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This was definitely a great way to say farewell to Sword Art Online. Just a good final episode for the series that ties up loose ends and shows just where all these characters are after going through that intense experience. This show had some highs and lows, but overall it was a great experience and I’m glad the last episode reflects that. All the characters went through some serious trauma, but in the end they came through it and can continue living.

A real positive is that none of the 300 players tortured seemed to have any memories of it. I’m glad they actually went and mentioned them since I thought it was something that might get neglected due to time. It was a proper response though to take their time making sure everyone didn’t have any mental problems, besides the post traumatic stress they should have from the original SAO experience. Another positive I thought was showing how the world had such serious backlash against the virtual MMOs. At this point it was just not possible to hide everything that happened. Unlike with Kayaba they had a physical suspect to put on trial for his crimes and everything came out. It’s a mixed feeling since I’m glad the backlash threatened to kill the entire genre because that makes sense, but at the same time I’m glad that it had a revival. Like I’ve said the games weren’t the issue, it was the people who used and abused them.

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I didn’t expect a showdown against Sugou, but it wasn’t completely out of nowhere. If I was Kirito I’d be worried that he’d do something crazy knowing that he was going to get found out. It was a pretty uncomfortable showdown in a lot of ways. I mean we had a guy going through physical rehab vs. someone really screwed up by the damage Kirito did to him. Not surprising that feeling all the pain of getting torn apart and dismembered would have an impact. I thought he might have a seizure or something. In the end the one person there that had weapon experience was Kirito and he could figure out just fine how to use a knife.

Not surprised there was real temptation to kill Sugou right then and there. What he did to Asuna would make many people willing to kill him for that reason alone. Provocation does exist as a defense for a reason. But have to also consider how close Kirito himself came to getting killed and what Sugou did to hundreds of innocent people. Not like Kirito hasn’t had to kill himself, though I don’t think it happened outside of Kuradeel. In the end Kirito had better things to be doing…like getting medical treatment XD. I mean really, he could sit there and kill Sugou or he could go see Asuna in the flesh. When you think about it I believe the right call was made.

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And of course the moment Kirito especially has been waiting for. The return of Asuna to the real world and getting to share that special moment. It is at that point that he really has come back at last and can feel like his battle has ended. He did what he set out to do in bringing Asuna back. Of course she was weakened from just returning to her body for the first time in years, but it was still a great moment. You could feel the emotional relief for Kirito knowing she was back and that everything was going to be alright. Both of them had to wait a long time for this, but it finally happened.

Then of course came the grand epilogue. Of course Kirito and Asuna are enjoying themselves since they are in this together. It’s not going to be easy going back to normal education after years of fighting for their lives, but at least being in it together should have made things easier. Not to mention Kirito was reunited with his true love…Asuna’s sandwiches XD. I mean come on you could just see the joy in his eyes at seeing that wondrous food once more.

Joking aside it looks like things are going well for most of the characters. Besides the 300 who were trapped the rest should have mostly gotten through their rehab and can just focus on integrating back into society. Not so easy for Silica and Liz who decided to not harass Kirito for a month. Of course frankly they both don’t have a prayer either way. Suguha doesn’t have one and she’d have a closer advantage than either of them. Still it was good to see those two again. Silica especially hadn’t been seen since episode 4. Not much better for Liz who hadn’t been seen the end of the SAO arc.

Another good face to see again was Klein. I would have liked him to play a role in the ALO arc, but oh well. Nice to see that he’s doing alright though he seems unable to give up on that bandana of his XD.

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I think Kirito did the right thing with the Seed. Letting it spread out all over the net was better than letting it go to waste. Kayaba was a horrible piece of work, but at least the worlds that will be born have the potential to bring some joy. If we just threw away technology because of the people who invented it then we’d be lacking a lot of things. All they can do is try to stay alert against anyone who might try to abuse that technology once again.

The effect of the seed was beyond my expectations though. I never thought it would create so many worlds that would allow players to be compatible. It certainly is like the birth of a new universe. SAO and ALO are just small examples of the possibilities that will allow people to truly experience different worlds and lives that they’d never be able to touch otherwise. It could really turn into something massive. Although I’d be a bit hesitant knowing that the electronic spirit of Kayaba is floating around out there.

Another thing I’d be hesitant about would be the return of the SAO world. I mean it did seem likely that a recreation of that world would happen. It was what started it all. However, I’m just not sure I’d be so eager as Kirito and company to go back and clear the whole thing. I mean, the mental stress and trauma they endured in that world was pretty extreme. They watched people die, commit suicide, and went through hell. They of course found reasons to keep living and survived it, but I’d just be really unsure about going back to that particular world. I suppose one could treat it as dealing with unfinished business and being able to put that world behind them. With SAO truly cleared maybe they can allow those lives lost to rest in peace.

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I’m glad Suguha got some coverage in this last episode if only to show another problem she had to face here. All these people have a joint experience of SAO and what they went through. It’s almost like joining a friend who went to war as they meet up with war buddies. There is just that gap and feeling of not quite belonging there. Of course Leafa played a huge rule in helping to save Asuna and the other 300 trapped, but I can understand her feeling. Two years those people lived in that world and she can’t understand how that must have felt. Even though it was a terrible experience it was something that united them.

At the same time glad she was accepted into that group. The past is the past, but they all have this future to enjoy together. Leafa might not be able to go through SAO the same way they did, but they can go through it together and see the same places. Touching on that scene of her flying to the very limit, she doesn’t have to fly alone anymore. The dancing was nice as well. She can’t topple Asuna in Kirito’s heart, but at least she can find a place to belong and figure out her own happiness.

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All things considered this was a great final episode. It made the final conflict between Kirito and Sugou have some weight to it and allowed us to see how all these characters are going to find their way. We may or may not get another season of Sword Art Online, but I’m just glad they made sure that this was a great conclusion.
Score: A

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Final Thoughts:

So, time to figure out how I feel about Sword Art Online overall. I will say that I am so glad that I didn’t read the novels before this came out. Looking around it felt like it was one of those experiences that you are much better off going into this fresh. I’ve been on the other side being able to nit-pick at things that were done differently or left out and it isn’t fun. I’m not saying that Sword Art Online was a perfect series, because of course it wasn’t. ALO was weaker overall than the original arc for example. But I think when looking at this series as a whole….it was just a great experience and I’m glad to have watched it.

This really was like two different series. I’ll still say the first half of the series was much stronger than what came after it. The tension was just so much higher during those episodes. You were watching people live through and adapting to an extreme situation. They were trapped in something that could no longer be simply seen as “just a game.” People died in real life whenever their characters vanished. You could see a death like Sachi which was just as traumatic and painful for Kirito to witness as any murder in real life.

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In that sense it was interesting to see just how real that kind of virtual world could become. How some would just cower in the first town for the two years they were trapped there or how some might battle on the front lines for the dream of going back home. The human aspect of the first arc was really compelling to me. The PK aspect was something to take in because it showed a clash between how games used to be and how they became in that instant. Killing players might be acceptable in most games, but in this case it had real consequences. Seeing how the players had to police themselves was interesting for me.

I think the battles were just outstanding in the first part as well. The bosses were pretty overwhelming at times and made it feel like these characters were taking on giants. The best boss really remains the Gleam Eyes. That guy was just terrifying enough to send Kirito and Asuna running. Pretty weak defense, but overall he was a really tough guy to go up against. Kirito really went to the wall against him and it was an all or nothing kind of fight. Though will say the Skull Reaper fight was just nuts.

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Still, while I think the first arc was superior, it wasn’t like ALO was a total loss. It felt in a sense like a long conclusion to everything that happened in the first arc. Rescuing Asuna and the other 300 captives was really cleaning up the remains of that disaster. Though in a sense it was also more about introducing and developing Suguha than Kirito himself. She went from a character who was just mentioned briefly at times to a full blown main character during the ALO arc. It was hard at times watching how Suguha was getting more and more involved and would only get hurt before the end. The hurt certainly did come and blew both Suguha and Kirito away when the revelations came to light. I’m glad in the end they are both trying to figure things out and it will be a slow transition for Suguha to fully accept things.

Think that ALO suffered from just being too simple. It was basically go from point A to point B and save Asuna. It didn’t help that the big battles for this arc weren’t all that compelling. The spam of Guardians didn’t really have any personality to them and Sugou was more about who could out-hack the other. Though will say the knife fight in the real world somewhat dealt with the weakness there. The struggles didn’t feel as real for Kirito who had those high stats from SAO to make things easier. So, I’m left with mixed feelings on the ALO portion. It wasn’t all that bad, but it wasn’t as strong as what came before it either.

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I will say the music in this series just always seemed to get the job done. The battle scenes had some great music for them and made you all the more excited about what was going to happen. Overall the OP/ED combinations for this series did a nice job as well. I’d say that the weakest of them was the first ED, but otherwise they all did a good job and had some nice visuals going along with them.

In the end this series really was the Kirito show. He was always the focus and the show seemed to be more about how he developed relationships with others and was affected by the events in this series. He wasn’t an emotional rock by any means. He had a lot of moments of weakness and suffered immensely from the losses of people like the Black Cat Guild. As a fighter he was certainly impressive and just found a way to win a lot of the time. He seems like someone who was able to use his grief and suffering as a source. It was especially visible in the ALO arc. There were just times that Kirito snapped and tore into the enemy with rage. It’s no wonder considering what Kirito went through in this series that he’d have some issues built up. Some might accuse him of being too perfect, but I think he was fine. Kirito was a gamer who understood how to get strong in that system physically, but had a lot of emotional burdens that he was carrying on his back.

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The girls of the series were so important in helping Kirito grow and survive his pain. Sachi’s Christmas message allowed Kirito to grieve, Liz taught him that he can’t just throw his life away for someone, Silica allowed him to face his belief that Suguha resented him, Asuna gave him someone to live for, and of course Suguha gave him another jolt of development. It was almost always Kirito and someone else with a large group rarely getting together unless it was needed. A lot of cute characters and no one I really disliked in that group.

This series took a lot of heat early on for how quickly it worked through the side stories for the first SAO arc. I still stand by the belief that it was a good way to do it and worked. They needed the episodes for the main stories and really they worked fairly well as short adventures. Sometimes they felt a little rushed, but I think that was a small price to pay for what they delivered. We got to understand the key systems in the game and understand just where Kirito was as a character after a couple years in that game.

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Overall, I’d say Sword Art Online was one of my favorites from this year. I am glad that instead of leaving hooks into a future season they just made sure it was properly concluded. If we do get another season of SAO I’ll be happy to watch, but at least we can leave this show with a feeling that it is concluded. It has been quite the trip, but I certainly don’t regret covering this show. Now just have to get fired up to write a full out review XD.
Score: A

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An older member at 25, yet a new addition to Anime Evo. Recently graduating University and in the difficult point between school and a true career. Anime being a salvation and blogging a good way to put all those hours of writing essays to some use. Enjoys talking about series, yet not taking on so many that the quality dips. A Canadian who enjoys his anime and hearing what others think about the series he enjoys watching.

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