thought of copying hers onto by overwriting a child’s Fluctlight. That child is Cardinal. But doing so means Quinella had made a mistake. Now there are 2 Gods wielding same level of authority. Both started fighting (more like redefining object structures). But with Quinella holding the upper hand, Cardinal fled. Only 2 places were beyond the reach of the Administrator: Dark Territory and this great library. She isolated herself and has been waiting for a chance to strike back. Quinella anticipated her ambush and assembled loyal and powerful followers known as Integrity Knights. The first one being Bercouli. Cardinal continued to observe the world but couldn’t figure things out and that’s why she wanted a human collaborator. She has pondered why would the real Gods (Rath) let this fake God (Administrator) rule? Her conclusion is that Rath doesn’t wish for people of this world to lead happy lives. They are observing how people will resist them and slowly tightening their load. Eventually the greatest trial will arrive. In short, the monsters in Dark Territory will come slaughter all humans and that day isn’t too far off. Quinella has underestimated them and thinks she and her Integrity Knights would be enough to stop them. Cardinal has resigned to the fact that Dark Territory will besiege this world. Hence her conclusion is that since she doesn’t accept Rath, her only way is to turn everything in this world into nothingness. She needs Kirito’s help to eliminate Administrator and regain all her authority. In exchange, he gets to name a few Fluctlights he wants to save and she will archive them before he returns to his own world.

Kirito wonders if she is a copy of Quinella, shouldn’t she have that selfish and greedy trait? In her senses, eliminating Administrator and normalizing the world is her desire. But there is something she has wanted to know for the last 200 years. So she just wants a hug? Oh yeah. She feels so satisfied that she’s crying. Weird. Kirito accepts to cooperate but will still find a way to save this world. Cardinal doesn’t know if this Integrity Knight Alice is the same as Eugeo’s childhood friend but she knows a way to stop this Synthesis Ritual. Just take out that prism, Piety Module. As you have guessed, it seals their original memories and makes you obedient to Administrator. Of course this means you need to get the original memories back to fill that void. It won’t be easy as it is locked in the highest tower of central cathedral. Eugeo worries to fight Alice because killing her would defeat the purpose of his goal. Hence Cardinal gives them a mini dagger. When stabbed, it links an irremovable connection to her and she will use her sacred arts to put her into sleep mode to buy them time to remove the Synthesis Ritual. She can also help get their swords back in the armoury but that won’t be enough to stop the Integrity Knights’ terrifying amplifying technique. She has them think of their sword and then comes up with a list of commands to remember? Whatever. Now she has told and given them everything she could, it’s time to step back into the real virtual world.

Episode 14
After getting their weapons, Kirito realizes Administrator doesn’t intend to create an army but kept all their weapons here. It could be the pontifex is the one with the least faith in the church’s authority. They are attacked by that archer Integrity Knight. Kirito uses all the defence he’s got to defend against his flames. Once Kirito is out, Eugeo strikes a couple of lethal blows to defeat him. After archer dude learns about their excellent skills, he tells them there are other Integrity Knights waiting for them with orders to kill him. He knows he will be stripped of his knighthood and frozen for failing his mission. To avoid that humiliation, he wants them to kill him. However when Eugeo learns his name as Deusolbert Synthesis Seven, the Integrity Knight who took Alice away, he becomes engulfed in rage. He would’ve killed him had Kirito not stopped him. Let’s not be ugly in killing a man who doesn’t resist. Kirito believes Deusolbert doesn’t even have memories of taking Alice away. He theorizes he got promoted for bringing Alice. But to maintain his fealty as an Integrity Knight, those memories are also sealed because it would be weird if the sinner he brought in showed up as an Integrity Knight. Kirito has him remember if there is a memory that no sacred arts could manipulate. There is one but he can’t really remember much. They let him be as they make their way up and plan how to counter the other Integrity Knights. Then they spot a couple of cute loli chicks watching at them. Hello girls. Want to come out and say hi?

Episode 15
Fizel and Linel are sisters in training. Since Kirito isn’t good with kids, he lets Eugeo handle this. They’re quite nice and cute until they get up close and stab them with their poison daggers! Damn, they’re Integrity Knights?! As they drag them up the stairs, they explain that they are born inside here and their mission was to help Administrator in an experiment with resurrection sacred art. Hence they kill each other. However many other experiment candidates either explode or become monsters after being resurrected. After many failed attempts, the experiment is called off and since the duo are the only survivors, they were promoted to Integrity Knights. But they are confined to only studying sacred arts so they got bored and wanted their own dragons and Divine Objects. They heard about the escapees and thought it would be a good idea to prove themselves. In the top floor consists of top Integrity Knights and their vice commander, Fanatio Synthesis Two. They plan to decapitate the boys so the witnesses can report to Administrator of their great feat. Suddenly Kirito stands up and stabs them with their own dagger. He was suspicious the moment they popped up and knew they couldn’t be just sisters in training due to their dagger gear. Hence he recited some poison dissolving art while Eugeo was attending to them. He won’t kill them but will let them see how strong real Integrity Knights are. Kirito faces off with Fanatio and while the latter brags about her sword made from sunlight, Kirito strikes off her helmet, revealing her female face. She gets agitated thinking Kirito is shocked to discover that she is a woman and won’t fight at his full strength. Just like many others. However Kirito mocks her that she is the one being conscious of being a woman. He had his fair share of losing to female fighters and won’t hold back. Fanatio gets desperate as she summons some dangerous sacrificing move. Cue for Eugeo freed from his poison to summon his sacred art to frozenly bind her. But will it be enough? As he gets pessimistic about his chances, Kirito reminds him that hate will not defeat her. It is love! His love for Alice and those feelings aren’t in any way inferior to her justice.

Episode 16
In short, Kirito defeats Fanatio. After Eugeo uses some of his life force to heal him, Kirito still wants to save Fanatio. If she is erased, everything is for naught. Kirito gets desperate to scream for help. When no one replies, he uses the dagger on her. Cardinal takes Fanatio into her care. Now that they are free to make their way up, damn this cathedral even has a lift operator? She has been operating it for 107 years?! Oh Eugeo, it puts your previous Calling to shame. At the highest floor the operator could go, in this garden, Alice is seen resting. WTF she wants them to give her some time to bask in the sunlight? Probably an excuse so the boys could plot how to take her down. So when she is ready to fight, they have to improvise quick because her sword seems to be in perfect condition. They get blown away and even this is just a warning strike from her. Kirito challenges her to a duel as he asks her about her immense power that originates from a small tree. Something about how her sword was grown from a single Osmanthus tree when the Gods were building this nation. Hence as the oldest creation, its attribute is everlasting eternity. Kirito plays a little cheat as he restrains her so that Eugeo can freeze her. Unfortunately that is not enough as she manages to break out from it. Kirito tries to give another chance to Eugeo and strikes back. However the force is too great that the wall is blown open. The vacuum sucks out Kirito and Alice. Before Eugeo can go after them, the wall builds itself back.

Episode 17
Don’t worry. Kirito and Alice are hanging by their swords. Alice wants him to let go so he lectures her about Eugeo is going to go up and kill Administrator. Isn’t it her job to protect the pontifex? That’s why she must survive. In that case, why don’t Kirito let go? He mentions his mission is not to destroy Axiom Church but protect human territory from Dark Territory’s invasion. They talk about the arbitrary rules and laws set. For now they call a truce but once they enter the tower, she will slay him. As the walls are created with infinite regenerative abilities, looks like they’re going up. Using a chain to chain themselves together, Kirito then uses his skill to create wedges to climb up. Damn, this guy must be real strong and have a really good balance. Because Alice feels ashamed to do the same, WTF she has Kirito pull her from underneath. Is this her pride as an Integrity Knight?! Their goal is to make it to the 95th floor since there will be an open garden. Looks like this is going to take a while. We take a brief detour to Ocean Turtle. Asuna and Rinko notice a destroyer moving further. An agent is perplexed because it’s supposed to escort them. He calls Kikuoka about it. Back to the VR world, looks like they’re still a long way to go and it is going to be night fall. Noticing a ledge a few metres above, they can rest there. However, statues turn into monsters and start attacking them. Can they fight with their balance on the edge? Worse, Alice is scared?! WTF?! Mind boggling moment when Kirito uses all his strength to swing Alice up to the ledge. She then does the same to him. Now they can fight the monsters and easily slay them. Alice is baffled because these monsters are from Dark Territory and created by evil dark art users as soulless familiars called minions. How are these lined up on the most sacred walls of the human empire and how did they get past the detection of Integrity Knights? Could it be someone of high authority within the church placed them here? Because minion blood brings you sickness, Alice lends her handkerchief to wipe it off Kirito’s face. Have it clean and return to her before she slays him. Gee, how kind. Another excuse to delay slaying him immediately? Meanwhile Eugeo has reached the hot bath level. Don’t worry. Not sexy hot naked chicks. But a burly muscular guy with scars. Have fun…

Episode 18
It is no surprise he is the leader of the Integrity Knights and that legendary hero, Bercouli. Eugeo tries to take him on is blown away by his mysterious slash. Don’t worry. Bercouli won’t kill him since he didn’t kill Fanatio or any of the other Integrity Knights. He reveals his sword didn’t slash air but slashed the future! WTF?! Okay, more explanation how it was made by the Divine Object of a clock that existed since the start of this world. Eugeo prepares for his next attack as Bercouli guesses he is going for long distance attacks now. That’s what all his opponents think after seeing that move. Of course Eugeo thinks out of the box. He freezes everything and throws away his sword. This shock stuns Bercouli as Eugeo physically tackles him before getting his sword back to checkmate him. With everything slowly freezing, Eugeo’s plan is also to take themselves out because his blooming ice roses are sucking their life force. Eugeo then gets upset because Integrity Knights like him don’t remember their past and serve blindly to Axiom Church. Hey, you want to blame an amnesiac person for not remembering? Well, before Bercouli starts having a feeling those stories about him, then comes in this clown. Chudelkin the prime senator accuses Bercouli for treason because he did not use his other time ability that would have instantly killed Eugeo. Bercouli denies this and claims he has given everything he’s got while accusing the jester back he has deceived him. Chudelkin deep freezes him so that he would be reprocessed. However he feels Bercouli will not be needed anymore as Eugeo will be a better pawn. We take a detour to the awkward moment of Kirito and Alice spending the night together on the ledge. Kirito tells her about her sister. Starting to remember something? Yeah, keep denying. Despite he assures her everything he said is true, of course she doubles down and will slay him if there is a hint of deceit. She’s a really good tsundere, isn’t she?

Episode 18.5
Recap episode! What a better way to spend the night on the ledge and let time pass as Kirito tells Alice everything from start to finish. Although the visuals are 100% copy and paste (no new scenes, sadly) but at least there are some parts that Kirito narrates like a more summarized version of what has happened so far in their quest to bring back Alice. So now you believe? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Episode 19
Wait. Kirito narrating a quick recap on what happened to Alice? Yeah, I guess it’s for those who skipped that recap episode. Alice wonders why he is doing this and of course as we know, it is to protect this world from Dark Territory. He asks her back about the Integrity Knights’ chance in defeating Dark Territory and she remembers even Bercouli has his doubts but Chudelkin admonished him to think of a way. Despite nobles being corrupted, Kirito has an idea for the people to protect this world. With the large stash of weapons in the armoury, the Integrity Knights can help dispense their knowledge and skill to the people to have a fighting chance. They can at least be ready in a year. And it looks like Alice seems to have been taken in by Kirito’s words because she wants to see Selka and Kirito even promising to let her see her sister back at her village before she regains her memories. I guess she somewhat remembers since she is crying. When she decides to forsake her role as an Integrity Knight, her right eye starts to act up. She is in pain as Kirito finds a barcode in it. He believes if she tries to think differently and defy the church, this barrier will be activated. Empty your mind! Or your eye will explode! However there are things she needs to do and continues to defy. Meanwhile Eugeo finds himself possibly at the top floor of the cathedral. Who this sleeping beauty? A voice tells him to run away but too late, Administrator wakes up. She claims Eugeo wants to be loved and although he denies, the way she words everything makes him start to doubt. Like his mother who didn’t truly love him alone because she shared her love among her brothers. That’s why he hates them. Then there is that Tiese’s case where she was almost raped. He killed Raios because he hates him, right? But does Tiese loves only him? Alice? Yeah, she shows a past clip whereby Kirito and Alice are seemingly close to each other behind Eugeo’s back. With Eugeo in shock, Administrator goes in for the kill. She is willing to love only him. So… Sex = love? The deeper your love, the more she’ll bring him ultimate pleasure. Confused Eugeo hears to voice of Tiese, Alice and Kirito but are all soon blocked out. With Eugeo fully enchanted by her, she goes down on her. That’s right. Come into me! Deep inside me! Into eternal stasis! Damn, this could be good hentai dialogue!

Episode 20
Kirito and Alice manage to climb up to the balcony. Because Eugeo is not around, Kirito uses his System Call to locate Eugeo’s sword. Still below them. Entering the bath level, Kirito can tell the frozenness is Eugeo’s doing. Alice is sad to see Bercouli turned into stone but he is strong enough to break free at least his eyes and mouth to speak to her about some conspiracy and Eugeo being taken away by Chudelkin. As they move to the next level, Kirito asks about the senators’ role. Apparently they oversee the Taboo Index. If anybody breaks them, they send an Integrity Knight to deal with it. Kirito finds it odd since Administrator is giving lots of power to them to act as her proxy. Then they enter the room where all the senators are. Them inside chambers and monitoring everything. This is sure some freaky sci-fi. Then they hear Chudelkin screaming in agony in his room. Something didn’t go as planned? Alice confronts him and after he runs his mouth about her going to betray Axiom Church, he continues to reveal the sweet moment before Alice was synthesized. She was begging and crying and all. He revels just thinking about that. Alice then stabs him but it didn’t kill this fatty and instead he explodes into some red smoke to escape. Trying to chase him to the next floor, shockingly an Integrity Knight arrives to face them. Eugeo?! Alice finds it odd that the ritual can be done so quickly. Kirito is close to losing himself seeing his best friend in this state and ironically it is Alice reminding him that they need to stay calm and find another way to restore him or they will forever lose him. Kirito asks Eugeo if he remembers him. Nope. He doesn’t even want Alice or want to know anything about it. Administrator gave him what he wants and nothing else matters. I guess talk time is over. Time to see if the student can defeat the master.

Episode 21
Kirito and Eugeo clash with all they’ve got. No harm trying to awaken Eugeo’s memories by mentioning the important people in his lives. But did it work? Because Eugeo got a little sloppy. But then again, he could be trolling because after Kirito lets his guard down, he freezes them. He returns to Administrator who wants to give him his reward but first, she tries to adjust his Piety Module. Because she allows him to freely move, this chance allows Eugeo to completely break free and tries to stab her with the dagger. Too bad Administrator’s barrier is thick. She gives him a chance to redeem himself and forgive his sins if he destroys the dagger. Because her view of eternal love means eternal control, he mocks her as the pity one who has never been loved. Because Eugeo’s view of love isn’t something like a transaction or reward but something given continuously. With that, Administrator finds it a shame she’ll have to do force Synthesis on him just like how she it to Alice many years ago. Hearing that makes Eugeo mad. He charges at her and of course her protection is still intact. This is interrupted when Chudelkin comes running in for help. He thought of finishing off Kirito and Alice but he realized Eugeo fooled him and now they’re after his ass! Yeah, dumb joker just brought them back to this room. Eugeo is happy to see Kirito and Alice again but apologizes for giving in to Administrator’s temptation. Hence he thought he tried to atone for this himself. Don’t be silly. Kirito knew what he was thinking all along. Yeah, you sure had us all fooled. Maybe. Because Administrator senses something wrong with Alice’s logic circuits, she gives her a chance to say anything without any risk of reprimand. Alice explains how she has been disillusioned by everything, especially Administrator’s conflicting actions that would eventually bring harm to the human empire. This has Administrator thinking there is no error in the logic circuit and her Piety Module is still functioning. Could it mean she disabled Code 871 (the seal in her right eye) on her own? She then gives Chudelkin to redeem his honour by disposing off them. Chudelkin will gladly do it but pleads, to put it bluntly and crudely, he wants to f*ck her! Administrator agrees for a one night stand offer if he fulfils his mission. And we can see the power of boners makes a horny guy power up as Chudelkin summons a fire genie to burn them all!

Episode 22
While Alice distracts the genie, Kirito powers up and pierces Chudelkin. Well, that’s that. Easy. This spectacled allowed Administrator to collect some data and realizes that Kirito is a human from the other world. Kirito warns her about the impending invasion from Dark Territory while Alice derides her for planting false memories. Administrator knew of all the pain and suffering her Integrity Knights went through. That’s why she erased them all. It doesn’t matter what Alice feels, once she is synthesized, she will no longer remember or feel. Kirito then warns her about the other humans on the other side who holds absolute authority and they can eliminate everything just by the push of a button. But that is that same reason that Administrator reasons why Kirito has no reason to criticise the methods she uses. As she will not grovel before them or beg for her existence to continue, the only proof she needs is the control she exerts. Her feet exists to trample upon others. Hence she is going to show them the ultimate weapon that she needs to fight Dark Territory. One that is not even human. She combines all the divine weapons and turns into a killing machine named Sword Golem. All it needs to do is endlessly massacre its enemies. And it will taste its first blood as it stabs Alice. Being mad won’t do you any good because Kirito also gets stabbed. A voice tells Eugeo to stab the floating platform while Cardinal’s spider tries to hold it off. The spider dies but holds it off in time for Cardinal to pop out from her library and blast Sword Golem away. Damn, she has time to heal the wounded and even mourn the death of her favourite pet? Administrator must be real confident… So is Cardinal going to lecture this hollow fool about love?

Episode 23
Administrator claims Sword Golem isn’t just made out of weapons, they are actually humans. Hence Cardinal can’t technically kill them since they aren’t monsters. Administrator claims this is just a prototype. Once completed, she’ll use about 800,000 human lives to complete a perfect one and thinks it is enough to repel Dark Territory’s invasion. The source is the Piety Modules and all those crystals on the ceiling’s mural are actually it. Cardinal agrees to be defeated by her in exchange the lives of the trio is spared. Administrator blasts her several times. Gotta have some fun first, right? And then she is so kind so as to let them say their final goodbyes. Because Eugeo realizes what needs to be done. What he needs to do. From what I can see, he wants to be turned into a sword to fight Administrator because he realizes that she is resistant to metal weapons, the reason why his dagger cannot pierce through. Somehow Eugeo takes Alice’s Piety Module and then begins his transformation process. See, Administrator? Had you taken action earlier, this wouldn’t have happened. Too late as Alice staves her off until the process is complete. Eugeo the sword is able to destroy Sword Golem and gravely wound Administrator (because of the sword’s silver properties). But it comes with a price. Eugeo is left broken. Yes, his real body is split in half! Kirito falls into depression as Administrator heals herself. Fun time is over. Time to kill the last remaining brat. As she is about to slay him, suddenly Alice jumps in front to protect him. Damn, this awakens Kirito that he might repeat the same mistake so he gets even faster to draw his sword and protect Alice. Was Administrator that slow? With Alice passing out from exhaustion, it’s time for the final boss fight.

Episode 24
So for nostalgia’s sake, Kirito transforms into his trademark SAO uniform to fight. But Administrator knows how to counter all his sword techniques. Then time out. Because conveniently time for Kirito and Eugeo to talk things out and give the former motivation. Damn, do they have to make it look yaoi? Anyway, Kirito is now dual wielding with Eugeo’s sword. The fight continues. Administrator still b*tching she is the ruler of this world and how control = love. That’s why she loves everything. Can’t argue with that. Their swords are glowing red so this might as well turn into a lightsabre duel. In the end, they cut an arm of each other. Kirito still has an arm but Administrator no arms left! So how? Why, she uses her hair to strangle him! Damn, why didn’t she use this for multiple weapons? Was covering her modesty more important?! Anyway, Kirito dealt a fatal damage to her core. She’s all cracking up. Literally. She tries a tactical escape and hints she is bringing the fight to his world. But as she escapes, Chudelkin clings onto her, hoping to take her with him. She tries to shoo him away but he turns into a flaming ghost and burns everything. Damn! Is this how Administrator is taken down?! It’s like saying porn virus destroyed the main super computer!!! HAHAHA!!! With Administrator gone, Eugeo still isn’t dead. You mean he is still alive after being cut in half for so long? I guess this is good excuse so as to why Kirito can cry hard. Friendship talk thingy, blah, blah, blah. That scene whereby Kirito and Alice are supposed to be flirting behind Eugeo’s back? Actually they made a wooden sword for his birthday. See the power of context? Final goodbye. Time to walk their own path. Eugeo’s dead for good. You can tell when his body disappears. Kirito hacks into the PC and calls out to Kikuoka. Before he could blame the scientist, he hears a commotion in the back. Looks like military men are trying to storm into the place! With no time, Kikuoka tells Kirito to find Alice, take her to the World’s End Altar. Unfortunately the soldiers are trying to cut the power line. The Lightcube may be protected but the surge will hit Kirito’s STL. He’ll be fried. Kirito is confused when he hears Asuna’s name. Why is she here? Too late. The power cut. Kirito dying? WTF is this angel Asuna floating down to rescue him?! What a dramatic and confusing end…

Debugging Art Online
As we all can see and already know beforehand, there is going to be another season. Hence the final episode that ended in such a chaotic and dramatic way didn’t come off as surprising or disappointing. Well, maybe when the last episode suddenly ends. But after all, this arc is so far the longest arc and story in the original light novel series and since the anime is going to fully adapt its entire arc and being faithful to it, they are going to need a lot of cours. I suppose it is good that they decided to take a break after back to back twin cours since if they continued (it is rumoured that the total episodes for this Alicization arc itself is to be around 50 episodes), it could feel like a one long draggy affair. I mean, I have to say that the SAO series isn’t just for everyone. Not even for yours truly. Even if you’re a masochist and can binge watch the entire series, it is still good to go outside and stretch your legs, take a breather before resuming. Heh. Now I can see and understand why a few animes employ this tactic although sometimes my guts tell me it is for economic reasons.

Anyway, I’m not saying that this Alicization story is really interesting because you know like I’ve said, the SAO franchise isn’t for every Tom, Dick and Harry. For those who have reached this far into the original light novels, you have got to already be some sort of elevated status of a fan. I have been watching SAO since it was first adapted back in 2012 and I continued to watch all its TV series (but somehow skipped the movie, Ordinal Scale) in hopes I could understand something. But you know me. I didn’t really get a lot of the technical terms. This season’s Fluctlight and other technical terms I am still struggling to understand even as I type this blog. I feel that artificial soul is the best I could understand for what it means for Fluctlight but I am also pretty sure that isn’t as accurate as what the producers intended its definition to be. Then there are other commands inside the VR game like System Call and the likes which I am still blur in and going “What the heck are those again?”. Every time a character says those commands to open or change some options, it feels more like some sort of magical spell. You know, those charm lines you say when magicians and wizards cast a spell but only this time they sound like programming terms. The story for this season might seem long and dragging out but the way they flesh out the characters and other development, it is all not a waste of time.

Sometimes when I think about this whole Alicization story, it could have been actually another spinoff or an entirely different story not related to SAO whatsoever. It could have been a totally new story, make and change Kirito to another new character and voila, we’ve got ourselves a totally new series and anime. It doesn’t feel so much like an SAO series as the plot delves around 2 young boys trying to rescue a long lost childhood friend and at the same time trying to rid of the big ruler who rules over everything before the ultimate tragedy of the other side invades and destroys everything for good. And add some programming terms into their lingua. So if we substitute those programming jargons with classic magical ones, this could again be passed off as entirely another series. But of course it can’t be a totally new story altogether since Reki Kawahara, the creator of this series wrote this arc. But I guess it is better than those isekai animes of the main character being killed in the real world and reborn again as an overpowered one in another magical fantasy world! Uhm, can VR be considered isekai?

Just like how I said SAO felt weird without Kirito, it also feels weird without Asuna. Naturally as we can see from the flow of the story, Asuna is now reduced to a very concerned girlfriend waiting for Kirito outside while Kirito himself is probably having an adventure of a lifetime as he lays in coma. Hence the dynamic relationship now isn’t Kirito x Asuna but that of Kirito x Eugeo. It is a good thing that the series didn’t really show it in a way that makes it look like their friendship is going beyond just good friends and potential to be gay partners (f*ck the PC culture!). But just pure and hardcore friendship among the boys as swordsman. Perhaps the final episode was the closest into seeing that suggestive yaoi scene but it might just be our dirty minds. Kirito doesn’t feel so much as the sole star of this series as Eugeo too has his fair share of the limelight. Hence both of them being given enough time to develop and being fleshed out, by the end of this season, you’ll come to at least want to support them as a team instead of one over the other. Perhaps to a point that it would be weird if Kirito is without Eugeo and vice versa. Yeah, f*ck Asuna! At least for this season. So hardcore and amazing their friendship that you can see them in sync during the opening credits animation. Especially they have this weird sync of hand gestures. So weird but so cool.

With Kirito and Eugeo developing their (virtual) friendship, so much so that I never once think that they would end up in some weird romantic love triangle with Alice. Hah. It’s not that kind of series but you know me, I’m inclined to somehow think of that. I never thought of this until the series ended and it only makes Alice looks like as though she is a third wheel! Alice despite being the boys’ main reason and motivation to do what they do, she feels mostly like a side character and not really doing much. Partly because she has been brainwashed for most of the part as an Integrity Knight and even when she somewhat started to question her loyalty and then witnessed Administrator’s hypocritical actions, it’s not like there is a whole lot that she could do, right? After all, Kirito and Eugeo still continue to dominate as stars of this story. So sorry folks, no Kirito’s cheesy harem moments to get in the way of hardcore male bonding friendship here. Not sure if the next season will feature Eugeo since he is seen riding off into the sunset with loli Alice. Eugeo turning himself into a shota so that it won’t look like some pedo thingy might be the ending Eugeo and Alice need. Because that Integrity Knight Alice has may just be a vessel and several hints she may be a separate manner than the original loli Alice. But we’ll see when the next season rolls in.

The thought of Administrator playing God although she is just some programming entity, maybe her character doesn’t get me thinking a lot about her twisted thinking and personality but rather about the sentient life called reality. What if this simulation is actually what is happening in our lives in reality too? There have been debates about whether or not this reality is just a simulation and the things that occur after death that are beyond our imaginations. And what if there are higher beings than the one and only Almighty God we know? A lot of things about this simulated VR game can be drawn parallel to reality. Like God could just be another being because He has more access to shortcuts and other debugging stuffs that the rest of us don’t. Hence, administrator privileges. And God bringing Revelation and Doomsday to the world? That’s like you delete this game forever! Coming back to Administrator’s character, but think about it, can you blame her twisted thinking and definition of love because she is programmed that way? In a sense, it’s like as though she is written and setup to be an antagonist, don’t you think? And it was pretty ironic that a pervert took her down completely…

I wouldn’t say the action and sword fighting scenes are a masterpiece but the action bits are enough to satiate those who want to see some sword clashing battles. It feels like Kirito doesn’t have a lot of options what he can do here despite his Aincrad style somehow being carried into this world. His and Eugeo’s sword have their own unique properties and sometimes they seem like they pull off all the stops for that one exaggerated over the top moves but I guess it’s necessary just to show us how far they have come along and improved on their skills. And if you can’t hack your way through via programming, just hack and slash your way with a sword! I never expected to use both meanings of hacking here…

One of the superior elements in this season is that the art and animation are very good. If I should say, it is comparable to the standard that we see in Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works TV series. There are lots of high quality put into the visuals and it doesn’t disappoint. After all, A-1 Pictures have animated all its previous adaptations (except that alternate GGO spinoff) and it pays off here with an important arc like this one. Can’t disappoint fans of the series, can they? With a lot of hype that went about, it’s too big to fail! Thank goodness. So if the story is hard to follow, at least the high quality visuals may be something to give you the wow factor. There is also some CGI employed and it doesn’t feel disjointed. It feels seamlessly woven into the superior quality of the animation.

The first time when I laid eyes on Alice as an Integrity Knight, I thought she looked familiar. Isn’t that a more serious and zero perverted version of KonoSuba’s Darkness? Well, almost. Must be the golden armour. And more suspiciously, same seiyuu… Anyway, Administrator being a character who is mostly in the nude, I wonder if it is a lazy way out so as not to design some sort of fancy garb for her. After all, all of the Integrity Knights have their armour so shining and colourful that you wonder if they are a liability in battle. But as we’ve seen, they’re not so it looks like they look as good and nice as they are in their skills. But Administrator being naked all the time especially in the final stretch makes me feel weird. Imagine battling a naked last boss. Isn’t that distracting? Yeah, no backlash since Administrator is a smoking hot babe. Because remember that video game uproar for a naked final boss fight in Bioshock? Yeah, nobody wants to see a naked macho man monster boss… Isn’t it no wonder why Chudelkin brought Administrator down with him? Who could’ve resisted such beautiful pure naked body? Something to literally die for… And so it goes to show that something she deemed perfect became her undoing.

Voice acting is pretty fine too with new casts joining the line-up including Nobunaga Shimazaki as Eugeo (Yuno in Black Clover), Ai Kayano as Alice (Darkness in KonoSuba), Maaya Sakamoto as Administrator/Quinella (Ciel in Kuroshitsuji), Sakura Tange as Cardinal (Angela in Melty Lancer), Hitomi Nabatame as Fanatio (Reina in Circlet Princess), Kaori Ishihara as Tiese (Azusa in Hentai Ouji To Warawanai Neko), Reina Kondou as Ronie (Hana in Slow Start), Wataru Takagi as Chudelkin (Alaindelon in Beelzebub), Megumi Han as Liena (titular character in Mushibugyou), Hikaru Hanada as Deusolbert (Akihiko in Junjou Romantica), Ryuuichi Kijima as Humbert (Lenka in God Eater), Shuuhei Iwase as Raios (Yasutaka in Sankarea), Takeaki Masuyama as Eldrie (Ida in Nora To Oujo To Noraneko Heart) and Kaori Maeda as Selka (Mari in Back Street Girls: Gokudolls). The only new cast I recognized is Junichi Suwabe as Bercouli.

The first opening theme, Adamas by Lisa feels a bit chaotic. The frenzied pace of this rock piece tries to sound epic but to me it comes off as noisy. Except for the last bit which has a funky bass solo. That’s the only part I like. The second ending theme, Resister by Asca is also a rock outfit but it is toned down I think this one suits the pacing of the series better. The ending themes are slow rock with Iris by Eir Aoi being the first one and Forget Me Not by Reona as the second. I still prefer the former, though. There is a special ending theme for episode 19, Niji No Kanata Ni by Reona and this is quite a slow lovely ballad. Feels a bit disjointed from the series but I think this song is the one I like the most. I want to note that some of the sound effects are, how do I put it, deafening. Like when there is an epic magic sword clash or something, it’s like the bass and effect goes really loud and one kind. Are they trying to test my sound system or something?

Overall, not a bad season. An SAO series that isn’t your typical SAO, it feels both weird and refreshing at the same time. Infusing sword fighting with some computer programming setting? Strange indeed. After all, my experience with the first 2 seasons of SAO had this similar pattern in which the first big chunk of the series started off great but towards the end with its lesser arc, it disappoints. Remember that mediocre ALO that reduced Asuna into a damsel in distress for the first season and then the WTF Calibur and trying-to-prop-up-the-feels Mother’s Rosario in the second season? Yeah… Thankfully for this season, it is Alicization all the way and no disappointing small side stories to be distracted with. So huzzah for long story arcs? I promise I won’t complain about this story being draggy! Unfortunately no System Call or any delete button to erase those disappointing arcs. That’s why here’s to hoping the next continuation of this story would be a lot better to erase those dissatisfying ones. You can’t change the past but at least we can programme and create the future to be better. And no, delete and format everything isn’t the answer!

Sword Art Online II

November 19, 2016

Although this came out a couple of years ago, I purposely delayed watching Sword Online II because I read a few less than impressive reviews about it. And since there were more interesting animes to watch at that time, I put this on my back burner and hopes I would one day return to watch this sequel. Well, thankfully I did instead of procrastinating till kingdom come. Because the more I delay, not only the more I will forget (not to say that I remember many things by the time I started watching this) but I will be bogged down with so much negativity thanks to all those comments I have read and when I lose interest, I fear that I might even dropped something that I never watched and based off the opinions of people whom I will never know. And so it was that time again to clear my busy anime schedule to make time for this sequel. Whether for good or for worse, only I myself can determine that. Do I sound cool? Okay, never mind…

Episode 1
A famous Gun Gale Online (GGO) player, XeXeed is boasting what he knows best to be the top player in the game. His interview is being aired live all over the GGO in-game screens. This mysterious mask and cape character, Death Gun perhaps didn’t like how he was being so arrogant so he is going to judge him by real power. Other players laugh when he fires his gun at the screen. Can he kill him that way? But when XeXeed soon starts choking before instantly logging out, everybody starts wondering if this mere coincidence. It has been a year since the events of the last season so we see Kirito and Asuna still going strong in their relationship (jealousy rage!). He tells her what happened 4 hours earlier. He was reluctant to meet this government bureau guy of the virtual division, Seijurou Kikuoka. Also the first person who visited him when Kirito woke up from his virtual trap. Probably he was treating to him to anything he wants was part of the motivation. Kikuoka explains about the popular gun game with pro players only in Japan, GGO. A player was found dead in his apartment after the landlord smelled some foul stench. He was probably dead for a few days. Autopsy revealed he died of heart failure. Coincidentally, this guy who is XeXeed also ‘died’ during the same time in-game interview. There are other players recounting the events of XeXeed’s death with this Death Gun’s actions. Kirito brushes it off as coincidence. However there is another similar case. Another player named Lightly Salted Tarako was also found dead in very similar circumstances. Kikuoka is asking Kirito’s opinion if it is possible to die in the game and in reality this way. Based on their technical arguments, of course not. The bottom line of this meeting is that Kikuoka hopes Kirito can log into GGO and make contact Death Gun in person. Well, Kirito already brushed aside the possibility of such deaths and yet he feels scared and thinks Kikuoka is asking him to go get shot? Aside money and compensation as the motivation, Kikuoka believes Death Gun has a certain criteria in choosing his victims like being a pro. So don’t worry, Kirito won’t get killed off. But wouldn’t it be faster to contact the game administrators? Unfortunately Zaskar guarantees player anonymity and will not release information so easily. Plus, their servers are in America and with their emails and contacts all confidential, yeah, sending Kirito in seems a much easier option. Going back to Kirito and Asuna, they reminisce about things during Aincrad in SAO and the possibilities it gave birth to. Not that I can remember.

Episode 2
Sinon is a top sniper in GGO. She teams up with a group to do an ambush. When the targets are in sight, they analyze whom they want to take out. Sinon is suspicious of the large cloaked guy in the back but the leader brushes it off as him being a transporter carrying goods. The team takes their position and the ambush proceeds well as planned. Till the cloaked guy, Behemoth reveals he is carrying a huge devastating minigun! Despite its name, it really packs a punch and sends Sinon’s team into hiding after a few of their men is taken out almost instantly. They realize he is a hired bodyguard. Sinon warns about continuing to hide because this way they will all be wiped out. The leader is scared sh*t of attacking all at once and get owned by his minigun. He rather log out than handing him a victory. Sinon blows her top about being a coward and not even be brave enough to die by the gun. Better to go out this way, right? They follow her command and wait for the right timing to ambush. The coordinated effort, some sacrifices and Sinon’s daring move eventually gets the best of Behemoth as she nails him at point blank range. After that she logs out and Sinon’s real life alter ego is a high school girl, Shino Asada. Meanwhile in ALO, we see Kirito’s harem girls, Leafa, Liz and Silica working together to cut down a monster plant. Even more insulting, Kirito and Asuna are just sitting around doing nothing! Oh yeah. Like a lion and his pride. What better way than to spend a lovely day online with your girlfriend and let the rest of your harem do the work. Jealousy rage! I think after all that thinking, Kirito has finally decided to tell Asuna something important.

Episode 3
A group of bullies demand Asada lend her money. She won’t this time. When the leader makes her hand like a gun and threatens to shoot her (because her brother has got new firearms), this sends Asada reeling in some sort of trauma. Thankfully her friend, Kyouji Shinkawa rescued here by faking he called the police. At a café, they talk about Behemoth and some other GGO stuffs. Although he introduced her to GGO, he felt she improved a lot and he was left behind. Asada goes home. She picks up a gun model in her drawer. Her trauma starts. It all began when her father died in a car accident when she was small. She moved away with her mom to live with her parents. One day at a post office, there was a lone robber but he was mad and bold. He shot a teller when he pressed the emergency button. He threatened to shoot Asada’s mom next. That is when she got up and bit his hand. They struggle for the gun. She fired 3 shots into him to kill him off! Asada realized too late what she had done despite it was self defence. Blood all over her. Even her mother was shocked. You think she would at least be grateful for saving her ass… And that has been her trauma ever since. Asada’s trauma is so great that she became sick and vomited. She pleads for somebody to help her. Kirito tells Asuna he will be temporarily leaving ALO for a while to help Kikuoka in an investigation in GGO. He goes to see Natsuki Aki, the nurse who helped rehabilitate him after SAO. She will also watch over him when he dives into GGO. Why do anime nurses have to be flirty (or otherwise grumpy)? Because she loves touching his muscles and wants him to get naked! So she can hook up electrodes for the diving, that is. Don’t worry. She has seen everything during his rehab. Yeah… Maybe that is why she ‘likes’ him… I wonder what Asuna thinks. Asada also dives into GGO as she further explains her traumatic condition never improves. Every time she touches a gun, she goes into trauma mode. Shinkawa introduced GGO to her as some sort of immersion therapy. To her surprise, holding a gun in virtual reality doesn’t trigger her trauma. If her avatar grows stronger, she hopes her physical self would too. She hopes to win the next Bullets of Bullets (BoB) contest. Meanwhile on the internet, rumours of the deaths link to Death Gun are rife. Some even joked about getting shot by him. The real Death Gun seems to be having Sinon as his next target.

Episode 4
Kirito is now in GGO. OMG! He looks like a girl?! Who the hell f*cked up his avatar?! He is sure getting all the wrong attention with the guys howling at him. Naturally he gets lost so he asks from help from Sinon who is passing by. She too thinks he is a girl. Kirito’s goal is to join BoB (so he could attract Death Gun’s attention). She goes out her way to introduce some guns for him to buy but with his limited credit, there is not much money. She can lend him but he would rather work his share. Is there a faster way to earn money? Well, there is this gambling game. One needs to run 10 metres and dodge the NPC cowboys’ bullets. Do that and you get the entire pool of funds from failed players. It is virtually impossible since the closer you get, the more the cowboy ‘cheats’. So they watch a player going great guns at first but fails when he gets closer. Apparently genius Kirito has observed everything and knows what to do and enters. Despite everyone has no faith in him, we see Kirito easily dodging the bullets and even at point blank range, he manages to dodge them all and tag the cowboy to win it! How does he do it? Simple. The point of this game is to anticipate the prediction lines of the bullets. Say what?! With tons of credits, he can get better weapons but it seems he is interested in this photon sword (light saber?). Naturally. Sinon mentions nobody uses this because damage is dealt only in close range and in a world of guns by the time you get close, you’ll be blown away. Good enough for Kirito as he buys it. As you need a gun to enter BoB, Sinon recommends some pistol for him. He practises with it and of course being the beginner, he didn’t handle it well. They had so much fun that they realize the closing time for BoB registration is in 10 minutes! GGO has no teleportation. That only happens when you die and respawn. Good luck getting there. Kirito sees a buggy and rents it. If you are wondering how he knows how to drive this bike, it is because he played a lot of racing games too. Good for him. Now step the pedal to the metal!

Episode 5
Of course they make it in time to register. Guess what? Despite being in the same block, they’ll only get to meet in the finals. As expected… When it is time to change clothes, Sinon undresses before him. Surely he is surprised and reveals his true identity. Yup. Kirito is male. Her disgusted face… I wonder how many life points you lose with a slap. Because of this, she gives him the cold shoulder. But since they’ve been together for ‘a while’, I guess she is ‘kind’ enough to dispense some very basic rules of BoB. Lucky her friend Spiegel is here to make the situation less awkward. He isn’t participating but he is as shocked to learn Kirito is a guy. I knew this girly avatar would cause such problems. I don’t know what her problem is. Kirito has tried his best to be polite as always when she became a b*tch. Now that it is time to do gun battle and he becomes a little confident, she becomes b*tchier, unbelievable of his attitude?! WTF?! Not even a handshake. While waiting in transition for his match to begin, Kirito can’t help wonder if Sinon is Death Gun because he heard her say she will kill all the strong ones. He wonders which side of Sinon is the real one. Kirito is left running for cover since his opponent is raining down bullets on him. Then he thinks about using that prediction lines and his sword to deflect the bullets. Yeah well, I’m sure he can because he is the main character! So after deflecting a few bullets and surprising the enemy, he thrusts his sword into his rival. Man, that looks painful. Kirito wins. He returns to the lobby trying to find if Sinon is still in the game. That is when Death Gun pops up next to him and asks if he is the real thing. It is when Kirito realizes they must have met before somewhere. Because Death Gun wants to know if his name and sword skills are of that person, Kirito is convinced he is an SAO survivor like him. Which one? Damn it, I don’t want to remember all those unimportant extra characters! But here’s a big hint. Kirito sees a familiar mark on his hand. Does Laughing Coffin ring any bell?

Episode 6
Whether or not if Kirito is an alias or real name, Death Gun will kill him another day. This leaves Kirito very traumatized. He remembers in SAO, he was with Knights of Blood fighting against Laughing Coffin. Knights of Blood were in a pinch because it was as though their formation was leaked by an insider. The brutal and bloody battle ended in many deaths. Some Laughing Coffin members committed suicide rather than surrender and Kirito killed a couple with his sword. He starts going crazy if he could be a surviving member or even the deceased. He is snapped out by Sinon. It’s hard to be a b*tch when his trauma seems so real. Over the next few matches, Kirito becomes a crazy reckless guy in defeating his opponents! So crazy I think we even skipped some matches. The expected final is of course Kirito and Sinon. Thoughts of his traumatic face cause her to hesitate. Even more so when she sees him walking confidently towards her, like as though he has a death wish. Because of that, she missed her shot. Then she comes out of her hiding just to confront him about his attitude. Does he not care about their promise to fight their best? Seeing her tears makes Kirito realizes he is wrong. So he suggests a duel between her gun and his sword. When Sinon fires her bullet, Kirito is able to cut it. This takes her by surprise as she tries to regain her footing but then he is already holding his sword at her neck. Though Kirito claims this is just skill, upset Sinon thinks it is more than just skill for him to dodge her bullet like that. She has been trying to learn that kind of strength. So he tells her if this bullet can kill in real life and if she doesn’t shoot them, she or someone she loved would be killed, will she still be able to pull the trigger? Sinon feels he had a similar past to her. Kirito laments he never knew the names of those he killed back then. All he did was deny them and ran away, trying to forget it all. Since it is Kirito’s win and not his policy to kill girls, he requests she surrender. Realizing his hand around her waist, I guess b*tch mode is back. Yeah, yeah. She’ll beat him the next time.

Episode 7
Suguha shows a BoB article in which Kirito’s name appears on. He brushes it off as coincidence. He isn’t a good liar… Suguha knows he has been playing GGO lately as he has dropped off her friend list in ALO. She knows?! Plus, she also asked Asuna about it. Although she sounded confident, she also sounded worried. Apparently Asuna did offer her help but Kirito didn’t want her involved in this problem of his. All Suguha can tell him is not to do anything dangerous. Meanwhile Asada is complaining to Shinkawa about the sexual harasser Kirito is. Nonstop… I guess it makes this guy worry. She has always been calm and collected but now she lets this guy rile her up. Shinkawa sounds desperate in wanting to help her. What do you know? He hugs her! She pushes him away and whatever reasons she gave, all I understand that he is being friend zoned. But she gives him hope that she’ll think about it once everything settles. Kirito has some sort of counselling therapy with Natsuki. He is disturbed he has forgotten those he killed. Cue for her to hug him and apologize she can’t carry his burden as she has never played SAO and doesn’t know what it is like to kill. She knows he at least has the right to save himself. Before Kirito’s trauma can blow up emotionally, more big hugging from her to calm him down and have him remember that he did it to protect someone. We take a detour watching Kirito’s harem girls fighting a lizard monster in ALO. Is Klein temporarily in charge of them while he is gone? Because Asuna is so worried and spacing out not paying attention, Klein almost lost all his HP. The main BoB round is here. Apparently losing finalists qualify too so you bet Sinon is going to pay back the favour twice. Before it begins, Spiegel (Shinkawa) talks to her to give his support. I suppose he is still desperate because he starts confessing he loves her. At this crucial time?! Okay, okay. She’ll think about it after the battle. Don’t want her distracted, right? Lover boy believes in her and agrees to wait.

Episode 8
I guess we still have time before the start so Kirito continues to bug Sinon about the battle royale rules. Can’t blame her this time if she really feels pissed off. Yeah, does he ever read the rules? He then asks from the final list of 30 players, which names she has not heard before. There are 3 of them. She wants an explanation so Kirito explains about his life and death battle in SAO. The main BoB tournament begins. We are distracted with weaker ones being taken out. Sinon positions herself to snipe an enemy but Kirito stops her because he wants to watch this battle. He promises not to kill her. You can trust Kirito… They watch this Pale Rider move like an acrobat to dodge all bullets and easily defeat his enemy. Kirito is certain he is Death Gun but surprise! He is shortly taken out! They observe his character is paralyzed by a stun bullet and sniped from very far. Kirito is shocked when Death Gun appears. Sinon is even surprised he has a very high profile sniper rifle with silencer. Such a gun is only rumoured to exist in GGO. Death Gun takes out a handgun and prays as he is about to finish his opponent. That is when Kirito gets desperate and calls Sinon to shoot him now before he fires.

Episode 9
Kirito’s harem are watching BoB. They see how Pale Rider was taken out. When Sinon fires, Death Gun dodges. When Death Gun shoots Pale Rider, he didn’t die. His paralysis is over but soon Pale Rider starts going into convulsions before disconnecting suddenly. When Death Gun makes his speech about bringing true death, it brings back fearful memories for Kirito’s harem. Klein especially remembers him and knows he is a former member of Laughing Coffin. Asuna decides to log out and talk to Kirito’s employer about this. Kirito and Sinon try to trace Death Gun but he is undetectable by radar. Most probably he went underwater. Although it leaves him vulnerable because the rules has one unequipped when doing so, Kirito still it is dangerous for Sinon to follow him alone because he knows he can really kill. They agree to a truce to take him out. Sinon believes as a sniper, he would be hiding at the abandoned city to his advantage. They try to deduce who he really is. Out of the 3 names Sinon mentioned, since it wasn’t Pale Rider, he could either be Gunner X or Sterben. They believe Gunner X since it echoes with his Death Gun name. They plan their strategy to take him out and true enough they locate Gunner X’s signal in the area and going after another player in the vicinity. Kirito goes ahead and will signal to Sinon to as his backup to fire. As she waits, suddenly she is hit with a stun bullet. Her worst fears come true when Death Gun emerges from his invincible cloak. He then mentions about killing Sinon to see whether if this Kirito is real. Because if she dies and he goes berserk with his sword like the last time, it is the real Kirito. He wants to see Kirito’s rage again. As Death Gun takes out his handgun, Sinon recognizes it. It belongs to the robber she shot and killed. How could this be? Time for the trauma to resurface again.

Episode 10
Before Death Gun could shoot, Kirito fires back and sends him into defence. Kirito then throws a smoke bomb and takes Sinon to escape. They ride a buggy and Sinon realizes she cannot even pull the trigger. Get this. Death Gun is chasing them via horse. Can a horse run faster than a buggy? I know it is a mechanical horse but… With Death Gun breathing down their neck, Sinon is reduced into a cowering hopeless. She tries to aim again but she still can’t. She wants to give up. Kirito shows how freaking cool by doing the impossible. One hand he guides her rifle and the other he is on the accelerator! OMFG! How can they even keep their balance at that speed!!! Although Sinon manages to fire, she misses. Luckily it hit a nearby truck and it explodes. Death Gun seems to get caught in it. But don’t count on being him dead because Kirito saw him leap off although he will still sustain damage. Hiding in a cave, Kirito explains how he came to her rescue. When he went to face Gunner X, he knew that wasn’t Death Gun because she was female. Kirito defeated her and that is when he saw Sinon down. He borrowed Gunner X’s arsenal to rescue her. Kirito doesn’t want to drag her into this fight anymore but she insists because it sounds like she wants to die. I mean, the person she considers her rival is now consoling her broken and pathetic self. Kirito disagrees about her dying alone since she is now part of his life. See what you done? You turn her into an emotional wreck. Yeah, we know how much you hate him but that doesn’t change a thing. Cue to explain how she killed that robber 5 years ago although the media reported it his gun misfired. But she still had to live with the trauma of people accusing her as a murderer. Also about her phobia on guns but she thought GGO would make her stronger. However facing Death Gun regressed her back to her real self. She is scared to die but living in fear is much worse. Cue for Kirito to talk about his killing experience in SAO. Yeah, yeah. We know. That’s why you have to settle things here, right?

Episode 11
Sinon wants to know how he overcame his memories. He didn’t. He still gets those nightmares and needed to accept it to know what killing them meant. They discuss how Death Gun can kill players in real life when it is impossible to do so from the game. He senses something amiss because when Kirito came to rescue Sinon, Death Gun didn’t use his handgun to shoot him. Is there a reason why he couldn’t use it? On the question why Death Gun knows who you are, when one registers into BoB’s terminal, you enter your real name and address. But even so, how can he kill? Then it hit Kirito. Perhaps there are 2 Death Guns. The one in the real world will kill the player after being given the signal by injecting some kind of drug that stops the heart. Because XeXeed and Tarako lived alone in old apartments with low security, their deaths are only found out much later, after the body has rotted and thus doctors couldn’t trace the drug. Besides, it is not uncommon for MMORPG players to die from playing a game straight without rest. As for how the deaths in the game and reality coincide, perhaps Death Gun’s cross gesture is some kind of signal. Kirito then asks Sinon if she lives alone. She does. Despite having some security, she remembers the door chain is not locked. Kirito thinks there is a possibility the perpetrator is now in her room waiting for the signal since Death Gun has been targeting her. Sinon’s heart rate starts to increase as she panics. Kirito calms her down that she cannot log out now as it would make it more dangerous for her to face the killer. Meanwhile Kikuoka logs into ALO as Chrysheight to speak to Kirito’s girls. He explains but nothing that would amount to any revelation. It is basically what we already know. The girls would love to help had Kirito only told them but they know his character of not wanting them to be put in danger. Asuna learns where Kirito is diving from and will go to him. Kirito and Sinon devise their strategy to defeat Death Gun. In short, Kirito will be the bait (like always). When Death Gun fires, Sinon will use his shot to find his location and then snipe at him. By elimination, Death Gun should go by the name Sterben and Kirito plans to ask him the meaning of this chosen name if he gets close.

Episode 12
Kirito senses something amiss because with the counter that shows how many players left, it looks like there is one missing. Sure you didn’t forget to count yourself? One of the other survivors is Dark Wind and Sinon knows how fast and deadly this dude is. He came in second place last time. They discuss about using Dark Wind as decoy to lure Death Gun and talk about the possibility that there might be more accomplices Death Gun has. The plan now is for Kirito to be the bait. He will relay the enemies’ position and Sinon will take them out. Kirito stands in open sight. He barely dodges a bullet that could bring down a structure! Sinon then takes out Dark Wind. As Death Gun has already sniped, this allows Kirito to know his position as he rushes there. Sinon also detects Death Gun’s position and fires. Death Gun also spots Sinon and does the same. Their bullets destroy each other’s rifle. When Kirito is about to slash Death Gun, he got slashed by him instead. Don’t worry. It’s just a little wound. Asuna has entered Kirito’s room and is shocked to see his heart rate climbing. Conveniently with Yui’s help, they put on the monitor to see how Kirito is doing. Asuna recognizes the estoc weapon Death Gun is having. He is part of Laughing Coffin but can’t remember his name. She wonders if Sterben is a misspelling of Steven but Natsuki explains it is a German medical word for death at the hospital. Death Gun mocks Kirito for being a coward because he kills to survive. Kirito then reveals his dirty trick of how he is able to kill players in reality. But Death Gun says he isn’t quite there yet because he doesn’t know his real name. Flashback reveals he wanted to after that bloody battle with Knights of Blood. However Kirito refused to listen, believing they will never meet again. Death Gun begins his relentless assault on Kirito.

Episode 13
How can Asuna stop Kirito’s dehydrating body? Hold his hand and pray real hard! Yeah, it should work… Kirito remembers hard that he might have seen Death Gun before. In a briefing with Knights of Blood, there is a Laughing Coffin member with red eyes… Kirito calls out his name, Xaxa. Death Gun is stunned for a while. Death Gun senses Sinon aiming at him and as he tries to avoid he loses balance. That is when Kirito goes in for the kill and cuts his body in half! Death Gun’s last words are that it isn’t over yet till it is found out… Kirito and Sinon meet up. With the threat gone, he believes she can safely log out and take precautions. She reveals her real name and address, which is pretty close to where Kirito is diving from. And it seems they will finish their battle in another time. Can BoB have 2 winners? Sinon lets Kirito hold her grenade. And then she hugs him while smiling before they both go boom! And there you have it. Double winners Kirito and Sinon! As Kirito awaits logging out, he sees the names of Pale Rider and Garrett as victims and this confirms Death Gun had more than 2 partners. Asada wakes up and confirms her room. Nothing suspicious. Everything is safe. Shinkawa then comes by to congratulate her of her victory. Then he becomes that desperate idiot to remind her and all of us about her answer. He promises to protect her from now on. It gets creepier when he hugs her but when she fights back, he sticks a syringe at her body. Asada’s fears come true when Shinkawa admits he is Death Gun’s accomplice. Guess what? They’re brothers! At the last tournament, Shinkawa was playing as Sterben in GGO so this time he wanted to switch places. Shinkawa goes on to complain about how he tossed away everything in the real world and GGO is all that he has till XeXeed started boasting about those lies and that is why he killed him. Crazy Shinkawa continues to suggest abandoning reality and living in some fantasy world and start their own family. So crazy this guy that he acknowledges her as the only girl in Japan to kill a real bad guy with a gun. That is why he chose that gun as Death Gun’s weapon to leave behind a legend. Shinkawa’s rape face is getting scarier and Asada has resigned to her fate in giving in. Till her Sinon counterpart tells her to fight for a certain someone. She breaks out of Shinkawa’s hold and escapes but he catches up. Rape is inevitable till Kirito barges in to beat him up.

Episode 14
Shinkawa fights back like a mad man and stabs Kirito with the syringe! Asada knocks him out with a radio over his head. Asada is frantic that Kirito will die but Kirito is one damn lucky guy. Of all the places Shinkawa could have stabbed, he stabbed near the heart and Kirito’s electrode from a heart monitor saved him. Phew. Could have died from a heart attack too. Shinkawa confronts those b*tch bullies who want to borrow money. Since she won’t, one of them pulls out a gun. Asada holds in her trauma. The b*tch actually wanted to pull the trigger but because it was on safety mode, Asada coolly unlocks it and shows her sharp shooting skill. Better think twice about messing with her again. Kirito picks up Asada to meet Kikuoka. He explains about Shinkawa and his older brother, Shouichi’s conspiracy in the Death Gun’s case. They have been arrested although the third accomplice, Atsushi Kanamoto escaped but in no time he will be caught. Kikuoka details how Death Gun started when Shinkawa was jealous about XeXeed and told Shouichi about it. They planned how to take him and though it started out as a joke, they realize they can seriously pull this off and used a master key to steal dangerous drugs from their father’s hospital. They carefully research their victims’ background and carry out the murders in synchronized timing. However GGO players treated their deaths as a joke so the mad brothers decided to get serious by making a triple kill at BoB. That is when Kanamoto was roped in as he was Shouichi’s friend. They were in Laughing Coffin in SAO. As Shouichi was one of the prisoners during the SAO incident, when he came back and told his brother, he was so fascinated and believed every word he said. That is why he believed this was also a game. Asada notes the brothers don’t have a reality because Shinkawa threw away this world to level up in GGO. GGO was his reality. Like any other players, he wanted to become the strongest and stress got to him and that is where he got both worlds mixed up. Asada would like to visit Shinkawa and tell him her thoughts. Before they depart, Kikuoka reads to Kirito a message left by Shouichi for him. It states that everything isn’t over yet.

Kirito brings Asada to meet Asuna and Liz. Better not get too friendly because you know what is going to happen when a new girl enters the harem. On a serious note, the girls get to know each other first before they reveal why they bring her here in the first place. First, Kirito apologizes to Asada because he told his girls about her problem and they went back to her hometown to do some research. Asada is not very happy about this but Kirito asserts he needed to do this as she has not met the people she is supposed to meet and hear the words she needed to hear. The girls usher in Sachie Oosawa and her 4 year old daughter, Mizue. She was a clerk at that post office. She regrets not stepping out to help her and never got around to apologize or thank her. Sachie was pregnant with Mizue during the robbery. Because of Asada’s bravery, she saved both their lives. She is very grateful. Kirito adds Asada tried to always punish and blame herself but she has the right to think about the lives she saved. Mizue hands Asada a (hideous) drawing as thanks. Please don’t ruin the (hideous) drawing with your tears.

Episode 14.5
Flashback episode of Sinon and Asada and everything that has happened so far about her life. No new scenes. Just recycled footage with Asada’s narration and point of view. From that traumatic robbery event at the post office to meeting Shinkawa to playing GGO to meeting Kirito, fighting at the BoB qualifiers, taking on Death Gun in the finals, fending off crazy-in-love Shinkawa and finally overcoming it all after meeting Sachie and Mizue. She finally realizes the need to move forward and that this real world isn’t so bad after all. It is kind and warm.

Episode 15
Kirito learns that somebody discovered the legendary sword Excalibur in ALO. Though, nobody has claimed it yet. A few months ago when Kirito and Leafa ventured into the underground world of Jotunheimr, they witnessed and helped this elephant jellyfish whom they named Tokii defeat a Tyrant giant. To show its gratitude, it brought them up high enough to a floating labyrinth just hanging beneath Yggdrasil and that is where they saw Excalibur at its base. So looks like Kirito needs to organize his party to go claim it. They need 7 members. Let’s see… Kirito, Leafa, Asuna, Klein, Silica and Liz. One more room… Aha! Sinon. In this world she is a cat girl? So they descend to the icy world of Jotunheimr and ride on Tonkii. Along the way, they see a party being assisted by Tyrants. Did they tame it because they believe it is impossible. Popping up before them is Uror, Queen of the Lake. She wants them to save this land from the frost giants. Once Jotunheimr was like Alfhiem, filled with greeneries and peace but Nilfheim, the frosty land below it invaded and Thrym the king threw Excalibur into the lake, cutting off Jotunheimr from Yggdrasil’s bounties. Thrym and his army attacked Jotunheimr en masse and built many fortresses and castles, enslaving her servants and animals. Now they rule the land via the main castle, Thrymheim. Though Uror and her 2 sisters escaped, they lack the power they once had. The frost giants were unsatisfied and decided to kill the servants and animals. Doing so, their powers will completely vanish and Thrymheim will be elevated to Alfheim’s surface as it is Thrym’s wish to cover the land in snow. And there is some golden apple at the top of Yggdrasil he desires too. Because of their inability to slay the servants, Thrym has resorted to recruiting fairies (the players) in helping them in exchange for Excalibur. However it is just a ploy as Thrym will never hand over Excalibur. That you see is just an exact duplicate, Caliburn. But Thrym made one mistake. By sending his army below to assist fairies, Thrymheim is left unguarded and its defence weak. So you know what you’re supposed to do here, right? Infiltrate Thrymheim and draw Excalibur out from the keystone dial. She gives them an amulet that indicates all her servants will be dead when it turns dark. I guess this quest is too big a deal to turn down.

Episode 16
Yui explains how ALO is different from other worlds. Something about the system than can make independent quests and since it is based on Norse mythology, there will be that ultimate battle that involves Ragnarok and flame giants from even lower grounds destroying the world. After all, remember what happened at Aincrad? Even if the system had backup, only player data will be saved and not field data. No time to waste as we see Kirito and his team using all they’ve got to take down bull giants and other monsters. They reach a room whereby Freyja is imprisoned. Klein’s love meter must be tingling and wants to save her although the rest knows better it could be a trap since she has HP and deduce they have to fight her. But you know Klein, his code of honour won’t let him leave her alone even if it destroys this world. So he thought with his wrong head? After freeing her, Freyja can’t leave this place. Not until she retrieves her family’s treasure from Thrym. Against the rest’s better judgment, they allow Freyja to join their party. They are now faced with the final boss who is no other than Thrym. He offers them to take as much gold as they want but of course they are not here for that. He thinks Freyja has escaped her cage means that she is here to marry him. Of course she refuses him and will retrieve her family treasure after these warriors defeat him. (Apparently she was locked because she was caught sneaking around in his treasure room). Since talking isn’t going to get anyone anywhere, time for the final boss fight.

Episode 17
Thrym is no pushover. The team takes heavy damage if not for Asuna’s healing power. Kirito tries to find the golden hammer and when he does, he tosses it to Freyja. When she touches it, she powers up and becomes… OMG! Isn’t that a giant bearded man, Thor?! Oh, Klein you must be so disappointed. So if Freyja was a guy and Thrym was going to marry her, was he about to marry a guy?! I CAN’T IMAGINE THIS GAY SCENE!!!!!!!!!!! With Thor’s might, he crushes Thrym in no time with the rest helping out to add to the damage. Hit him with all you’ve got! With Thrym destroyed, as a reward, at least Klein gets to keep Thor’s hammer. Yeah, I bet he wanted the girl… The quest is not over yet as they have to pull out Excalibur. Kirito tries his might while the rest give vocal support. When he does so, the Thrymheim falls apart. Tonkii rescues them. Kirito feels Excalibur is too heavy for him and throws it away. But Sinon uses her whip to get it back to give it to him. Her only condition is that whenever he draws the sword, please think of her. Those suspicious eyes from his harem… WTF. You mean this mind boggling scene is for this cheesy moment?! Jotunheimr reverts back to its original beautiful state. They get a personal thanks from Uror and her personal sisters, Verdandi and Skuld. They officially let Kirito keep Excalibur. Wait a minute. Klein now wants to hit on Skuld and get her contacts? Did he get rejected?! He handles it well and Liz respects him for that. Back in reality, everyone celebrates their victory and since Liz hints about somebody being paid handsomely on his last job, Kirito has no choice but to announce he is treating all of them. Cheers, everybody.

Episode 18
Agil talks to Kirito and Asuna how he met his wife. They were both playing SAO. They were also in competition to get the NerveGear. Agil was glad he won because it could have been her who would be trapped during that SAO incident. His will to return to his family made him persevere. He thinks everyone in SAO had that same sentiment but Asuna begs to differ. She didn’t quite like her family that much and sometimes forgot the reason she fought. She loved their cabin at level 22 and feared if SAO was cleared, it would disappear. Yeah, all I remember was the virtual sex they tried… Agil relays the good news that New Aincrad will have another updated that includes this level. They don’t know if the place is still the same but they’re keeping the faith. We see the parties hacking and slashing an uninspiring rock boss monster to clear the level. And here it is. Level 22 like it was before. Even their cabin is still there. A simple click of the button is all they need to do to buy it. There. Let the good times like before roll. And so Kirito and the girls are having a fun time in their new summer cabin. So while Asuna spaces out over her real marriage arrangements (potential candidates with faces that look like they want to rape her?), the other girls talk to her about this new player, Zekken who stands by at some lone tree awaiting challenges. Nobody has been able to defeat Zekken because of some original sword skill and 11 hit combo! Leafa also challenged Zekken but lost out to default skills. Kirito also fought Zekken. They talked about something before Kirito lost. When asked what it was, he refused to tell them. Looks like Asuna will have to ask Zekken herself. This means she is going to fight him. Wondering if Zekken was a former SAO player, Liz denies it because Kirito told her if it was so, the two-sword skill would have gone to Zekken.

Episode 19
It’s such a gloomy reality for Asuna. You know sh*t is going to happen when her mom warns her about spending too much time playing that game. Although Asuna has shown proof that she has done well academically, mother is not impressed because results from that kind of school mean nothing. Mother has arranged for Asuna to be privately tutored and using the credit system she can enrol in a real high school and graduate to college. Is she trying to speed up her life? Mother claims that makeshift school for children trapped during the SAO incident is just for the government to keep a close watch on them. She continues reminding Asuna about her future and possible careers and all they want is for her to be happy instead of regretting it. Why do always parents who sound like this act like as though as they know everything about their child’s future? And since when marrying is part of her career? Asuna argues she will pick her own partner. Mother agrees if that person is worthy but as long as he is not a child of that facility. I guess she investigated about Kirito. That’s the last straw for Asuna. She leaves and tells mom this: Mom might be angry and holding a grudge towards late grandpa and grandma because she wasn’t born into a rich and important family. Nailed it. Asuna can only cry in her bedroom as she laments how powerless she is in reality unlike in those games. Asuna talks to Kirito about Zekken before she leaves for her fight. She asks what they talked about. He asked if Zekken totally lives in this world (like as though a product of this world). Zekken never answered by only smiled back. When Asuna goes to face Zekken, she is shocked that Zekken is a girl! Oops. Liz might have forgotten to tell her that. And this might be the reason why Kirito lost… The intense fight begins with Asuna inches from defeat. She can’t go out like that and when she remembers her harsh reality, she fiercely fights back, making Zekken fight even more serious. Asuna thought she is defeated by her 11 hit combo but Zekken stops. She is satisfied with the fight and was just looking for someone who is right. Now that she has picked Asuna, she takes her high above into the clouds where nobody could hear or follow. Zekken pleads for Asuna’s help.

Episode 20
Yuuki Konno (Zekken’s real name) brings Asuna to her guild, Sleeping Knights. They request her help to defeat a level boss. The catch is they only want to do it themselves. Normally such boss battles are done with many groups. However if done so and the floor is cleared, only the names of each guild’s leader is etched in the memorial. To have each member’s name, a single party has to defeat the boss. That is why Yuuki was scouting for a strong member. Asuna agrees to join. She asks weren’t there stronger players before her like Kirito. Because he found out her secret, it wasn’t any good. After the meeting is done, Asuna is suddenly disconnected. Seems her mom is not too happy she is late for dinner and as per agreed the last time, she will yank the cord. The next time this happens, she’ll confiscate her machine. Asuna journeys with Sleeping Knights to the boss’ lair. Asuna spots several suspicious players waiting outside the door although they claim they are waiting for their friends. Asuna and co go in to fight the boss. And lost. Quickly after they regenerate back in town, Asuna lets her comrades know about those suspicious players. They are actually scouts for their guild to find the boss’ attack patterns and weaknesses. Although they were fighting in a closed room, Asuna noticed a spy familiar watching. This means all of Sleeping Knights’ hard work will be undone and this guild takes the credit. However Asuna isn’t giving up yet. They can beat them by going back to fight the boss now since gathering other party members at this point takes time. But when they go back, a large group of people are already waiting. They won’t move or let them fight the boss. Yuuki makes a surprise suggestion to fight them. Her words clear Asuna’s hesitation as she calls for backup. As more members of thieving guild arrive, here comes Asuna’s reinforcement. Only Kirito? He is going to stand in their way. I thought she would bring the entire army or at least the other girls. Ah heck, this guy is enough to whoop an entire platoon’s ass.

Episode 21
You are dead wrong if you think you can beat Kirito with numbers. Remember, quality over quantity. Don’t worry. Kirito has a little backup from Klein, though I doubt he won’t be doing much at the back there. Sleeping Knights easily defeat the thieving guild and enter the boss room. Before the fight starts, Yuuki has time to feel guilty Asuna friends are helping them without getting any reward. Asuna says to win this boss fight as their reward. She also hopes she could hear more about Yuuki’s adventures. The intense boss battle begins with them doing the usual attacks and strategy as planned. But when Asuna notices a weak point (really? It was so obvious that they didn’t realize it just because it was high up there?) she lets Yuuki know as she slices and dices her way to do maximum damage till the boss is destroyed. When it is over, Asuna invites them to her cabin to celebrate. Asuna notes that her contract to help them has ended. But she still wants to talk with them and become friends and would like to join Sleeping Guild. Uhm, wasn’t she in one with Kirito and the other girls? Not that I remember. Unfortunately Sleeping Guild is going to be disbanded shortly as many of them cannot be regularly playing this game. Even so, Asuna would like to join until then. Then everyone heads to the memorial where each of their names has been etched. They take a group photo with it. Hmm… Shouldn’t it be a screenshot in this sense? When Asuna notes that Yuuki has been calling her nee-san a few times, Yuuki starts crying and logs out immediately. Did she say something wrong? Touched the wrong nerve?

Episode 22
Yuuki cannot be contacted anyhow. Does she really not want to see Asuna anymore? So what is Asuna to do but to rely on Kirito for information on where she is. All he tells her is a hospital that is using clinical trials for Medicuboid. At the hospital, Yuuki’s doctor is surprised to see her as he begins explaining from the beginning. So what is Medicuboid? To put it simply, it is a full dive system for the medical world just like AmuSphere or NerveGear. One of its pros is that it can act as anaesthesia and reduce pain. However it still cannot treat the underlying disease. Yuuki was born via Caesarean and given blood transplant. However it was contaminated. Asuna sees Yuuki’s true physical form and is devastated. You know how a person with AIDS’ syndrome kicking in looks like, right? With drugs, she was able to delay AIDS but had to put up with the stigma of society as well as the drugs’ side effects. There was one point she wanted to kill herself but decided to fight on. 3 years ago, her immunity system suddenly collapsed and ever since she was placed here. At that point Medicuboid prototype was just completed but with the scandal surrounding NerveGear, nobody was willing to take the risk. Yuuki jumped on that chance in exchange for a clean room that would reduce her risk but what sealed the deal was her longing for the virtual world. She has been living in the virtual world since and logging in 24 hours a day. Although she is safe in there, she is still terminal. Asking if she has a sister, a twin in fact. Aiko was very similar to Asuna. Unfortunately she passed away a year ago and her parents 2 years ago. Time for Asuna to let her tears flow. Yuuki communicates with her but it would be better if they just dive and talk in the virtual world. Asuna finds her and gives her the most emotional hug. Time for some emotional talk too. Yuuki reveals that Sleeping Knights had more members but they died. Thus it is decided when another member is going to bite the dust, they will disband. Thus the real reason the guild disbands is not because nobody has time to play anymore but rather they have been diagnosed to have a few months left to live. They wanted their last mission to have their names on the memorial and thus they searched for a person to help them do so. Asuna asks if there is something she would like to do. How about going to school? Oh, so Asuna is going to arrange that?

Episode 23
With a little help from Kirito’s tweaking, Yuuki gets to experience school. At least she is a surveillance camera on Asuna’s shoulder. She gets to participate in class and is quite popular with the classmates. Or is it because Yuuki’s form is such a novelty? After school, Yuuki requests to visit her family’s house in the area that they only stayed for a short while. As she talks about her family, Yuuki also gives encouragement to Asuna to go talk to her mom like how they usually do. Yuuki did just that but she wants to talk to mom not in the real world but in the virtual world. At first mom disagrees since if she can’t say it right now it isn’t worth listening. But after pleading how much she wants her to see with her own eyes about her world, she relents with a condition that she will still fill up the paper work for her school transfer. In the virtual world of Asuna’s cabin, she takes her mom to look out the window. The snowy woods. So? This scenery reminds Asuna very much of her grandparents’ home in Miyagi she loves so much. When mom was busy making headlines and corporate decisions, appearing all over the media, grandpa once told Asuna that mom might get tired of it all one day. When that happens, grandpa and grandma will always protect and preserve this place so that she will have a home to come back to. Now Asuna has understand some words that were said to her she never did in the beginning. Life isn’t about doing things for yourself. She wants to make others happy and continue doing the things she loves. Mom is so touched that she cries. Wait. They have a programme in this virtual world that you can’t hold back your tears?! Back in reality, Asuna is all smiles that mom isn’t forcing her to transfer but she ups the ante that her grades must be exceptionally well and have to go to university. It’s going to be a very fine day.

Episode 24
Yuuki and Asuna spend the rest of the days having fun online and even in the real world. Asuna is also doing great in her studies. One day Asuna gets a message that Yuuki’s condition has deteriorated. She rushes to the hospital. The doctor says her heart stopped once before but they revived her. The next time won’t be so lucky. She has been fighting the harsh reality for 15 years so it is best to let her rest now. So I suppose the best place to say goodbye is to hook up in the virtual world since we can hear them talk properly. Yuuki transfers her original sword skill to her. Not only the rest of her Sleeping Knights and Kirito’s group come to pay their respects but all the fairy guilds of ALO! Amazing?! They have to respect the strongest swords(wo)man in ALO, right? Yuuki is glad to have lived and experienced as much as she can. Time to let those tears flow freely. Asuna is at Yuuki’s memorial service. She meets one of Sleeping Knights members in the flesh as she talks about her own terminal disease as well as how Yuuki inspired hope in them all. Kirito and the doctor have been exchanging information about the communication probe. Thanks to all the data from Yuuki, Medicuboid is ready for official use around the country. When it is mentioned its external helper was Professor Rinko Koujirou, Kirito recognizes that name as Heathcliff’s body caretaker when he was diving. This means the real person who invented the basic design was Kayaba himself. Kirito and co enjoy a picnic. They talk about how they thought when the gap between the real and virtual world got closer, the world would be a better place but instead it deceived many. But they can take heart it also saved many. They vow to be with each other till the end of the world and forever. As in virtually and reality as well?

Sword Art Offline II

Special 1
With Asuna as your host, Kirito the commentator and special guests from Silica and Liz, they talk about the headline of Sinon taking out Behemoth, reviewing and commenting on selected scenes in the episode (I’m sure the girls want to grill him about Natsuki’s ‘flirting’ but to show how much Asuka loves her man, she doesn’t get mad) and the problem solving corner in which Silica tries to anonymously seek help to defeat a skirt flipping monster. Wait, was she playing the right game? Unfortunately the problem wasn’t solved and Kirito got beaten up. Why oh why.

Special 2
The headline is about Kirito looking like a girl in GGO. Asuna even has her fun laughing so hard at girly Kirito. With Sinon as the special guest, apparently she is still very unforgiving about Kirito’s true gender. She replays several clips that only serve to hammer his cross-dressing fetish and perversion. Kirito can’t even defend himself. Worse, Asuna’s faith in him is wavering… As for the problem solving corner, some GGO guy is having problems getting a certain girly boy out of his mind. More ammo for Sinon to just tell him to date this guy, become gay or send a cute photo of his girl self to him. I wonder how much HP embarrassment can inflict.

Special 3
Because Kirito’s avatar looks like a girl, online rumours surfaced about Kirito and Sinon being a popular girl team. So apparently this special too, Sinon continues her unforgiving nature through the playbacks and even wanting to shoot him a few times to take out her rage. Even Asuna agrees! Because sometimes she feels like stabbing Kirito! Again, the problem solving corner has another GGO guy having problems trying to court a girl he likes. Apparently Sinon knows this guy since he is persistent about her. Another reason for her to complain about Kirito and falsely accuse him of his girly fetish. Not too sure if this special has less abuse or Kirito has gotten the hang of it…

Special 4
This time they are discussing about the final battle between Kirito and Death Gun. Then there are also scenes of Sinon’s weak moments like Kirito saving her and she confiding in him in the cave. It makes her feel humiliating just to think about it. When they discuss about Death Gun’s cloaking ability, Kirito had to open a can of worms that he might use it to peek at girls changing. Much better than being a guy acting like a girl, right? You dug your own grave there. Once again the problem solving corners have those GGO guys who are fans of Kirito and Sinon wondering what their relationship are (remember, they still think he is a girl) because their manly testosterones have never heard of yuri before. Kirito wants to come clean with his identity but Asuna rejects because she doesn’t want him to ruin the dreams of his fans! Sinon is okay with their girl on girl relationship as it will stop pesky advances from other guys. Another loss for Kirito…

Special 5
They talk about Kirito’s win over Death Gun as well as discussing if Death Gun or Asuna is better. Kirito of course vouches for Asuna knowing she has a faster and better skill. Flattered Asuna is quite embarrassed by that so much so she accidentally unleashes that skill on him. And then again but this time due to her anger when Kirito explains a crazy nickname she got during ALO. And that bike scene Kirito was supposed to pick up Asada from school? Asuna envies and would love to experience that. For the problem solving corner, for once it isn’t some love problem. Instead, certain girls from Kirito’s harem complaining about their lack of screen time. This leads to the discussion why Sinon, Kirito and Asuna would prefer not to stand out more be it their sniper position, special skills that make them a target or just plain real life stalkers. Since this is Sinon’s last appearance, she wants a commemoration by shooting at Kirito one more time. Hasn’t this guy taken enough damage already?

The Art Of Living
Initially, I thought they should just call the second season Gun Gale Online seeing more than half of this season is about this. However it is also attached with a couple of other minor ‘non-important’ adventures at the end so I figure it wasn’t appropriate either. Then again, if you remember well that the original SAO world was destroyed at the end of the first arc in the first season. You don’t get to revisit here again except via flashbacks. So why didn’t they just call it ALO or something? Maybe SAO sounds better and less sissy than ALO. You remember the hardships and terror in SAO but ALO was just like child’s play fairy version, right? And probably the same reason why it wasn’t named GGO either. Because it might mislead fans to think this is some sort of new spin-off but it isn’t. But having it as SAO II doesn’t that too feels misleading? Argh! I’m so confused!

Just as I feared, the second season wasn’t really that great either. But now I can be sure of saying it from my own mouth and heart. While the GGO arc is still by far the most interesting arc compared to the mediocre Calibur arc and the emotion filled Mother’s Rosario arc, it still pales in comparison to the first SAO arc. Despite the action and drama in GGO, the only thing that retained my interest was trying to figure out Death Gun’s identity. Yup. That was the only thing that kept me from snoring and falling asleep in front of my monitor. I’m not saying the action is boring or the drama between Kirito and Sinon is uninteresting, but they aren’t just enough to make me feel like I want to immerse myself in this world. Sure, GGO is much different than ALO and SAO but with the arc about trying to catch Death Gun before he commits another crime, the beauty of this dystopian is not really in focus.

Because I had a hunch who was Death Gun and when the true culprit was revealed, the only thing left interested was how he did it. Honestly, I wasn’t quite satisfied with that answer although it seems most plausible. Because I was expecting something SAO-like but that may be part of my fault to expect something like that and thus the disappointment when the arc ends. Even I was thinking there would be some sort of conspiracy involving Natsuki. Nope. How can flirty nurses be baddies? Besides, regarding Death Gun’s identity as an ex-member of Laughing Coffin, I thought it would be an identity from someone we would know. Instead we will be asking, who the f*ck is this guy anyway?! As good as they could have put it as any damn person from any damn guild or just a random guy who hates Kirito for no reason. Maybe this guy did make his cameo in SAO but it was too insignificant for us to remember. With such sentiments now, I don’t really want to go back and rewatch SAO just so that I can point him out and then approve of this that they didn’t pull the rug from under our feet.

The other mind boggling thing was to have double winners for BoB. I mean, is that even allowed in such reputable tournaments? Sure, the circumstances leading up to that may seem that it has no other choice but does this mean there were no other avenues to select a single winner? Isn’t that what being a champion is about? To be the one and only one at the top? And everyone accepted that result? Isn’t it an insult to all those who fought hard and were knocked out of the tournament only to see at the end there were 2 winners? So let me guess if such a ‘broken’ system was really in place, I think everyone can be winners. Everybody just toss a hand grenade and then give each other one big group hug. Oh yeah! Boom! Everybody wins. Everybody’s name turns up on the champion’s list. No need for all those useless gunfights. Get what I mean? And I thought this would be a good timing for Kirito and Sinon to truly settle it GGO style but I guess if she is to become part of his friendly harem, this sort of route has to be taken.

The remaining arcs didn’t fare well either and like I have said they pale in comparison. Because I felt the Calibur arc was just to give Kirito’s girls and Klein some screen time and to remind us that they are a close knit party. Yeah, to show off they can work together and save an entire world. When you have mystic and powerful beings falling from power to another that threatens the very existence of the world, only a bunch of kid players can change things for the better and save the day. Yeah, it was a bit of BS with Kirito even tossing away the Excalibur he wanted to get so much at the start. So can you not believe this arc is probably the shortest in all of SAO series lasting only 3 paltry episodes? Yeah. Maybe it was a good thing it ended quickly. There. Liz, Silica and Leafa. Are you happy now that you got more screen time in this short arc?

At this point, I am sure we are tired of seeing Kirito as the main hero, right? That is why for the sake of feminism, it is Asuna’s turn to hog the limelight in the final Mother’s Rosario arc. Kirito is tossed aside so that Asuna can be in focus because after playing the damsel in distress in last season’s ALO arc and being just secondary in GGO and Calibur arc, it is time to remind us why she is the main heroine of the series in addition to being just Kirito’s pretty girlfriend. Really. And thus Mother’s Rosario is just a long drawn out emotional drama about Asuna and a dying player whom she befriended very closely. It is like to show us that after playing countless hours of online games, people like them still have emotions and that no matter how deep you are in the virtual world, you’re still tied to reality. Because eventually you’ll still die in real life. Sad but true.

So while we don’t get to see any harem battles over Kirito, the new characters in focus based on the arcs are Sinon and Yuuki. Both have their set of issues and troubles dealing with their past or troubled life. It is pretty decent since they have enough episodes to flesh out their character. But I just can’t help that Sinon after her GGO arc is over, she becomes somewhat irrelevant. It is like her character can be done without subsequently. Although she did join Kirito’s group in ALO, it was as if to tell us where she is instead of just scrapping her character for good. You know, if she was totally discarded, you’d be wondering where the heck Sinon is. So with her part of Kirito’s party, you’ll go, “Ah, so there she is”.

All of last season’s casts are retained. New ones added to list include Miyuki Sawashiro as Sinon, Aoi Yuuki as Yuuki/Zekken, Ayako Kawasumi as Natsuki and Hiroshi Kamiya as XeXeed all of whom I recognized instantly. I thought Asuna’s mom sounded familiar but only later I found out it was Megumi Hayashibara behind it. For the rest of those I don’t recognize, I’m too lazy to list them down. For this season, the opening and ending themes didn’t quite appeal to me. I’m not saying they are bad but they don’t come close or as attractive as last season’s Yume Sekai. The first opener is Ignite by Eir Aoi. I don’t know, it feels like the singer is trying to sing at the top of her voice. The second opening theme is Courage by Haruka Tomatsu. Generic pop beat. The first ending theme is Startear by Luna Haruna, a slow rock ballad. The second ending theme is No More Time Machine by Lisa. Another slow rock outfit, the third ending theme, Shirushi also by Lisa.

I have to be fair and give them credit where it is due since the art and animation department are still great. The visual effects from the battle (gun and sword) as well as the magic effects are still a sight to behold. While the character designs in GGO are still looking great because of the brutal dystopian setting, it is mind boggling that Kirito had his avatar then like a female. He stands out so much like a sore thumb that it is so distracting. Like as though he is in the wrong game. Like as though the producers listened to some of the fans who wanted to see a gender bender of Kirito and granted it for that arc.

I’m not sure if I would want to watch a third season if it ever comes out because this series seems to be going strong with its legion of fans. Unfortunately I’m not one of them. There was this special movie lasting almost 2 hours, Sword Art Online: Extra Edition that came out at the end of 2013 that I didn’t see (most probably turned off by the length even though I read in the synopsis there would be some pool fanservice…) and there is another movie coming out in 2017. Don’t even get me started on the numerous video games… While this season isn’t exactly a flop, it all boils down to taste and whether you are a big fan of the series. The plot feels a bit silly, the characters lack in major development but the visuals are good. Like as if you buy a video game for its graphics instead of its game play… Sometimes it makes me want to run away from reality and live a virtual life for the rest of my pitiful existence. Oh wait. There’s already Minecraft…

Seisen Cerberus

October 22, 2016

Fantasy world, check. Magic, check. Dragon, check. Young boy with a date with revenge and destiny, check. His travelling members are a bunch of weirdoes, uhm, okay I suppose I can consider it so. So check. Evil antagonist who craves for more power and chaos, check. Hot chick, check. Hot chick with a secret, check. If all that suits you, then you should have no problems in making Seisen Cerberus: Ryouukoku No Fatalités as your next anime to watch. I don’t know. That was how I decided to pick my next fantasy flick to watch. And so sorry if you thought I was going to say Game of Thrones…

Episode 1
A ritual is held to eternally seal the evil dragon, Dagan Zot at Balbagoa. Unfortunately Lord Bairo was struck and this led to the failure of the ritual. When his son, Hiiro is almost devoured by the dragon, he casts some spell that well, uhm, destroyed the entire land in the process? 10 years later, Hiiro is now a wandering swordsman as he wanders into town. Nambuuko is scattering his money to the joy of the people. A group of boy thieves let by Tomitte plans to steal something more valuable but one of them, Peshate got greedy and secretly snuck onboard Nambuuko’s carriage. Some guy is showing off this ancient crest, Dalhalbart only to be stolen by Tomitte. He is caught and Hiiro saves him by purchasing it for a genuine gold coin. Tomitte blames him for ruining their big steal and steals Dalhalbart. Hiiro tracks them back to their base and steals it back. Nambuuko sees the town lord and is trying to coerce him into selling him some magic stones. This will only lead to inflation and the people will revolt. Nambuuko suggests using fear to control people and will lend him Grand Trowa. An excuse is needed for that and it couldn’t be any perfect timing because Peshate gets caught red handed trying to steal Grand Trowa. Tomitte and co’s cat and mouse game over Hiiro comes to a halt when they receive news that Peshate will be executed at dawn for stealing. He will be made as an example to the people and instil fear for failing to respect the authority. The boys are helpless to go save him but Hiiro being a hero goes in. He skilfully fights the guards but it all ends in the farce when he realizes his sword is just a paring knife. The guards surround him but his loyal subjects, Giruu and Palupa come to his aid. During the commotion, the boys free Peshate and escape. When Sharisharu is going to use Grand Trowa on them, Hiiro recognizes it as his father’s stolen treasure and wants it back. She activates its power but it gets deflected and destroys the mountain behind! Then from out of the shadows appear Dagan Zot. Can’t believe it is still alive? Then some inner trauma of Hiiro starts activating.

Episode 2
As the guards fire their arrows at Dagan Zot, some are in danger of hitting Hiiro. Shockingly Dagan Zot protects him. Then it causes a little havoc before disappearing back into the shadows. This incident gives Nambuuko and evil idea. He will use Dagan Zot to instil fear in the people. Giruu takes Hiiro back to Tomitte’s place. He explains about Dagan Zot’s sealing 10 years ago by Bairo and his wife, Kissmettete along with 100 elite mages. But they all perished and were covered in soul devouring flames. When Hiiro wakes up, all he can think about is defeating Dagan Zot. Tomitte has his reservations and doesn’t believe his current skill level can do it. Hiiro believes he can as he has been training all this while. I think he needs a lot more of it. Hiiro knows that Grand Trowa can grant any wishes and it is his plan to use it to defeat Dagan Zot. But first he needs to know where Nambuuko is. Unfortunately he has left for the Land Where Wishes Die. Tomitte further explains about Nambuuko as a ruthless arms merchant responsible for making countries fight each other while he gets rich. Sharisharu is not pleased Nambuuko left her behind in this town. He orders her to look for Hiiro. Palupa blows his top when he learns Hiiro was duped into buying Dalhalbart. It is fake. Because of that they have no money to eat and even if they have, stall operators won’t welcome them believing they are this morning’s troublemakers. But this cat girl, Erin ushers them to a place where she could it. She hints she knows Hiiro as Bairo’s son. They realized they have been tricked because they are forced to pay for her meal. With no place to stay and Palupa won’t spend any more money, Hiiro forces himself to crash at Tomitte’s place. At least they have a great feast in return courtesy of Giruu’s cooking. Because Hiiro is still weak, Giruu takes him to train more. Heck, he can’t even best the easiest slimes and is complaining more than anything. Feeling the need to defeat something stronger and earn money, how about that sand dragon right behind? Hiiro fails in even scratching it. But a cute girl, Saraato pops out from its mouth. Just using it as a ride? She puts her head on his chest to hear his heartbeat. She likes it and wants him to come with her.

Episode 3
At least we know they’re not going to a love hotel. Haha! But her destination is to where he is? She talks funny. And I mean in a weird sense. And when she starts talking to pebbles, the gang quietly slip away. Don’t want to get involved with this crazy girl. Meanwhile Nambuuko is making his arms trading negotiations with many people. Among them is Dr Baffaloppa whom he wants to create a new weapon for all the countries’ king that they will die to have. It is hinted that Saraato is related to Baffaloppa. As Tomitte teases Hiiro for being in love, here comes Saraato. Did her magical wand help her find this place? Maybe Hiiro is in love with her. Because he allows her to stay here without consenting the rest. Probably this guy wants to show off his training but only gets owned by the slimes. He still didn’t pass this level? So how can he fight that menacing wolf? He doesn’t. He gets owned too. Luckily the wolf is interested in Saraato. Hiiro tries to be a hero but again gets owned. Pathetic! It is only by luck he accidentally kills it. It is all a god damn fluke! Saraato heals his wound with her wand. After selling it for a paltry sum, he sees the town guards arresting men to force them to work for the town lord’s mines. Can’t stand seeing children being pried away from their fathers, he takes action. Guess what? He gets knocked out and taken in too! Super pathetic! In prison, at first everyone is revved up that Hiiro will get them out. When he shows Dalhalbart, everyone loses hope. Because seriously, this guy is digging his way out with it! WTF?! Long way to go… Tomitte sneaks into the town lord’s mansion and steals his secret journal, one that contains shady transactions. He threatens to show this to the palace but in exchange for it to be returned, free Hiiro and the other men. Too bad Tomitte gets captured by the guards. If not for Giruu crashing in and swinging his mighty sword, things might have taken a toll for the worse. And I can’t believe Hiiro is saying he is so close to getting out when he didn’t even make a dent on the brick! Ah, the happy faces of people when the fathers reunited with their children. Although Hiiro doesn’t have the luxury of such family, it became his motivation to take out Dagan Zot.

Episode 4
Giruu will personally see Hiiro’s training today. This means Saraato can’t follow. She bumps into Erin who takes her to the hotspring. Sharisharu is also there so Erin has a hard time trying to keep Hiiro’s whereabouts a secret seeing Saraato is the type who answers truthfully if you ask. Hiiro is sick of fighting slimes. He is so mad that he attacks Giruu. Seriously, you think he can best his master? Of course not. But Giruu cuts him down! Is he insane?! Giruu’s plan is to take him to some healing springs since he anticipates the training will get rough. Want to bet it is that hotspring? Also, he saw a reward poster of a monster in this area. It will be like killing 2 birds with a stone. Sharisharu has a hard time identifying Hiiro thanks to the mist and that he is unconscious. But when Hiiro wakes up and starts bragging, Sharisharu signals to his guards to wake up that monster to cause havoc and capture them. Unfortunately she never read about tentacle monsters and their fetishes. Uh huh. Which tentacle monster would grab a guy? Yeah, Saraato and Sharisharu are going to get tentacle raped! We know the monster’s tastes since it throws away Sharisharu. Smart Erin has already fled the scene. Giruu saves the day by cutting it apart. And all Hiiro is concerned is only for Saraato? Don’t worry. She’s safe. Although they fail to get the reward, they managed to sell it to nobles who bought it at a high price for its unusual taste. Now that they have enough money, they can start their journey although they have no clue where Nambuuko is. I guess it is goodbye to the boys. They’ll miss the great cooking. Surprisingly Tomitte will journey with them. His goal is to get Grand Trowa to change this sick world. Yeah, who doesn’t? He doesn’t want the boys to stop him but stops them from coming along? As they set off, they chances upon Erin. Palupa asks to pay her portion for that meal so she thought of joining their journey. Why? She has a map that will take them to where Nambuuko is. Hiiro immediately agrees and their party increases by another one.

Episode 5
You know how pathetic Hiiro is when he can’t even defeat and eagle and falling into some sand trap. Yeah, he needs help. Nambuuko is selling the same weapons to all the countries and playing the double, no triple agent for all of them. Yeah, he is so ruthless that nobody even notices it because they’re busy trying to kill each other. He summons Sharisharu back and she knows she is going to get an earful. True enough, he berates her for her failure. But he is going to give her one more chance to capture Hiiro. Fail again and it will be the last time she’ll never be allowed in his sight again. Ever. So here Sharisharu is with her guards and giant earth golems trying to capture Hiiro and his team. That dumb hero rushes in to fight Sharisharu thinking he can beat the crap out of her and take him to Nambuuko. As expected, he gets owned. Heck, his sword even broke! With Giruu having his hands full fighting the golems, Palupa summons Mumu not for weapons but for everyone else to teleport escape via this magic chest. Giruu falls into a trap and Sharisharu intends to kill him. She means it. Hiiro cannot do anything as he is pinned down and being tormented by Sharisharu who relishes every moment of it to avenge her humiliation. But when Hiiro reaches his limit, suddenly something inside him activates. You’re damn right if this looks like something bad. Hiiro turns into a fast ferocious wild beast as he strikes down all the guards in a flash. Scared Sharisharu teleports and escapes in time but that wouldn’t have been necessary since Hiiro returned to normal right before he reached her. In his weakened state, he crawls through the desert, wondering what the heck that power was.

Episode 6
Oh great. Nambuuko just passed before Hiiro and he is too weak to do anything. When Palupa and co return, they find Giruu unconscious. Saraato heals him and he has no recollections of what happened. They are puzzled that there are lots of dead guards nearby and wonder if Hiiro did this. Meanwhile Nambuuko is demonstrating to a duchess his new weapon that combines an orc and humans. It is one big blended mess. The monster attacks but the guards easily took it out. Baffaloppa is not pleased with the results since the monster should be tougher than this. Hiiro sees everything and pops out to fight Nambuuko. Your guess is as good as mine. He is easily defeated and captured. Yeah, he saved the villain a whole lot of trouble looking for him. Back at his camp, Sharisharu expects to be scolded as she explains how scary Hiiro was. Surprisingly he didn’t get mad and instead rewards her. Nambuuko goes to torture Hiiro to let him spill some information about Dagan Zot. He wants its revival so that there can be chaos. This means more fighting, more weapons and more money! I believe this weakling would have succumbed to his fate if not for the duchess coming to complain about some pretty boys service. Nambuuko goes to pacify her seeing he has time to spare with him. Hiiro tries to free himself and for once Dalhalbart serves its purpose in cutting the ropes. Baffaloppa senses Saraato’s sense and traces it to Hiiro. He is stumped he has Saraato’s scent but is relieved when he learns she is fine. After Hiiro tells how they met, he cannot believe she said something about his heartbeat. He hears it himself and then believes he is her fate. He wants her to take care of her and lets him drink a potion that will allow him to escape and be where Saraato is. Just think of her. His last words are for him to meet Master Theo. Giruu and co are planning their ambush on Nambuuko’s camp. Hiiro falls out of the sky near them. Yeah, it saved them the trouble. When Nambuuko returns, he sees Baffaloppa in the seat. Trying to cover for Hiiro? Fail! Nambuuko is not pleased he set Hiiro free. Even more so that Saraato still lives and that Hiiro lives for her sake. Baffaloppa dares him to kill him but he won’t since he has lots of work for him and will make him pay the price one day. Nambuuko throws a question at him about Hiiro’s thoughts about Saraato once he learns who she truly is. Didn’t think about that, did he?

Episode 7
After Hiiro explains all he knows, Giruu finds it disturbing of Baffaloppa’s words that his heart does not belong to him. Then he theorizes that the reason why Dagon Zot protected him then was not because of Hiiro but its heart. Yup. Hiiro and Dagan Zot’s hearts are switched and it must have been Bairo’s last attempt to save his son. Further prove is when Hiiro became a beast as he had the powers of Dagan Zot within him and they both have the same birthmark on their chests. Hiiro becomes upset that this means seeking revenge for his parents, he must prepare to die. He falls into depression and it’s time to cheer him up with flashbacks? Palupa tells him how Giruu who trains Hiiro by day, has been learning magic at night for 10 years all for his sake. Hiiro then gets motivated to use Grand Trowa to switch their hearts. Well, he is back to his idiotic self. They arrive at a decimated village to camp for the night. This is Giruu’s old home since we can tell he is spacing out and seeing visions of his younger self. And what a dark past it is. His parents were persecuted by the villagers. You see, Giruu’s dad is an ogre and his mom a human. The ogres blamed their union that caused the humans to attack. Giruu watched in horror as they hang them. Giruu escaped and wandered around till Bairo found him. That fused monster is lurking around. Giruu fights him but I guess he is still reeling from his past. Tomitte suggests Hiiro to transform but at such crucial time you know he just can’t. Yeah, he is about to be owned again and luckily Giruu was fast enough to cut it down. Meanwhile Erin praises Nambuuko so that Sharisharu would allow her to seek an audience with him. Easy as pie. She tells him about Hiiro’s heart being swapped with Dagan Zot. Of course this information is not for free so he rewards her with this toy, Alshina. Nambuuko knows that if Hiiro is Bairo’s son, he will definitely come here to get Grand Trowa. All he needs to do is wait. Then he orders Sharisharu to kill Hiiro. Ah, those magic words she loves to hear. That glitter in her eyes… She’s really looking forward to it.

Episode 8
In the next town, Giruu buys Hiiro a new sword. Later they discuss about Theo whom Giruu and Palupa know as Bairo’s doctor. Saraato claims he is her friend. For the first time in a long time, they get to sleep on warm decent beds. But deep into the night, a shadow monster appears to wreak havoc. They think it is Dagan Zot but its shadow is also devouring the villagers. After Giruu saves Hiiro from another blooper, he too gets caught in the shadow and clinging on for dear life. Sharisharu pops up to kill Hiiro. She reveals this monster is Dah Kuu, a creation of Baffaloppa given by Nambuuko to her to test it out. As Sharisharu electrocutes Hiiro, this is all part of Nambuuko’s plan to bring out Dagan Zot since this attack is endangering its heart. But then Hiiro turns into his dragon beast form. He destroys Dah Kuu as Dagan Zot emerges. Sharisharu becomes scared and escapes. After Erin shoots her special monster killing arrow at Dah Kuu to free Giruu, he runs to save Hiiro but he is in the midst of going berserk and slashes Giruu! Once the havoc dissipates and Hiiro regains his normal self, he becomes distraught seeing Giruu lying in his own pool of blood. The only happy person is Nambuuko because after watching what happened, he is certain Hiiro is needed to get the dragon.

Episode 9
Giruu is alive and recovering although at a slow rate. Unfortunately Saraato can’t heal it. Hiiro feels bad for striking him even if the rest doesn’t blame him. But Giruu is more concerned about Hiiro transforming because he fears if he transforms frequently, he will not be able to transform back. After weakened Giruu collapses, it is a race to get some serafuria herb. But Mumu is selling it at a freaking high price. Erin tells Hiiro a place where he can get it but it will take half a day to get there. Instantly he makes his journey with Saraato. While the duo are gone, the rest discuss about Saraato because Tomitte has observed her that she doesn’t eat or smile. Then it is like Sharisharu always knows their location. Could she be the turncoat? Speaking of Sharisharu, I guess Nambuuko has had it with her and locks her up. More discussions about Nambuuko and Dagan Zot. Erin tells the rest about Nambuuko’s intention to kill Hiiro. She knows because of Alshina which is a communication tool. As the nations are gearing up for war, many are making weapon orders from Nambuuko. This allows the arms merchant to jack up the prices while he also manipulates information. Once war begins, Hiiro will need to go through the battlefields to get to Nambuuko. Thus it is best they get there fast. After all the struggles and perseverance, Hiiro finally manages to grab serafuria. Saraato who has been doing nothing all the while catches his fall. She smiles for the first time. Giruu instantly heals after eating the herb. It is time for Tomitte’s drama because he heard from Peshate that their hometown has gotten worse. Everyone has been forced to work in the mines. Better hurry getting your hands on Grand Trowa. Tomitte stops suspecting Saraato since he saw her shed a tear. That easy? The party makes their way to Theo’s dwelling. It is important to get Grand Trowa but it is more important to treat Hiiro’s body first. As the gang meet Theo, he starts hugging Saraato like nobody’s business. You jealous, Hiiro? Even more shocking for him is how Saraato mentions Theo is her friend. Friend zone?

Episode 10
After Theo is told of Hiiro’s condition, he demonstrates an imitation of the soul devouring flame. Hiiro wonders why if he is the continent’s most powerful mage, why didn’t he do anything to save his parents. Even the greatest mage cannot stop the mother nature force of a storm. Theo begins giving his ‘training’ to Hiiro. He is made to do weird stuffs like picking up and throwing pebbles and crumpling a picture of a badly drawn Saraato’s face. Theo demonstrates using his Kokuu Blade. It’s like an air sword and using the wind to slash. Hiiro tries it out and finds it stupid because in his eyes nothing happens. Later that night as Giruu asks Theo about Hiiro’s progress, he mentions how the son is very similar to Bairo. In short, Hiiro has no talent for swordsmanship and knows Giruu has also noticed this for a long time. I mean, after 10 years of training and he is this weak, something must be seriously wrong, right? Giruu has known his potential ever since he took up studying magic and his thoughts is that if Hiiro is all by himself, maybe he could use magic instead of sword. Thus it can be concluded that Hiiro has a rare talent in magic than swordsmanship. However Theo cautious his magic power is very high and rare. Otherwise, a human would have been unable to bear the magic of a dragon’s heart. During the Kokuu Blade training, Hiiro’s magic did hit Theo. He finds Theo to be a very dangerous person and Giruu teaching him swordsmanship was the right move. His last advice is that Hiiro and Saraato are a pair and must be together. Meanwhile Sharisharu continues to be in depression but when Nambuuko surprisingly calls her, she is motivated after hearing her voice. Looks like he needs her for a mission. Anything, my lord. Next morning, Hiiro has had it with this dumb training and quits. But Theo tells him to cut him down with Kokuu Blade where he stands and if he does so, he will graduate. Hiiro plays along and Theo puts on the lamest and fakest damage receive act ever. Yeah, he graduates. After they leave, Theo notes he was indeed hit by Hiiro’s power and that was just a fraction of his true power. Perhaps switching hearts was the best move as it kept both their powers in check. The gang are now a desert away from Nambuuko’s base. Suddenly an eagle attacks them but Giruu is able to cut it down. Wondering how they are found out, suddenly they hear from Erin’s Alshina, Nambuuko is trying to reach her. Busted.

Episode 11
Erin admits she traded information. It is her specialty after all. The rest won’t kill her seeing it won’t undo the damage done. They continue the journey without her. They’d rather get lost than have her with them. Meanwhile Sharisharu agrees to be fused with her monster pet dog. Palupa falls into a hole and going to be eaten alive by some giant sand bug. Surprisingly it is Erin who throws a rope for his rescue. Seriously, is this little dude that heavy since all are struggling to pull him out. I suppose they have to continue their journey with her since she is the only one who knows where they’re going. Screw that traitor thing for now. A sandstorm separates them. It is then Sharisharu in her fused form comes to kidnap Hiiro back to base. Since Baffaloppa has refined the machine, the fusion is much better now because Sharisharu looks sexy and badass in her new form. Hiiro instantly draws his sword when he sees Nambuuko. Of course you know he easily loses. Nambuuko tells him a secret. They met before 10 years ago at Balbagoa. Yup, your guess is as good as mine. Nambuuko is the one who killed Bairo. He thought Bairo was foolish trying to seal a dragon because Nambuuko would have used the chaos to earn more money. He survived thanks to some crystal protecting him from the flames. During that, he saw those beautiful flames and that evil beauty is what he is looking for. Human lives pale in comparison to its destruction. Nambuuko assures he won’t kill Hiiro for his fear of death is what is needed to summon Dagan Zot. All Hiiro has left now is humiliation and with Dagan Zot’s heart in his hand, the dragon’s life is his to command. Meanwhile Erin uses Alshina to trace Hiiro but instead they find Saraato smashing her magic wand against some rock till it breaks. Seems she is summoning a dragon as its noise will attract it. Oh, here comes one now.

Episode 12
Using the dragon, they fly to Nambuuko’s castle. It is rumoured it was ruled by a demon king named Gyrokias who was defeated by the hero, Dalhalbart. So sad the dragon is shot down as our heroes go into hiding. Baffaloppa is happy Saraato is here and takes them back to his lab. He reveals she is a magic doll made under Nambuuko’s orders. So now you know why she doesn’t eat, right? Not because she is helping to save money! Baffaloppa was ordered to make a warrior that could fight in lands destroyed by the soul devouring flames. However Baffaloppa was more interested in her beauty and kindness. Unfortunately that is not what Nambuuko wanted and ordered him to dispose of her. Of course he pretended to do so and let her escape. Learning that she is attracted to Hiiro’s heart because it is the heart of Dagan Zot, he concludes she was drawn to it because she herself lacks one. Baffaloppa knows Nambuuko is going to use Saraato in his plan and wants her to escape. However he doesn’t care about Hiiro so Saraato disobeys him for the first time and runs away to find him. There he is in Nambuuko’s and Sharisharu’s clutches. The evil lord wants Saraato to come to his side or else Hiiro gets it. Oddly, if Nambuuko needs them both and can’t kill them, so why so afraid of his threats? When she does so, Sharisharu teleports them to Balbagoa while she fights and stalls Giruu. There she explains how Nambuuko will use his machine to fuse Dagan Zot with all the soldiers from the warring countries who have gathered there into the ultimate disaster!

But I suppose Sharisharu didn’t see this coming because Nambuuko finishes his explanation that everyone in his castle are now trapped and their souls will be used as magic for this reactor. Naturally his subjects start panicking as they don’t want to die. But their screams and tears only fuel the process further. And what was Sharisharu saying about Nambuuko won’t let her die? And what the heck is this irony that she once said she would gladly give her life to him? Now is the moment and she is starting to feel betrayed? Since magic is blocked inside, nobody can get out. Can Baffaloppa get them out? His real body is already at Balbagoa and this one is just a puppet. Damn old man. We see him threatening Nambuuko to stop the machine if he doesn’t release Saraato. However Nambuuko silences him. I guess he isn’t needed anymore as the machine can run on its own. After hypnotizing Saraato under his command, Nambuuko orders her to kill Hiiro to awaken Dagan Zot. Palupa contacts Mumu to have her shoot a hole through the barrier, enough for their magic to teleport them out. You know how high her price would be and she doesn’t take credit. So they pool all their money together. Giruu only has kitchen utensils? I guess Erin’s gems would do. One hole in the wall coming up. They make a deal with Sharisharu to teleport them to Balbagoa in exchange she gets to deal with Nambuuko. Lost that lovin’ feeling? Hiiro has already partially transformed into his dragon form but it is still incomplete. Once it is, the evil dragon will fully revive.

Episode 13
When Giruu and co arrive, Sharisharu turns her back and attacks Giruu. Despite Nambuuko’s betrayal, she is still loyal to him. She herself admitted is stupid. We couldn’t agree more. Once Saraato is on the verge of killing Hiiro, that is when Dagan Zot appears. Nambuuko has been waiting for this moment and has got where he wants it. Using the Grand Trowa and the reactors, he fuses with Dagan Zot. Behold the new Nambuuko! Uhm, doesn’t he look a bit like Giruu but darker? Hiiro has never done many things right so you think he can defeat him? So to stop this atrocity, Baffaloppa, Erin and Tomitte have to simultaneously stop the reactors and take out Grand Trowa. They did it but nothing happened. You’d think Nambuuko would be so stupid to leave everything defenceless, right? I suppose he doesn’t need all that crap since he has already obtained the soul devouring flames. To seal possession of this eternal power, he kills of Saraato. Bad move. Because Hiiro is so mad that his sword somehow now can cut his arm and through his armour! Is it the power of love or anger that made it possible?

With Nambuuko’s demise, Dagan Zot is now free (to make sure Nambuuko is dead, big dragon squashes him). Hiiro has thoughts about sacrificing himself by piercing his own heart (which is Dagan Zot’s). But he chickens out and gets another idea. Using Grand Trowa, he pulls out some magical sword and uses Kokuu Blade to cut open its chest. And then they switch hearts! OMFG! Is it that easy?! But Hiiro didn’t put his own heart back in his body. Instead he gives it to Saraato who then springs back to life. And this is Dagan Zot’s demise?! WTF?! Now, the rest are fighting over Grand Trowa for their own nefarious agenda. But then it breaks! Giruu says that is not the real Grand Trowa as it wouldn’t shatter. So where is the real one? Shattered when Bairo first used it to seal Dagan Zot? But then it shattered too, right? Then how can this fake do so many miraculous things? I don’t get it! For the first time Saraato cries when she learns Baffaloppa died when he tried to protect her. All the warring nations pulled back because Erin has a secret connection with the kings and a simple call was all it took for them to back down?! Sharisharu cries over Nambuuko’s death but the remaining guards easily change her mind to look forward to a new freer future with her sexier body. WTF?! And suddenly she is a free woman. Nambuuko is the past. WTF indeed. After burying Baffaloppa, Hiiro says his heart is now Saraato’s. An excuse to always be with her and protect her? He gives Dalhalbart to Tomitte. With peace reigning over the land, what will Hiiro do now? Train with his sword! He won’t admit he is a magic user and still believes himself as a wandering swordsman. I guess we’re in no hurry for him to become a legendary swordsman then.

A Hero That Never Was… And Never Should Be!
I knew the entire adventure was ridiculous seeing how the main hero is so I accepted everything as part of the entertainment. I didn’t know the finale episode would be this ridiculous because it just felt so rush that they are running out of time and that this is the last episode so anything goes. Uh huh. Not like it freaking mattered. It is still unsure if Dagan Zot is truly defeated since Hiiro is still having its heart. But we don’t see him whining about revenge anymore so does it mean it is gone for good? If it is so, it makes it a truly mind boggling thing because such a powerful dragon that nobody could defeat and barely sealed is defeated in the most ridiculous manner ever. That’s not the only ridiculous thing there. From Sharisharu’s fast-get-over-your-boyfriend to the warring nations just retreating like that, I don’t want to open another can of worms.

The plot doesn’t feel original and sometimes it just feels predictable or lost. It is about a boy seeking revenge on a dragon whom he blamed for causing the death of his beloved parents. I can see why he is so angry and impatient for most of the times. So for the entire series it sometimes feels like little fillers because you see the group trying to head where Nambuuko is but get a little distracted with ambushes in the desert or wasteland and even a detour to visit a certain quirky doctor. A little flashback for the main character and his strongman to stretch the plot further and voila, you have got yourself a season worth of entertainment. And you thought Hiiro and Dagan Zot’s swapped hearts are supposed to be the twist of the story. And what is this about Saraato being attracted to the dragon’s heart and thus it isn’t Hiiro she is attracted to? Sorry to pour water on your romance ideals, pal. You’re already so weak and underpowered so why would a girl like her want you? Because the plot says the hero always gets the girl in the end and thus the predictable direction whereby Saraato chose to be with Hiiro on her own free will. Now that she has Hiiro’s heart, can you say she is one with him forever? Literally.

Of all the characters in Hiiro’s group, the only useful and reliable character is Giruu! You have got to agree with me on this. Everybody else is just useless in some ways. I mean look at this muscle guy. He saves Hiiro’s life from numerous dangerous occasions, he is the most rational of the group, he is sharp in his observations, he has the best swordsmanship around (at least in the group – and the only one who can decently put up a fight), he is loyal to his bocchama and most important of all, he can cook! Not only cook decent meals but the best there is ever! If this guy wasn’t in the group in the first place, everybody would have died especially Hiiro who wouldn’t even make it past the first episode. The only thing weird I find about him is his sword design. At first what I saw was and started thinking, “Is that a giant screwdriver or an odd shaped penis?”. Holy sh*t!

And the rest of the groupies are just a bunch of weirdoes and losers especially with Hiiro being the most pathetic one. But one thing ‘refreshing’ about having a main character that is just a wuss is that he is unlike many other cliché, generic and typical main characters in similar genres. You know, the kind with a dark brooding personality or one that has some sort of latent power that is so powerful that it would change the balance and the world or the kind of hero that has his own annoyingly generic ideals of justice. Therefore with Hiiro being weak and whiny, it does give a different feel to the already ubiquitous archetype of heroes. Hence despite the irony of his name that sounds like a champion or victor, Hiiro is just a spoilt brat with lots of angst trying to avenge his parents with powers he doesn’t even have. Not even part of it. Sure, you can argue he is studying the wrong skill for 10 years but even an idiot should have realized long ago that something is totally wrong. To say he has the heart of Dagan Zot and that he transforms into a terrible half human half dragon killer isn’t also entirely accurate because for most parts he is consumed and controlled by this rage. He is now a mindless killing machine. And the worst part of all his pathetic-ness is how when he learnt about his switched hearts, he isn’t even willing to sacrifice his own life for his vengeance! If he was that determined to avenge his parents, he would just stabbed his own heart and let it all end there. Even preventing Nambuuko from pursuing his unholy goal. But nooooo. He is too chicken to even take his own life and thus it gives an excuse why the anime should continue. Yeah, if he killed himself, the anime would have ended right there and all of us would be taken by surprise then.

Continuing the rest of the useless characters in Hiiro’s group, Saraato feels more like a retard than anything useful. She feels like a cliché girl whom the hero picks up and holds some sort of secret (look no further than Comet Lucifer). And so when the ‘shocking’ revelation that she is some magic doll, it just made us yawn. And I thought she would be the sleeping vessel of Dagan Zot. That would be something. And this Palupa shorty, he is like the comic relief of the series seeing that the most memorable thing about him is his penny pinching ways as he is always concerned with the limited funds the party has. So is he Hiiro’s financial advisor or something? Tomitte might be a thief but since he joins the journey, he didn’t do anything related to his skill and thus he feels more like an excess baggage. You know, like as though they just need an extra member in the party to make it look more like a bigger party and do some minor ‘errands’ when the hero is having his hands full with something else.

Finally there is Erin. Ah, when you have cat ears and big bosoms, there is always that sexy lady in the group to provide fanservice. Not as useless as the rest but not as useful as Giruu or half of it, Erin’s ‘trademark’ seems to vanish at times when she is needed most or during times when the party is in crisis. It’s like she is the greatest disappearing act ever. This makes her some sort of ‘useless’ to the party, right? And when she turns out to be a turncoat or rather it is her specialty in trading information regardless of who she sells it to, we can’t have sexy babes be the true bad guys, can we? And everybody quickly forgave her because it won’t change a thing. I don’t think that Mumu can be considered as a proper member of the party since she is only called out on certain dire occasions. In the event if she is considered so, she is another useless character as she charges freaking high prices for weapons or other stuffs. She is like the Scrooge McDuck of the series, worse than Palupa. So if you’re poor, forget her help. Faster and better for you to die than to haggle with her over the price.

Nambuuko as an antagonist feels typical like any other baddie. Although his aim is to create chaos, have nations go to war so they will continue to buy arms from him and ultimately become the master dragon himself, that is pretty much the same as world dominance because you are controlling everybody under your thumb and manipulating them like puppets on a string. Thanks to weak Hiiro, it only serves to enhance his power and evilness throughout the series. A food for thought: If everybody goes to war and kill each and there is nobody left, where will Nambuuko get his money then? Maybe he should just print his own money then. Sharisharu at first passes off as a typical but lovable evil sidekick. The kind you can’t bring yourself to hate totally since she is awfully cute despite how evil she can get. The biggest irony about her is the fact that she felt betrayed by Nambuuko when she told us in the face that her life belongs to Nambuuko. After all the screw ups that would have made stricter evil lords kill you off for being incompetent, Nambuuko is more ‘merciful’ giving her second chances and even a body upgrade. And then when it is time for her to sacrifice her life like all those other dumb minions, she gets scared. WTF?! Isn’t her sole existence is to live for him? She should have realized that all the failures she brought she has no right to be next to him and should pay for her life. At least in a villain’s organization. So it was just mind boggling that she felt deceived when Nambuuko abandons her and was fretting over it. Life has no meaning without him… And then when he is truly gone, time to get over and move on. Wow. So much about loyalty. She should have killed herself too if she really wanted to follow him wherever he goes. Just like how they killed of Baffaloppa, so why can’t they do the same with her? Just because she is sexier now doesn’t mean the producers need to let her live.

Action scenes are rather decent too. Because the one who is doing most of the fighting is usually Giruu. Hiiro sometimes feels like a damsel in distress seeing he has to be saved countless times even when they are not in battle! Yeah, this kid can’t even do anything right on his own. We all know he sucks in his sword skill (heck, he has his sword broken not once but twice!), so we thought with that revelation he is some super hidden magic talent would at least get him somewhere but unfortunately if he himself doesn’t realize it, what is the use? It just felt like trolling. Grand Trowa supposed to grant any wish? More like Grand Troller. Don’t get me started if the Grand Trowa we see the entire time is fake or not. I’m too confused to even talk about it. And Dagan Zot whom I believe is supposed to be the true hidden star of the series is just relegated to pathetic cameo appearances but when he does emerge from the shadows, be very afraid with his awesome powers because it literally blows you away. Take that you weaklings!

For a fantasy setting, I guess the art and drawing are pretty standard too. Hmm… How should I put it? Everything looks colourful but in a dark way. I mean, well, everything isn’t your bright colours but they are shaded darker to associate with the grim theme of a looming war and all. It might be just me since I find that Hiiro looks quite effeminate. Must be those eyelashes… Sometimes I thought it enhances his pathetic character. Oh, did I mention that with his angst looks, it makes him look like a bad guy sometimes. Even Nambuuko isn’t looking as much as a baddie compared to Hiiro (although he still is). I find some characters resemble like characters from other anime like Erin resembling close to Xiao Mei from Shining Hearts: Shiawase No Pan and Saraato has an uncanny look to Denpa Onna To Seishun Otoko’s Erio. At the end of each episode, there is an illustration eye-catch which I think it is pretty good quality. This anime series is produced by Bridge who did Nobunagun, Devil Survivor 2 The Animation, Mitsudomoe and the second season of Fairy Tail (co-produced with A-1 Pictures).

Voice acting is rather okay with only Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as the only recognizable to me in his role as Hiiro. Palupa is voiced by Youji Ueda (Kisaragi in Basilisk) and I am not sure if his dragon character is speaking in some sort of accent because to me I thought he sounded very gay. Really! You know, sometimes I thought Koji Yusa was the one who voiced him. The rest of the casts are Mao as Saraato (Renge in Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku No Zvezda), Taiten Kusunoki as Giruu (Rock Bison in Tiger & Bunny), Maaya Uchida as Erin (Rikka in Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai), Arisa Ogasawara as Tomitte (Panty in Panty And Stocking With Garterbelt), Shunsuke Sakuya as Nambuuko (Okuninushi in Noragami Aragoto), Mariya Ise as Sharisharu (Levi in Fairy Tail), Masayuki Omoro as Baffaloppa (Sam in Bakuretsu Tenshi) and Manami Numakura as Mumu (Paula in Nisekoi S2). The opening theme is Resonant Heart by Maaya Uchida while the ending theme is Xenotopia by Suzuko Mimori. Pretty okay by today’s anime pop standards and nothing to shout about.

On a trivial note, I find that the name of each episode doesn’t really correspond to what the episode is all about. For example, episode 2’s “The Dark Crystal” is just mostly about Hiiro taking refuge at Tomitte’s secret base and his pathetic slime training. So where the heck is the dark crystal? If they mean the Grand Trowa, it doesn’t even make a decent appearance except being mentioned a couple of times. Then in the next episode, “The Hidden Fortress”, what freaking fortress are they referring too? Is it Tomitte’s base or the town lord? Because either way I don’t see it as hidden or a fortress. Then for episode 4’s “An Unexpected Journey”, the entire episode was almost a hotspring fanservice and the journey only began right at the end. If you’re talking about episode 11’s “Fury Road”, nowadays the recent Mad Max Hollywood film comes to mind but we don’t see any post-apocalyptic cars whatsoever or a wild chase. The only thing I can associate it with is that the characters are trekking through the desert. And there is nothing fury about it. Usually I don’t give a damn about episode titles but somehow this series has got me thinking at the end how the heck it turned out this way when everything was so different.

Overall, this isn’t anywhere close to a masterpiece fantasy story but at least it still provides decent entertainment especially with the main character being weak and his bunch of weird and ‘useless’ companions. With the less than stellar plot, either you love it (as in for laughs) or hate it. But it is bad enough to make you want to root for Dagan Zot just to devour everyone so that peace will forever rule the land plagued with silly wars. It would have been much so better and funnier if the plot was about Hiiro switching hearts with a chicken so he travels around the continent chasing it down to prevent it being turned into chicken soup from unsuspecting hungry people. Yeah… Chicken-koku No Fatalités! Double Fatality!

Seisen Cerberus

Sword Art Online

October 27, 2013

If you have a chance to play a real fantasy RPG game, and I mean a real virtual experience of an RPG game, would you do so? You get to fight epic battles against powerful mythical creatures. You get to visit exotic places and explore the mystical lands. You get to meet different characters of different classes and races. You get to purchase and earn rare items. Sell them. Exchange them. You get to increase your skills and other statistics that will increase your overall aptitude. Wow. And you get to do all of it not by just dreaming and confined in your little head. Sounds like a dream too good to be true at least in the real world for now. If Sword Art Online ever existed, I would really like to try my hands at it.

I may not be obsessed with the fantasy genre but it is still one of my favourites because of the hectic and mundane routines of the real world, it is like another world that I can escape to. I would love to spend some time exploring another world or even an alternate universe but let’s not get so deep into this far-fetched dream of mine. Before I start realizing the harsh reality and disappointment start hitting me, let me be thankful that at least an anime is being made about this. At least I get to watch it. And then continue dreaming… Of course there are lots of other fantasy anime genres out there and also those that have RPG elements. But unlike the rest, this one gives the impression that you (at least for the characters in the anime), as an ordinary gamer can delve into such world and setting. All you need to do is have lots of free time and just put on some helmet to take you to this exotic world.

All may seem cool for this experience but there is seems to be a catch. What happens when you suddenly find yourself unable to leave? You are playing this dangerous RPG game with your real life! If you die in this world, you die for real. Well, games are supposed to relieve you from stress and make you feel good but I think people would take things more seriously if they have to put their life on the line. No second chance. Think before you act or death awaits you. That is what Sword Art Online has become and has caught many by surprise when it is first released. The unfortunate gamers will have to fight their way through several floors and defeat the big bosses if they want to free themselves. Otherwise, you are either stuck in here for a very long time till somebody wins the game or you die. Now do you take this game seriously?

Episode 1
A long queue is seen as eager fans are lining up (even to days prior) to buy the internationally renowned SAO game, a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). Kirito isn’t one of those in line but because he was a Beta tester of this game, he hooks up to SAO in the comfort of his home. Many players too have already hooked up in this virtual world. Kirito meets a newbie, Klein who can tell he is a Beta and hopes he could teach him the basics. Despite this game is RPG, there is no magic involved and fights are based on weapons. Klein learns Kirito despite being a Beta only managed to reach the eighth floor (out of hundred) and it took him 2 months to do so. Plus, there are only a thousand people invited to play SAO. When Klein wants to log out, he couldn’t find that button. Could this be a bug? Kirito can’t find his too. Kirito could wait till someone pulls the NerveGear helmet (the helmet that sends them into this virtual world) off. However Klein lives alone… Or they could wait till someone forcibly reboots the system and disconnects everyone. Suddenly everyone is transported to the main square. A cloak figure hovers from above identifying himself as Akihiko Kayaba. He is this game’s creator. He tells them they can’t log out and any forcible removal of the helmet will send some microwave radar to the brain. In short, you die. As proof there has been 200 over players in the real world falling victim to this and news around the world are being spread. From now on, resurrection is no longer possible. When your health points reaches zero, you die for real. They are now at the lowest floor (the first) and can move on to the next once they defeat the floor’s boss. Once they reach the hundredth and defeat the final boss, the game is considered cleared. He then turns everyone’s avatar as their true selves. Holy sh*t! Lots of men impersonating as girls! I guess that’s what MMORPG stands for: Many Men Online Role Playing as Girls! Haha! Now that the tutorial for SAO has been completed, please enjoy the game. Hell no! The crowd starts panicking. Kirito remembers Kayaba the person he admired once announced that SAO’s world won’t be all fun and games and will be a reality. I guess he wasn’t lying. Kirito wants to head to the next town and gather as much resources available. He hopes Klein would come with him as a group. However he is worried about his other friends who stood in line to buy SAO and wants to go look for them. Kirito goes off alone. After a month, the first floor isn’t cleared and 2000 deaths have already occurred.

Episode 2
Kirito attends a conference led by Diabel who claims his party has found the room containing the first floor’s boss. He wants people to gather into groups of six. Kirito makes a pact with a hooded loner, Asuna. A player, Kibaou jumps on stage to accuse Beta players for abandoning players like them by monopolizing stuffs and prioritizing themselves. He won’t trust such people. Andrew Gilbert “Agil” Mills stands up to explain that everybody was given a guidebook on the world. Yet many died. Kibaou takes a backseat. The book also contains information of the first floor’s boss, Kobold. That night Kirito talks to Asuna. She feels joining a party and doing something is better than doing nothing and rotting away at this starting point. The next day everyone marches to Kobold’s lair. As per in their guidebook, the kangaroo boss moves in the way as they expected. Diabel is going in for the kill when Kirito realizes Kobold is making a move not stated in the book. Diabel takes a massive blow. Kirito wanted to heal him but he refuses and hopes he will defeat the boss for everyone. Diabel dies and everyone else is in disarray. Kirito and Asuna team up to fight Kobold and finally finish the big bad boss. Everyone celebrate and praises Kirito. Till Kibaou blames him for letting Diabel die. Had he shared what he knew beforehand, he wouldn’t have died. He accuses Kirito for knowing Kobold’s patterns and yet he didn’t tell them. This means he is a Beta. Fearing this would lead to another discrimination, Kirito starts laughing that he isn’t on that same level with those amateurs who don’t even know how to level up. He claims he has fought lots more enemies in the higher floors and knows a lot more. Kibaou labels him as a cheater. Kirito thinks it’s a nice name for being called a Beater (Beta + cheater). He goes alone to the next floor and dissolves his partnership with Asuna but tells her to join a guild if someone trustworthy invites her.

Episode 3
Several months later, Kirito finds himself joining a group called Black Cats. They are grateful for him for saving them. Kirito bonds with the members as they go hunting and gaining experience points through the floors. Kirito manages to see Klein in a guild but they didn’t say much. One night, a member of Black Cats, Sachi is missing. Kirito finds her sitting alone in the sewer. She is scared of dying. Kirito calms her down and promises to protect her and Black Cats. The group’s leader, Keita decides to go buy house with the amount of money they made. So the rest decide to go earn more money. Trekking through the dungeons, they find a secret door containing a treasure chest. But it is all a trap and they become locked in and surrounded by monsters. Slowly each of them got killed including Sachi. Kirito was the only survivor. When he tells Keita about it, he became so devastated that he committed suicide!!! Kirito becomes withdrawn, guilt-ridden and seeks out a boss called Nicholas the Renegade believed to possess a miracle item that could resurrect others. Had he not lied about his level to Black Cats, it could have been avoided. He could have heard Sachi’s last words. As he is seeking Nicholas, Klein and his guild followed him and he hopes Kirito would join them. They realize the Divine Dragon Alliance guild has followed them as they seek that item too so Klein and co stave them off so Kirito could search for Nicholas. Finally there is this giant Santa dude. Kirito becomes a bloodthirsty berserker in killing him. When Kirito returns to Klein, he seems disappointed. Worse, disillusioned, disheartened and lifeless. Apparently the resurrection item must be used on the dead within the next 10 seconds otherwise it is just another piece of junk. Could you not understand his frustration? As Kirito wallows in guilt on Christmas Eve, a message from Sachi pops up. If he is reading this message it means she has already died. She knows she will die one day but doesn’t want Kirito to lose hope and blame himself for her death. She knew his true level and was glad to know how strong he was. She hopes he would live on to find the meaning of the creation of this game and even perhaps her own weak existence. She sings the Rudolph song as her final present (only tear eyes, no red nose). Her final words were thank you and goodbye.

Episode 4
Rosalia demands Silica to hand over her healing potion. She caves in to her provocation and then leaves her party. But she’s having it tough going solo. She ran out of healing potion and her familiar, Pina died. She was about to meet the same fate too but was saved by Kirito. He tells her a flower in the upper floors that can resurrect Pina. However it must be done within 3 days of the familiar’s death and that the flower only appears before a beast tamer (Silica’s class). Kirito agrees to help her get it. Why? Because he looks like his sister. Don’t laugh… In town, they come across Rosalia and her men. She continues to mock Silica but Kirito snubs her. Kirito later explains that some people in RPG find their thrill in becoming villains. Good players have green indicators, orange for those who committed crimes and red for murder. Back at the inn as they discuss their plan to get the flower, Kirito senses someone eavesdropping on them but the culprit fled before Kirito could take action. Next day as they set out to get the flower, Silica wants to know more about his sister. Apparently they are cousins but lived together. Their grandpa was strict and when Kirito quit kendo, he was beaten up. But his sister vowed to practice hard for his share and advanced through the levels. Kirito felt guilty for taking away her freedom and thought helping her out was like some sort of atonement.

After they retrieve the flower and return to town, Kirito senses someone following them. Turns out to be Rosalia. She wants Silica to hand over the flower. Kirito knows her as the leader of the orange guild, Titan’s Hand. Her indicator is green because she leads her prey to orange indicator members. It was one of them who eavesdropped on them yesterday. Silica realized Rosalia was accessing her when she partied with her. Kirito’s real mission is to look for Rosalia. Days ago he heard her guild had killed members of another guild but left the leader alive. He overheard the leader pleading to others to avenge his friends. Not by killing them but to throw them into prison. Rosalia doesn’t care and sets her men upon them. When they realize they are up against Kirito, they know him as the Black Swordsman and part of the clearing group. Rosalia doesn’t believe and orders them to attack. However despite all them attacking at once and at full force, they couldn’t leave a scratch on him because his life bar replenishes. Kirito reveals he is level 78, has health regeneration doing battle and HP of 14,500!!! Woah! So their 400 damage per every 10 seconds is nothing. He shows a warp crystal his client bought down to his last penny that will take them all to prison. Rosalia is not cowed but Kirito’s speed ambushes her and points his sword at her neck. As a solo player, he doesn’t mind having an orange indicator for a day or two. Later Kirito apologizes to Silica that he used her as bait to lure Rosalia. He thought she would be scared if he told her. She notes him as a good and amazing person but to him levels are just numbers and strength here is only an illusion. He hopes they can meet in the real world next time. Silica resurrects Pina and hopes to tell her amazing adventure with Kirito to it.

Episode 5
Asuna is part of the strongest guilds Knights of Blood and is the vice commander. I don’t think Kirito is part of the group because he is also in her guild’s meeting for some mission. They share opposing views in taking down NPCs. Kirito still views them of having lives but Asuna doesn’t. Later Kirito relaxes in the meadows seeing it’s a nice weather. Asuna listens to his advice and sleeps next to him. Nice nap she had, didn’t she? She wakes up and feels embarrassed he was watching over her and forces him to make up by treating her to a meal. She thanks him for guarding her because even though they are in safe zones, there are cases where players can be killed. Though players can fight each other through a duel, one can take advantage of the other who is sleeping by using the other’s finger to accept the duel request and then strike them till their life points reach zero. Suddenly they hear a scream. They see a guy being hung through a church window and a spear impaled deep in his chest. Before they can save him, he dies. They look around and couldn’t find the culprit. There is no winner notification and everyone’s indicator is green. They step up to ask if anyone around have any details. Yoruko, the girl who screamed earlier tells them that she was supposed to meet up with the killed guy, Kains. They were once in the same guild and supposed to meet for dinner when they got separated before this happened. She thought she saw someone behind him before his death but didn’t look familiar. Kirito asks if anybody would want Kains dead and she hesitated in answering. Kirito and Asuna lack the Appraisal skill so they go see Agil who runs a merchant sword to analyze the spear. Seems it is made by a player named Grimrock and there is nothing strange about this Guilty Thorn. Kirito wanted to stab his own hand to test but Asuna stops him. Somebody just died with that and feels it is better to leave it in Agil’s hands.

The duo go talk to Yoruko once more and tells her about Guilty Thorn. She decides to explain the possible reason behind this. She didn’t yesterday as she doesn’t want to relive the trauma. She was from a guild called Golden Apple. They defeated a rare boss and earned a ring that could increase their agility. The members were divided in using it or to sell it. In the end, they voted and the outcome was 5-3 in favour of selling. The guild’s leader, Griselda took the ring to town to sell but never returned. It is found out she was killed. Grimrock is her husband. They are only married in-game. Learning that Yoruko and Kains voted against selling, they think if Grimrock is the murder, he must be out to avenge Griselda’s death. The other person who voted against selling is Schmidt who is now part of Divine Dragon Alliance. Soon they bring Schmidt to talk to Yoruko. He is clearly troubled that Griselda’s death happened 6 months ago and it is only now that Kains got murdered. Yoruko had done some thinking. She thinks Griselda is taking revenge. Since killing in a safe area is not possible, she must have returned as a ghost! Is she serious? We can see she’s going mad about it. She feels guilty that they should not have voted. They should have let Griselda made the decision and Grimrock was the only one who thought of that. She feels everyone is responsible for her death and that’s why Grimrock is out to avenge her. Suddenly a dagger stabs Yoruko from behind.

Episode 6
Kirito goes after the caped assassin but he disappears via teleport. When he returns, Schmitt goes crazy thinking Griselda is back as a ghost for revenge. Kirito doesn’t think so because if she was really a ghost, why the need to teleport? Schmitt seeks forgiveness at Griselda’s grave when he is surprised to see Griselda and Grimrock before him. They make him reveal what he did on the day they auctioned the ring. He found a crystal and memo in his pouch with instructions to get access to Griselda’s room. He doesn’t know whom the instructions are from. Griselda and Grimrock reveal their faces and they turn out to be Yoruko and Kains. Kirito talks to Asuna and realizes that deaths in safe areas are not possible. They have been seeing things. He observes that only objects expire. When Kains’ armour was impaled, it was his armour that is fading away. When its durability reaches to zero, he teleport away to make it look like he died. As for Yoruko, she had a dagger stabbed on her back all the time. She never showed them her back. When the dagger is about to expire, she made it as though she was stabbed. The caped assassin was probably Kains. By making rumours of deaths in safe areas, they hope to find the culprit behind the ring incident. Yoruko has recorded Schmitt’s statement when they are attacked by a guild called Laughing Coffin. They are about to kill them but Kirito arrives in time. They retreat when Kirito calls a bluff that reinforcements will arrive. Yoruko apologizes for lying as Kirito explains that Grimrock reluctantly made them weapons not for Griselda’s sake but the thought that if they staged something outrageous and attracted attention of many, someone would eventually figure things out.

He only realized something like that while talking to Asuna about in-game marriages. This allows their storage compartment items to be viewable by both married players. Thus with Griselda’s death, the ring is in Grimrock’s storage instead of the murderer. Grimrock didn’t murder Griselda himself and probably hired a red player to do it. Because Yoruko and Kains explained their plan to him, he used their plan to bury them forever by eliminating them when they’re together. Asuna brings Grimrock to them. He admits he killed her not for the money. They are married in real life. She was an ideal wife. When they entered the game, she changed. While he became panicky and cowardly, she turned the opposite by becoming lively and energetic. He didn’t want his ideal perception of her to shatter and thus killed her to preserve that. Grimrock doesn’t expect Kirito to understand but he will one day when he’s about to lose the love he just obtained. Asuna dismisses that he loves Griselda because he merely treasures her as his possession. This made Grimrock realize his mistake. His friends take him away and they’ll handle it from here. Before Asuna and Kirito leave, they thought they saw Griselda standing by her grave. Asuna suggests that they add each other to their friend’s contact list although this is technically not forming a party with each other.

Episode 7
Lizbeth or Liz for short runs a blacksmith shop. She just finished forging Asuna’s sword and thinks she is off to meet her special someone. She hopes she too will find that special someone of hers. Soon Kirito comes in and wants to request a custom made sword on par with Elucidator, a sword so good that it can be considered as a cursed sword. She gives him her best sword so he tests it out and it broke! This upsets Liz. Furthermore she thinks Kirito insulted her skills when he thought the sword was weak. She has him to go gather a rare metal to build the sword he wants. He wanted to do this himself (because she might slow him down) but she insists on tagging along. On the frozen level with crystals, Kirito fights a dragon while Liz is ordered to stay hidden. She accidentally steps out and the dragon blows her away. She falls into a deep hole. Kirito dives down to save her. Thankfully they are still breathing at the bottom. Teleport crystals won’t work so Kirito runs up the walls! If it wasn’t this slippery, he might have got out. They spend the night down in the hole as Liz holds his hands and notices how warm it is. Next morning, she sees him digging out a metal ingot, the material they’re supposed to get. She realizes the ingot is dragon poo because they eat crystals, which gets processed in its stomach and then comes out as excretion. So which means they’re in a dragon’s den, right? Dragons are nocturnal. Look who is coming back?

Kirito in his superb acrobatic manoeuvres grabs Liz with one hand and rides the dragon till it reaches high up in the sky. Liz is so amazed at this and the beautiful sight that she confesses she loves him. But the wind made it hard for him to hear. A happy hug will do. Liz forges the strongest sword with her heart for him. She hopes she will confess to him when it’s done. Kirito is satisfied with it. Liz wants him to make her his exclusive blacksmith. He should come back here every day to maintain his equipment. I think Kirito gets what she is trying to say. Before the big confession, Asuna leaps in as she was worried about Liz after hearing about her crazy adventure. When Liz learns they both know each other and that Asuna was the one who recommended Kirito her shop, she felt devastated. I guess she can see it. We can see it too. She puts up a strong front and hints she will support Asuna. Then she bolts out of the door. Kirito finds her crying alone by the bridge. He thanks her for making him realize that everyone in this world is trying to live (he commented on her question before on why he saved her: It was better to die together than die alone). Liz hopes Kirito can bring an end to this world, though she wants his warmth to remain just a little longer.

Episode 8
It has been 2 years since people playing SAO are trapped. Kirito finds a rare S-class rabbit meat in the forest. He takes it back to Agil to appraise it and it seems Kirito has got himself a very prized rabbit meat. Care to sell or share it? Kirito needs somebody to cook it. Then comes in Asuna. Chef problem solved. Learning he has this meat, Asuna wants half of it! Sorry, Agil. Kirito will write him an 800-word essay on how good it tastes. The best place to do it is at her home but Asuna’s comrade, Kuradeel doesn’t approve of it and is suspicious. Besides, Asuna notes Kirito’s level is 10 times higher than his. Kuradeel realizes Kirito is the Beater and tries to run him down as untrustworthy and dangerous. However Asuna dismisses him for today. Back at home, Asuna cooks the meat. If only cooking was this easy. It turns out the way you want at just the tip of your fingers. The meat doesn’t disappoint as they talk about the passing years. Everyone has gotten used to this world and probably don’t care about the real one anymore. Lesser and lesser people in the clearing group is proof of this. Still, Asuna wants to return to reality since she has things to do. Asuna worries for Kirito since he is a solo player. Her experience tells her that recently higher level bosses are increasing in irregular behaviour. She invites him to join her. He is forced to since she is pointing the knife at him. Next morning, Kirito waits for her and Asuna comes crashing onto him via portal. She is running away from Kuradeel who seems to have taken the responsibility to watch her outside her home. Like a stalker. He thinks it’s his duty to protect her? Can’t he tell she finds it creepy? He tries to take her back with him to their headquarters but Kirito lays his hands off her and says Asuna will be accompanying him today and will assure her safety. Kuradeel doesn’t trust him and challenges him to a duel to prove his skill. In their first strike, Kirito breaks his sword upon contact. I guess the winner is clear. Kuradeel won’t accept this and chooses another weapon but is stopped by Asuna this time. She uses her position to order him to head back to headquarters alone. Despite not happy about this humiliation, he is forced to do so. The duo then go dungeon hunting and end up before a boss room. Knowing boss monsters don’t leave the room they guard, they are just going to take a peek and get their teleport crystal ready just in case. Upon opening the door, they see the demonic Gleam Eyes.

Episode 9
The duo make a mad dash for the exit. Don’t rush in without proper preparations. They stop and take a break as Kirito tastes her awesome lunch. She must have improved in her cooking a lot. Asuna is suspicious of Kirito’s skill because he only uses a sword in his fight. People have 2 hands, right? Shouldn’t he be using a shield in the other? Besides, he hasn’t been using Liz’s sword either. They are surprised to see Klein and his guild. They are surprised to see a lone player with Asuna. Are they big fans of Asuna? Klein is trying to hint he is looking for a girlfriend, only to be punched in the gut by Kirito. The Aincrad Freedom Army approaches them. They are the reigning guild of the 1st floor but suffered massive losses on the 25th and went on to strengthen the guild instead of clearing floors. The leader Kovats asks them for the floor’s mapping for free since it is their goal to distribute to all resources equally to players. Kirito will not kick up a fuss since he intends to do that later and doesn’t do his profiting from map data. But he warns not to fight this floor’s boss. Numbers will not do and his tired men are in no shape to fight. Hope he listens. As they continue fighting lower floor monsters, they start to hear screams from the boss room. I guess the Army got hasty and went to fight Gleam Eyes. They get pulverized. So when Kovats dies, Asuna couldn’t take it anymore when Gleam Eyes is going to start killing the weakened men. She charges in only to receive a serious blow. Kirito runs in to cover for her. When he realizes the Army can’t escape because they can’t use their teleport crystal, it brings back haunting memories of Sachi and her guild’s death. He hesitates but needs to buck up. So after Klein and Asuna give him the much needed distraction, Kirito unleashes his skill, this time using Liz’s sword to power up greatly and slash Gleam Eyes with great speed. Both sides take enormous damage slashing one another but in the end, Kirito emerges victorious. His life is bloody close to danger that I think the next slight hit, he will die!

When Kirito comes to, emotional Asuna hugs him. Klein asks him about that superb skill. It seems he has this unique skill that nobody has and that is wielding 2 swords at once. He never said a thing because there will be other players who will be jealous. And after a long time, Asuna continues to cling on to him. She was scared he was going to die. She doesn’t know what to do if that happens. She tells him she is taking a temporary leave from her guild to party with him. Can’t say no. Don’t want to put her through another emotional ride. Kirito talks to Agil and he notes how news of his heroic skills has spread. Yeah, he has no more peace because everyone seems to be bugging him for info on it. But there is more bad news. Asuna takes Kirito to her guild’s headquarters. The commander, Heathcliff has high regards of Kirito ever since their boss raid on the 67th floor that nearly caused them to suffer casualties. He doesn’t like the idea that Kirito is ‘stealing’ Asuna who is a vital member away although Kirito points out he should have taken care in selecting better escorts for her. Heathcliff challenges Kirito to a duel and wants him to use his dual wielding. If Kirito wins, they will relinquish Asuna to him. Otherwise he must join Knights of Blood.

Episode 10
Asuna didn’t like how Kirito jump into a duel without thinking. Heathcliff has his own special skill too and some invincibility that breaks the game’s balance. Before the sell-out crowd, Kirito and Heathcliff clash swords at amazing speed. Heathcliff’s shield acts as an offensive too. Just when Kirito thought Heathcliff is wide open, then some accelerated time stopping effect has Heathcliff dodging it and pounce Kirito from the back. Heathcliff wins. So after all this while having Kirito dressed in black, it is odd to see him dress in white. Asuna wants to know why he became a solo player so he explains his experience with Black Cats and how he was responsible for their deaths. Asuna hugs him and promises she won’t die and will protect him. Asuna’s comrade, Godfree takes Kirito on a training stint to assess his skills. The other comrade is Kuradeel who seems to regret what he has done and promise never to do it again. At the canyon as they are taking a break, Kirito suddenly realizes something wrong with the rations. Godfree and Kirito became paralyzed from the water’s poison. Kuradeel reveals his evil façade and starts killing Godfree. Now he turns his attention to kill Kirito. He is a point away from permanent death when Asuna blasts Kuradeel away. Phew. In the nick of time. She was monitoring them when she noticed Godfree’s signal marker vanished and knew was something wrong. Asuna then slices and dices Kuradeel. He begs for his life but it was just a feint. When she lets her guard down, he knocks away her sword and prepares to kill her. Kirito has been freed from his paralysis and blocks the attack at the expense of losing his left hand. Then he stabs Kuradeel to kill him for good. Asuna becomes emotional but he calms her down with a kiss. They promise to be together till the end. After having dinner at Asuna’s place, she turns off the lights and starts stripping!!! Is there a skill for sex too?! Kirito clears up the misunderstanding this is not what he meant when he said he wanted to spend the night with her. Asuna got so embarrassed that she knocks him out. Hope he didn’t lose lots of health points for that. The duo want to stay away from the battle lines for the time being because they’re scared something will happen again if they head straight back. Kirito suggests living in a small picturesque village at the 22nd floor and proposes they get married.

Episode 11
Heathcliff is told what happened so he grants Asuna temporary leave from the guild. But he cautions they can’t stay away from the battle lines for long. The duo live out their dream life. Nice house. Nice scenery. Man, they get to play family in this virtual world. When Kirito wonders if their relationship is limited to this world, Asuna tells him everything they learnt and experienced here were real. Even if they return to their real world, she will come look for him. To prove that, she kisses him. The duo continue to have fun and as Kirito gives her ride on his shoulder, he tries to scare her with a ghost rumour in the woods. So happens Asuna saw that ghostly figure before her (because she is high up)! Upon closer inspection, this isn’t a ghost but a little girl who soon collapses. They bring her back to their home as they ponder her identity. Due to circumstances, she can’t be a NPC and the most possible explanation is that she may be a lost player (unlike other players, she lacks a cursor). Next morning, she opens her eyes. Although amnesiac, she remembers her name as Yui. Since she is having a hard time pronouncing Kirito and Asuna’s name, she calls them papa and mama respectively. Great. Now they are like a real family. And so the trio play family and Asuna is in a dilemma because she wants to protect her till her memories return. The fastest way to do that is to rejoin the battle and clear the floors. They will do what they can for now and head back to the first floor. It is much deserted and only a big chunk of the Army remains. Along the way, they hear a commotion. The Army is harassing Sasha and a group of children to pay up taxes. With Kirito and Asuna jumping in, Asuna slashes the leader to put some fear in him. In safe zones, one’s life points don’t get depleted. They flee like cowards once they realize her superior skills. Just when they thought everything is over, Yui starts spouting something about everybody’s heart. She begins to shiver in fear that this is not where she is supposed to be. She was always alone in a dark place. Some sort of noise disturbance rocks the place temporarily before Yui falls unconscious.

Episode 12
Though Yui is back to normal, Sasha doesn’t recognize Yui as she doesn’t live in this part in town. When SAO first started, there were many traumatized kids so Sasha can’t abandon them and took them in to this church. Yuriel from the Army then comes in looking for them. She’s not here to reprimand them but to seek their help. She explains their leader Thinker never wanted the guild to turn oppressive but it was inevitable as it grew larger. Amidst the internal struggle, Kibaou rose to power and his faction began monopolizing hunting grounds and such. But when people start noticing he was neglecting clearing the floors, he dispatched a group to the front lines (Kovats’ group). The failure causes him to be reprimanded and to be exiled but desperate Kibaou lured Thinker into a trap and is now trapped deep within the dungeons on this floor without any teleport crystal. Yuriel is sad that as Thinker’s aide she couldn’t do anything. She doesn’t have the power to save him. Asking the Army would be impossible due to Kibaou’s influence so when she heard Kirito and Asuna turning up here, she immediately went to seek their help. Yui can tell she is not lying so Kirito and Asuna agree to assist her. But Yui wants to come along despite being told to stay back at the church. Trekking through the underground dungeon that Kirito never knew existed even during his beta testing, it might have become available when higher floors were cleared. When they nearly arrive at a safe zone where Thinker is taking refuge, happy Yuriel rushes to meet him, not noticing calls from all sides to stay back. She was almost beheaded by a monster grim reaper’s scythe. Thank God for Kirito’s swift action. Kirito wants to be a hero and tells everyone else to teleport out but I guess Asuna wants to share the limelight of being the hero. This monster’s power is unknown and so crazily high his power that a single blow sends the duo flying away and taking lots of damage. Yui suddenly gets in front of the monster and her strong barrier makes him unable to cut Yui down. She summons a flaming sword to destroy him in one fell swoop.

Now that her memories have returned, it’s time to explain. SAO is controlled by a massive system that was designed to function without human maintenance. This system is called Cardinal. Everything from AIs to NPCs are managed by Cardinal. Including mental health counselling programme. Yui is the code name for that programme. She’s just an AI. In order to effectively interact with players, she was given the emotion ability. But 2 years ago when the game started, Cardinal ordered her not to interact with any players. She was reduced to just monitoring players’ health. She saw lots of people devastated to the point of being driven to insanity when they learn the game was life and death. This caused Yui to accumulate errors until she broke down. One day she noticed 2 exceptional people with exceptional mental health and wanted to go see them. They are Kirito and Asuna. That’s how she ended up there. Asuna says her actions make her human but Yui insists everything about her is fake. Although her wish is to forever be with them, she can’t now. In this safe zone, there is this console that allows GMs emergency access to the system. She used this to destroy the monster. Since she disobeyed Cardinal’s order, she is considered a foreign object and will be deleted. Asuna becomes emotional trying to cling on to the very last bit of her. Yui accepts her fate and wants them to save everyone in their stead. Yui is gone. Asuna is heartbroken. Kirito is mad. He hacks into the console but was thrown away. He gives Asuna a little tear shaped item. Before Yui’s admin authority was disabled, he managed to free her from the main programme and converted her into an object. That item is Yui’s heart. Asuna wears it as a necklace and is confident she will see Yui again. After all, Yui’s data is stored in Kirito’s NerveGear and although it will be hard to render it properly in the real world, he is sure something will work out.

Episode 13
While fishing, Kirito meets an old guy named Nishida. He is an expert fisher though his real job in the real world is IT security director for this game. Nishida easily makes his catch but laments the lack of soy sauce to cook it the way he wants. Till Kirito tells him they have homemade soy sauce. Seems Kirito has no luck in the lake because it doesn’t have many fish as it houses a king. Nishida has been targeting to catch it and wants Kirito’s help. Next day, a large crowd gathers to support Nishida’s attempt to catch the king. After he casts his bait and it hooks, he switches with Kirito who uses his super strength to reel it out. However everyone starts running away because the king is a monster fish! It’s walking on land too! Asuna easily kills it with a single slash. She is mobbed by the crowd and some of them being her fan. However Kirito gets a message from Heathcliff. The duo are supposed to go see him but Kirito is reluctant but Asuna at least wants to hear him out. Nishida accompanies them to the teleport gate and mentions ever since he is trapped in this world for 2 years, he took up fishing and always wondered if his company would want him even if they got out. In short, he has abandoned reality. But Asuna relates how she felt the same too until she met Kirito who showed her how he enjoyed life here. It made her realize she wasn’t losing her days in the real world because she is living them out here. He is the meaning of her 2 years here and proof why she is alive.

Meeting Heathcliff, he tells them the scouting party he sent was wiped out. The first group entered the boss room. The door locked and they couldn’t get out with teleport crystals. After some time when the door reopened, the room was empty. There was nobody around, not even the boss. Heathcliff’s option is to try again but with a larger force. Kirito agrees to help out but warns if Asuna’s life is in danger, he will abandon the party and save her. Heathcliff view him as strong because he has something to protect. Later Kirito wants Asuna to pull out and wait for him here. She is upset that he is going in alone. If news reaches her that he died, she will kill herself! She will have no more reason to live. Kirito admits he is panicking and wants to run away together now. Asuna also feels the same but has him think about their real bodies in the real world. By now it must be lying in hospital. Can you imagine the deterioration after all these years? Even if they clear this game can they really be together? All they can do now is fight. A large force gathers before the teleport gate. Klein and Agil have also joined to help out. When everyone enters the boss room and the door behind closes, all is quiet on the front. Too quiet. Then Asuna realizes something from above! The bony Skull Reaper swoops down from the ceiling and kills players in a single hit! It is fast, it is ferocious! No chance! You panic, you die! Noting if they intercept it together, they have a chance. The battle intensifies as everyone attacks it from all sides.

Episode 14
Skull Reaper is finally defeated with everyone’s cooperation. The casualty reports at 14 deaths and the tired players wonder if they can fight another 25 floors to clear this game. Kirito notices something odd on Heathcliff’s health bar and launches a surprise attack. A barrier protects him and to everyone’s surprise they see him possess an Immortal Object (something Kirito encountered during his fight with the monster grim reaper with Yui). This means Heathcliff’s health is protected by the system and can never go below the danger zone. Kirito deduces Heathcliff’s true identity as Kayaba because during their first duel of his over quick reflexes in which Kayaba mistakenly activated some quick assist mode. He admits that and also reveals he is supposed to be the last boss they’ll be facing on the final floor. His guild members felt betrayed and try to attack him but he induces paralysis into all of them except Kirito. As reward for discovering his identity, he offers him to fight one on one. Beat him now and the game will be considered cleared and a chance for all players to log out. Or else he’ll be waiting at the final floor. Despite pleas not to take this up, Kirito wants to settle this now. He plans to fight him to the death. However he has a request for Kayaba. In the event if he dies, he must promise that Asuna will not kill herself. The battle begins and Kirito knows he can only rely on his guts as Kayaba the game creator knows every combo there is. Kirito’s sword breaks and he resigns to his death fate.

Suddenly Asuna breaks free from her paralysis to take the slash. It can’t be true?! Asuna?! DEAD?! Distraught Kirito lacks the strength to fight back so Kayaba stabs him. Now he’s dead. But what’s this? His strong determination not to end this yet has him take the form of a spirit? At least that is what I’m seeing. Using his last ounce of strength, Kirito stabs Kayaba and they both killed each other. The game is cleared. Kirito finds himself floating among the clouds. Is this heaven? Well, Asuna is there too. Emotional reunion. They see the world crumbling as Kayaba explains the game will be totally deleted in 10 minutes. All 6,127 surviving players have successfully logged out. Those who died will never return no matter what world they are in. He explains the reason he did all this. Some floating steel castle Aincrad he believes in. He wanted to go to that castle and still believes it exists. Kirito and Asuna wait till their fates are sealed by spending their last moments together. Kirito reveals his real name as Kazuto Kirigaya while Asuna’s is Asuna Yuuki. She is a year older than him. He apologizes for not being able to send her back but she is happy to meet and live together with him. This is the happiest time of her life. The duo hug each other as world disappears. Kirito wakes up to find himself in hospital. Taking off his NerveGear helmet, despite very frail and weak, he limps out of bed to go look for Asuna.

Episode 15
Kirito and Asuna seems to be having a nice time together. Till this dream world rips apart. Another nightmare? Welcome back to reality. Ever since Kirito went into comatose state playing SAO. His sister, Suguha or Sugu for short had been by his side. So she’s quite happy now that he is moving again. Kirito has a demo kendo match with Sugu. They are both equally skilled but eventually Sugu takes the win. Careful not to hit his head too hard. He has just recovered. I guess he is still used to SAO world because he tries to put his sword on his back. Later he pays a visit to the hospital that Asuna is still laying comatose. As revealed, Kirito gave inside info to the government and in exchange they revealed Asuna’s whereabouts. Public outrage was still intense and hasn’t subsided. When the game ended, around 300 players still had not awakened and Asuna is one of them. Also visiting Asuna is her father and Nobuyuki Sugou, the guy in charge of the research institute of Asuna’s father. Mr Yuuki considers Sugou as family since his father is good friends with him. Sugou then has made his decision and plans to go ahead with it. This doesn’t sit well with Kirito. After Mr Yuuki leaves, he makes it clear to Kirito that he is supposed to marry Asuna. Because they can’t file for official marriage so he’ll be the family’s adopted son instead. Sugou knows Asuna has never liked him and will reject it if the subject of marriage is brought up. Of course from his stand this is extremely inconvenient. Sugou puts it that he is not taking advantage of comatose Asuna but rather considers it his legitimate right.

When the company that created SAO went bust after mountains of debts to compensate victims, the maintenance of SAO servers was handed to RCT, the general appliance manufacturer that Mr Yuuki is the CEO of. Sugou is the director of RCT’s Full Drive research department. In short, Asuna’s life is being sustained by him. He thinks he deserves a little compensation. Sugou doesn’t know what Kirito promised with her in the game but hopes he won’t come back and stay away from their family. The wedding ceremony will be held in a week’s time although Sugou invites him to come share their happiness. For one last time. Back home, Kirito is so depressed he sits in his room crying in the dark. Sugu could only hug him and tell him to not give up. Even if Asuna is going far away where his hands can’t reach, he shouldn’t give up so easily on the one he loves. Sugu thought she shouldn’t lie to herself anymore. Flashback reveals that Kirito long knew his parents weren’t his biological parents. More accurately, he is the child of mommy’s older sister and her husband. So this makes Kirito and Sugu cousins. That fact hasn’t sunk into Sugu yet. I guess you know what this means when she laments his heart already belongs to Asuna. Sugu sleeps with Kirito for the night and when morning comes, she runs out with embarrassment after realizing what she had done. But thanks to her company, Kirito feels better. He opens an email from Agil and is shocked to see its content. A picture of Asuna sitting gloomily in a cage! Can it be real?!

Episode 16
Kirito goes to see Agil at the bar. He shows him the latest MMO game craze like SAO: Alfheim Online (ALO). Also the AmuSphere is now the successor for NerveGear. In this land of fairies, players don’t have levels and combat depends very much on a player’s physical capabilities. The rage of this game is that since they are fairies, they have wings and are allowed to freely fly anywhere although it is pretty tough to master. As for the picture with Asuna, there is a World Tree called Yggdrasil in the centre of the island with a legendary castle on top. Players are divided into 9 races and compete who can reach the castle first. However due to a flight duration limit, it is not possible to fly endlessly. Several players got an idea to piggyback ride on each other like a rocket booster. Although it wasn’t successful (they couldn’t even reach the lowest branch), they took pictures and one of them was this. Why is Asuna in a place like this? This game is made by RCT. So now it made sense. Kirito wants to try this game to save her. He can still use NerveGear to dive in since AmuSphere is just its safer version. Back home, Kirito puts on his NerveGear and customizes his player. He chooses one that closely resembles to him: The Spriggans race. He free falls from the sky but drops into some unknown forest. He opens his menu and is relieved there is a logout button. Checking his stats, he realizes many are similar to those in SAO although his duel wielding skill is gone.

He selects one of the items and it materializes to be Yui! She remembers him! She’s back! Using her system to check things, she explains ALO is a copy of SAO but using an older version of Cardinal. As for his character, it is undoubtedly from SAO. As I understand when it was carried over from SAO, it must have overwritten some base stats and his SAO and ALO avatar merged. Yui’s role in this game is an artificial personality programme for player support, a navigation pixie. She has no admin authority and is only capable of referencing and accessing wide area map data. He tells Yui about Asuna’s case and wished they could have ended up closer to Yggdrasil. He landed far away perhaps because of some corrupted data or interference. Kirito is then taught how to fly with wings via controller. It’s hard but he is getting the hang of it. Close by, Undine clan fairies, Leafa and Recon are being hunted by Salamander fairies. Recon is taken out and there is so much Leafa can handle. She is blasted down to the ground and prepares to fight them and will not forfeit her money and items as ordered. Suddenly Kirito drops into the scene. The enemies do not realize who they are dealing with so Kirito shows them whose boss by taking out one of them in the blink of an eye. Didn’t even know what hit him. So who is next?

Episode 17
After slicing another enemy, the last one left, Kagemune makes a wise decision not to engage him and leaves. Leafa and Kirito acquaint with each other and to show her thanks, she wants to buy him a drink. Since he doesn’t know anything about this world, she is willing to tell him after they fly over to a neutral village. However he thought the Sylph village of Sylvain is closer but she warns upon entering the village, Sylph can attack him but he cannot attack back. Leafa then teaches him how to fly without the controller. At first it looked like some comical scene because he finds it hard to control but he learns fast and manages to match her speed. However Leafa makes her advance apologies first. Because she didn’t teach him how to land, Kirito smacks right into the tower! Yeah, really comical! In town, Leafa is reunited with Recon but he remains cautious with Kirito as he is from a different race. She turns down his offer to meet the rest at the usual bar because she wants to buy Kirito a drink. She talks to him about every player’s main dream to reach the floating castle above Yggdrasil. It is said that the fairy successful in doing so will meet the king of fairies, Oberon and will be reborn as a more advanced race called Alf with no flight restrictions whatsoever. However nobody has been successful ever since a year this game started. Either that a quest hasn’t been cleared or as Kirito suspects the game is impossible to overcame at the hands of a single race. Cooperation between races may be a must. Leafa doesn’t think that is possible as only one race will benefit from it. So it would seem that reaching Yggdrasil is impossible. But I guess somehow that sort of romance makes it hard for everyone to give up. Kirito vows to find his way to the top because there is someone he wants to see. Even if he has to fight insane amounts of enemies, he will. Leafa seems reluctant for him to leave and will take him there tomorrow afternoon since she has to logout now. Leafa’s real life personality is… Sugu! No wonder she sounds familiar…

Asuna is sitting in her cage. She is known as Queen Titania in this world. Oberon walks in to chat with her and of course he is Sugou who is also the system administrator. He is freely having his way with her and hopes she could play along in this game. Because she remains spiteful for him, he warns that he may take her by force. He then reveals that despite thousands of players enjoying this game, they remain ignorant of the true value of the Full Dive System. Something about his plan to possibly manipulate thoughts, emotions and even memories. Although research on this has been done in many countries, experimenting on humans would bring about legal and ethical issues. Till he saw Kayaba’s release of SAO. He was a genius but considers him a fool for being satisfied with just the creation of a mere game world. When SAO ended and the players were in the midst of being freed, Sugou used some router to capture around 300 players as test subjects and one of them being Asuna. He views his research making great progress in just 2 months and is nearing complete. He plans to sell this research and system to an American corporation eagerly awaiting its completion at a very expensive price. Asuna knows her dad will not allow such things and will expose him once she gets out. He reminds her she is in the same position like the other test subjects and hopes she will be more docile the next time they meet. After he leaves, Asuna weeps for Kirito to save her.

Episode 18
Sugu narrates she hated virtual reality games because it almost took her brother’s life. But when ALO came out, she curiously tried it out and understood why Kirito was so enchanted with the virtual world. Here, she could fly and soar as far as she wanted. She became addicted to this world. In real life, Sugu has a hard time trying to remind Shinichi Nagata (Recon’s real name) not to use their ALO names here. He is trying to tell her about Sigurd’s group wanting to go hunting this afternoon but she declines as she has other plans. Sugu logs in as Leafa and meets up with Kirito at the appointed time. As they head to the tower for long distance flights, Sigurd approaches Leafa and learns she has left their party. No doubt whether she stays or leaves is up to her, leaving now will reflect badly on the group since Leafa has become well known. Kirito advises him not to treat party members as items and he can’t keep them like his own. He wants to kill him but his members remind him this won’t look good if he slashes a defenceless guy in public. He backs down and warns Leafa of becoming a Renegade. She will regret it if she betrays him. At the top of the tower, Leafa explains to Kirito that a Renegade is a player who ditches his/her territory and is scorned as deserters. She doesn’t mind becoming one because she is baffled why people want to tie down themselves and others like that. Recon comes rushing in and has heard of Leafa’s departure. He too wants to go with her but notes he wants to investigate something and will stay in Sigurd’s group for the time being. He wants Kirito to take care of her and warns if anything happens to his wife lover girlfriend best friend… Anyway Leafa kicks his shin to shut him up. Yui views the complexity of human relations but somewhat understands how Recon feels.

Meanwhile Oberon continues to have his way with Asuna. She still isn’t opening up to him. He finally gets her attention when he mentions about meeting Kirito in real life right in her hospital room. He mocks about the priceless look on his face when he told her they are getting married next week. He dispels her hope he will come to save her as she wished for since he is confident Kirito is too scared to put on NerveGear again. When he leaves, Asuna sneakily looks at the reflected mirror to see the secret password he keys in to open the cage door. Apparently looking directly at it causes an automatic mosaic blur. Never thought it wouldn’t be reflected in mirrors, eh? Leafa tells Kirito that they need to trek through caves to reach those mountains as its height limit is much taller so flying straight won’t work. It’s going to be a long and rough journey so they decide to take turns advancing to allow the other to logout and rest. Leafa goes out first. She wanted to enter Kirito’s room but the thought of him in depression made her changed her mind. She thinks of leaving him alone. When she logs back, Kirito logs out. She talks to Yui on why she calls Kirito her papa. Leafa is using roundabout words about her feelings for Kirito when Yui asks her (obviously you could have tell that she likes him despite her excuse of feeling excited is to explore a new world, blah, blah, blah). Kirito logs back on faster than usual and this flusters Leafa who was a little close to him. As they’re about to leave, Kirito feels somebody watching them. Yui doesn’t detect players nearby. Leafa thinks it might be Tracers. They are little familiars used by experienced casters as tracking. The higher the skill, the greater the Tracer’s area of effect. Kirito hopes he is just thinking too much. True enough, a little bat is following them and a group of hooded people in the forest are keeping a close watch on the duo.

Episode 19
While trekking through the cave, Leafa receives a message from Recon about not trusting a person named ‘S’. She doesn’t understand. I can guess who that is. Yui detects 12 players approaching so Leafa hides them with her magic. But when Kirito spots a bat in the distance, Leafa realizes it’s a high level Tracing searcher. She jumps out to destroy it and they make a run since destroying the familiar means indicating they’re on to them. As they inch closer to the gates of Lugrue, an earth magic forms a barricade to prevent them from entering. Kirito wants to fight and has Leafa heal him. He considers this an effective way to battle. Leafa realizes the hunting pack has come prepared to hunt Kirito. He gets blasted but she heals him. But when Kirito deals them damage, the mages behind heal their troops. At this rate, Kirito will lose. She wants to surrender but he vows never to let a party member die. Yui then has Leafa use his magic to protect Kirito from the next magic attack. Then she signals to Kirito to use his illusion magic to transform into a giant beast. The Minotaur tears up the troops and the magic unit leader, Jitax prefers to jump into the water and get devoured by the sea monster. That scary, huh? For the last enemy, Leafa wants to interrogate him but he will not say. Kirito uses his negotiation skills to give him some items in his inventory. Jitax told them to get online because they’re hunting a couple of players. He thought it was bullying till he realized it is to hunt the people who defeated Kagemune. Seems Jitax got this from a higher up. He is not sure of the details but he feels something big is happening as he saw a massive army flying north. Leafa wonders if that rampaging Minotaur was him. He thinks so. Sometimes he forgets when he turned into a monster. His sword will disappear so had to use his hands. Yeah, he was eating some of them. They taste like well grilled beef? I think it’s a bad joke that Kirito bite Leafa’s hand just to have her feel what it’s like. He deserves that slap.

In Lugrue, Leafa finds Recon offline so Kirito suggests she contact him in the real world. She logs off to find many miss calls from Nagata (like a stalker). He is relieved when she gets through him. Seems Sigurd is after them and has sold out their leader Sakuya. When Salamanders attacked them that night and Sigurd used himself as a decoy, something he never does, it only makes sense that he was in cohorts with them. Proof? Recon followed Sigurd and his men and found out he met up with some Salamander guys in the sewers. He eavesdropped that they had a Tracer on them. Of course Recon was discovered and captured. Sakuya plans to sign an alliance treaty with Cait Sith race at the neutral place today. Sigurd plans to attack them. Leafa logs back on and tells Kirito about it. Kirito wonders how Salamander will benefit from this. Firstly, the alliance would be prevented. Cait Siths won’t stand having being taken down because Sylphs leaked the information. If they kill the leader, they will receive 30% of her estate and be allowed to occupy the capital for 10 days. Leafa thinks this is an internal problem and no reason for Kirito to get involve. She thinks they won’t even come back alive. She views his best chance of reaching Yggdrasil is to join Salamander as they will hire him as a mercenary. She won’t blame him if he kills her. Kirito says even though this is just a game, he has met people who are willing to go so far to kill. Even though this is a virtual world, there are things to protect. If you let that control you, you’ll even change in the real world. A player and character are the same. He likes her and wants to be her friend. For that, he will never resort to killing others. He takes her hand as they dash out the cave.

Episode 20
Yui detects several Salamander men heading towards the treaty. Leafa thinks they can’t make it and thanks Kirito for his assistance. She wishes him to head on to Yggdrasil. However he won’t abandon her. Kirito makes it in time before Salamander attacks. Claiming himself to be the ambassador of Spriggan-Undine alliance, he orders them to sheathe their swords. Their commander Eugene doesn’t believe him and wants to fight with him. Kirito has a hard time with him as Eugene is the strongest player in this game in terms of fighting ability, he has a demon sword called Gram that only very high level users can use. The sword allows him to phase through any swords or shields when you try to block it. Kirito uses a smoke bomb so that he could borrow Leafa’s sword. Then he dives down from the sky (the sun is blinding Eugene’s eyes) and he slices and dices him with both the swords till he’s a goner. Everyone including the Salamanders are amazed with his skill. Once Eugene is resurrected, he commends Kirito’s skills and learning from Kagemune that he was the one who earlier wiped out some of his men, he orders his army to retreat and vows to duel him another day as he doesn’t want to make enemies out of Spriggans and Undines. Sakuya wants an explanation so they reveal Sigurd’s plan. This has Sakuya confirm that he really thirsts for power. Seeing that he sided with Salamander, she thinks with the upcoming v5.0 update that has some reincarnation system, Sigurd is tired of being a Sylph who is always second fiddle to Salamanders. Salamander’s leader, Mortimer who is Eugene’s brother may have offered him a deal to reincarnate as one of their own.

Sakuya then contacts Sigurd who is surprised to see her still alive. He realizes his plan in ruins when he sees Kirito and Leafa. Sigurd thinks if he goes, Sakuya’s political power will also diminish. She doesn’t think so. She will grant him his wish since he can’t stand being a Sylph. She banishes him from her race and makes him a Renegade to wander the neutral region. Sakuya wants to know if the Spriggan-Undine alliance is true but Kirito proudly admits it was all a lie. Sakuya and Cait Sith’s leader, Alicia take a liking for him and try to seduce-cum-invite him to tea. How can Leafa get out of all this? She is hesitating to say Kirito is her future husband lover boyfriend best friend so Kirito saves her that embarrassment by saying she is someone who is showing him the way to Yggdrasil. Leafa notes that this alliance was also of clearing Yggdrasil. It is their goal so Kirito and Leafa would gladly want to join them. Kirito states his intention to meet somebody at the top of the tree but Sakuya and Alicia feel they need some time to prepare for the raid. Kirito gives them a whopping sack of 100,000 coins to let them equip themselves. He doesn’t need the money now. The kind of money you can build a small castle anywhere. After everyone leaves, Yui chides Kirito for flirting because she could feel his heart beating. However she doesn’t view Leafa as so. Kirito puts it that she doesn’t act like a girl. Whoops. Did he say the wrong thing? He meant she is easy to get along with in a good way. They make their way to the next town, Alne. Meanwhile, when the coast is clear, Asuna keys in the password to set herself free.

Episode 21
As they reach the gates of Alne, the largest city in Alfheim, there is an announcement that the server will undergo maintenance for a certain period so they are advised to logout. Since Kirito gave his all his money to Sakuya, I guess they’ll have to stay in a dirt cheap motel. Meanwhile Asuna makes her way down but stumbles upon a strange tunnel. Inside the long lighted tunnel, she comes across a map. Trying to figure out a way to logout, she sees a room that labelled as experiment hanger. She lots of capsules and hologram brains above it. Remembering Sugou’s words, she sees them all in pain and vows to get them out. A pair of slugs are patrolling and checking on the subjects so Asuna has to hide. Asuna sees a cubic system console and tries to logout with it but the slugs caught her (almost look like tentacle rape?). She knows they are scientists and points out what they’re doing is illegal and inhumane. They seem unrepentant and think they are doing something good by showing those subjects delightful euphoric dreams. One of them logs out to report to Sugou so the other one almost tentacle rape her when she bites back. Sugou is said to be furious and orders them to put her back in her cage, change the password and have 24 hour surveillance. Asuna is back at square one but she hasn’t given up yet. Because she stole the card from the system console. In the real world, Sugu wants to accompany Kirito to the hospital. Along the way, they talk about victims of SAO being put in a similar school. It may sound like a good idea for them who have been isolated from society for a couple of years but in a way it is also to keep an eye on them. Kirito introduces comatose Asuna and Sugu to each other. Sugu starts regretting she shouldn’t have come. She came thinking if she would understand her own feelings better if she met Asuna. When they return home and log back into ALO, Leafa starts crying and reveals she was left broken hearted in the world. Kirito is kind enough to lend her a shoulder to cry on. Real or virtual, she should cry when she needs to. There is no rule in the game to say she can’t express her feelings. Leafa bawls her heart out. She knows she loves Kirito but can never let him know. She needs to bury her feelings deep within her heart in hopes she can forget about them someday. When they’re ready, they walk through Alne. Kirito mentions about the piggyback ride incident. Apparently when the developers found out about it, they did a patch to put barriers above the clouds to stem such incidents. They can’t climb Yggdrasil as the area around the tree is off limits. When they enter the centre district of Alne, Yui suddenly detects Asuna. She is certain this is her player ID and she is right above them. Kirito quickly blasts off into the sky.

Episode 22
Kirito is furious. He tries to break through the barrier and won’t listen to Leafa. Asuna thought she heard Yui’s voice but since she can’t get out, she thinks of dropping something. Kirito catches the system card. Something like this doesn’t always happen. This means it proves that Asuna is up there and has heard Yui’s warning. Although Yui points out this card is like an access code for system administrators, they can’t use it from inside the game without a corresponding console. Kirito asks Leafa the gate to Yggdrasil. It’s inside the dome at the tree base but nobody has gotten past it as it is guarded with insane number of guardians. Even the largest party failed. But Kirito is still going anyway and thanks Leafa for everything. He’ll be going solo from now on. Kirito makes his way to the dome and accepts the challenge. Inside, he is faced with countless winged guardians. Every mirror around the place represents one. You go count them all. Kirito fights his way through them. His thoughts filled with Asuna give him fuel to press forward. If sword guardsmen weren’t bad enough, how about archers? How can he avoid all those arrows? If that doesn’t stop him, how about those who throw broadswords into him! Kirito pushes himself to the limit trying to reach the top but his life is draining away after getting stabbed so much. He eventually ‘dies’. Well, unlike SAO, there is no death penalty, right? Kirito is now a spirit and is waiting for his timer to finish so that he can respawn. He wonders if this is punishment for thinking this is only a game since his strength only amounts to skills and stat points.

Suddenly Leafa enters the dome and fights her way through. But her goal is not to defeat them but to save Kirito and bring him back out. She makes it in time before she shares his fate. Outside, she resurrects him. Kirito thanks her and doesn’t want to cause much trouble. Trouble? He just worried her. He is going back in again but Leafa tries to stop him this time. Hugging his back, she is fine if he goes back to his usual self. However Kirito can’t. If he doesn’t see her, everything won’t end or begin. Till Leafa hears Asuna’s name. Then it dawned to her who Kirito is. Surprised? Kirito also realizes who Leafa is. This is too much to take for Leafa so she instantly logs out followed by Kirito. She starts crying when Kirito knocks on her door to talk. She isn’t mad or sad for him taking up NerveGear again but rather she betrayed her own feelings. In order to forget her brother, she decided to love Kirito instead. She reveals she already knew they weren’t real siblings 2 years ago. She noticed when it when he started avoiding her then (the time when he realized Sugu wasn’t his real sister). She was very happy when he returned from SAO.  She was even happier when he became nicer to her. She thought he finally accepted her. But if this was going to happen, she would rather have him stay distant. Then she wouldn’t have realized her feelings for him or be hurt by those feelings after learning about Asuna. She wouldn’t have to try forgetting about him by falling in love with Kirito. All he could say is sorry. She wants to be left alone. What a lousy day. What lousy feelings.

Episode 23
When Kirito found out about his true blood relations, he was filled with shock. That was probably why he immersed himself with virtual reality games since it is a fabricated world where nobody knows each other. But after getting stuck in SAO for 2 years, he learnt there is no difference between real and virtual. How do you define someone? All you do is believe and accept. Because the way you perceive someone defines their true self. That’s why when he woke up from SAO, he vowed to grow closer to Sugu. Now what can he do for her? He tells he will meet her at Alne’s northern terrace. Sugu logs back on. Recon is surprisingly here. Seems he poisoned the Salamanders and escaped. Recon knows something has happened between her and Kirito. He doesn’t want her to cry because she should be smiling. He assures her he will never let her be alone be it the real world or virtual. He then confesses he likes her. But he must be pushing his luck too far when he tries to kiss her! I guess the punch is a sign of rejection? When Leafa meets Kirito, she wants to fight him to settle things. It seems pretty normal till Leafa drops her sword to allow him to cut her. But he surprises her with a hug. He wanted to apologize but doesn’t know what to say. The only thing he could think of was to let her strike him. He still hasn’t returned from that world yet. Not until Asuna wakes up. Until then, he doesn’t know what to think of Sugu. And so, Kirito requests Leafa and Recon to help him clear Yggdrasil. As Yui analyzes, the guardians are not particularly powerful but their numbers are overwhelming. But with Kirito’ skill, he may be able to break through temporarily. Kirito will take on the guardians alone while the duo will concentrate on healing him. That way, they won’t be targeted.

Kirito slices and dices his way through the endless enemy waves. When Recon and Leafa first heal him, the guardians start targeting them. Recon then goes on the offensive and uses his dark magic of self destruction to blow up a large number of guardians. But that is just like taking a drop of water out from the ocean. Leafa continues to heal Kirito but is now targeted. That’s when Sakuya and Alicia’s army break in with their respective army. They have assembled all the gear they needed and begin their assault. The guardians are still overwhelming but at least with some backup it provides some relief. Leafa goes to help Kirito and they cover each other’s back. In the final push, Leafa throws him her sword so that he can use his dual wielding to thrust throw the final enemy stretch. Sakuya and Alicia order the withdrawal of their troops. Kirito is at the top core now and doesn’t know what to do. I don’t think anybody has reached this stage. Yui analyzes the door and realizes it isn’t locked by a quest flag. Meaning, system administrators can only access it and it was never intended to be accessible to players. Oh no. More guardians materialize when Kirito remembers the system card. He tells Yui to use it so she transfers the codes to allow them access.  They prepare to teleport.

Episode 24
The duo appear inside the tunnel. Yui has no map of this area but can sense where Asuna is. Quickly, she makes holes through the wall and dashes out with Kirito. At the top of Yggdrasil, they see Asuna sitting in the cage and make their way there. It is an emotional reunion for ‘mother and daughter’. Of course with Kirito too. Asuna had always believed in him. But that is short-lived when some gravity spell brings them to their knees. Yui can’t log Asuna out due to some complicated codes and a system console is needed to free her. The scene changes to a dark one and Yui disappears. It is Sugou. He had come to check some bug in the programme and he finds this. Like the typical baddie he is, he rants about his evil plans. Like this gravity thingy is supposed to be in the game for the next update and his plans of manipulating emotions from 300 SAO players is nearing its completion. Yeah. So confident nobody is going to stop him. He then ties Asuna up and plays with her body. After this, he will do it with her real body. Kirito can’t do a thing but Sugou stabs his sword through his body and increases his pain level. Kirito could only helplessly watch as Sugou licks every part of Asuna’s body. He is about to lose consciousness and wonders if this is his punishment. He hears Kayaba’s voice asking if he is giving up. Not really. He is accepting reality because a player can do nothing to a game master. Kayaba feels disappointed because in their battle, he proved human power can overcome his system and orders him to stand back up. Kirito uses all his strength and willpower to stand back up, ignoring the pain of the sword through his stomach. This pain is nothing compared to the one he felt in SAO. He then activates Heathcliff’s ID and becomes the system administrator. He strips Sugou of his administrator privileges. How does it feel to be a low scum now? No more playing God. I think Kirito could activate Heathcliff’s ID because he realized Sugou stole this world. Thus he is not God and just a king of thieves sitting on his plundered throne.

Sugou can’t even summon a weapon so Kirito had to summon Excalibur for him. He wants to have a final battle and sets the pain to maximum. When Sugou hears Kayaba’s name, he becomes crazy that even in death, he is always in his way. Kirito can understand how he feels but unlike him, he never once tried to be like him. Sugou snaps and swings Excalibur like mad. He is no match for Kirito because he cuts him everywhere! Feel the pain! This is nothing compared to the pain Asuna felt. He cuts his body and finishes off by piercing his head. Cool! He deserves that. Kirito frees Asuna. Finally they can return to the real world. Though she’ll wake up in hospital alone, he’ll come to her side soon. They plan to do lots of things together in the real world. After Asuna is logged out, Kirito summons Kayaba. It is not really him and just his consciousness. As payment for helping him, Kayaba hands over The Seed to Kirito. It is the origin of worlds. He’ll understand its nature once it buds. But he can do whatever he wants with it but warns if he should hold any feelings other than hatred for that world. After Kayaba disappears, Kirito returns to the cage and is reunited with Yui. She is happy to learn Asuna is safe. Though they are not sure what is going to happen to this world, Yui will still be around since her core programme is stored in his NerveGear. Kirito logs out to see Sugu by his side. She is glad that things are over and Asuna is rescued. He thanks her but she is happy she could help him in his world. Kirito wants to tell her something but she feels he has to go see Asuna. She’s waiting for him. Kirito braves to freezing cold night and cycles to the hospital.

Episode 25
As Kirito makes his way into the hospital’s car park, he is being slashed in the arm by Sugou. He’s been waiting for him just to get his silly revenge? He is still feeling the painful effects of his defeat so he can’t cut Kirito up properly. Though Kirito gets kicked around, he realizes Sugou never changed and fights back by slamming his head into the car door! He steals his knife but does he have the courage to slit his throat?! Can he become a killer?! Apparently not. But Sugou was so scared he passed out. Finally Kirito meets Asuna. She is up and her first time seeing Kirito in person. Oddly, he is the one getting emotional while she is the cool cat. And yeah. The first real kiss instead of a virtual one we have seen. Kirito and Asuna become closer to each other in a school for SAO victims. It’s like they’re a couple. Are they? Liz and Silica watch over them. Also revealed, Asuna’s dad resigned when he learnt about the whole thing. Sugou was arrested but he tried to blame everything on Kayaba. Till one of his colleagues ratted on him, he confessed everything like the spineless coward he is. Victims of Sugou’s experiment return to normal and though they have no memories of the experiment, they do not develop any personality disorder. But virtual MMORPG took a massive hit after this scandal was revealed. RCT made a public apology and got dissolved. ALO was taken offline followed by other MMORPGs. Kirito knows that Kayaba committed suicide after SAO collapsed and somehow transferred his consciousness onto the internet. What bugs him now is The Seed.

SAO veterans like Klein and the now married couple Thinker and Yuriel, head to Agil’s bar for an offline meeting. Kirito also brings Sugu along. Of course he is the hero of the show. Apparently after Kirito saved Asuna, he handed The Seed to Agil to research. From what I understand, it is a programme package that stimulates full dive virtual MMO environment. That means anybody can create their own MMO world. Agil uploaded it to servers and now it has spread to 50 mirror servers and downloads are numbering to hundreds of thousands. Another feature of The Seed is that it allows one world to be linked with others. With that, virtual MMORPG revives along with ALO that was taken over by a new management. Many more worlds are out there created and run by smaller and private companies or individuals. Leafa flies in ALO with Kirito. She wonders why he hasn’t changed his avatar to SAO since the new management allows such import. Because the role of that world’s Kirito is over. Leafa dances with him in the sky but has this feeling she will not catch up to where he and everyone are. Kirito disagrees and believes she can do it if she puts her mind to it. Since the time is right, he shows her something approaching from the moon. It is Aincrad. What is it doing here? Must be the linking of all the worlds. Kirito is confident he will conquer all 100 floors. Because his stats have been reset and is now a weak avatar, he hopes Leafa could help him. Gladly. But they are not alone because the other supporting characters from SAO and ALO soon join them for this quest.

Sword Art Offline

These are short DVD specials lasting around 11 minutes each. Although I read there are 9 of them, I have only watched the first 2 (read: lack of people subbing them). It is basically like a special corner with Asuna as the anchor host and Kirito the commentator talking and discussing about several topics from the series. Think of it as a mini talk show. Each episode has a special guest, a Playback Corner to replay a handful of scenes from selected episodes, Sword Offline Trivia whereby Yui tells us the little trivia of RPG and even Kirito’s Life Counselling segment where he advices a mysterious guest about their problem. Sword Art Offline 1 has them discussing about why many men pick female avatars, have Klein as their first guest, replaying scenes of Klein getting hit in the crotch by the boar (embarrassing) and Asuna eating bread offered by Kirito like a hungry ghost (scary), and Klein as the mysterious guest in the counselling corner seeking Kirito’s advice on how to hit on girls. However Klein is not pleased with Kirito’s answer since that guy thinks he is not a hit with chicks. Till Klein brings up how friendly he is with Silica and Liz. See Asuna’s jealous and scary face? Because it didn’t end the way he wanted, Klein had to tell them off how to do a proper counselling and in a way it solved his own problem. So why seek advice in the first place? Because knowing them and producing the results are different.

In Sword Offline 2, it starts off with rumours that a mysterious person whom everyone shall dub as Mr K (that’s obviously Kirito, right?) is ‘stalking’ child idol Silica. I’m sure fans of her are screaming for blood. As expected, Silica is the guest of honour and during the Playback Corner because Silica is singing praises of Kirito’s help and all, this made Asuna really jealous that they were very close. It gets worse when Silica wants to call Kirito her big brother. This corner also shows the embarrassing scenes of Asuna waking up from her nice nap. However this segment had to end when everyone misinterpret a playback scene when Silica’s pantsu was nearly visible after a plant monster attacked her. Asuna blames Kirito and beats him up, thinking he was enjoying it. Klein takes over the Life Counselling segment and Kirito kicked out into a box. Silica relays her problem about a certain person she loves whom she first sees as a big brother and wants to deepen that relationship. We can pretty much guess what it is. Klein advises to either increase her sex appeal or wait till he notices her feelings while Asuna prefers she confess now and risk getting rejected rather than keeping it a secret and regret it later. The issue somewhat solved itself so Kirito need not comment at all.

The Thin Line Between Virtual And Reality
I guess it was rather an enjoyable ride through the different fantasy worlds. Who wouldn’t love to experience such? Unless you’re not a fantasy genre kind of person. Personally, I prefer SAO world compared to ALO universe. It is not that I don’t like fairies but in SAO, the players’ avatar seems more down to earth as compared to ALO when they become those mythical little creatures and have the ability to fly. I know this is fantasy and there is nothing with it but the thought of having SAO players as fairies just didn’t feel right. Perhaps my mind has set that this is about the real world with humans playing a fantasy game instead of the setting whereby it is already fantasy itself. Besides, in SAO there is a lot of dynamism and interaction between Kirito and Asuna. Unlike in ALO when they are separated, it feels like they have taken out half the fun from the combo duo because I feel that they both are best when they are together. While they were both clearing floors and spending lots of their later time together in SAO, in ALO it becomes a rescue mission for Kirito with Leafa-cum-Sugu replacing Asuna as the heroine for that arc while I would not say Asuna has been reduced to a damsel in distress, how much could she do if she had everything locked against her? She is still strong willed and tries to do her best to get out but there is little she can do if you are up against the all powerful system administrator.

Through SAO, Kirito and Asuna learn to appreciate what they have and each other. Ironically, reality didn’t teach them that but the virtual world. SAO was the world where they build their bonds and you can see Asuna who was quite distant from Kirito eventually opens up to him. You could say that the bonds they made during SAO have become unbreakable and it would be unthinkable for them to be separate. That’s why when SAO ended and ALO began with them so close but yet a world apart, it just feels out of place. But it is all the more sweet when Kirito is able to get his girl in the end, right? Kirito has something precious to protect and in that sense it makes him stronger. I don’t think he was ever arrogant in the first place of wanting to be a solo player but I figure it’s his style of play. He doesn’t show off his skill when he reaches a certain high level like some players do. At first it was traumatic that the first group he joins, everyone dies an unexpected death. There’s lots of frustration and disappointment when things go wrong. That is enough to traumatize him for the rest of his life. It’s understandable he doesn’t want to have any more ‘casualties’ or friends dying before with eyes. So now that he has Asuna, the desire to protect somebody he loves becomes the source of will to get stronger. I think after a few episodes in, nobody remembered he was a Beater. Did you? I certainly forgot he was labelled as such. His skills are definitely genuine. In the RPG sense. No cheat codes, that is.

Maybe it is because this series is about Kirito and Asuna, I thought some of the characters didn’t make much of an impact. Like Agil and Klein, there were mostly confined to SAO and did not really appear to play in ALO. I thought Silica and Liz would also make future appearances but apparently they become one or two episode characters only. I even thought they would become part of a love triangle with Asuna for Kirito. Sheesh. What was I thinking? This is a fantasy game where players try to get out with their real lives at stake and how did I ever get this idea that they will end up in some love spat? Otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen Kirito and Asuna growing closer as they are now. I just remembered something. What about that mysterious player killing guild, Laughing Coffin? I had a feeling that they would become the main antagonist but somehow after the Grimrock-Griselda case was resolved, we never hear anything from them. They had potential to be the man villains since they look the part. Kibaou? That guy feels like he still had some grudge but what happened? He was just only mentioned in name during Yui-Thinker-Yuriel’s story. So what happened to them? Not important. Like those other side characters in SAO too. Either they are dead or just doing fine trying to adjust back to life in the real world. Instead we have Kayaba playing the hero and villain of this game and becoming the final boss very quickly. I suppose it will take another season if they are going to go through more floors and ‘side quests’ so perhaps the revelation of Heathcliff as Kayaba halfway through was just to end the arc. It still boggles me how Kirito came back to life along with Asuna. I believe that if you die in the game, you also die in the real world. They did, right? Unless you tell me these two are special cases. Or that if you have very strong feelings, you can overcome this virtual death and ultimately real death. At least that was what Kirito did. He’s the only guy who has technically died and came back to life. Oh, Asuna too…

As said, the adventure in ALO seems diminished maybe because I was so used to the world of SAO and then suddenly another different world pops up that we have to enter. Having Kirito and Asuna separated wasn’t what I had in mind but I suppose it was to bring Sugu to the fore. Another world, another heroine. This was important at least to Sugu to sort out her feelings for Kirito once and for all. Otherwise she would still be under some sort of delusion and just lying to herself. I suppose she would give Recon a shot, no? That nerd? I don’t think he is even close in her books. Sorry, Nagata. So the other characters in ALO also don’t feel as much impact as I thought they should since they’re giving the focus to Kirito and Leafa. It would be boring if this ALO arc was entirely about Kirito trying to find a way to reach Asuna so I speculate that they added this Salamander confrontation thingy as a side track to the entire arc. Of course it did play a little minor important role in gathering the army for the final big battle but that role seems so short that I could hardly call it something memorable. Well, at least they serve their purpose to push Kirito to their goal. Sugou is a person everyone loves to hate so when he gets what he deserves in the end, it is divine retribution and no love lost for this unethical sick guy.

Kirito is such a popular guy that I had this false hope that some sort of a harem romance would begin. I know it is as silly as my expectations for the love triangle in SAO. Silica and Liz were long forgotten once SAO ended (come to think of it, how will Liz be Kirito’s exclusive blacksmith from now?) and my hopes of such romance died out. Till I see Sakuya and Alicia in that short tussle over him, did it reignite my hopes. Sadly, that too burnt out as quickly once I realize it wasn’t going to happen. Just a fantasy in my fantasy after all. So in the end it always has to be Asuna. She is the girl for him and no doubt about it. Not even Sugu can go up to that. Just swallow the bitter pill of love and get over with it. And Klein after all this time in the virtual and real world is still having problems picking up chicks… Maybe it’s all in the karma. Kirito you’re one lucky bastard… Does Yui count you ask? Well, I feel that’s a different kind of love. Isn’t it funny that they’ve got a family in the virtual world first? Just like with a snap of a finger, they’ve got a virtual daughter who works as some kind of system monitoring programme.

I know I have sung praises of the fantasy world so let me say them again but this time in the art and drawing department. Because I love the different exotic locations from the pristine forest to the dangerous dark dungeons and the mandatory big towns, each of the scenery looks good to me. Just looking at them would take my mind to travel to such place. I would start imagining that I am adventuring and exploring such locations in my head. Too bad I can only do that after I watch the episode so as not to lose my concentration and focus. So some scenes were breathtaking like the floating islands and idyllic forests to the captivating snow level. Even if you want to argue that the art of those backgrounds are not superbly excellent to be Da Vinci’s masterpiece level, I guess my mind itself has made lots of ‘adjustments’ in seeing such sceneries so they are definitely pleasing to me. The character designs are okay too. You have got to have cool costumes when you are playing RPG, right? You’ve got lots of good looking characters, odd looking characters, and even moe loli characters like Yui and Silica. The monsters too are rather okay since they give out that menacing feel and one look at them it will make you go “Holy sh*t! Can I really beat this thing?!” expression.

For the action part, I won’t really say that they keep you on the edge of the seat but they are sufficient enough to entertain you especially with Kirito and Asuna’s combination as they are both skilled in using their swords. There is slightly more excitement in fighting level bosses in SAO because the monsters are ruthless and the players’ lives are real. Therefore there is this danger in every strike they make or miss. They are walking a very thin line between life and death. You never know what will happen to you in the next second. Slightly careless and you are a sure goner. It wasn’t very much so in ALO especially when you have nothing to lose and can easily respawn after some timed penalty. Besides, I believe besides the insane number of guardians inside the dome, I don’t think there are other monsters that the players will fight except each other. Well, the idea of having different races of fairies fighting against each other isn’t my cup of tea for action in this series.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me because when I first learnt that Haruka Tomatsu is the voice behind Asuna, something inside me refuses to accept it is her. My heart was saying, “No way. It can’t be her”. Not to say I am very familiar with her voice since I didn’t realize it was her even after a few episodes in. Unless she sounds like Shizuku from Tonari No Kaibutsu-kun, maybe I could recognize her but that’s not the point. She has voiced a range of characters from the airhead genius called Lala in To Love-Ru to the cheeky Yuka of Natsuiro Kiseki to the sweet girl of Yuina in Hanasaku Iroha to the arrogant Hitei in Katanagatari and the deadpan Hitoha in Mitsudomoe so sometimes a person like me just couldn’t recognize her. Yoshitsugu Matsuoka is the voice behind Kirito and I thought he sounds like his other sword wielding hero, Godou in Campione. Just without the harem. Well, there is a certain calmness to his voice unless he gets all riled up. Like his role as Sorata in Sakurasou No Pet Na Kanojo. Just that he wasn’t screaming in every episode in this one. Ayana Taketatsu as Leafa/Sugu almost sounded like as she was going to turn into Kirino in OreImo. Kanae Itou exudes lots of moe as Yui. At least she sounds better and less annoying than that perverted squid stalker Sanae in Shinryaku! Ika Musume or the naïve arrogant Sena from Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai. Takehito Koyasu really makes his character as Sugou/Oberon like a crazy mad man. Imagine him as Yoshida from Bakuman but put in lots of genuine evil in it. And then when he cowers, he screams like a girl!

Other casts in this series include Hiroaki Hirata as Klein (Sanji in One Piece), Hiroki Yasumoto as Agil (Sado in Bleach), Ayahi Takagi as Liz (Mikako in Sora No Otoshimono), Rina Hidaka as Silica (Ririchiyo in Inu x Boku SS), Sayurai Yahagi as Sakuya (Harun in To Love-Ru), Chiwa Saito as Alicia (Kirie in Girls Bravo), Ayumu Murase as Recon (Shun in Shin Sekai Yori), Toru Ookawa as Heathcliff (Taira in BTOOOM), Kouichi Yamadera as Kayaba (Spike in Cowboy Bebop), Takahiro Mizushima as Thinker (Rolo in Code Geass R2), Ryoko Shiraishi as Yuriel (Himeko in Sket Dance), Saori Hayame as Sachi (Sawa in Tari Tari), Koji Yusa as Kuradeel (Ichimaru Gin in Bleach) and Takuya Kirimoto as Sigurd (Gazelle in Eureka 7 Astral Ocean). The rock pace of the first opening theme is Crossing Field by Lisa and it gets viewers in the mood of what to expect in this anime. The second opening theme is also another rock outfit, Innocence by Eir Aoi. As mentioned, since I had problems acknowledging Haruka Tomatsu as Asuna, it was somewhat the same problem for the first ending theme too. I didn’t really think it was her singing the slow and slowly piece of Yume Sekai although I really like find this song and find it appealing. The second ending theme, Overfly by Luna Haruna is also another appealing pop piece but I still prefer the first one.

This series is perhaps trying to tell us that even though the lines between virtual and reality are blurring with each advancement in technology, there are also several issues to deal with. How can you tell what is reality and virtual anymore? Is it morally right if someone chooses to live his/her life in the virtual world and give up the real world? Putting on a helmet to dive into a virtual world could be an exciting experience but what happens when there are legal and moral issues arising from deaths and the after effects on the brain and body for wearing the gear for too long? Just like staring too long at the computer monitor will have devastating effects on your eyes, so I am sure that putting on such helmet for hours every day would be like putting your brain in the microwave oven and slowly zapping all the cells in the nerves since the helmet is connected to your nervous system. The bottom line is, there is not much difference between virtual and reality. The virtual world exists because we try to do what we cannot in reality. Reality is always there because to remind you that you are still human and bring your feet back to earth. So they both complement each other in that sense.

Although the anime has ended and there is no news if there would be another season, I am sure that in view of the many worlds created by The Seed, it will be exciting to see what kind of worlds are creatively created. It would be nice to explore them. As I found out, besides SAO and ALO, there are a number of other MMORPG games and worlds that Kirito has entered. There is one world whereby it involves using of guns and another one through the underworld where the ability accelerating and slowing time down is used. Sounds familiar? Accel World crossover? Well, both series are written by Reki Kawahara so it is no surprise that both works that involves fantasy and technology would one day collide and intersect. Just like how CLAMP used to do with theirs. Yeah. Not only the line between reality and virtual is blurring but also between series. Maybe somebody should come up with a fantasy world for a harem genre… Hey. A guy can dream, right? Maybe they’ll have one on racing cars and another on intergalactic battles and space crafts. The possibility of human creativity is endless. Since this series has quite a big fan base, what are the chances of it getting a sequel? Or we can just continue dreaming of it for now.

As of now, RPG games are not really my number one favourite genre so I know I am missing out a lot on great fantasy worlds that I yearn to dive into (at least in my mind). Sighs… There are lots of Japanese anime style games out there so I think I really am missing out and a hypocrite if I said I loved this genre and yet never played one. But if such technology does come true in my time, I would probably love to give it a shot. It would be great creating your own avatar, the kind of abilities assigned and even coming up with a name. Then forming your own party and going on a big adventure through various worlds, fighting off monsters, saving damsels in distress, finding treasures… Levelling up with high experience points… Mmm…. Sounds good in my head. Already fantasizing about the fantasy. Just short of needing a cheat code to get me out of the fix if I ever find myself facing a big bad boss. Just too bad I can’t enter any cheat codes in real life. Scoring with a girl from a 2D dating simulation seems much easier than in real life. What a downer. I had to remind myself of this boring real life ‘adventure’ of mine…


May 13, 2012

Phew. It felt like a long time watching Katanagatari. Even though the series has only 12 episodes and was shown way back in the year 2010, each episode is 50 minutes long and comes out only 1 episode per month! Even as I watched the series way after it ended and on a weekly basis, it still feels lengthy because I’m not really used to sitting down and watching animes that are more than 24 minutes per series. OVAs that usually last longer than that are just one shots so for a series to really have every episode spanning almost an hour, phew, that is quite a feat. And considering that I was expecting this to be a complicated series, I had this tendency to jot down the summary as I watch. Meaning, instead of watching the show finish, I would at certain points pause the episode and write it down so as not to lose the ‘freshness’ of what has happened (that’s why it’s so ‘neatly’ done for this blog). So I nearly spent almost 3 hours watching an episode for this series! Amazing or what?

Basically the premise is simple. Set in the Edo period, a woman who is a strategist teams up with guy who doesn’t use swords under the orders of the Shogunate to retrieve 12 of the greatest sword masterpieces created by the legendary swordsmith around the country. Sounds easy, right? Well, you’re going to face off with the owners of the swords who aren’t willing to let them go so what are the chances that they’ll give it up without a fight? Just because the Shogun says so? Screw him! And it gets a lot more complicated with all the drama, plots, twists and turns coming in as you continue your journey with them. You’ll also learn about the characters, their past and their relationships as you go along. This isn’t just an ordinary treasure hunt. Get ready and prepare yourselves for a long journey of discovery and adventure like no other.

Episode 1 – Zettou Kanna
In Oushuu, Hida Castle is under attack and on fire. Mutsue Yasuri, the 6th generation head of the Kyotouryuu (Swordless Technique) kills rebel leader Takahito Hida. When Shogun Yanari came into power and fearing the power of Mutsue, he banished him and his family to an uninhabited island that nobody has stepped foot on for 20 years. A woman, Togame is seen heading her way towards the island on a boat. Shichika Yasuri and sister Nanami are living alone on the island. Nanami feels he should give up his training since the technique will end in his generation but he is adamant to continue and practice his ultimate move seeing it’s the only thing left by his father. Shichika is on his way to collect water when he stumbles upon Togame. She is here to look for the Kyotouryuu head but was told Mutsue already died a year ago. However since her business is with the Kyotouryuu head, this means she has business with Shichika who is now the head and 7th generation. Observing Shichika’s strength, Togame introduces herself as the strategist for the Shogunate’s army general director. She wants to tests his Kyotouryuu and unsheathes her sword. Then she charges at him but trips on a rock and got knock out! Eh? Well, she’s a strategist, not a sword person.

Back in the hut, they talk about Kyotouryuu and Nanami suggests testing him again seeing she was lucky to trip over a rock because if her blade had reached Shichika’s body, she wouldn’t have escape with just a bump on her forehead. Togame takes her words as proof that he is Kyotouryuu’s head. Togame asks Shichika if he wants to rule the world. He straightaway answers no! But that lady keeps on blabbing long enough to realize he just turned her down! Well, he doesn’t understand what she’s saying. After all, they’re raised on an island and don’t interact with others. Togame wants Nanami to leave for her private talk with Shichika but he says it won’t work because firstly Kyotouryuu is inherited by blood so even if his father was around, he’ll still let them stay and secondly, he is bad at thinking. I guess there’s nothing more to say about that. Togame asks if they know about Kiki Shikizaki, a master swordsmith (again Shichika doesn’t know who the f*ck he is). It is believed that he made great swords and distributed 1000 of them to other countries and they receive an edge in combat on the battlefield. Nanami thinks some countries were big enough to hold an advantage in combat, they tried to amass more of his sword. Togame also mentions the truth for those myths. About 150 years ago, Shogun Kyuu was obsessed over those mystical weapons and almost achieved world unification by holding a majority of 507 swords. After that, he made a corrupt decree to collect all the swords with a reason to have all the swordsmen meet. Though he had 10,000 swords in his collection and managed to track down the location of the 1000 Shikizaki swords, he gave up. Because among the thousand, the final 12 were incredibly unique and it is said that 988 of the blades were used as mere practice to create these 12 Deviant Swords: Kanna, Namakura, Tsurugi, Hari, Yoroi, Kanazuchi, Bita, Kanzashi, Nokogiri, Hakari, Mekki and Juu. These swords evilness are incomparable to any other famous swords. It is said the Shogun sent an army to collect them but were wiped out by the power of a single sword. Thus Togame is here to have Shichika to gather the last 12 Shikizaki swords. Currently the current Shogunate is unstable and if the rebellion gets hold of these swords, you can tell what will happen to the Shogunate. A rebellion will start. Togame reveals half of the sword’s location and the rest are still under investigation. Togame is under orders from the Shogunate to do it skilfully, that’s where her strategies come in (yeah, she just created that title by herself). About hiring those to get the swords, money didn’t work because they hired ninjas but were betrayed. Not only they took the swords but the entire ninja village disappeared too! Hiring those that work with honour didn’t too. Hakuhei Sabi was the most loyal and strongest swordsman picked by the Shogunate but as a swordsman, he can’t resist the lure of possessing one of the Shikizaki swords and also ran off with it. But still that doesn’t mean Shichika would want to leave the island to go on a quest, right? She says there is only 1 reason left: Love. People who work for love can be trusted (Togame just admitted she has been betrayed before). Therefore she wants Shichika to fall in love with her! After that non-stop blabbing it was ‘refreshing’ there was a long pause of silence.

Several shurikens are flying in. Nanami pushes them out of harm’s way. Shichika is upset his dad’s hut is ruined and goes after the fleeing culprit. Judging from the shurikens, Togame recognizes it is from the Maniwa Ninja Corps, the ones who turned traitor after learning the value of the Shikizaki swords. There is only 1 right here since Maniwa dislike working in groups. But why he is here is still a mystery to her. Togame as a strategist couldn’t figure out how someone else knew where she was seeing she didn’t tell anyone or was sure she was being tailed till Nanami had to point out to her if she ferried herself all the way here. Yup, the boatman. Shichika catches up to the culprit Koumori Maniwa who is after Togame for her information instead of him. Shichika prepares to fight his first battle as Koumori pulls out Kanna from his throat! Shichika is worried about his body than the sword. Besides, he is disgusted it’s covered with his saliva. Maniwa tries to slice him but Shichika’s Chrysanthemum move catches it. Seeing he his move is busted, Koumori backs off. But Shichika felt something weird about Kanna because Chrysanthemum wasn’t a move to catch swords but break them. Koumori lets him know that Kanna is different as it can’t be bend or broken. Not even elephants trampling on it can break it, that’s why it’ll fetch a high price. Also why it’s unbreakable was probably Shikizaki dabbled with sorcery and alchemy. Still Shichika wants to break it but Togame (come tripping down again) warns him not to. She wants him to defeat Koumori without destroying the sword anyhow with a flashy move. Why? Because she is going to write a report on this. Let’s say it’s something for her future that will sell. But Koumori puts back Kanna in his throat. Then he unleashes a flurry of shurikens as distraction to kidnap Togame.

Togame is tied to a tree as Koumori mocks her of trying to think of ways to get out of this situation. He reveals he overheard her embarrassing “Fall for me” line and accidentally spat out those shurikens (so it wasn’t a surprise attack). Togame wants him to kill her but he won’t since he is sure she isn’t completely clueless about the location of the remaining swords. He offers her to betray the Shogunate and work for her but she refuses. Then his body starts contorting because he transforms into an exact duplicate of Togame! Including her clothes. He plans to sneak up on Shichika and kill him then perhaps transform into him and kill her. Originally he betrayed her for the money and wouldn’t have worked with her if she knew what kind of person she is. So that offer was so that he could betray her again. He tells her nobody in this world will stay by her side.

Koumori thinks his plan is going perfectly as he runs up to Shichika but was kicked in the waist! So much so he coughed out Kanna! Did he get found out? Actually Shichika couldn’t recognize human faces after living in isolation for so long and just kicked! So if it was the real Togame, she could’ve been killed! Koumori tells Shichika about Togame’s fishy story. Why is the Shogunate collecting the swords now? To prevent a rebellion sounds like a reason because the current Shogunate doesn’t hold the swords with the same reverence as Shogun Kyuu. This means collecting the swords is just for Togame to gain recognition and rise up the ranks to be the Shogun’s right hand man. Or woman rather. Since the Shogun is old and will be retiring, the next step is ruling the world. Shichika didn’t get all of that so Koumori reveals Togame is the daughter of the last rebellion, Hida. She watched her father killed before her eyes. She is willing to do anything for her ambitions even if that means asking her father’s enemies to collect the swords for revenge. Koumori than copycats Shichika’s form and picks up Kanna. He is confident they are now equal in terms of strength. Shichika deduces since Koumori only knows of Togame’s secret, he will finish him here. Koumori prepares to strike but Kanna slips off his hands. Shichika says that Kyotouryuu men don’t have any skill whatsoever with a sword. They’re not swordsmen who don’t use swords but swordsmen who can’t use swords. Calling his flashy move he just developed recently, Shichika Hachiretsu because the opponent takes 7 hits from it and in the blink of an eye gets split into 8 pieces, Shichika consecutively pounds Koumori with his fists like a fighting game combo!

Togame is in a pinch. While trying to untie herself, she somehow ended up in an upside-down position. How embarrassing. Shichika show her he got one of the swords and Togame felt like his words meant like he’ll be continuing it. He cuts her free and tells her he has finished Koumori off with his flashy move. Too bad she missed it. He mentions he did it for her and decided to do help her out. Not because of money or loyalty to the Shogunate. Yup, he has fallen for her. Before they both leave, Nanami approves of Shichika’s departure not because of Togame’s story or journey but rather Shichika has found a reason to leave the island and it’ll be a waste if he doesn’t put his 20 years of training and studying to use. Togame cautions it won’t be an easy journey since it’ll be filled with ‘demons and snakes’ so Nanami notes how caring she is. She has no worries entrusting him to her. Togame has Shichika swear to 4 oaths. 1) Protect the swords (obviously); 2) Protect her (it’ll be futile if she dies, right?); 3) Protect himself (who is going to collect the swords then since it’s their mission?); 4) Protect himself. Eh? What? This is one is more of her consideration for him. After swearing on them, Shichika reiterates he loves her so she has him love her as much as he wants. Do they even know what love means?

Episode 2 – Zantou Namakura
Did Togame get seasick from Shichika’s rowing or the violent waves? Arriving in Kyoto, Shichika is amazed with the number of people. Remember his problem of not recognizing faces? Yeah, he already mistook a girl for Togame because of her same height! Anyway so as not to arouse the suspicion of others that Togame is some dominatrix woman and throw rocks at them, she takes Shichika to a shop to get clothes but she bought all for herself. At night, they pass a couple of bandits. Unheeding her advice to sheath their sword, Shichika kicks and breaks them to protect Togame. He was going to finish them off if Togame had not stopped them that he just can’t slaughter anybody on the mainland. Despite its name which means blunt, it can cut through anything effortlessly. In an inn, Togame has Shichika smell her so that he could identify her scent so as not for him to mistakenly kill her as an assassin! She allows him to lick her but not bite? Then they talk about their next sword retrieval mission: Namakura at Gekoku Castle. The reason she chose this sword next is because its master is a swordsman. However he is a ronin named Ginkaku Uneri. Long ago when Shogun Kyuu ordered the hunt, the owner of Namakura was a samurai serving under a feudal lord named Kinkaku Uneri. However Kinkaku refused to hand over the sword and subsequently killed 10,000 soldiers of the soldier. So now, Uneri the 10th generation is its current owner. One of the heads of Maniwa, Shirasagi (what’s with him talking in reverse?), confronts Ginkaku to steal Namakura. However he was sliced in half! So much for his appearance. Now the tatami is tainted…

Shichika and Togame trek through the deserts of Inaba to the castle. Over the years, the desert has been eating the land up and became uninhabitable. So Ginkaku is the only one living like a feudal lord in his own castle. Togame mentions that every scout the Shogun sent there, none return. So it’s cut first, ask later. She also wants Shichika to come up with a catchphrase. Since she didn’t see his flashy move, she didn’t put it in her report. When she was writing it, she noticed something about Shichika: His weak personality! No matter how she worded her report, Koumori always stand out more than him. She is worried that Shichika has nothing stand out and will lose readers? Is this what it’s all about? She mentions Shirasagi’s reverse talk that made him interesting. Too bad she won’t hear that anymore. Back to the catchphrase, she mentions Hakuhei Sabi’s good catchphrase: “I’ll have you fallen for me”. Shichika would rather die than to have that. Well, he has a catchphrase he often says: “How troublesome”. Togame didn’t like it because it might affect his work in which he should be doing it enthusiastically. If he can’t come up with one, she already has written a few for him to choose. Well, let’s just say it makes Shichika wonder if she really uses her brain as a weapon. Plus, it makes it feel like as though he’s the bad guy. To Togame it does seem it will help improve her image if she demonstrates her ability to handle a tough nut. Because Togame is going to continue this conversation for the rest of the journey, I guess Shichika just picks the catchphrase “However, by that point you’ll have been torn into pieces”. Besides, Togame has her own catchphrase “Cheerio”. Well, she mistakenly thought that foreign farewell world was a popular phrase from Satsuma in Kyushu when the truth it’s supposed to be “Chesuto” (a cry to raise one’s spirits).

After walking so long, Togame is tired. Shichika thought it was the clothes she’s wearing. She reminds him that women have body parts that they need to keep fashionable. But for him, so long he doesn’t remove clothes from his lower part, he’ll be okay. Besides, he’s thankful for the hakama she bought him as he is able to move freely in it. You thought Togame’s tripping habit kicked up but she tripped on Shirasagi’s body in the sand. As stated, seems the 12 heads of Maniwa are competing against each other to find the Deviant Swords. Then appearing before them is the castle. It was camouflaged by a mirage in the air. Togame notes that Shirasagi’s death is a blessing because if he had stolen the sword, they came all the way for nothing. But Shichika cautions this had made the owner defensive and may have run away. Togame is confident he won’t leave the castle no matter the reason because he is bloody confident in his skills. But Togame is also happy to note that she can look forward to write a good report with this outcome.

As they head in, Shichika wonders why she is walking ahead first. She reminds him that she too can fight (I thought she was better off using her brain power?). She clears the air that they are not here to steal like thieves but follow proper government procedure. Opening the room door to where Ginkaku is sitting, Togame introduces herself and her intention for a fair trade of Namakura. Denying that the scum ninja was her associate, she is willing to pay and even help him get what he desires for the sword. However bored and sleepy Ginkaku has her come closer to talk since he considers rude for her to talk to a swordsman across the room. As she is about to take a step in, Shichika spots Ginkaku unsheathing his sword. He uses his Lily move to kick Togame back. Togame is apparently shocked at the mysterious pull back force and thought she was being abducted by aliens! Man, she has a wild imagination! Then she realizes when her front portion of her clothes ripped. Shichika recognizes that move as Iainuki (kneeling sword draw). Ginkaku notes that this is the first time his Zerosen technique failed with Namakura. Togame chides his despicable act but he notes that she was going to take it by force anyway. He also thinks she played cheat by bringing along this ‘big brother’ (see how Togame blow her top by saying which part of her face looked like his little sister). Namakura has being handed down by his forefathers and they would not hand it to the Shogunate. Simply giving it away would make him a laughing stock. Shichika feels that he is afraid to lose the sword since he will lose his speed of light move with Zerosen. Realizing that Shichika is also a swordsman, he challenges him to come and take it and no need for further talk. However Shichika wants to do a bit of strategizing with Togame first.

Outside the castle, seems Shichika was just checking if he would come after them. Apparently he didn’t and let them go. Plus, the moment Togame crossed the boundary into his room, she got attacked. This means he won’t attack as long as they don’t enter his room, his absolute territory and optimal place for him to ambush enemies. They need to find a way to drag him out. Shichika has a plan. First, Togame enters the room and falls prey to Zerosen’s cut. Since he can’t let the corpse be, he’ll have to drag it out and throw it into the desert just like Shirasagi. That’s when Shichika will attack him. But there’s one problem. Togame will be cut! That won’t do! So the other plan is to face him head on. He thinks just winning today isn’t good enough to win tomorrow’s battles. They can’t just win by luck like with Koumori. Togame feels she has no skills to back him up so Shichika says he wants her to do it because people with something to protect are strong. Ginkaku reflects how he became obsessed in protecting the sword when everyone has left. And he will continue to do it. As a swordsman, he needs something to protect or else he cannot fight.

The duo return to the room as Shichika gets ready to counter his Zerosen move with his Iris technique. He’s bending down like a start line run? When he makes his first move, Ginkaku predicts he’ll cut him on the third step. But when it’s done, seems he cut a phantom illusion. Taken off guard, Shichika kicked him with his Rose move. However Ginkaku notes that he could’ve finished him off with Rose but held back. Seems Shichika was overwhelmed by his sword pressure (due to lack of real battle experience). Since the same move won’t work again, Ginkaku uses Five Lives Attacks to cut and it doesn’t matter if he speeds up or slows down. Though Shichika dodged out of the room, the move also wounded Ginkaku’s arm. This was also the move that killed the Shogun’s soldiers. He explains this secret move combined with Namakura and the thing I understand that is the more it cuts, the faster it gets, thus faster than the speed of light. Togame thinks of letting him bleed to death but Shichika won’t allow that. He is impressed by him and will show him the full might of Kyotouryuu. Ginkaku asks if Togame could restore Inaba since she said she would do anything. She says it’s impossible since the Shogunate has deserted this place and no longer under his jurisdiction. Plus, reversing the dessert process is impossible. Ginkaku is relieved and feels it was right to cut her. About the pride thing he was talking about, he said that on a whim. It was just something he wanted to protect. In fact it’s the only thing left to protect. Preparing for the next move, Shichika gets ready into his Iris position and warns him that he’ll be in pieces. Shichika starts, Ginkaku draws his sword. The funny part was Shichika using Togame’s face as a spring board!!! Oh man!!! Shichika ends up on top of the ceiling seeing that Zerosen doesn’t cover every area. Why? He notices Ginkaku cannot draw his sword above his head. With that, Shichika uses his hidden art, Rakka Rouzeki (Scattered Blossoms) and lands a devastating drop kick on him.

In the aftermath, though they have Namakura in possession, Togame is understandably mad. First he thought Iris to Rose move would do the job so he really did that face platform move as insurance. She would’ve appreciated it if he had told her in the first place. Oh, and that people get stronger line thingy, he was just randomly saying things. Shichika learns from today’s battle that having something to protect doesn’t mean that one will become strong and that there are people who need something to protect in order to keep living. Shichika thinks Ginkaku’s final line was a cool catchphrase that brings out his character but Togame disagrees that it’s more of a final message, last words and will before his death since one is allowed to say it once in your lifetime. But sometimes last words can be more powerful than catchphrases. She doesn’t allow Shichika to come up with one and not even think about it. Ginkaku’s last words were “At last, deep sleep is allowed in me”.

Episode 3 – Sentou Tsurugi
The duo enter the autonomous region of Izumo to meet Meisai Tsuruga, the head of the Sanzu shrine and owner of the Tsurugi sword. Togame is confident she can walk 1000 steps up to the shrine since she already trekked through the desert. But after a few steps, she got tired and seeks Shichika’s help! Since carrying her on the back will be tad embarrassing, the strategist has Shichika carry her like a princess. Less embarrassing this way? I don’t know. Go figure. At the top, they meet Meisai. Inside the shrine, we learn Meisai was once part of the bandit but that was 7 years ago and she has left them ever since. Plus, this isn’t her real name and she just took after the previous priest of this temple as she has forgotten her own. Meisai can tell Togame is under orders from the Shogunate and must have an urgent business. She agrees with Togame’s request to speak with her privately. Meisai shows her around and that this place has 1000 armed shrine maidens spread out throughout the area. These maidens are unsettled as some of them have killed their parents, families or their entire clan. Meisai also knows she is here for her Tsurugi sword so Togame says they already have 2 of the Deviant Blades. Togame is aware of the circumstances the Sanzu shrine is in and is willing to let the Shogunate take care of the circumstances in exchange for her sword. Upon learning that Shichika is her sword and a Kyotouryuu, she is excited to pit the Kyotouryuu against her Sentouryuu (Thousand Blade Technique). She agrees to give her Tsurugi as long as she accepts a little condition.

Togame meets up with Shichika and tells him how the deal went. First they have to find the real Tsurugi among the 1000 identical swords (among them is the original and first Tsurugi sword). After they find the real sword, they have to fight her and win. If they lose, they have to give up Kanna and Namakura. Shichika feels it’s not fair since they only get 1 sword if they win but Meisai gets 2 swords if she gets victory. Somehow Shichika got entangled in Togame’s hair and he fell over her in an ambiguous position. Yeah, just watching the shadows from outside really makes it look ambiguous. Meisai’s bodyguards report back their observation on the duo to her. Meisai can tell they are not a couple or a master-servant relationship but are likely tied by fate. She guessed from Togame’s hair and actions that she has been through a lot of hardship and her brightly coloured clothes are so as not to forget herself. She also guesses that Togame is a daughter of a feudal lord and if there wasn’t any war, she could’ve been a princess of her own country. Next morning, Togame leaves to examine the Tsurugi swords and wants Shichika to stay put in the room and not wander. Inside the shrine, Togame looks through the swords and picks up one. Suddenly a maiden dashes forward and steals that sword, ready to cut Togame. However Meisai shields her with her own body. While the other maidens are evacuated, Meisai approaches closer to the maiden as she swings the sword in a panic state. Finally she breaks down so Meisai brings her out and tells Togame to continue with the inspection.

Meanwhile Kuizame of Maniwa has just arrived and kills all the boatpeople just to live up to expectations of being a murderer. Bored Shichika spots several maidens doing chores. When he goes help them, they shriek and run off in fear. He continues to complete the chores so the maidens quietly go back and help him. They thank him once they have finished and go off. Meisai’s bodyguards thank him. Shichika learns that the maidens were under the care of the previous priest. He mentions that he doesn’t feel that aura that Shikizaki swords have in their blades. When Meisai is being told of this, she decides to talk to him. Meisai answers his questions like this shrine is a refuge temple for the maidens. These girls were abused by men way past their limit till their mental health is destroyed and then they get abandoned. Thus their fear of Shichika and men alike (also the reason Togame doesn’t want him to wander). Meisai also reveals the reason she gave the maidens Tsurugi. It’s to use the poison of Shikizaki’s swords as medicine. If taking too much medicine becomes poisonous, the opposite can also be true. The swords serve to restore and sooth their broken mind. After all the Deviant Swords have power beyond human comprehension. Though the talisman over their faces are just ‘fake’ masks, the Tsurugi are their real heart and soul. That is why she cannot afford to give up Tsurugi nor lose to him because she needs to save as many women she can. Shichika likes the way Meisai thinks of using swords to save lives and it’s good that they’ll both give it all in their fight.

Meisai wonders if he is okay of robbing Tsurugi even if it will break the hearts of these maidens. Shichika can’t help it since his body and soul don’t move for anyone but Togame. Asking how many people he has killed, he replies 2 and both in connection of obtaining the Deviant Blades. As for Meisai, she has killed countless but remembers she killed 43 – her comrades. When asked about his reasons to fight, he replies it’s for Togame because he fell for her. Meisai notes that his sympathy and throwing-off-balance technique failed. Shichika then remembers he didn’t kill 2 but 3 people. The other person he killed was his father. They realize Kuizame hearing their conversation. He is of course here to take Tsurugi and is confident in his Uzugatana technique. Meisai offers to take care of this since she has a duty to protect the maidens. Plus, she knows about Kyotouryuu but he hasn’t seen her Sentouryuu. Meisai speeds up and once Kuizame lands, a sudden deep cut is seen across his chest! WOAH!!! After all that cocky and arrogant talk, that ninja just died like that?! He didn’t even see Sentouryuu coming. Shichika returns to Togame who is complaining she practically had been all over the shrine looking for him. He tells her the appearance of Maniwa and asserts the need to be next to her seeing they won’t know the next attack. However she disagrees and shows him the true Tsurugi sword. Explaining her choice to Meisai, she noticed the scars on the sheath and most likely makes it the oldest one. Meisai accepts her decision without any arguments.

Next day, Shichika and Meisai prepare to face off. Once the battle starts, Meisai tosses her Tsurugi at Shichika and flees. He chases after her to a little shrine. Then she u-turns and tries to strike him with her Ittou Ichimonji Kiri strike. Luckily Shichika dodges it. Again Meisai escapes into the woods. Deep in, Shichika sees lots of Tsurugi swords tied to the trees. He realizes the search for the original blade was just to bide time for this setup. A battlefield with 1000 swords. Meisai is confident that with Sentouryuu and Tsurugi combined, her Chikeikouka Sentou Meguri technique is invincible. She gives Shichika a chance to surrender.

Story time. Her father was a commander of a squad in Izumo’s defence corps and from young she was made to believe the invincibility of Sentouryuu as she was taught and inherited the technique. However when war came, the move was somewhat useless. Her father and his followers all perished leaving her the only survivor. She lost everything. Her family, her home, her beliefs. Before she realized it, she used Sentouryuu as a murder tool since Sentouryuu is an art of absolute self defence in which you don’t arm yourself. Tsurugi also follows this same principal. Soon she joined the bandits and the boss was the owner of Tsurugi. She rises through the ranks in no time and became bandit chief. She continued her life killing others. She had known about Sanzu shrine as a sanctuary for weak girls. She wondered why the Gods never helped her so she strangled the priest. But his last words were to forgive him for not being able to help her and also to forgive the girls as they have done no wrong. That’s when she realized and thought deeply the reason she fights and lives. Then she returns to the bandit’s hideout and slaughtered all her comrades and return to the shrine to inherit that priest’s dying wish. She has been fighting for those girls since. That’s why she can’t lose.

Since she truly believes Kyotouryuu cannot beat Sentouryuu, Shichika advises her that when laying traps, it is best not to set near your home (he learnt his first lesson while trying to trap a wild animal but Nanami got caught since it was set nearby). Shichika is confident to test and see if Kyotouryuu is really inferior. He dashes out of the woods and back to the inn they are staying. He knows this place does not have any traps set because Meisai had to look out for them both. Meisai doesn’t admit defeat but requests that if he does manage to take Tsurugi, she wants him to obtain a guarantee from the Shogunate of the future of those maidens and at least send someone who is kind and knows their way around people’s hearts to take care of them. It might sound that Meisai is contradicting herself by not admitting defeat but she figured it’s fine if she loses this fight. Her thought of using the poison of the swords to save the maidens but it didn’t work and ended up more poison than cure and she couldn’t part with the sword. That’s why she’s been waiting for someone like them to come and smash that pointless hope. She then pulls up Tsurugi from the ground and Shichika can tell this is the original one because he can feel its soul. He also says the swords choose their masters but do not choose who to slay. Tsurugi chose Meisai just like how Shichika chose Togame. Finally they both face off. Just when Togame arrives on scene (she totally missed the entire action. Now what is she going to write in her report?) but sees Meisai lifeless and Shichika’s fist covered in blood. Looks like Kuuchuu Ittou Okumoji Kiri was no match for Kyouka Suigetsu.

As Meisai’s bodyguards watch over Meisai’s body, Togame promises to obtain a guarantee for this shrine and its maidens’ safety from the Shogunate. Shichika and Togame leave so he wonders what will happen to the shrine since the maidens are now unarmed. Togame notes it will return to the way it was before the sword got involved. Then shouldn’t Meisai have done that from the beginning? Since she held one of the Deviant Blades, she would’ve been consumed by the poison of the Shikizaki swords. She couldn’t have been able to let go of it unless it was forcefully taken. Shichika wonders if Togame would give up Kanna and Namakura if he had lost. She couldn’t say and gave an excuse she was confident he would win. Shichika feels nostalgic for the shrine’s steps because he won’t get a chance to hold Togame like that anymore. She got embarrassed and was about to give him her Cheerio but tripped as they both tumble downwards. It’s a long way down…

Episode 4 – Hakutou Hari
Togame hurriedly returns to the inn they are temporarily staying. As usual, her usual complaints about her meeting with the messengers that the Shogunate sends. They are supposed to settle here for a while and wait reports on that Sabi guy but it seems Togame has already received a letter of challenge from the person himself. A duel for the Deviant Blades. That’s straight to the point alright. Shichika feels it’s ironic such a straight an old fashioned guy betrayed her and the Shogunate he was loyal to simply for the sword. After all, he was touched by the sword’s poison. Togame’s thoughts wandered as she thinks Shichika was able to kill a woman (Meisai) easily because he grew up on a deserted island and doesn’t know desire for women. If he doesn’t distinguish between men and women, why has this sword fallen for her? She is snapped out when Shichika asks about people leaking information that they have 3 of the Deviant Blades. They also talk about Sabi’s Deviant Blade, Hari. It is thin, frail and above all a beautiful sword. It’s going to be hard to get it without breaking it. But Togame doesn’t want him to be concern with the sword and concentrate fully on Sabi’s swordsmanship since he has the reputation of being Japan’s best. It is also said that he can cut the moon in half! However Shichika doesn’t want Togame praising other swords in front of him. He has his pride as Kyotouryuu. Shichika’s hold on Togame’s collar bone seems to be sending pain. Or is she feeling… After letting go, Shichika wonders if defeating Sabi would mean earning the title of Japan’s best. Since the fight will be on Ganryuu Island, Shichika wonders how Nanami is doing.

The Insect Squad comprising of Kamakiri, Chouchou and Mitsubashi, all heads of the Maniwa Ninja Corps are talking about the recent deaths of the other heads and how things are going down since their betrayal. If things go as it is, it will bring disgrace to their reputation. Their ultimate aim is to take down the head of Kyotouryuu and divide the Deviant Blades among themselves. They arrive on the uninhabited island where the Yasuri household resides. Their plan is to capture Nanami as bait. Kamakiri volunteers to do the job while the rest waits. He leaves them his red crystal orb and if anything happens, they’ll have to complete the task.

Kamakiri spies on Nanami collecting vegetables. She is lamenting how lonely she is when Kamakiri lunges at her with his claw technique, Tsume Awase. However the next thing he knows, he is chained to the tree, his claws and poison molar removed while he was out! I guess suicide is out, eh? She tells him about Koumori’s body buried nearby and gives him a choice: Keep quiet and die or talk and die. Oh sh*t. Is that even a choice? Though she doesn’t really mind which he picked, she would prefer the former since judging from the situation she has a good idea of what is going on and there isn’t much she needs to ask. Firstly with Maniwa coming to this island, she guessed that Shichika’s sword hunt is going well. Kamakiri says though he has never met her brother, she presumes that he must be stronger than her. However she wonders about that since it is about a year since she had a proper contest with Shichika. So the earlier move she used on him wasn’t really Kyotouryuu but a disarmament counter called Patrinia. She wonders how many of them are on the island so Kamakiri only mentions himself with the reason that they don’t have enough manpower to send more soldiers after a single girl. But she knows kidnapping her isn’t just the end of their plans and wouldn’t be surprised if there were more men. She guessed that it would be the same number of swords Shichika carries – three. She is straight in telling him that he should tell about his comrades’ skills and techniques to help her and NOT his situation. She adds that when Shichika was young, he has this habit of biting his nails despite her telling him to stop. To prevent him from doing so, she extracted all his fingernails. He never bit it ever since. However she wants to try the opposite for Kamakiri. Taking his claws and sticking it in his mouth, she wants him to bite. Kamakiri tries to stall for time so that he could surprise attack her with another Tsume Awase but she sealed his movements with her kimono. Then she stabs right through his mouth!!! His dying eyes reminded her of her father’s and how he decided to make Shichika the head of Kyotouryuu by passing this technique to his son and not her. It’s not because she’s a woman nor have a weak body. But rather he is unable to raise someone as exceptionally powerful like her. Meanwhile as Shichika rows to Ganryuu Island, he remembers fighting Nanami only once and lost. He wonders who is more powerful, Sabi or Nanami.

The orb breaks into half so Chouchou and Mitsubashi become alerted that something may have happen to Kamakiri. They’re trying to reason maybe the orb just broke! But they have to face up to reality. Chouchou thinks he’ll go next and wants Mitsubashi to stay behind and watch. He feels Mitsubashi should be the one surviving among the Insect Squad since he’s the youngest. Chouchou continues that after this mission, he is going to marry since in their business there’s no telling when they’ll fall. That lucky woman is Oshidori of the Bird Squad and one of the 12 heads of Maniwa. Chouchou thinks of taking a smoke but remembers Oshidori dislikes smoking he gives the cigarette packet to Mitsubashi for safekeeping. They both take a piece of the orb each and note that Insect Squad will always be together.

Seems Nanami could sense Chouchou’s presence seeing that he is alive and erasing his existence is not possible. Nanami learns of Kamakiri’s name and Chouchou learns that she killed him. He is not going to let her know anything more if Kamakiri himself didn’t tell her. He tells her his priority is to take her hostage so that they would diminish Shichika’s fighting spirit. Chouchou gets ready into a fighting stance that the Kyotouryuu and Maniwa founder once fought together. However Nanami isn’t taking any stance. She gives off a creepy smile and says she has never taken a stance in her life because she’s a deviant of Kyotouryuu. To her stances are useless and from his stance, she can tell his next move. And if she would give her own ‘stance’ a name, it would be Zero Dance: Fig Tree. They both lunge towards each other but Chouchou’s Ashigari (literally means light feet) allows him to swiftly evade Nanami’s attack. He explains the basics of this move that allows him to ignore gravity no matter how heavy an object is. Chouchou brags his amazing technique but what amazes Nanami is the time he spent perfecting the technique that was probably being handed down by generations. She also mentions about Tsume Awase and somewhat feels jealous. She’s sure that they could never understand the feelings of one who doesn’t know what it feels like to make an effort. As Chouchou starts off with Ashigari, he is surprised Nanami catches up with Ashigari! Impossible! Then she stabs him with her Dandelion move, which is an exact replica of Tsume Awase! Lamenting how jealous she is that they are able to put effort into everything she reveals that her power is said to be exceptional and deviant. Mutsue tried to contain it as a father and swordsman and never thought her Kyotouryuu. So how did she master it? She was always watching them train. She has this ability to remember a move after seeing once and master it after the second time. Observing and seeing is her training. She thanks him for showing everything and finishes him off.

Mitsubashi wanted to come out and help but felt torn if he should. Then he sees Nanami coughing and takes this opportunity to throw a Makibishi Shidan bullet into her back. There is poison but it’s not lethal. Mitsubashi introduces himself and their goals to collect the Deviant Blades. But personally he wants to kill her but will not because that will be satisfying his own vengeance. He will avenge his comrades’ death by collecting the swords. Nanami notes how talkative he is seeing that anyone would do so if they feel they have an advantage. He sticks another bullet into her chest just as precaution. Then as he approaches her and is about to finish her with his sword, Nanami escapes using Ashigari and throws back one of the bullets into Mitsubashi’s arm! She reveals she was never in pain and was all an act and have mastered his move (she did warn him about shooting the bullet the second time). She took out the bullet with Tsume Awase. Mitsubashi notes that he can’t die with his own poison but she says she laced it with Kamakiri’s poison. Nanami adds that poison no matter how little or lethal is nothing to her as it’s an everyday experience for her. No matter how excruciating or painful, her body just wouldn’t choose death. Rather it won’t allow her to die. Her parents were just stumped each time they see her in pain or close to death. Taking out the other bullet from her back with the claw, she continues her envy for others who can feel pain. She takes the sword and gives him a choice of his death: By poison or the sword. Oh, this is the first time she has seen someone using a sword. Mitsubashi wants to die by the sword since he can’t face his comrades in the next life if he dies by poison. He also has a favour and wants his body buried with his comrades.

Elsewhere we see Shichika and Togame enjoying a feast of dangos and red bean soup over Shichika’s victory by the skin of his teeth over Sabi! WTF?! WHAT THE?! Where the hell was the much anticipated awesome fight we’re supposed to see?! The one where by a passing shark was cut into half like a hot knife through butter, the one whereby the rocks of the mountain were like cutting through snow, the one whereby the ocean split into half! Where was all that I saw in the previous episode’s preview?! And here I was so expecting it and instead of the usual sword hunt, we had one focused on Nanami. Don’t we feel cheated? Yeah, the island is somewhat decimated too. They are talking about the cool and impressive moves Sabi made in the close battle and Togame’s strategy that also played a pivotal point. They also discuss his masterpiece technique called Hakutou Kaigan only made possible with the combination of Hari. So the rumour that he can also slash the sun in half isn’t such a farfetched idea? Togame feels Shichika can be proud he faced Sabi and won and now has the title of Japan’s best. However Shichika is bothered with Sabi’s last words. Something about Kyotouryuu was left behind by Shikizaki himself, Kiki’s bloodline and Sabi even calling himself as an incomplete failed creation. Togame believes that it’ll all become clear as they continue their journey. They are amazed that they are able to obtain Hari without even scratching it a bit. With their boosted morale, Togame decides to get the next sword at Satsuma. It will be Yoroi which boasts unparalleled absolute defence and the owner is the captain of a pirate ship. Shichika notes that Sabi wasn’t as strong as Nanami. Nanami is seen praying at the buried bodies of the Maniwa ninjas. A narration that they danced like a butterfly, stung like a bee and consumed like a praying mantis but died like bugs. Nanami notes how all that boasting hardly made those moves ultimate and it has a huge weak point. She feels she should go tell Shichika before he ends up in trouble and wonders if she should join the sword hunt.

Episode 5 – Zokutou Yoroi
Back in Owari, Princess Hitei receives message of Shichika and Togame’s progress from her subordinate Emonzaemon Souda. She is not happy she is made to wait. She further learns ever since they’ve defeated Sabi (the title of Japan’s strongest was bestowed to him by her), lots of challengers popped up to fight Shichika for the title, thus the delay (nobody beats Shichika of course). However it’s not like they’re stopping here anytime soon and are on a role to find the next sword. It’s understandable since Shogun Kyuu couldn’t even find one. They talk about Shichika as the sword himself and has never even been scratched once in every battle. Hitei is excited to see how things develop.

In Satsuma, a sword match in Obon is underway and being watched by the crowd including Shichika and Togame. Hey, is it legal for a guy to be totally concealed in tough shiny armour? The armour guy, Kanara Azekura, the captain of the Yoroi Pirates taunts his challenger for his consecutive victories as fluke. But he is not fazed and charges. However his sword broke in half upon contact with his armour. The winner is clear and this is the man will be Shichika’s next opponent. Shichika thought he wasn’t using a sword but Togame says the armour is actually, Yoroi, the Deviant Blade that was modelled after a western armour. The duo then decide to find a place to stay. They relax in a mixed hotspring famed at healing wounds. Togame admits that she was pretty worried if Shichika would be able to protect himself but after winning every duel without a scratch, she is pretty convinced. I guess soaking here is meaningless for him, eh? By obtaining Hari, now they can take their time collecting the other Deviant Blades and perhaps in a ‘dirty’ manner too. Then she also admits because she had been betrayed before and had failed twice, she has her doubts if Shichika would be loyal to her and run away after obtaining the swords. However she is convinced he wouldn’t. He thought it was cruel of her to think that way because after all, he had fallen for her in the first place. In fact, he has fallen in love more and more each day. Well, it just doesn’t show. I mean, a naked couple soaking together in the hotspring. Nothing much exciting happening, eh? She has him stand up to check his body. Ahem, ahem. But I guess her comment about his big muscular body was just a cover for something ;). See Shichika looking puzzled? I guess that’s the sign there isn’t that kind of flame we’d expect to see in their love.

Back in the inn, they get down to business by discussing about Yoroi. Though hard to tell from a distance, the joints of the various armour parts are made of sharp blades. Its primary purpose is defence instead of offense. Since Shichika still isn’t allowed to damage the sword, Togame has come up with various ways to get Yoroi. First option, they can sink the person down to the bottom of the sea and pick up the armour after he dies. Second choice, they can use something hot to roast the person inside. Shichika is appalled at her devilish ways but if they’re going to use backhanded methods, wouldn’t it be easier just to attack him when he’s not wearing the armour? It would be but Azekura never takes off his armour. At least not in front of everybody. Also nothing Azekura’s bigger body size than Shichika, he’ll have to come up with his own way to fight him since Togame isn’t a strategist in martial arts. Togame has Shichika step on her body and head to massage those tired bones and muscles. Yeah, feeling good, isn’t she? Oh, those ambiguous moans. Hope she doesn’t turn into a masochist.

They are interrupted when Azekura wishes to see them outside. He knows their background and mission to collect the swords very well and knows they are here to collect his. But he isn’t going to just hand it to them. He says to hurt others, one must be prepared to hurt oneself. So if he steals from others, he also must have the resolve to be stolen from. The same goes for killing. Togame thought he got his men surround the inn but Azekura only came alone. It doesn’t help when Shichika is spacing out. Has he been hearing what they said all the while? Anyway Azekura isn’t going to just give Yoroi to her because that will mean showing obedience to the Shogunate. Pirates have always been anti-establishment and anti-government, right? He asks what she would do if she manages to tear the armour off him. She replies she would return to Owari first and by boat since it is near the port. He lets her know that if she was successful, she can’t be confident that his men will just let her escape the area easily (Azekura is well known in this part). Togame is impressed he already has his plan laid out. He then challenges Shichika to a duel. He will order his crew and people to stay out of their fight. Of course he has a few terms. If you thought acknowledging pirate activities was his wish, well, you’re far off. He wants her to make him look good as all fights will be held at Obon because he forbids private fights. Fighting there would just mean business and having a fight with Japan’s strongest swordless swordsman (oh, the oxymoron) will rile up the audience. It may be turning Shichika into a piece of attraction but it’s the price to pay to get Yoroi. Togame says that if they beat him, in addition to obtaining Yoroi, they’ll get a safe passage back to Owari. Azekura is surprised that Togame is asking for his reward should they lose. I mean, she is saying that they will not win too? She was pretty confident he would ask for their Deviant Blades but to her utter shock, he wants her to be his woman!!! Yeah, he doesn’t need the other swords as Yoroi is more than enough. Looks like he has fallen for her. Now is this what you call love at first sight. Not like what Togame told Shichika to. Togame is left to reflect on Azekura’s words because he did mention if she loses, she’ll still benefit as he’ll take over Shichika’s job and help her out from the bottom of his heart. Oh Shichika, don’t you feel jealous? Does he know what jealous means?

Next morning, Shichika tries his Red Blossom and Green Willows move on Togame. The impact bypasses her body to break her mirror behind her back. I guess this is his armour piercing technique but Togame is shocked to learn that he uses it with his instincts to land the hit. So it’s by luck! And he hasn’t thought that far if it will kill her! I think Shichika may just know the meaning of jealousy because he teases Togame by pulling her obi, tripping her feet and pulling her hair! That’s bullying! He thought it was just calling even for hitting him each time. Sure it’s not jealousy? Yeah, Togame didn’t even have time to finish explaining if she has accepted Azekura’s proposal (she had already decided during the talk then). Even if she does sound confident and bragging, Shichika ‘bullies’ her. Shichika thought of this idea that Togame secretly cooperates with Azekura and his pirates while they continue collecting swords. Togame notes it wouldn’t work since a pirate like him would like to monopolize his women. Plus, he may see Shichika as an obstacle though he has desires to fight him as Japan’s strongest. As for Azekura’s love, she thinks there may be a catch. He is after all a pirate. Shichika is confused because he thought she’d trust him if he were to help her out of love. Togame couldn’t answer and calls Shichika childish. As for making Azekura his replacement, it all depends on the match. If Shichika dies, he dies. If not, perhaps he could go back to live with Nanami. But that is not what Shichika wants but if she says so… Suddenly Togame Cheerio him on his feet because of his weak resolve and is this how deep is his attachment to her. They are interrupted when they receive a letter.

Not from Azekura, but Houou of Maniwa (of the Bird Squad and the leader of the Maniwa heads). Togame isn’t really trusting this guy since she had to bow her head in shame to many since she got betrayed (ironically she trusted his letter to come and meet and talk). Houou is willing to cut off an arm just for her to listen! And he did so to prove his point! As Houou learns the demise of Insect Squad isn’t of their doing, he notes the leaders of their group have been halved in the short span of 6 months. He proposes a temporary truce and avoid fighting each other for the swords (it’s a 3 way battle between the duo, Maniwa and sword owners). Togame isn’t bent on this plan because they’re after the same goal. Though it’s true but Houou says their method is different as they would be happy to obtain 2 or 3 swords. He proposes they will search in the opposite order of what she is following. Given the lack of info, Togame feels it’s worthwhile to leave Maniwa at large for a while. If they do succeed in getting them, all she needs to do is steal it. Plus if negotiations break down, Houou will fight her here and now. Something both of them can’t afford. Togame reveals the name of the next Deviant Blade she plans to search: Kanazuchi. If Maniwa searches in other places, it should be no problem. So the alliance, or rather temporary truce is formed. In return, Houou tells her the other places of the other Deviant Blades: Mutsu’s Mountain of Spirits (Shireizan), Tendou in Dewa and Lake Fuyou in Edo. Togame is stunned when she learns Hitei has begun to move. Houou doesn’t exactly know what it is but whatever, he suggests her to deal with it quickly. He signs off by correcting her that her Cheerio catchphrase is wrong. Togame got so embarrassed that she ran up and down the mountain, here and there (even in denial)!!! This is the longest tantrum she has ever put up! And she thought by being some intellect strategist means she’s a smart woman, eh? Well, nobody’s perfect. She even wants Shichika to confirm that she’s correct but he too had known all along she was wrong! Oh, the embarrassment, the disgrace. How many bystanders have seen her saying that? Probably lots of them. She gets concern about Azekura’s thoughts of seeing her use Cheerio on him (for the record, she said this word very often ever since in Saitama). Yeah, he may think she’s an idiot. She lets out her final frustration by giving Shichika a Cheerio punch in his gut. In Azekura’s lair, he thinks back when he was young and was playing with his sister onboard a ship. Pirates attacked and killed everyone. He was the only survivor because they wanted a chore boy and made to polish Yoroi. Five years down the road, the drunk pirates suggest he put on the armour. They never lived to see the next day because Azekura never forgot his sister’s murder and kills them all. Watching Togame brings back unpleasant memories of his sister.

Next day at Obon as both warriors prepare to face off. Azekura suggests he surrender so that he could leave this arena unharmed. Shichika remembers Togame’s order not to kill or permanently incapacitate him, making his duty difficult. As the match starts, Shichika quickly uses Red Blossom and Green Willows. However his move had no effect. After all, Yoroi is a defence armour, right? So any offense will not get through. Azekura makes his move and all Shichika could do is dodge. Shichika is contemplating if he should concede victory since Azekura is more skilled as a sword however was snapped out by furious Togame. She is upset she never gave him permission to do so but win. She gives him her piece of mind and as far as she is concerned, a man who can’t show his face to a woman he has fallen for is worthless. There’s no way she would trust such a man. And what fun would there be in travelling with a guy if she couldn’t get into a hotspring with? If a technique of Kyotouryuu didn’t work, he still has other skills, right? If he doesn’t have armour, he has got a body her forged like steel for 20 years. If he had really fallen for her, then he’ll protect her with brute force! That really nails it. Shichika gets his confidence back and moves to his Lily stance. He realizes he was careless to lose sight of his simple nature and thought too much lately (he was bad in this, remember?). It’s Shichika’s turn to taunt and challenge Azekura to steal Togame. But that won’t be so easy because Yoroi is made for defence. Azekura unleashes his ultimate move, Touzoku Kamome (Blade Gulls) and charges at him. The impact was so great that he is pushed out of the ring. But Shichika manages to stop his charge. Then he holds him up with his bare hand. As Togame notes, even without his clever moves, he is strong enough with that tempered body and was relying too much on Kyotouryuu. Shichika thanks him for making him realize that though he may be a single sword, he is also a single human. As he tosses Azekura in the air, he warns him not to touch his woman! That’s the way it should be. Azekura is knocked out and the winner is clear.

As Togame and Shichika depart, they are being told by a crew member how Togame resembles Azekura’s dead sister. If she was alive, she would be the same age as her. As for Azekura, he wasn’t heavily injured and is back up to normal (I guess there’s a first time for everything. The first Deviant Sword master Shichika didn’t kill). Though it will take some time for him to show himself in front of others after hiding behind his armour all this time. Shichika notices he didn’t come to see her off but Togame feels it is better this way so as not to give a rejected man false hopes. As for why Shichika knew her Cheerio was wrong, he heard it from his dad but since Togame was saying it so boldly, he thought he remembered it wrongly. Togame gives him a Cheerio punch and looks like she’s sticking with it. But little do they know, Azekura has set the direction of the boat to the cold lands of Ezo has revenge for his rejection.

Episode 6 – Soutou Kanazuchi
The complex geographical location of Ezo and harsh environment has made it unsuitable for living. Shichika carries Togame on his back as they trek up the snowy Mt Odori to see the Itezora clan. Togame’s hair is frozen and hard as ice! Yeah, she’s complaining that she’ll die in this cold! Shichika teases that as a strategist, her ‘schemes’ are just guesses since she has not much detail on this clan. So cold that Togame couldn’t pull off her Cheerio punch. Hitei discusses with Emonzaemon about Togame who probable knew that she is making a move and thus she went straight to Ezo. Hitei mentions Ezo is designated a disaster area not because of the mountain but rather its inhabitants who are also the owners of Kanazuchi. Togame feels that if she dies, she wants Shichika to carry on using her Cheerio catchphrase as his! Now way! Shichika couldn’t believe she’ll die. Besides, he can’t do anything without her. She disagrees as she has taught him everything she can. She reflects her meaningless life because being with him made her realize true happiness is to be a mother and bore and child. She’s talking about this kind of things? Suddenly Shichika collapses. His body feels weird. He can’t move. Looks like frostbite got his legs. He is going to sleep so Togame tries to slap him awake. They are saved by a little girl, Konayuki Itezora who carries them away in her arms with ease.

Meanwhile Houou meets up with the remaining heads of Maniwa: Oshidori, Umigame, Kawauso, Pengin and the shapeless (more like invisible) Kyouken. Houou reports his alliance and the demise of the other heads. Oshidori thinks they should search in other locations than those Houou mentioned but Pengin says the sword in Shireizan is no longer there as somebody came, laid waste to the place in half an hour and took the sword. Houou thinks Kyouken should make her move but she is no longer around. They think she is after Shichika and Togame so Houou and Kawauso go after her or else the alliance will fall apart. True enough, Kyouken is racing to Ezo to avenge her fallen comrades.

Togame and Shichika are recuperating in Konayuki’s cave. Shichika is impressed of her strength. She has to or else how would she survive in this harsh winter. Togame wants her to be their guide for her clan but she mentions Itezora clan has recently been wiped out by an avalanche and she’s the only survivor. As for Kanazuchi, Konayuki make it sound like she knows it but apparently she doesn’t. Well, she’s a child after all. She thinks the mayor’s eldest son might possess it because he is the only one with a sword. She offers to go get it for them since she knows the village like the back of her hand. Despite her loss, Konayuki seems so cheery like nothing happened. Shichika wonders if she’s being nice since she is lonely but Togame wonders why he recognizes the pain of others and if he could fight Konayuki when it comes down to it. He thinks it will be easy. Konayuki is seen crying at the avalanche grave. As Togame and Shichika huddle closely, she still pesters him about the wrong usage of her Cheerio. She then has him tell her other thinks that he know that she doesn’t. He surprises her with the information that he killed his father and knew that she is the daughter of the rebellion leader Hida (he got this bit from Koumori). Then she was about to say something embarrassing so she tries hiding it by pinching his cheeks. Then she gives him new orders never to reveal those facts to others except her. Shichika surprises her with another question of what she plans to do after getting all the Deviant Blades. What will she do with him. She couldn’t answer him not as an excuse but rather because she wants to concentrate on getting the swords. But it seems Shichika had fallen asleep! And that lengthy from-the-heart speech was for nothing? Well, he was pretending to be asleep.

Konayuki returns and rudely wakes the duo up by pushing them off the hammock! She shows them Kanazuchi but Togame is puzzled and doesn’t think this is it. However Konayuki is pretty sure it is since the documents she read from it ascertains the sword. Shichika wants to have a look at the sword so she tosses it to him. As it lands on the ground, it creates a large crater! Shichika find it hard to lift it but affirms this is the real Kanazuchi. Togame remembers that Kanazuchi is the heaviest Deviant Blade created and the strength of the Itezora clan only makes them able to wield it. Which means… See how Konayuki flings the sword around with ease!!! However she is modest with her strength because among her clan, she is the weakest and always comes up last! Oh dear. However she can’t just give it to them because the document said those who wish to take Kanazuchi must challenge it to a duel. So Shichika prepares to take on Konayuki in the snow. He tries hard not to injure her because they need her to carry it down the mountain. As Shichika pulls off his Kyotouryuu move after move, Konayuki is agile and cheery, like as though she’s having fun. Shichika evades her move in the air but she surprises him by changing the sword’s direction. Upon contact, Shichika’s bone breaks! Togame stops the fight and thus this is the first defeat Shichika experienced ever since their journey.

Kyouken has arrived on Ezo and can’t wait to make this the grave of a certain pair. Houou and Kawauso are also hurrying as they talk about Kyouken’s fickle behaviour. Houou mentions about Kyouken’s ability to jump into minds because a long time ago, an individual named Kyouken died. However that technique is only limited to females. Needing to prevent the worst case scenario whereby Kyouken dies and the alliance is ceased, Houou thinks Kawauso may need to die. He has no qualms because after all his life being a ninja, that’s the only thing he hasn’t experienced. WTF?!

Back in the cave, Konayuki apologizes to Shichika because she never thought he was this weak! Insult? To make it up, she goes out to hunt rabbits. Togame also feels guilty that this is her fault. She thinks he is having a grudge that since now he is a broken sword, she will consider him useless. However he is fine with it. He feels he lost because he underestimated Konayuki but is also unsure if he could win even if he was prepared. It’s her swift decision that saved him because he could’ve been killed if the fight continued. He laments he failed to protect himself but Togame continues to apologize that she miscalculated and doesn’t intend to consider this as his disloyalty. Though it’ll be a month before Shichika’s arm heals for their rematch, Togame thinks Konayuki has been lying about them being worthy. Her loneliness drove her to want to make them stay longer as company. Konayuki is at the grave and ‘talks’ to her clan and knows it is bad to lie and will apologize to them later. But she wants their company a little longer since she is lonely. Point to ponder: If Itezora was such strong people, how did a mere avalanche killed them all?

Shichika and Togame thought they heard a commotion outside the cave but to their surprise see Konayuki subduing Kyouken with Kanazuchi! Kyouken is still bent on carrying out her revenge but Togame points out she is no condition to kill her with that injury. Since Shichika points out that he too lost to Konayuki, Kyouken thanks her and touches Konayuki’s hand. This has Kyouken transfer her soul into Konayuki’s body as her original body turns into dust. Kyouken is happy to receive this strong body as she swings Kanazuchi around with ease. Togame understands how she has lived for so long and that she’ a resident mind. Shichika gets Togame permission to kill her. Seems Kyouken not only can take over minds but their memories as well. She sees devastating visions of Itezora clan’s wipe-out. She attacks Shichika and lets him know that in addition to taking over memories, she inherits them and is confident with 2000 bodies inside of her, she has many years of experience and skills compared to him. However Shichika feels something and decides to confirm something. Using his Plum move, he successfully lands a blow on her. It’s because her movements are now easy to read. Konayuki was tough because she was an amateur but Kyouken is an experienced assassin. As Kyouken approaches Togame, Togame orders Shichika to kill her brutally if she ever gets taken over. She lets Kyouken know her hostage strategy will be futile because her body strength is on par with a sliding paper door and could even lose to a rabbit! Woah! She confidently admits it. Kyouken readies to defeat Shichika with her Twin Dog Blade by holding the other tip of Kanazuchi. Togame understands why this sword is called a pair because there is no obvious top and one can use either end freely. Shichika lands several blows on Kyouken with his Falling Blossoms Scattered Leaves move to kill Kyouken. Shichika’s theory worked because he only attacked Kyouken’s tattoos and since it vanished, it means Kyouken is dead while Konayuki is still alive albeit unconscious. Togame notes this is the first time he made his own decision not to kill his opponent. Though Kyotouryuu is a single sword, he is also human. She thought of waking his human side and make him find his resolve as a human and not a sword or else he won’t be able to overcome obstacles. She thought she had done everything in the last 2 months was merely to dull his blade. After all, she doesn’t know how to handle this sword although she is his owner.

Houou and Kawauso appear before them and looks like their worst case scenario is confirmed. Not only Kyouken is dead but Togame’s trust in them has eroded as she has called off the truce. Houou explains they are here to stop Kyouken who moved on her own accord and would like to take responsibility this time. Kawauso offers to use his Record Tracer technique (something similar to Kyouken’s ability but only with inanimate objects), which is useful in gathering the swords. Since Togame still refuses to trust them, Houou has no choice but to slice off Kawauso’s head!!! A Maniwa head, losing his head. Haha! Togame is appalled by his actions as the head of the Maniwa but he mentions the group doesn’t need one because a ninja merely lives and dies. He hopes she will overlook this minor violation for their alliance since with only 4 heads left, they pose no threat to her. And if she still refuses, he will fight them now. Togame swiftly agrees and wants him to get out of her sight as soon as possible. Houou lets her now that Shireizan’s sword owner has changed owner and that she has to do deal with it quick and is heading towards Shikoku.

Konayuki manages to bring the sword down to the shore and load it on the boat. She apologizes for lying but the rest are okay with it. Konayuki promises to bring the sword to Owari and her new home will be at Sanzu shrine since her ancestors were originally from Izumo. Once more, Konayuki thanks them for playing with her because she really had fun. Shichika and Togame sails to Shikoku and Togame misheard Shichika had a change of heart and has a thing for little girls! Why should he turn into a lolicon when he has a beautiful lady like her (perasan!)?! What Shichika actually said was the feeling of regret. Though he defeated Kyouken, his lost to Konayuki still stands but Togame brushes it off as an amateur fluke and that loss doesn’t count. He shouldn’t worry about it. And as for the change of heart, Shichika says it is impossible because he is her sword. But if he insists of concluding her fight with Konayuki, at least do it after they’ve collected the Deviant Blades. Emonzaemon is on the same boat eavesdropping their conversation.

Episode 7 – Akutou Bita
Flashback sees how Nanami slaughtered all the guardians at Shireizan at Mutsu. She felt sorry for Bita being treated like a deity because it’s being placed in a little protected altar. Breaking the shrine with ease and taking the small and light Deviant Blade, she has this evil smirk to do something evil! Because she is unable to recognize humans, she sees them as weeds. And when a ‘weed’ touches her feet, she ‘tramples’ it to a bloody death! She thinks of waiting at some obvious place in hopes of meeting Shichika. While slashing her way through the holy monks (it’s like they just flew to her to die!) Nanami remembers the haunting words of her dead parents that she’s a failure in life and should have died. But Nanami isn’t bothered so much so she can even scare away the ghost of her parents! After all, they’re just her memories. Is it?

At the Seiryouin Gokenji Temple in Tosa, Shichika prepares to face off with Nanami! Seems Emonzaemon had led the duo here to face Nanami. He is staying to watch to witness up close to see what kind of sword she is carrying. Nanami wants Shichika to fight her seriously to the death since his stalling has got the ‘spectators’ bored and started chatting. Shichika doesn’t want to hurt her so Nanami thinks he has gotten soft. She wonders whose fault it was. The Deviant Blade owners or Togame. It would be easier if she handed over the sword, right? Well, she considers herself a sword and went through the trouble of obtaining a Deviant Blade because she thought he needed a reason to fight. So if he wants it, then fight her. She believes their father didn’t bring him up to prioritise his owner over his sister. No choice, Togame starts the match. As Shichika charges, Nanami evades every hit with no sweat. Then she tells him about her eyes which are able to absorb the skills of everyone. When Shichika unleashes his ultimate Hachiretsu move, he is thrown up to the ceiling. He wonders how she pulled this move off since her arms are thin and small. She reminds her about Konayuki’s brute strength. Togame realizes that she was the one responsible for destroying the Itezora clan (now their demise makes sense) and has obtained the strength of a full Itezora adult. Shichika is upset because of her destruction of the village (why on Earth would she do that?), Konayuki is all alone. She mocks him that as a sword, does he wish to choose who he cuts? She felt she has made a mistake to entrust Shichika to Togame. However Togame says it is up to her how she uses her sword. Nanami relates how she felt lots of enemies on her way here and has absorbed all their abilities. She also came here to tell him the weakness of his Hachiretsu. Because seeing he had become a coward, she changed her mind and is glad the opponents he faced are weak. She feels he isn’t worthy enough to fight her. Shichika dives at her but she uses a combination of Red Poppy and Daphne striking technique to pin him down. She mentions she could’ve killed him 272 times before he hit the ground. But he feels it is impossible to pull such insane move because of her weak and fragile body. Nanami strops her top kimono and shows them Bita embedded right in her chest! The embedded lightning-charged dagger forcibly heals her body’s weaknesses so she now has no blind spots or weaknesses. She goes away and tells him to come back once he has improved.

Flashback about a month ago. Togame and Shichika wanted to head back to Owari but decided to head to Shireizan to find the culprit. Upon landing at Tosa, they meet Emonzaemon who tells them the culprit is currently occupying Gokenji and she is Nanami (they showed a visual of her killing all the monks and the ‘big boss’ like a video game!). Emonzaemon also reported this to Hitei about Nanami’s slaughtering. She is surprised that Nanami could do that even without a Deviant Blade. This miscalculation involving Kyotouryuu doesn’t look good since Emonzaemon’s analysis had him conclude he is no match for her. But they can’t turn a blind eye since she has Bita. So she throws a question to him what would he do if he was forced to face her. He would stall for time to let Hitei escape. Meanwhile Houou also gets word about Nanami’s doing from Pengin’s info. Seeing they can’t risk anymore lost of heads (mind the pun), he hopes the strategist will take care of her.

Togame tries to talk to Nanami about handing over Bita without a fight but Nanami feels it is unfair to bear a grudge towards her because she entrusted Shichika to her. She never thought Togame would treat him so humanely. She feels back on the island he was a sharp sword but a rusty one now. Togame doesn’t like her saying horrible things about breaking him but on the contrary Nanami notes that Togame also have undertake lots of horrible killing in her journey. Looks like a fight is unavoidable. Togame goes back to give Shichika a Cheerio kick for lazing around for days! Actually he is depressed. Seriously. Viewing this as troublesome, she has him lie on her lap and re-educates him. The reason why he never told her that Nanami was stronger than her was because she wanted to be her sword. He was afraid she might choose Nanami instead of him. She chides him for the thousands of defeat she faced but unlike him she didn’t sit around and do nothing. In the end, she came out tops. Shichika still feels embarrassed about his loss to Nanami so Togame slaps him (without the Cheerio) but loses her footing. Still she doesn’t like his disgraceful depression and hesitation. She asks him if she would fight Nanami again. I guess the tears in her eyes settles it. With motivation, he confidently says he will. With that, Togame will lay out her plan and first they have to start by examining Hachiretsu’s weakness.

As observed by Togame, Hachiretsu isn’t really a hybrid of 7 techniques at once but rather a combination of one technique in succession after another. She points out the fourth technique, Ryuuroku Kako has a major flaw and cannot be used in the combo. She even acts it out to let him see how it fails badly! I thought she was doing a weird dance. Anyway that armour piercing technique may nullify an opponent’s defence but its movements needed to perform it makes it obvious to opponents and easy to defeat once they know. Nanami deliberately did a hybrid move to hint him and went soft on him. That’s why she probably let him go and expected him to improve before their rematch. As for her eyes, Togame also have a plan for that. Shichika thanks her at the end. Togame notes that it is up to him now to settle things but can’t help wonder why Nanami is taking a roundabout way and forcing her brother into a duel that he can’t win. She believes there is something amiss with her excuse of no reason to fight. Nanami looks up at the moon and wants Shichika to hurry in the rematch and kill her like how he did with their father.

Shichika trains hard to find a combination that works or at least minimizes the gaps in his techniques. As mentioned by Togame he can make 5040 possible combinations with all his 7 techniques! And if he uses Ryuuroku Kako first, he can reduce it to 720! Good luck trying out all. Togame talks to Nanami and the former tells her about Shichika wondering a sword needing to own a Sword. Nanami feels he has gotten over his depression since he can come up with such a cheek remark. She also tells her the reason why her father was exiled. In addition to avoid Kyotouryuu fighting against the Shogun, seems Mutsue was accused of killing his own wife. The real truth is shrouded in darkness. Since Nanami’s mom belonged to 1 of the 6 Sengoku feudal lord families, Tetsubi, Mutsue should’ve been executed but seeing he was a hero, he was let off leniently. So what is she trying to tell Togame? It’s alright for the Yasuri members to kill each other. Nanami looks forward to see Togame’s plan in work and is confident whatever her schemes, she will not get past her eyes. But Togame is also confident she can evade her eyes and beat her. But Togame says the rematch will not be in the dojo but in front of the Buddha statue.

Before the rematch starts, Shichika gives her a final chance to hand over Bita. Rejected! Then she thanks him for killing Mutsue but at the same time felt bitter because she wanted daddy to kill her since there is no point of her living. So he wants her to kill her for real. She wants Togame to start the match but she feels this is the last time they may get to speak to each other. Nanami thinks her strategy involves stalling for time. In Togame’s heart, she begins her countdown. Suddenly all the lights went out. So this pitch dark is how Shichika will avoid her eyes. Yeah, be amazed by Togame’s precision in making all 300 candles burn out at the same time! Shichika lands his improvised ultimate technique, Hachiretsu Kai right in Nanami’s chest. Togame lights up her lamp to see Nanami motionless on the floor. Shichika takes out Bita from her chest and tosses it to Togame. However Nanami is still alive. With her body back to her fragile state, looks like they need to call a doctor.

Nanami then gets up (she has a gaping hole in her chest! Like a Hollow!). She thinks she was naïve. She reveals Bita was just regulating her strength, dulling it by rejuvenating her life force. As for her eyes, it was just an excuse because she was trying to become weaker by using the strength of others and live a little longer. Now she wants Shichika to kill her. Togame tries to tell her there is no more meaning for them to fight but Nanami cuts off Togame’s hair! Wow. New short haircut look! So shock that she drops her lamp as the fire spreads through the temple. Shichika is super upset and can’t forgive her. Nanami uses this to mock him and increase his rage meter. As both siblings duke it out in an aerial battle faster than the naked eye could catch, Shichika in tears lands Hachiretsu Kai through her chest. Nanami narrates her body wasn’t able to withstand her full strength, that’s why she’s copying techniques to become weaker. She is glad that he killed her and praises him for a kill well done. As Nanami lies lifeless in Shichika’s arms, Togame reiterates Kyotouryuu isn’t a style that doesn’t use swords but rather a style that absolutely cannot use them.

In the aftermath, the duo talk about how Nanami wanted to be killed instead of some farfetched reason to drag Shichika involved or such. She was so powerful that her body wasn’t made to fight. So much a prodigy that her body was weak. Does this even make sense? Shichika feels she wanted to be killed by Mutsue and Togame notes she loved her father as much as he did. Taking a ship back to Owari, Shichika gets permission to touch her hair. He notes they both have no families now but she reminds him that they have each other. She gets embarrassed by his smirk and starts using her Cheerio.

Episode 8 – Bitou Kanzashi
Togame and Shichika arrive back in Owari. Shichika starts laughing at a flashy house like as though its owner is an obsessed attention seeker. Well, it’s Togame’s house actually. She’s not going to let that one pass… He is made to sit and watch the house (an excuse for him to get use to it) while she goes to the castle. As Shichika explores the rooms, he finds it empty. Then he practices outside the yard but is visited by Emonzaemon. He is here to get him because Hitei wanted to pass some info about the Deviant Blades. But it seems when Togame returns, Shichika gets an earful for accepting Emonzaemon’s invitation because if he didn’t come, she could’ve used it as an excuse to go home and not meet Hitei. As the duo meet Hitei, the princess starts laughing her heart out and teases Togame over her new haircut. Once that is done, both women confront each other head to head (literally) and start their b*tchy challenge of trampling each other while remaining invincible. Both refuse to give up. Both feeling confident. I’m sure Shichika must be confused seeing all that. However he is surprised to learn that it’s just a greeting! As they get down to business, Shichika wonders about Emonzaemon. Hitei points he is in the attic because his face makes her down and has him wear a mask. Anyway Hitei has information not on the Deviant Blades but rather Shikizaki. It seems there is a Shikizaki workshop at Lake Fuyou. It is said there is something called Biyorigou roaming the lake protecting something, most likely the workshop. As they leave, Togame notices a pair of weird guns at her place though Hitei dismisses it as decoration. Togame offers to throw it into Lake Fuyou but that wasn’t necessary. Shichika can’t help stare at Hitei on his way out and was yelled by Togame. Meanwhile the remaining Maniwa heads have a discussion and Umigame is to collect a Deviant Blade at Shinano though there is not much information on it.

Emonzaemon leads the duo to Lake Fuyou. Togame is in a dilemma whether to be carried by Shichika since her feet are sore and she can’t risk being seen. After much pestering, she agrees only to have Emonzaemon look back. She gets all red when he grins. I guess it’s back to walking, eh? So once they arrive, Emonzaemon leaves. Togame is glad now it’s the 2 of them but Shichika is slow to understand its meaning, infuriating her. Well, Lake Fuyou seems to be a giant dumpsite. Is this the ‘lake’? As they trek through the wasteland, they see a mechanical doll with multiple limbs, each with a sword. That is Biyorigou. As observed, if you want to live here, you better not make any movements or sound in front of this doll. See how the mouse stopped in its tracks when Biyorigou appear right before it? Though Togame doesn’t have time to settle with Biyorigou, finding Shikizaki’s workshop would help them a lot for the remaining swords. That’s mean they’ll have to defeat Biyorigou. But in order to come up with a plan to defeat it, she must know how it works. Shichika tries to sneak up behind but Biyorigou spots him and starts swinging its sword. Shichika manages to evade but he realizes that the doll itself is the Deviant Blade. That’s right, this is Kanzashi.

Umigame runs into Emonzaemon on his way. The latter knows about his search for a Deviant Blade at Shinano. Umigame is surprised he even know which sword was there (Juu). Was there. He warns if he gets any closer to it, he will learn its historical truth, something an underdog like him can’t handle. Anyway Emonzaemon is going to kill him now. Umigame tries to stall by giving excuses. When Emonzaemon is in a close range, Umigame unsheathes his western sword and breaks his Japanese sword upon a mere touch. Emonzaemon tosses away his swords and tells him he was once a former ninja. From Aioi Corps to be exact. However that clan has been destroyed 170 years ago by Maniwa. Emonzaemon uses his Aioi Kenpo called Hairouken to move so fast and appear behind Umigame, making him sweat in his pants. Then he uses Shinobazuhou Ikasazukorosazu move to kill Umigame. Later Pengin reports the death of Umigame and Houou feels this could only be the doing of Hitei’s subordinate.

Shichika and Togame are staying for the night at an inn. They talk about the different designs of the Deviant Blade and it’s like Shikizaki had too much freedom in designing them. Then Shichika asks about Hitei’s origins and why they don’t get along well. Well, she is just like Togame in the sense their origins are unknown and perhaps they just don’t like each other. Togame starts thinking that Shichika likes Hitei and pours water over his head. However he admits he is interested in Hitei because she is Togame’s enemy so it’s natural he must know her. I guess that reason is good enough. Meanwhile Emonzaemon reports to Hitei about his accomplishment. About Shichika’s sense of swords, Hitei wonders if that is true because he didn’t sense hers (the gun). She feels she wants to play around with him a little more since she’s bored. Back to Shichika and Togame, the former wonders if Hitei knows Biyorigou is a Deviant Blade. Togame suspects she does and didn’t tell them at first probably she thought it would be interesting to see her get torn apart without realizing it. But why is she helping her still? To steal all the credits at the end or waiting for her to fail. Togame also feels she is the same and gives out a creepy laughter. Anyhow, they need to concentrate on what’s at hand first.

Next day, cheeky Shichika moves around to ‘disrupt’ Togame’s note-taking task since she is using his body as a shield from the sun. Biyorigou passes by but Togame doesn’t want Shichika to fight it since their plan is to find the workshop first. Back at the inn, seems Togame has been sketching a map of the place. Shichika notices curvy lines within the map and tickles Togame for answers! This is actually Biyorigou’s path. Shichika thought Biyorigou walks randomly and stops from time to time to ‘sunbath’. Judging from it, she thinks the workshop is somewhere in the middle. So the plan is to dig a big hole in its path. As the duo wait, Biyorigou walks into the trap and starts falling in. However one of its legs quickly plants itself firmly inside the ground and propels itself over the hole. Plan failed. Oh, it stops to sunbath again. On the way back, Shichika is blabbing how his Kyotouryuu is meant to fight human opponents. So fighting dolls whose movements he can’t read is futile. It’s just like fighting with Konayuki. Togame takes it as a sign he plans to rely on her scheme again. But when he mentions her plan just failed, she turns a little crazy (including the laughter). She assures him that she will defeat anyone or anything in any situation with her schemes alone. He doesn’t need to worry and will educate him. She won’t let him sleep all night. Eh? Because tomorrow’s the showdown.

Next day, Shichika fights Biyorigou while Togame watches and places her trust in him. Shichika remembers Togame’s ‘tutoring’ last night that he is only allowed to use strike moves and not hit its head or chest to force it to defend itself and keeping it unharmed. Togame’s observation on the doll’s design outside also means that she has an idea of how it works on the inside. Yeah, very accurate. Because of that, Shichika is able to evade Biyorigou’s extra and hidden surprise swords (especially the one from the mouth). After all, in this way a doll is much more predictable than a human, right? So Shichika stayed up all night to memorize Biyorigou’s movements. Both sides pull off combo techniques and it feels like Shichika’s plants moves versus Biyorigou’s storm-like techniques. Shichika remembers how his dad told him that they are both swords. And swords must remain sharp all the time. Now he understands what it means. As a sword, he doesn’t need to have emotion, think or have any sense of justice. He felt he was like Biyorigou not long ago. Not doing anything except being commanded to hunt swords. That’s why he could kill without a second thought but as a sword without a will of his own, he wasn’t able to defeat Nanami. Biyorigou is just following the commands of Shikizaki he gave hundreds of years ago like he was. He was fighting like Biyorigou then and didn’t find it fun. Ironically, though Shichika couldn’t see Biyorigou as anything more than a sword, the doll sees him as a human. Biyorigou drops it swords and uses its legs like a helicopter propeller, causing huge wind (as predicted by Togame). It even targets Togame but Shichika was fast enough to carry her away in his arms. At the same time, Shichika also mentions he believes in Togame and that he obeyed her out of his own free will. Even if his body is broken, he will still protect her. Not because she ordered him but because he decided from the bottom of his heart as a human. He may be a sword but he also has a human soul. When it’s time to settle it, Biyorigou loses power since it has run out of fuel while Shichika kept it occupied. Shichika rushes to grab Biyorigou before it slams into the ground but to his surprise finds it very light. He thought he saw the doll shed a tear. But could it be the rain? Back at the inn as they pack Biyorigou, Togame deduces it recharges its ‘fuel’ via sunbathing. That is how it is able to go on operating for hundreds of years even after its creator’s demise. So the question was who would run out of energy win: Shichika or Biyorigou. Shichika thought it was fate that she was sure his body would outlast but she says that fate is something one decides oneself. That’s why she believed in him. Shichika somewhat feels sorry for the doll but Togame thinks he shouldn’t empathize with it since it is one of the Deviant Blades. But she feels she has no right to say that since Shichika is also a sword. Then she wants him to say that believe-in-you phrase again but he is rather reluctant.

Hitei receives Biyorigou as she mentions Kanzashi was modelled after a woman Shikizaki loved when he was young. She notes Togame and Shichika aren’t coming back to Owari since they are staying behind at the lake to look for more clues. She wonders if the workshop would have any information so Emonzaemon says that Houou told her about the location of a sword in Tendou and perhaps to ascertain that fact. Hitei want Emonzaemon to assassinate Houou. Meanwhile Shichika is made to dig to find the workshop. That’s lots of holes he’s dug… He finds a heavy chest but Togame doesn’t want him fooling around and continues his digging. He throws it away and it seems there are lots of gold in it. Oh, wasted chance… I guess this isn’t their fate, eh?

Episode 9 – Outou Nokogiri
In Dewa Tendou Shougi town, Togame beats Zanki Kiguchi (the 12th generation and head of the Shinou Issou School) in shogi so the latter must face Shichika in a duel for the Deviant Blade, Nokogiri. However Kiguchi chides Shichika for making an insult to fight a sword duel without a sword. No choice, Shichika picks up one but was blown away when the match starts. I guess he really can’t use any sword. Later Shichika apologizes for wasting Togame’s effort but as she explains, Nokogiri is the only one of the Deviant Blades without the Shikizaki poison. That’s why it’s king. Shichika gets a Cheerio in his gut when he praises the opponent he lost to (about her sharp aura and all). He asks if she has any plans she can come up with. She notes all her previous plans relied on his strength and it would be useless if he is now considered weak. About Kiguchi’s shogi skills, she would’ve been truly formidable if she didn’t devote herself to the path of the sword. Recently she had just become the head of her family and would probably be around Shichika’s age. The talk shifts to Shichika noting he knows Togame is younger than him but gets a Cheerio in his chin since she thought it made her look like a child. She teases him he may like her new hairstyle and teases him with it. Then Kiguchi enters to see them in an ambiguous position. She feels the earlier fight was not fair as she never knew Shichika was that weak (hey! That’s an insult!). She proposes he studies directly under her tutelage and face her in a rematch once he is strong enough. Meanwhile the remaining Maniwa heads are in a cave and before them is Mekki, brimming with evil aura. Houou attached his left arm with Kawauso and could feel the aura. It’s not that the sword was preserved or sealed thus keeping it from rusting, but because of the environment its ominous aura was kept from leaking out. Houou warns Oshidori never to draw this sword.

Shichika talks as though he is looking forward to train with a sword, something his dad or Nanami would never do. Togame feels irritated like as though he is complaining but with a smile on his face. Apparently she is jealous since another woman is involved. She notes her ordinary methods can’t work on Kiguchi seeing she is too uptight and honest (it shows the kind of woman Togame is, eh?). In a way it makes her inhuman and the reason why her dojo no longer has students. Besides, her name Zanki means “Slay your heart’s demon with your heart”. Next morning as Shichika makes his way to the dojo, Togame doesn’t want to tag along seeing she’ll be a burden. He goes off and Togame becomes pissed because he accepted her reason without a fight! Women. Can’t understand them. Shichika is made to clean the dojo and to use formalities. Later as Togame decides to visit the dojo thinking Shichika may be lonely on his first training. From her position, she sees Shichika and Kiguchi kissing each other! Kiguchi spots Togame running away but doesn’t know why. Actually, Kiguchi was trying to take a bug off Shichika’s head. Since she doesn’t preach killing, she lets it free. Togame is going crazy about what she saw though she is still in denial about this is not her business. Oh yes. It is very much her business. When proper sword training starts, we see Shichika sucks so much that he couldn’t even hold the sword properly (keeps slipping off his hands) and his stance… It looked bloody odd. I thought he had constipation… Worrywart Togame waits for Shichika’s return and when he does, she pretends to be asleep. Shichika mentions how he likes the training though Kiguchi’s method is strict. Now Togame’s jealous tone kicks in. She can’t help say about his turnaround for a person who hates and couldn’t use swords. Shichika mentions about Togame’s presence today but she denies and says he must’ve mistaken her for someone else.

Shichika continues his training. Each time Togame peeks, she sees them in a bloody ambiguous position! Going crazy by the second? One evening when Shichika returns and his usual praises about the Shinou Issou School. Togame seems down and lets him know about dinner. Seeing that she was waiting for him to return, he mentions he already had dinner with Kiguchi. Togame snaps and throws a tantrum that he got too close to that woman to even have dinner with her. I guess Shichika must have learnt how to deal with her by now. He says Kiguchi’s food was frugal that he didn’t feel full so he prepares to have a second round dinner with Togame. As they start, Togame brings up the topic of his training (she should have known better). Since he went on singing praises, she gets pissed off. See how rough she is eating? On another training day, Kiguchi tries to correct Shichika’s position but he trips and fell on her. As usual Togame saw everything the wrong way. I guess this is her limit because this time tears start flowing out from her eyes. On the 10th day, Shichika seems happy before going off to his training. Gloomy Togame notes he must be loving it but the actual fact he says there is no improvement! Togame ‘understood’ why he didn’t improve. To make things worse, he says going to the dojo is fun and despite how badly he is doing, moving his body feels great. Oh sh*t. I wonder if this is the most painful Cheerio he got.

Kiguchi feels there must be something wrong with her method since Shichika isn’t improving. Maybe it’s because he’s her first student. She dismisses the fact she is different from other Deviant Blade owners he met. She knows of Togame’s mission but still couldn’t let go of Nokogiri because it represents her dojo and identity. She reveals Nokogiri wasn’t in her school’s hands during Kyuu’s hunt and only came into their possession during the 8th head. Besides, the inheritance of her school is not by blood so the previous heads are not related to her. Because she’s an amateur and rejected the way of the sword while devoting her life to shogi, her behaviour has caused many fights between herself and the previous head. When her grandpa died, she had to leave behind her shogi life and inheriting a dojo with no students is the least thing she would want to do. But when she held Nokogiri, she felt something overwhelming through her body. It may be this sword that she may have become a more upright person. Even grandpa noted he felt reborn when he took up Nokogiri. Then mentioning about the love life, each time she looks at Shichika and Togame, she can’t stop that feeling which she threw away welling inside her. Shichika feels there is nothing wrong being a sword but what can swords accomplish at this age? She is certain this school will die along with her and that clinging on to this tradition since she’ll be the last generation may just be lingering affection. Shichika somewhat understands her feelings. He thinks her school is a way of life instead of death but she notes that she only wields that way of life only in name. Because even if Nokogiri is just a wooden sword, it can still smash your head, break bones, crush organs at the very impact. Only difference is that it cannot cut. In reality it deals death as much as any other.

Hitei is talking to herself. Pretty much badmouthing a certain unpleasant woman and no matter how many times Hitei is defeated, she’ll rise up to her current position and thinks all that strategist can do is just come up with schemes. Elsewhere, Houou is explaining how Mekki’s focus is on its poison and starts laughing at the irony of things. Togame has collected 8 of the Deviant Blades while Maniwa has whittled to a pathetic state and only securing 1 of the swords. He won’t say they are equal but will view Mekki as a bargaining tool. Houou hasn’t completely master Kawauso’s technique yet so he has not many details on the other swords. As they prepare to leave to Shinano where Umigame died, Emonzaemon is waiting outside for them but the Maniwa heads throw a smoke bomb as cover. However Oshidori stays back while the rest escapes. Emonzaemon feels unsatisfied with her as his opponent as he had come to assassinate Houou. He knew they were having Mekki beforehand and not because he overheard their conversation. She had a gut feeling that he was the one who killed Umigame. Oshidori starts attacking with her Eigouben (Infinite Whips), stealing his swords. Emonzaemon counters it Hairouken but is surprised it did not work against her. Oshidori is confident her whip works as an offence and defensive barrier and as she is about to strike him, Emonzaemon pulls out Juu and fires several shots into her. She lies dying in her final breath thinking about Chouchou as Emonzaemon notes how she did well in carrying out her duties and is more honourable than himself who has abandoned the ninja ways.

Happy Shichika returns with yet another satisfied look on his face, learning something new. Yeah, another Cheerio kick to his face. He isn’t happy of her constant attacks lately (he’s too dense to realize a woman’s feelings). She chides him for putting too much effort in the training and have no more pride as Kyotouryuu. Well it was her idea, right? Plus, he admits that he is getting along fine with Kiguchi. Well, they have lots in common. Both recently became heads of their forgotten schools. Togame couldn’t take this anymore (what’s with that “Kiiii!!!” phrase?!) so she turns into her devil self. Yes, she has already come up with a scheme. Reminding him about his first defeat to Konayuki, so what is her plan this time? He’s going to win by fluke! What?! After all that cool and potential talking, all she came out with is just a fluke? No wonder Shichika is shocked. Shichika would love to avoid using dirty tricks to fight Kiguchi but teary Togame is appalled that he may have fallen for her! It’s that tantrum mode again. She points out she knows about his ‘training’ at the dojo and can’t stand his erratic nature anymore. Shichika still couldn’t figure out what’s wrong with her since he’s been doing what she told him for the last 10 days. Then when he thinks that something bad might happen, Togame starts apologizing profusely that it may be her fault for sending him away training and thus drove him away from her. She got the wrong idea when he said their talk is already over. Now panicky as ever because she has lots of things she wants to talk to him, she returns to her normal self when Shichika mentions the talk was referring to her schemes. Seeing her schemes rely on the premise he is a complete amateur, he can’t be called so now since he trained directly under Kiguchi. She apologizes for her mistake and kisses him on the lips! She may have got the wrong idea again. Shocking! So shock that Shichika forgot everything.

Kiguchi is still against Shichika fighting against her since he is not up to her level but Togame manages to convince her that no matter the skill difference, once you take up the sword and face each other, you are all equals. Kiguchi agrees with a condition that if she wins, Togame must completely give up on Nokogiri. They start off with a best out of 9 shogi matches. Though Togame lost the 9th match, she still won overall 5-4. Before the sword match with Shichika starts, Shichika wants to give his thanks to Kiguchi. Lots of ambiguous lines here… He’s saying she thought him a lot and though a terrible student, he felt it was a good experience. Likewise Kiguchi has learnt more from the experience and though she has no qualifications to teach, she apologizes for not providing better results in the end. She wants him to slay his heart’s demon with his heart. It’s amazing Togame didn’t even flinch during all that. Anyway, Shichika is holding the sword the wrong way… Did he really learn? As the match starts, neither made the first move. Suddenly Togame starts saying shogi move co-ordinations.  This catches Kiguchi off-guard as she instinctively reply with her own shogi co-ordinations. She realizes she is being thrown off her concentration and the reason she lost the 9th game was so that she could make the first move. Noting Shichika doesn’t know how to play shogi (the reason he is ‘unaffected’), Kiguchi tries hard to stop thinking but can’t. Suddenly Shichika lands a blow on her head before pathetically tripping (including a pathetic scream). And thus Shichika won the match in an undramatic and anti-climatic fashion.

Shichika later understood Togame’s psychological warfare tactic, something he feels he is weak at. But she tells him to keep his focus on battles which is his domain of experience. But even if Togame intervened during the match, shouldn’t it be foul play considering Kiguchi’s strict nature? Of course it is but the one who was foul was the referee, right? Besides, in this holy town of shogi, nobody would call a foul on the game. Shichika remembers Togame’s incredible move in the shogi rematch in which she won in just 42 moves. Likewise when Kiguchi battled him using his proper Kyotouryuu, he instantly defeated her barely only using Hyakka Ryouran. She apologized for her rudeness in treating someone with his skills as an amateur. Though she feels it’s like a curse for someone to become weak after wielding a sword, she hands over Nokogiri since she is no longer qualified to hold the sword. On the contrary, she also has obtained enough strength from it. She hopes they will visit again and fight. Till then, she will watch over this school’s legacy. She signs off with a lame pun about legacy and herself as a poster girl (“Kanban” = legacy; “Kanban Musume” = poster girl). Hahaha… And what’s with that cutesy smile we never expect to see on that serious face???!!! It’s like she just came from a maid café… Shichika and Togame discuss about Maniwa and won’t be surprise if they have gotten hold of a Deviant Blade now, though she is still not impressed with them. She then ponders why Kyuu wasn’t able to obtain Nokogiri seeing it is a sword without poison and only used as training. The sword hunt’s official purpose was to build the Sword Buddha but its hidden purpose was to eliminate all swordsmen and collect all the Deviant Blades. Was there another deeper and hidden meaning to his failure? Togame feels he shouldn’t be bothered by this and forget about this. But how can he forget something he heard just like that? Well, she ‘threatens’ that she has a way to make him really forget. Oh, look at those luscious lips… Shichika’s face turns red like a tomato!

I guess this is the most comical episode ever, the episode with the most tantrums thrown by Togame, the most envy displayed by her and the ‘steamiest’ one. Yeah, a little fanservice positions and the kiss… Oh, now I understand about the concept of slaying demons in your heart. Once you get rid of the evil intent inside, you won’t kill or hurt. That is the main principle the school stands by. Maybe that’s why she has zero students. Yeah, everybody these days are bloodthirsty.

Episode 10 – Seitou Hakari
While digging, Togame remembers the horrifying day when her father was killed by Mutsue. So shocked that Shichika may have thought she just died. This strange occurrence started 3 days ago when they arrived at Hyakkeijou in Oushuu, Togame’s hometown that she has not returned since she left. This was the place all Hida’s followers were executed though it is a barren and empty land void of any life. Togame could still feel the effects of her trauma. Shichika thinks they should head to the nearest town to find Hakari’s owner, a holy man named Rinne Higaki. But she notes Rinne is here but just hidden from them. Suddenly a spunky little girl appears before them and claims she is Rinne. Soon she turns into Hida (but the form now is like a mirage projection). She knows Togame is here for Hakari and agrees to give it to her. Only thing is, it is buried 30 metres beneath where she is standing and she must do the task all by herself. Then she disappears. Ever since, she has her traumatic visions. Though gloomy and weakened, she still picks herself up to dig. Shichika thinks she should rest and couldn’t watch her being like that. It’s like as though she isn’t the sly schemer he knew and is being cornered. She tells him off not to watch then.

After she leaves, Shichika is suddenly transported to a jungle-like area and confronts Rinne (in girl form). He wants to know why he buried the sword. She felt it was a hassle and plain rude to throw it away since she got it from her friend. Shikizaki himself. So how old is she? 350 years?! Shichika has this feeling he has seen her before so she tells him it’s because of how he’s seeing her. It’s the projection of his memory. People look past her own existence and see a perception of their own memories. Even with her around, they don’t exist. That is what a holy man means. She continues by giving a fairytale example of the magic mirror in Snow White, the mirror that always named the most beautiful person other than the evil queen herself. Shichika doesn’t believe since mirrors don’t talk! But the point is, it’s not the mirror’s answering but rather the queen’s true feelings responding to her vanity. In short, a holy man doesn’t do and can’t do anything. So it’s humans who actually carry out the task. Then she transforms into all the female Deviant Blade owners Shichika has met. Three of them whom he has lost to at first. She knows he is feeling regret and guilt. Looking at his own memories is recognizing the parts he doesn’t want to face. People change their memories to suit what they’re most comfortable with. However when you face the holy man, you have to face your darkest memories, like it or not.

Meanwhile Houou and Pengin are making their way to Oushuu. Pengin wonders who Emonzaemon is and if Houou knows him since he sounded he knows him from long ago. Though Houou knows he serves Hitei, he can’t be that person since he died a long time ago. Plus, he was a respected and a ninja with pride. Of course there aren’t many ninjas that hold such pride today, including them. If they manage to negotiate and get all Deviant Blades from Togame, he thinks of retiring from active duty to bear responsible for losing 10 of the Maniwa heads. He will leave it to the next generation to lead and he indicates Pengin because well, there won’t be anyone left after Houou is gone. They make their haste so as not for Emonzaemon to catch up and attack them.

As Shichika watches Togame dig, Rinne pays the bored guy a visit. He suddenly changes into Kiguchi. He is taken back to the time whereby it is a day after he won Nokogiri. Shichika and Kiguchi fought a hand to hand combat and Shichika thought he had her cornered with his Bellflower move. But she surprised him with a few moves of her own and broke out of his grasp. The only thing was she was at her limit and admitted her lost. Then they talk about their different school concept which probably made Kyotouryuu weaker if wielded a sword, therefore in her eyes it was like a curse. Suddenly the scene changes to Nanami. She is saying she is a sword and this is what happens when a sword tries to use a sword. Shichika is overcome with fear till she disappears. Back in reality, he understood the curse of Kyotouryuu being a sword that couldn’t use a sword. Then he asks about Rinne’s arrogant personality seeing that she comes from his perception and memories. Well, it’s Togame’s since they both saw her at the same time. He wonders if Togame also had something she is weak at so Rinne replies everyone has something difficult to deal with or they don’t want to remember. Later as he massages Togame’s aching muscles, that personality stems from her dad (which includes forcing her to do manual labour). Before he died, he said something important to her which she is surprised she had forgotten. Then they huddle close together.

Hitei is discussing with Emonzaemon that Togame must be in Oushuu by now. She also notes his failure in assassinating Houou. He mentions if Togame gets Hakari, the final stage for all Shikizaki’s Deviant Blades to be assembled. However Hitei doesn’t want him to make it sound like she is a descendent of Shikizaki or kept track of each sword and stayed a step ahead of that unpleasant woman to collect them. Which of course she isn’t (at least to her). She orders Emonzaemon to look into the relationship of Shichika and Togame in relation to Hyakkeijou because when they were here 10 days ago and being told about Hakari’s location and owner, they seemingly acted strange.

Shichika tells Togame what he learnt from Rinne and also his advice to her of facing the part she’s avoiding or else she’ll never remember. Shichika feels he has to fight Rinne though he couldn’t find a reason. She allows him (it’d be good experience to go head on with a holy man…) and if he ever finds that reason, do tell her. Shichika soon faces off with Rinne who is letting him know that she is weak, like as though it’s an excuse to lose. But on the contrary it’s a fact that he can’t win against anyone weaker than him. So as they start the fight, Rinne is able to avoid all his moves with grace and ease. Shichika realizes she isn’t fighting and has no intention of doing so. As Togame digs, she remembers her dad telling her he has failed. Mentioning history is about proof that humans lived to their fullest and should look the way it should be. However he spent too much time correcting those errors and now his role is over. Then he hid her in a room and believes she will not die according to the history he imagined. According to the samurai code, he should have killed her but couldn’t do it. Then Mutsue enters and gives him his death sentence.

Rinne analyzes their fighting strength and that Shichika’s ranks much higher than hers. But his strength is split into offense and defence and if she concentrates all her strength into defence, his attacks will not penetrate. Then she tells Hakari’s focus is an absolute defence and is the truest Deviant Blade. Shichika didn’t like her making him remember memories he’d rather avoid. She says it’s fun harassing people (?!). She continues that Togame said this fight would be good experience for him but she thinks getting any would be futile and he will only end up being unhappy. He may be fighting for close to a year but hasn’t learnt anything. Togame too takes fighting too far. It’s like the concept of life itself is a fight for her. Though Shichika said he fell for her, it doesn’t seem like feelings of love to Rinne’s point of view. It’s more like he sympathized with her. She may not know Togame’s real objective but she feels she is not something worth sacrificing for. Seeing Shichika had killed several people and robbing them from their greatest purpose – life itself (OMG! She said that line “People die when they are killed”. Duh…), from her perspective they both lack resolve. Hakari means ‘scales’ and he needs to consider what he’s doing and how it relates to everything around him. She wants him to tell this to Togame, speaking of which she is taking a break in the hole. Get it? Shichika rushes to Togame but along the way he sees visions of Konayuki when she first broke his arm and Meisai who questioned his purpose to fight. Shichika realizes that he fights for Togame. Screw love or anything else. If it weren’t for her, he wouldn’t be fighting at all. Shichika finds Togame collapsed in the hole but she regains consciousness albeit weak. She asks about his fight with Rinne, which isn’t really much of a fight since she was just running away. He thinks he couldn’t win since his opponent abandoned the fight seeing a fight is an agreement between 2 parties. However she feels there is a big flaw in that strategy and has a scheme to take advantage and defeat her. Suddenly it hit her. She continues digging and finds Hakari, a hilt. Picking it up, Togame sees a vision of her father who then hugs her. She remembers his final words: “I love you”. This brings tears to her eyes.

Rinne congratulates them for finding Hakari faster than she had thought. She wonders if she had kept an offensive mindset while digging, would she have thought that hilt was Hakari. Togame replies Hakari is a sword upon which you weigh yourself, a sword that doesn’t cut people but cuts oneself, test oneself and knows oneself. That’s why it is bladeless and thus swordless. Besides, Japanese swords aren’t preserved by being buried but there is no problem if it is bladeless. Rinne asks about ‘that man’ so Togame reveals it to be her father though she won’t say his name. Wondering if she’s hostile to him, Togame says it’s the opposite and lives for him. As for Shichika not having another go at Rinne, if he had used all his combat strength on defence, Rinne wouldn’t even have to fight. So basically by abandoning offense, even without winning the result will be effectively victory. Togame has always thought that the essence of a sword is in its blade, to cut and doesn’t break easily. But without a blade, you don’t even need a sheath to protect it. If you hold it with resolve, all you need are its hilt and guard to be able to face yourself. So I guess all those painful memories is part of the process of learning themselves more and dealing with their inner demons, eh?

As reward for figuring this out, Togame asks about Shikizaki. Rinne’s reply is that he is somewhat of a denying guy. He somewhat saw the profoundness of himself in Rinne and eventually denied what he didn’t want to face and left. Not before giving Hakari to him. Rinne didn’t want to be poisoned and buried it instantly. Yeah, it was buried a long time ago. As the ages past, a castle was built on it, burnt down and the land turned into an execution ground. Togame realized since Hida Castle was built on Hakari, that’s how her father saw the distortion of history and to correct it, went against the Owari Shogunate and made the ultimate sacrifice, even putting all his friends and family on the line for the sake of history. Rinne lets Togame know something she hasn’t realized all this while. After Shikizaki crafted the 12 Deviant Blades, he went on to forge his final and ultimate completed Deviant Blade called Kyotou Yasuri. Rinne points to Shichika as a Deviant Blade. Not him exactly, but Kyotouryuu itself is a Deviant Blade. They remember and understand now what Sabi told them. But they misheard the part about bloodline, which should be swordline (both pronounced as “kettou”). Togame also realizes that Shikizaki and Kyotouryuu’s founder are from the same generation and there is a possibility they are connected. She also understands Rinne’s strategy of forcing a match into a draw by neither winning or losing for the sake of her objective. But that’s not quite right. Rinne mentions the need to throw away objectives for the sake of your true objective. However Togame can throw everything away except her objective. Noting the stubborn type she is, she could probably live the way she is by forcing her way through. Rinne has her say her father’s last words. As Shichika and Togame walk away, Rinne and the jungle area disappear, returning the land back into a barren space.

Shichika doesn’t feel very much like a Deviant Blade so Togame reminds him that it is Kyotouryuu which is the completed Deviant Blade. This means everybody in his family and generation are one. She starts acting on the lookout because she has that feeling that holy man will appear anything and anywhere, somebody she doesn’t want to meet ever again. Seems their journey has taken them back to Dewa so Shichika thinks of passing through this shogi town again. Togame’s jealousy streak is kicking up again (yeah, we haven’t seen that in this episode) and feels he wants to see Kiguchi. Needing to head back to Owari quick, they can’t pass through here. Shichika then tells her his reason for his fight with Rinne: He is fighting for her sake. This made her embarrassed at first but soon jumps straight to him and wanted to kiss him! However he avoids the last bit because he saw someone lying on the ground. It is Pengin and there is a deep sword cut over his body. He is barely breathing and pleads to them to save Houou.

Episode 11 – Dokutou Mekki
Hundreds of years ago, Shikizaki is watching the eventual founder of Kyotouryuu, Kazune Yasuri practising his sword skills. But he mocks him that he has no talent, his form and lack of intent to kill among others. Shikizaki mentions about his path from perfection to completion. Though Kazune may be an amateur and practising hard, at the rate he is going the war is going to end. However Kazune couldn’t care less about the world and is only interested in honing his skills. Shikizaki admires that in him and also mentions he too has no interest in the world affairs and that he is fighting for history. Introducing himself as a swordsmith and have to fight for results, even though the closer he gets, it still isn’t enough and thinks it’s the problem with the raw materials. So what does he have to do with all this? He is going to take all of Kazune’s passionate effort and make it blossom into flowers. Whether or not the roots will grow will be entirely up to him.

Togame and Shichika are taking a break with the former reflecting their incredible feat of collecting 10 Deviant Blades within 10 months. She thinks it’s due to her strategies and superior intellect! Perasan! Shichika even has a comeback line to say that she actually took them by force. Well, figuring out how to use her sword is part of her strategies so as long as he stays as her sword, everything will be fine. She allows him to play with her hair but he says there’s nothing much to play… Meanwhile Hitei has come to know of Togame’s real identity and she’s not too amused. But whether she knows her or not, Hitei notes she hates her from the bottom of her heart and intends to crush her anyway.

At Oushuu in Dewa, Houou and Pengin come into Emonzaemon. The latter is going to kill them and the way he talks makes Houou feel like as though they knew each other from a long time. Houou is unfazed with his threats and refused to believe he was that person and have changed. Handing Mekki to Pengin, Houou and Emonzaemon trade blows using their pure skill and discipline of the body instead of specialized weapons. Pengin shouts for Houou to use a special move but Emonzaemon also knows that move. Only difference he calls it by another name. Praising Houou as an excellent ninja, even if he is the only Maniwa survivor, he still views their group as a threat and can’t lose to him. That’s because he is him. Admitting he died once but it was mentally rather than physically. His current master denied him that death so he serves her loyally and follows all her orders. Houou replies over Emonzaemon’s remark that he is him. If that is so, he may not beat him but also will not lose to him. A draw? On par? Pengin seeing Houou in trouble tosses Mekki to him. But that proves to be a big mistake because once Houou grabs it, the evil aura of the sword possesses him as he becomes violent enough to slash Emonzaemon. Then he turns to Pengin and slashes him like a crazy blood thirsty killer. So that is how Shichika and Togame found Pengin lying on the ground. The duo change their plans and nurse him at a nearby inn. They hear everything how Houou has gone crazy and is on his way to Iga. Seeing Mekki is in his possession, they need to track him fast and this saves her time to come up with tricky negotiation schemes. But Shichika still doesn’t trust that guy and thinks it’s a trap. Togame explains Pengin’s ninpou and respect is the most feared after Houou in Maniwa. But Shichika still thinks they need to deal with Pengin seeing he is the enemy. Even so, Togame doesn’t like mindless killing and would prefer him to stay alive and consider this as a debt for Maniwa. Something that they could use once the sword hunt is over.

The duo are preparing to head to the New Maniwa village probably in Iga since this is where the Shogunate originally kept its secret service headquarters. Noting the places they’ve visited during the sword hunt, it seems they have almost covered entire Japan! Togame suggests revisiting certain areas so that she could make a living drawing and selling maps! Yeah, she is pretty confident with her drawing skills. But Shichika reminds her they still need to find the last blade. She has a pretty good idea of its location and owner: Hitei. She concludes that Hitei has been proactive about this sword collection and it wouldn’t be strange if she kept one for herself. Plus, with Emonzaemon going around killing Maniwa members, it is logical to assume she holds Juu. The reason she never told them was if she kept a Deviant Blade in reserve, she still has a hand in negotiating with them. Besides, she too may want to take the credit and above all, destroy Togame. Either way, if Hitei is their final opponent, it will be business as usual for Togame. She wonders if Shichika would continue to stay by her side once the hunt is over, seeing she had no right hand man or confidante for a long period unlike Hitei. All those she met were just obstacles and that’s why she trusted no one, destroyed all personal relations she made. She still needs his power despite Maniwa and Sabi gone. The sword hunt may be out but her own fight isn’t. She feels at peace whenever she’s with him and wants him to be her trusted partner. But he cautions his father killed hers. She couldn’t mind because that grudge died when Mutsue was killed, all the more by the hands of his own son. So she has no grudge against Shichika whatsoever. Since Shichika has nowhere to return and Nanami dead, he sees no reason not to unless she doesn’t want him anymore. Besides, he fell for her, remember?

Pengin wakes up from a nightmare while chasing Houou who proclaims himself as Shikizaki. He is surprised to see himself alive and in good condition because from what he heard from Koumori, Togame is rotten to the core and expected at least broken legs so he will not run. Maybe it’s her sword that changed her? Or did he just hear it wrongly from that bias guy? As he is about to leave, Emonzaemon comes into the room. Nevertheless he is going to finish Pengin with Juu straightaway seeing the ninpou he has. However all the shots he fired missed. Is he such a bad shot? Actually Pengin’s ninpou, Unmei Kuzushi (Fate Ruin) makes the bullet dodge themselves. Some may call it luck. No matter how strong the projectiles, it won’t hit him. So to say he’s not invincible if it won’t be a projectile? However Pengin has other skills too and throws a gradually accelerating bouncing ball called Juukyuu. Eventually he can’t dodge it forever and will get hit. Emonzaemon questions if the world will continue to love him hundreds of years in the future like now. Then he fires random shots and one of them hit Juukyuu and explodes, injuring Pengin. I’m not sure what he meant that if the love fate had for Pengin lasted forever, the bullets would have rebounded towards Emonzaemon instead. He concludes his luck did not last hundreds of years into the future at all. Allowing Pengin to have his final words, he begs for his life but he finds it pathetic and fires the gun in his mouth!!! Very heartless shooting a kid. But can you say that when he firmly views him and his ninja as enemies instead of a child that many would easily feel pity for?

Several days later, Togame and Shichika arrive at Iga but see the place decimated and everyone dead. Then they spot Houou and talk in a way that Mekki is fake. Though they didn’t believe this is Shikizaki possessing Houou’s body at first, they soon realize this is true because Houou never jokes. Shikizaki mentions his ability to move from one place to another and finally managed to get a convenient body. Togame thinks Mekki’s focus is like a preserved records of his memories but Shikizaki says it’s like a dose of deadly poison. Noting Houou’s ability to steal parts from various people (this includes their behaviour as well) and use it to lengthen his lifespan, it wouldn’t be a surprise that he got taken over in the end. It’s like he brought it upon himself. Togame could see through Shikizaki’s plan of calling them here. She knows he left Pengin on the ground as his messenger. It was all part of his foresight. You see, Shikizaki is a soothsayer and so is his entire family. Yeah, Shichika thought he just got lucky with that prediction. If you find that hard to believe, then think about this. How in the world was he able to create the Deviant Blades? Yup. He borrowed production techniques he learnt by looking into the future via reverse importing. So while the blades may seem to defy the law of physics, it is so because of the era they are in and that they are just regular Japanese swords exploiting the physics and psychology. So why does a family of soothsayers create those swords instead of giving the best hints about the future as they should? To alter history. Or as he puts it in a better term: To falsify. Well, they wanted to overthrow the original Shogunate in the original history. He adds that the Itezora clan, Maniwa and even Togame never existed in the original history. She realizes her father gave his life for the sake of restoring history Shikizaki altered back to its original state. So what about Kyotouryuu? Well, he’s different. It is a sword he created. The completed Deviant Blade, Kyotou Yasuri as mentioned by Rinne. Kazune, whom Shikizaki considers as his closest friend and someone obsessed with swords rather than the world, didn’t reach his completed state but the foundations he laid weren’t wasted. Now Shichika has succeeded in producing the sword that he is. So thanks to Kazune, forging of the Deviant Blades is now completed. So yeah, Shikizaki is like Shichika’s father, eh? Togame mentions of never expecting to meet the creator at the end. She has met so many people on her journey and even a holy man, she was expecting to meet a ghost! Noting the boring developments it has become, she won’t even mention his name in her reports. Isn’t that falsifying history too? Shikizaki gets into a stance which he came up for 150 years and cannot be dodged. Since negotiations have failed, Togame orders Shichika to attack and plunder! As the fight starts, Shikizaki doesn’t want his ultimate blade to disappoint him. Shikizaki seems to be perfectly dodging every move and though he pulls off his ultimate technique, in the end Shichika manages to dodge it all in mid-air and uses his Hachiretsu Kai right in his gut killing him. That’s it? Shikizaki notes that move isn’t bad and dies smiling. The effects of the evil blade wear off.

As the duo walk off, they wonder if it was really Shikizaki back then or just Houou gone insane. Shichika notes Pengin as the last one left but Togame thinks he’s dead by now seeing the Shogunate has branded Maniwa as traitors and with Emonzaemon on the job, I guess their fate is sealed and Togame can’t do anything to oppose it. Does she sound like she’s sympathizing with them? Well, after watching the carnage of their village, she can’t say she didn’t feel for them. Not just them but everyone they’ve met on their travels. She came to realize how narrow-sighted she was and knew nothing. Shichika’s reply? “This isn’t like you…”. The duo are just several steps away from returning to Owari. Togame wants Shichika to hold her hands before they walk down the steps. She notes how their journey in the past year changed them and it made her experience several firsts. Suddenly Emonzaemon pops up and looks like they have to forgo walking down hand in hand. Togame realizes Hitei has made her first move and predicted they will be passing here. Emonzaemon congratulates her for being a step closer to her ambition but she doesn’t recall having one. Then he notes it may be revenge then seeing she is the former Lord of Oushuu’s daughter and her real name is Princess Yousha. He pulls out Juu and fires a couple of bullets into Togame. Oh sh*t!!! This can’t be!!! Shocked Shichika starts to snap. Wow. Have we seen him with this rage before?

Episode 12 – Entou Juu
Emonzaemon explains because Togame is the daughter of the rebellion leader Hida, he has to complete his job. He also blames Shichika for the battle between Hitei and Togame to end this way. Seeing he has no more reason to fight Shichika, Emonzaemon says he purposely missed Togame’s vital organs so Shichika could hear her last words. Holding a weakened Togame in her arms, an emotionally charged Shichika starts asking her questions that she coolly has answers for. He couldn’t care less about the swords but she realizes how Juu works because she is feeling her inner organs churning up. She is trying to come up with counter strategies but her head is blank. In short, they lost. She wants Shichika to go spread her “Cheerio” around the country (is she joking at a time like this?!). This is as far she can go but Shichika won’t accept this because without her, he can’t do anything. Togame starts recounting her lonely 20 years but in the single year with him, he thought her a lot. She realized, discovered, understood, laughed, smiled, had fun and was so happy with so many things that she lost count. But in the end, she couldn’t change and this is a fitting way to die. Shichika can’t accept all this and reminds her about their plan to travel the country and draw a map. She replies it was all a lie. After the sword hunt, she planned to kill him. Everything was just a tool for her schemes, even her heart. The part that trusted him was just another pawn to her. So what are feelings to her, the feelings he gained for the past year? They’re all pawns. Shichika would’ve killed himself even if she told him to but she says even if words were lies, feelings weren’t. In the end she was the one who got hurt the most. If that weren’t the case, she wouldn’t have schemed. The point of her life, her doing? Even so, she is happy to die in the middle of the road because this way she doesn’t have to kill him and can finally lay down all her burdens. Her final order is to forget everything about her and what has happened and live as he wishes. The contract ends in her death and can stop falling for her. That’s not possible because Shichika really loves being with her. So what is he supposed to do now? She may be selfish and egocentric, thinking nothing but revenge with death only a cure for her stupidity and using him as a tool. But even so, would he mind if she fell for him? Those were Togame’s last words.

Hitei is having an audience with Yanari and is claiming the credit for obtaining all the 12 Deviant Blades. She thought she requested for a private audience but Yanari says they are his trusted subjects and have worked under the Shogun for generations so they are like part of his body. Hitei thinks for him to say this kind of thing, he must be of low calibre. Yanari allows Hitei to speak so she mentions that she is a descendant of Shikizaki. He wants to see evidence so she replies it is foolish to simply rely on physical evidence while making a decision. Letting her continue, she reveals her ancestors as soothsayers rather than swordsmiths to falsify history for the sake of Japan. That’s why the Deviant Blades were forged. Asking if Yanari had ever turned his attention to other countries, she reveals that hundreds of years in the future, Japan will be attacked by foreign nations and perish. This was predicted by the family’s founder several thousand years ago. Their conversation is interrupted when Emonzaemon reports Shichika intruding the castle. Yanari doesn’t think to highly of an insignificant intruder but Hitei knows it’s the end for both of them. Shichika is not to be taken lightly because he was the one who collected 11 of the 12 Deviant Blades so even if there over 1000 guards in this castle, nothing will be able to stop him accept his master, the strategist. Unfortunately as Hitei puts it, she died while collecting the swords. So it’s like he’s going berserk after losing his master. But this may be a blessing and a curse for them because he is necessary to ensure the success of their goals seeing Kyotouryuu, the completed Deviant Blade is part of Shikizaki’s plan. Needing to stop Shichika’s killing spree, Hitei suggests the use of Yanari’s 11 retainers and Emonzaemon, each armed with a Deviant Blade to put the finishing touches on this history.

Shichika is at the castle gates and he doesn’t look like he’s here for negotiation. See how he dispatches all the guards with ease?! Don’t play play! Suddenly he hears the voice of Emonzaemon. He is using his ventriloquism ninpou via crow to tell him that he has withdrawn the guards since the fight is pointless and knows he is here for revenge. He wants him to head straight into the castle whereby he and Hitei are waiting. But Shichika knows he is wrong because he isn’t here for revenge. He came here to die. So let the battle begin!

Versus Hannyamaru with Kanna
Inside the first room, Shichika faces off with his first opponent. Hannyamaru charges but Shichika uses his Chrysanthemum move to catch the sword and breaks it!!! Woah! The unbreakable Kanna is now broken!!! That’s because there is no reason for him to hold back anymore. With a single punch, Hannyamaru is defeated! Astounding!

Versus Furachi Oniyadori with Namakura
The monk guy believes Shichika won’t see his strike coming seeing he has never seen Ginkaku’s slash. However when Furachi strikes, Shichika holds Namakura with his both his fists with a nameless Kyotouryuu move! Then he breaks Namakura while mocking his move was just mediocre! Superb!

Versus Akatsuki Tomoe with Tsurugi
In a room filled with thousands of swords, Shichika dashes through breaking each one of them before landing a fatal blow right in Akatsuki’s chest! Amazing! The reason he hesitated against Meisai was because he couldn’t come to terms with her personality.

Versus Matsuaki Fugi with Hari
Shichika stops his attack with just 2 of his fingers!!! And then breaking it with just a snap!!! He lets Matsuaki learn a thing or two because if he doesn’t swing in a perfect arc, the fragile sword will shatter. His fight was Sabi was a close one because he wasn’t allowed to break Hari and thus his options are limited. So what are his now? No need to even guess. Yeah, another dead body for the count. Awesome!

Versus Kairo Iga with Yoroi
Kairo charges straight when Shichika steps into the room and is bloody confident with his impenetrable defence. However Shichika knows Yoroi’s attributes that transfers any outside shock away from the user by being in contact with the ground. So if he attacks him in mid-air where he isn’t touching the ground or walls, the shock can’t go anywhere and instead the owner receives all the shock. Yeah, it’s a bloody death for that guy in the armour with Shichika’s single powerful punch.

Versus Bofura Maniwa with Kanazuchi
He is of the Maniwa Ninja Corps lineage and is using his ninpou to negate its weight. But what happens if you take that away? What’s the point of this sword then? Yeah, it’s weight is its lethal focus. Shichika throws Kanazuchi back at him at breaks both the sword and user together!!! He mocks him there isn’t a weaker Maniwa than him! Cool! Way to go!

Versus Uron with Bita
Uron thinks he has become an immortal warrior with Bita stuck to his chest. Shichika says just because he can’t die if he kills him, it doesn’t mean he can’t die if he keeps killing him. Using a variety of mixed Kyotouryuu moves and striking in rapid succession, Uron dies 272 times and this breaks Bita!!! Marvellous!!!

Versus Ou Haiga with Kanzashi
It’s 2 versus 1 but in an instant Shichika strikes them away with Hachiretsu revamp! Shichika was able to defeat them easily because Ou was in the way which prevents Biyorigou from showing its full strength. Haha. Doll malfunction…

Versus Kokubo Sumigaoka with Nokogiri
Kokubo is ranting about this meaningless fight, the cruel calmness of the sword and letting Shichika go. Since the latter says nothing, he will grant his death in 1 blow. Shichika shuts him up by replying “Your words are nothing but talk. They don’t move me at all”. He also breaks Nokogiri with a strike to his neck. OMG! See how it contorted the other way!!! Speechless!

Versus Kousha Saraba with Hakari
Kousha laments the sword is useless to her and can’t do anything. Shichika suggest throwing it at him in which she does. He deflects it with his knee to send the hilt back hitting her forehead and knocks her out! I don’t know if her head was hard because Hakari breaks but Kousha was just unconscious! Comical!

Versus Bangai Rogiri with Mekki
How do you deal with a guy who is possessed with an evil sword and going crazy? For Shichika, he releases the guy with a chopping kick right in the head. Thank goodness he hasn’t got a thick skull. Yeah, Mekki cracks too. Magnificent!

Versus Emonzaemon with Juu
Hitei teases that he was rather fast in arriving here. She thinks this is the true strength of Kyotouryuu since he is allowed to destroy the swords now. If he manages to defeat Emonzaemon, he can meet her upstairs at the castle’s keep. If he defeats him. She orders Emonzaemon to kill Shichika but Emonzaemon wonders if Shikizaki’s plan will never come be realized if he kills Shichika. Hitei enjoys seeing Shikizaki’s completed plan as much as his plans destroyed. Either way, she is confident Emonzaemon will show her either one. After leaving, Emonzaemon feels the irony of facing off with Shichika like this. Like a puppet, he only fights for Hitei but the thought of fighting for Shikizaki’s sake is somewhat unpleasant. Shichika disagrees and says he learnt after Togame’s death, it is pointless to fight for both humans and swords. At first he obeyed Togame’s orders without any resolution and after that obeyed her for her sake after finding resolve. If one has to think about it, then one shouldn’t be fighting in the first place. After all, Togame was thinking about herself and selfish. Even so, that’s why he fell for her. Thinking back with all the times with Togame (and her countless expressions!), the match begins. Shichika adds he has been fighting for himself and reveals the reason for invading this castle is to die. Shichika couldn’t think of anyone who could kill him since he was the one who killed Togame. Even if Togame ordered him to live, he doesn’t have any duty to oblige that order anymore. After breaking Emonzaemon’s swords, he pulls out Juu. He starts firing while Shichika is moving at lightning speed. So how did he dodge so many bullets? Well, he didn’t. Shichika resolved to take them all to his body at the start! Remember one of Togame’s orders to protect himself? He no longer has a duty to obey that. I guess that is his true power seeing he no longer has an obligation to protect the Deviant Blades too. So now do you believe his resolve to die? The fight continues at lightning speed so much so you can’t see a damn thing. But the room is scarred and destroyed with their blood tainting every inch and nook! With both sides taking tremendous amount of damage, it ends with Shichika using his Hachiretsu Kai move to kill Emonzaemon and break Juu.

Yanari is panicking upon what is happening as Hitei assures that their wish will come true when Shichika comes upstairs. Shichika throws her Emonzaemon’s mask and relays to her his last words, “Princess, please forgive me for dying for your sake”. Well, she finds that annoying. As promised, Hitei allows him to kill her but he has only strength to kill one more person. Yanari fears for his life and wants Hitei to save him. You think a princess like her has combat abilities? Hitei says he needs to die or else this won’t end. Telling him about Yanari Shogunate that will last a thousand years was a lie just to speak to him since the collapse of Owari Shogunate was Shikizaki’s original plan. It was supposed to be a different Shogunate and Shogun house originally but after preventing them from taking power, Yanari took over the country in a similar manner and built peace across the country. Perhaps it was history self-correcting itself she wonders. She reveals her wish to kill him and that wish will now be fulfilled. Shichika agrees because Togame wasted her entire life because of him. Though she may have reaped what she sow, killing him won’t lift her burden nor make him feel better but Shichika must make an example of him. Shichika tells Hitei a message from Togame to thank her for everything though Hitei denies it. He asks if Hitei likes Togame deep down in her heart but she replies it is more like she didn’t dislike her. Yanari is trying to worm his way out but Shichika kills him with his ultimate Cheerio move that splits the castle in half! Possibly splitting the ground too!

We see the aftermath of places Shichika and Togame visited to collect the Deviant Blades. Some decimated and those with life such as Konayuki living happily at Sanzu Temple and Kiguchi having several students of her own. As narrated, whether it was fortunate or not, history wasn’t falsified as Yanari’s son and direct descendant succeeded the throne as the 9th Shogun. Shikizaki’s descendant’s attempt to alter history, reform the world and destroy history ended in failure. We see Shichika touring Japan and trying to make a map. Yeah, Japan is big alright. We also see Hitei following him (she cut her hair too?). Well, well. She’s a spunky girl now, eh? She mentions how everything started with Kyuu and ended with Togame/Yousha. To Shichika, altering history is like a fairytale and if her predictions of foreign countries destroying Japan do come true, he’ll leave it to warriors of that time to defend. Hitei feels Japan in hundreds of years won’t let itself ruin so easily even if falsification isn’t probably and perhaps a little altering would. Shichika continues his journey but after that nobody heard of him anymore. He may have died or completed the map and sailed to another country but even with everything over despite the historical plan connecting and swords failed, he was there definitely there and lived.

Live by the sword, die by the sword…
Just wow. Sort of lost for words after everything has ended. I mean, it really felt like a long period of time has passed while watching this though I must admit the duration was long enough to make me feel uncomfortable in certain parts of the body after sitting down too long. But this has nothing to do with the story and series actually. Overall, this is quite a compelling and fascinating story if you can get pass the falsifying history part. It may sound farfetched but that is what everything from the swords and the characters boil down and revolves around. I had mixed feelings at the end of the series. It was sad to see Shichika living and journeying alone because I would really have preferred him and Togame to stay together even after everything had ended. However her death was necessary to complete to final Deviant Blade because grief is what makes Shichika the strongest sword ever. The most amusing aspect of this series is definitely the interaction between Shichika and Togame. You’ll never tire of their antics though there are serious times but this is usually left as explanation to viewers on the events and such. Otherwise the duo are quite a comical bunch if I must say. In almost every episode there is a short stretch dedicated in seeing them both together whether it’s spending ‘lovely’ time together or discussing about their next plan-cum-scheme.

You can see Shichika’s change in character as the series progresses. From someone who just obeys Togame and feels nothing as a sword to her, gradually he learns to be more human and you could say that at certain points he even gets cheeky with Togame. Initially he always put up this carefree and happy-go-lucky expression and you don’t see much change in his looks till Togame dies. For once he looked very desperate and cried his heart out. Over the journey he gained more of a human heart and soul rather in addition to increasing his skills. He learns to distinguish human life and not to simply kill and disregard life. Because of travelling for a long time, he also learnt to make cheeky remarks with Togame and also get back at her. See how much a person can change within a year? With him still living in the end, does this prove that only family members of Kyotouryuu can kill each other and since he is the only one left, the only way to die is a natural death, right? Togame is the more lively one of the comical pair. You should hear some of the words she says in her lines. Pretty amusing though quite true. I won’t say that she is silly even if she claims herself as intelligent being a strategist. But sometimes I feel that she is too smart for her own good that it makes her look silly. Initially she has this habit of tripping so I thought this was going to be a running gag throughout the series but I guess not. She also has this inclination to expect the reply of others. But when the other person says something different, it will take Togame a while to realize it because she’ll continue speaking like the person has answered to her expectations. For instance Azekura’s reply on wanting her to be his woman. Togame was replying as though he still wanted the Deviant Blades instead. Togame may have claimed that she used Shichika and everyone else as a tool and everything they had been through was just an act. As much as I want to believe this, I feel that during her journey with Shichika, she indeed experienced lots of things with him so I don’t think she is lying or just acting during those times. Even if those words were painful truths in the end, she didn’t want to hold back Shichika and those words were meant to set him free and on his own. You’ll never recognize the true meaning and value of something till you start losing them. Note, Togame looks better with her hair cut short. I don’t know, it doesn’t feel messy and all over the place :). And oh, looks like her Cheerio catchphrase didn’t catch on :). Also, about Togame’s after-sword-hunt ambition, I thought she wanted to write a biography but changed it to mapping the country? I guess your ambitions do change along the way and with her brains I’m sure it’s not hard for her to do just about anything. I mean look how she mastered shogi after a few observations, something that shogi players would have taken years to become masters. There are so many things that Togame is capable of partly because of her personality of not wanting to be betrayed again and thus not wanting to lose. But it doesn’t matter now since she is no longer around :'(.

Even if I do know that in the end they both certainly have feelings for each other but I can’t help wonder if they really do know the meaning of love. That’s because if you notice that the things they do together aren’t what we would believe couples in the modern era would do. Maybe their meaning and definition of love differs and even the era they are in, love values are much different than today. Just take a look at all the lovely moments when they duo are close together. Leave aside their scheming talk while at it, even by hugging close and having physical contact (no sex, mind you), I just don’t feel the flame and impact of their love. It just feels Togame is doing this so that Shichika would get use to her. Look at this from another point. In today’s world, you can never be too careful so even if he’s a sword, he’s still a guy and ‘capable’ of what guys can do. She only sees him as her sword so she believes she doesn’t need to be cautious or alarmed even though he is a man. Unless you’re head over heels crazy over guy, shouldn’t any woman be a little cautious whenever a guy gets this close to you? This may be debatable if Shichika should get turned on each time he is close to Togame. Especially that one scene he was bathing with her naked in the hotspring. They weren’t shy. They weren’t embarrassed. His male horniness hormones weren’t kicking in. Maybe living on an island alone with his sister did stem all the worldly desires. Of course when they do get jealous about the other, it felt like it’s because the other is supposed to be her/his thing rather than an object of affection or love. On the subject of fanservice, I guess I could say I notice a few but are usually on Togame. But they aren’t that obvious and nothing that will really distract you.

I don’t know about Hitei. The way she portrays herself it seems like she is an obnoxious person but a cool one. Maybe it’s true that she’s a descendent of Shikizaki so she also can see the future and thus not surprise with whatever turns out and plays it cool. Just like what her name means, she loves to deny lots of things (ironically, Yousha means approve – something Togame usually permits Shichika for whatever things). For what I’m not sure. Is it her true past and history? She and Togame may be what you call in modern times, ‘frenemies’. Maybe it’s the way they speak to each other. Maybe when they say they didn’t like each other, they do mean the opposite. Because Hitei wasn’t such a bad person in the end, financing Shichika on his mapping journey whenever she can. So perhaps, they don’t really hate each other. Something I feel it’s like a married couple living together for decades. You get the idea, right? And if her goal was to kill Yanari, couldn’t she have ordered Emonzaemon to do so at the start seeing that guy is totally loyal to her? Oh, I forgot she wanted to see the completion of the final Deviant Blade. I am still confused with Nanami’s dilemma to either die or live. Because of her supernatural strength, she can’t die easily so she has always been searching for a way to die. Then when it’s time for her brother to grant her that wish, it’s like she all that she did was to delay her death as she wanted to live longer. So which is which? I guess even as normal humans, it’s basic instinct that you will be afraid when death comes knocking at your door. I mean if Nanami wanted to die, she could’ve not fight back and let everyone kill her, especially the guardians at Shireizan. Yes, she won’t die but can’t she let them slice of her head, then? Don’t tell me she’s like a cockroach and won’t die that way too? And what is it about Shichika’s death move on her makes it special that is the only way that could make her kick the bucket?

The Maniwa Ninja Corps, I thought they were just slaughter boys of the series. I mean, there are 12 heads and all of them died. Besides Koumori and Houou, the rest were like easy pickings. Some not even enough time to show their true potential. Which makes them somewhat a comical bunch wearing animal clothes (each either representing a type of beast, bird, insect or fish). They came, they appear, they die. True that Houou says that ninjas just live and die but seriously even if Maniwa had 100 heads, I am guessing that a big majority of them will meet a similar fate. It makes you wonder if they were such a great ninja group in the first place. Perhaps they are no match for the Deviant Blades or their owners that contributed to their demise. But when Emonzaemon went on a massacre spree of the ninjas, it feels too easy that they have died. Oshidori and Pengin may have put up a little resistance but in the end the fight was short as their lives. Speaking of Emonzaemon, if he had gone on a Maniwa massacre spree from the start, Shichika and Togame it would save them lots of trouble from bumping into them, right? Besides, the way things are he certainly seems to know the group and Houou well enough.

I can’t say that the fights are totally awesome but each of them is satisfying enough to captivate your attention. My only gripe is that the fights do not last long and just for several minutes. As we know the drama and talking parts takes up most of the screen time in this anime and even during the duels, we have the characters talking and explaining so if you are looking to be amazed by the sword battles, please do not place your hopes high. But I guess this is much better than a match lasting for several episodes and dragging along with it the drama, suspense and whatever flashbacks. My other complain is the no-show fight of Sabi! I was really expecting to see Shichika’s fight with the greatest swordsman and in my opinion it will be the most exciting one because well, swordsmen fight with their swords and not their mouths, right? Yeah, so I was really anticipating lots of action even if they were going to be exaggerative. But we don’t get to see even a bit of it and that is a major disappointment. I thought they might show this part if they ever make and release and OVA but so far the story has ended ever since and nothing more. What a major letdown. Before the fight with Sabi, the first few episodes show very short snippets of him going around and doing his amazing thing with Hari (usually keeping thugs at bay). So amazing that our eyes can’t even catch them. Thus it was pretty normal for me to expect that something great is going building up for this ultimate showdown. Sabi’s supposed episode as early as the fourth episode felt like an early final and when they replaced it with the Insect Squad’s ambush on Nanami, I just thought there was something wrong and couldn’t help wondering over the period of that episode when will I get to see those juicy action bits.

The final fight in which Shichika faces off with the 11 retainers is so fast that it feels comical in its own way. Everyone was like so confident and cocky that they’ve got a Deviant Blade and felt so invincible. Yeah, they didn’t know Shichika went through tougher circumstances to obtain those swords so they don’t really understand how it works or its value unlike Shichika who underwent lots of sh*t just to make sure that sword stays in one piece. That’s why the retainers are easily defeated and some even killed for their own good. But to think that Togame and Shichika spent nearly a year slogging to get all the swords and then suddenly he breaks them all in the end. It’s like all their efforts were wasted but if you look at the bigger picture it’s to complete the final blade. Speaking of Shikizaki’s true role as a soothsayer, if he did see everything that has taken place from the forging of the 12 Deviant Blades to the completion of the final one in Shichika for the sake of Japan and prevent the country to fall into foreign hands, I guess he didn’t see one prediction coming: His falsification will fail. So yet again in the bigger picture, going through all that trouble with the formation of Kyotouryuu right down to the seventh generation after hundreds of years, was it all for nought eventually? Maybe that is what being a soothsayer is all about. You see the future and try to change it even if it won’t work. So why was Hida trying to revert Japan back to its original history then? Would he have not started the rebellion if he knew Japan would perish in the future?

As for the drawing and art of this series, I can say that they aren’t your typical wide-eyed Japanese characters. In fact the drawings here are quite cartoonish and if not for the dialogue, you may have doubts if this was a Japanese production. But it won’t take you long because of the deep Japanese historical setting and by right only a Japanese production studio would rightly do so. I don’t want to go so far to say that the faces of the characters closely resemble Powerpuff Girls but if you notice that many of the characters have different eye designs and tones drawn to them. Sometimes it makes them look creepy. But not as scary when Shichika became the completed Deviant Blade. Okay, maybe it’s not that scary but there is a certain different feel in his eyes. I guess the production also tries to vary the different designs of the swords. I won’t say that they are looking anything unique as there are other animes with much more creative sword designs (I have to admit Bleach is one of them) but at least not every sword is your conventional sword. We have a mechanical doll serving as one and a blade that is just the hilt with no offensive power. It’s also nice to know that each has a different focus and method of use. However as mentioned the fights are short so this means you won’t see them in use for a long duration. In a way this is a good point because you won’t easily get bored with the sword. I mean, once you know how it works and its usage, it’ll be less interesting if they keep using the same moves. So like Shichika’s flower themed moves, I actually can’t tell most of them apart and it’s like he’s just chopping or kicking from a different stance. Haha, maybe I need to watch closely more of his moves to differentiate it like how Shichika couldn’t once differentiate another human being.

Yukari Tamura (Sakura in Da Capo series, Yamada in B Gata H Kei) as the voice of Togame definitely suits the character and all her moods. Her trademark squeaky voice is there be it during scheming points, comical scenes and yes, jealous parts. She really makes the character feel so alive even if the character herself sees herself as dead and no hope. Yoshimasa Hosoya (Arata Wataya in Chihayafuru) as Shichika also does well in his character. Also Haruka Tomatsu (Lala in To Love-Ru) did a perfect job in voicing a proud and conceited Hitei. Masako Ikeda (Maetel in Galaxy Express 999) as the narrator sounds not only passionate in narrating the opening and closing lines but sometimes the way she narrates things, it’s like as though it sounds like a joke. Why not, since the main pair do look like a manzai comedy duo at times. Other casts include Ryotaru Okiayu (Byakuya in Bleach), Mai Nakahara as Nanami (Juvia in Fairy Tail), Rikiya Koyama as Emonzaemon (Kogarashi in Kamen No Maid Guy), Ryou Hirohashi as Pengin (Kyou in Clannad), Shizuka Itou as Kiguchi (Hinagiku in Hayate No Gotoku), Rina Hidaka as Konayuki (Airi in Ro-Kyu-Bu), Atsuko Yuya as Meisai (Yukino in Yakitate! Japan), Miyako Itou as Rinne (Beckham in Penguin No Mondai) and Aya Endou as Biyorigou (Filicia in Sora No Woto). There are 2 opening pieces for this series with Meiya Kadenrou by Minami Kuribayashi as the first one and Katana To Saya by Ali Project as the second theme (yeah, their naughty gothic style is still there). There are different ending themes for each of the episode, some sung by the seiyuus of the series and other from other singers. The ending credits animation may be the same (a still picture of Togame and Shichika sitting together on a rock with their backs facing us) but if you look closely, the flowers and plants of each animation are different. They may also show something related to that episode like the snowman Konayuki made or the time Togame got her hair cut. Some of the background music are weird. For instance during the comical scenes of Togame, well, they sound really comical. For Hitei’s scene, the music feels like a sultry slow jazz. Then for the exciting battle theme, it felt like a Japanese guy trying to do a Tarzan. OooOOOooOOOo…

Another aspect of this series is about what makes history as it is. It is no doubt that somebody once said that only winners write the history and thus imprinting a certain stereotype of truths and facts on future generations. I suppose everyone has a role to play in history no matter how insignificant they are. Everyone has their own history to tell. Big or small, exciting or boring, common or unique. That’s why I thought everybody in this series should be killed off (well it didn’t but a many of the main characters did die), it all has something to do with the contribution of making history. Whether it’s for themselves or something else, each are trying to write their own history with the things that they are doing justified with their own beliefs and perhaps inspire some sort of hope. Anyway history isn’t one of my favourite subjects so trying to talk about it makes my head turn. So it has been seemingly a long journey and every journey alike has to come an end eventually. Just like this seemingly long blog. Yeah, I even thought at this rate it would never end. Goodnight and Cheerio! Heh, that’s how you should use that catchphrase :).

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