Noooo after all this time, they didn’t use the line about ‘love breaking the bounds of the dexterity stat!’ I’ve literally been waiting this entire run for it so I could laugh at the absurdities Kawahara Reki frequently writes into his stories. I mean really, just imagine gaming if strong feelings could influence and surpass the stats. That would be entirely broken. Oh well, I guess it’s actually a positive since that whole concept was kind of stupid. Better to just sidestep the issue entirely. After all, there was nothing to suggest that Asuna couldn’t run the distance once she knew there was something up, only Kawahara’s decision to try and pull a ‘love conquers all‘ moment.
Setting that aside, we have our second unique skill user this episode. Heathcliff, leader of the Knights of the Blood Oath, has what is possibly the most fitting skill for his position. Perfect Defence is not exactly a unique concept in RPGs, featuring in a myriad of forms, particularly in the MMORPG genre. It makes a lot of sense for the leader of what is essentially a Knightly order to possess a skill so often associated with variations of the Knight and Paladin classes. His personality is also ideally suited for the style, as evidenced by his impressive duel with Kirito. There’s a huge contrast between the two – where Kirito is a hot-blooded youth, Heathcliff has the cool composure and calm of the older and wiser. He so easily controls Kirito’s movements, almost like a matador baiting bulls and casually turning them aside. At the last moment, that hot-blooded nature seems to get the better of Kirito – he takes a dive which bounces uselessly off Heathcliff’s shield – and he loses the duel. This would be the first time we actually see Kirito lose in combat. Truly a perfect defence.
On the subject of the duel, a duel which would have allowed Asuna to take some time away from the guild had Kirito won, some people seemed to have been concerned about why Asuna could not just have up and left anyway, without the need for this duel. The thing is, Asuna didn’t want to leave permanently, just take some time away. Even in a real MMO, without that threat of death looming and the need to clear the game as fast as possible, you don’t just walk away from the biggest and most powerful guild in the game and expect them to let you come back. It would be even worse in SAO since a lot rides on these high-level players within the larger guilds – they’re some of the very few people actually trying to clear the game. As we saw last week, The Army acts in an extremely militant fashion and it’s entirely possible that the Knights of the Blood Oath also treat themselves as their name suggests. You don’t join a Knightly Order and expect them to let you wander off at will.
To be frank, it was fairly obvious what was coming from the moment Godfrey (Ebara Masashi) thought it would be good training to take away everyone’s only emergency lifeline. Kuradeel had already managed to establish himself as that creepy guy who would be out for revenge, and what better time to do it? The revelation that he was once a member of Laughing Coffin (whose emblem is hilarious) doesn’t really serve much purpose since he was already blatantly insane and there was no discussion of his motives for joining the Knights of the Blood Oath despite having once been a notorious player killer. His plan was rather flawed though. I actually have to wonder about some of the plans characters in Kawahara Reki’s works come up with – are they intended to be as stupid as they actually are, or is it an oversight on the author’s part? We clearly saw Kuradeel’s marker turn orange upon attacking Godfrey. Even had he claimed that he’d merely killed the supposed attackers, had they already killed Godfrey and thus their markers turned orange, from what I remember this would mean that Kuradeel’s marker would not change after killing them. Therefore, he was already screwed from the moment he committed the first murder. I would leave this alone as nothing more than a character written to be both psychotic and unintelligent, but this is not the first time such a plan has appeared in Kawahara’s works. Nor would it be the first time such a plan was treated as a serious possibility.
I have a footnote here in the short sentences I wrote while watching the episode. It says ‘Try to avoid using “glop” and “two years” in the post.’ Whoops, looks like I just failed that one. Anyone want to make bets on how many comments containing either of the two are going to materialise on this post? I’ll be legitimately surprised if the first comment, likely sniped by an opportunist waiting for the appearance of the post, does not feature some variation of them.