Not all MMOs are focused entirely around combat. In fact, the majority usually have some form of crafting or profession system for those who prefer to play a supporting role away from the battlefield or as a reprieve from the constant battles. SAO is no exception to this. For me, Lisbeth (Takagaki Ayahi) is one of the more interesting side-story needs-more-deban characters to follow. Sachi… well Sachi can’t really be followed anymore and Silica would be similar to Kirito in her combat antics but with the addition of a pet. Liz, however, gives us a window into an entirely different side of the community in SAO with her choice to train blacksmithing and assist the front-line fighters from backstage. I have to admit I do find it a little disappointing that we haven’t actually met a character who is entirely devoted to their profession and lacks combat skills altogether – both Liz and Egil have fighting capability and can handle themselves fine in battle. It would be nice to have some more solid evidence that there are players who get by while avoiding combat entirely, something that should be perfectly feasible. That’s not to say that I dislike having characters who can handle themselves, rather that I feel SAO heavily downplays the value of players who dedicate themselves entirely to their craft.
This was rather an interesting episode in terms of some of the light shed on Kirito’s personality and how he’s perceived by others. Given his penchant for always wearing long black coats, it’s no surprise Liz would see him as somewhat sketchy on their first meeting. In fact, he might come across as some kind of grim, edgy youth who names his character something along the lines of ‘xXxDarkSephirothRavenxXx.’ He also acts awfully sure of himself, even rejecting Liz’s aid and instructing her to hide while leaving everything up to him. We can probably attribute that to his unwillingness to allow people to die in front of him, but on the outside it appears more arrogant than anything. Even his philosophy prior to meeting Liz was somewhat dour – preferring to die alongside someone else rather than survive alone, regardless of the fact that were he to survive he could potentially save others in the future. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I like these opportunities to see a character through the eyes of another observer. Normally I would leave it there and write off everything as images seen through a different lens, but there’s one comment that I want to bring into focus – Kirito’s mention that he would rather die with someone… especially if they were a girl. I’d say my thoughts on the subject were pretty clear back in my write-up of episode four and this has certainly done nothing to change them.
I have to praise Takagaki Ayahi for her awesomely bloodcurdling screams of pure terror as Liz plunged towards her death. Just imagine her thoughts at the time, knowing she’s about to die after surviving so long in the death game… and all because of one small mistake. It was undeniably one of the more effective scenes of the episode, owing mostly to the seiyuu’s outstanding performance. There was also a fair bit of humour to be had in Kirito’s failure to scale the wall, and some impressive scenery porn and badass action during their final escape from the dragon’s lair. I’m also glad to see A-1 cut out certain details since now is not really the ideal time to bring them up – their reveal should come later, at the point it was originally done in the main story. That right there is a good adaption choice. I only wish they hadn’t used CG for the dragon, though that may be my personal dislike of CG when it clashes with the rest of the art.