And with that, this story is tied up. If you got used to the adrenaline-pumping action of the past couple episodes, then prepare yourself to come down from that this time around. True, the duel between a certain set of male characters finishes up at the beginning of this episode, but beyond that it’s much more epilogue-ish. That’s not to say it’s a bad episode, it’s just to say that most of the episode is spent wrapping up plot points. Of particular interest is Sinon’s growth as a character; we see her finally stand up for herself, and she also receives closure on her traumatic, childhood event. There is also closure given to the whole Death Gun situation, including its origin and the motivation of those involved.
The biggest criticism I can level at this episode is its use of convenience. A certain character is attacked with the syringe, only for it to be discovered that the syringe landed in just the right spot to encounter a barrier instead of flesh. This is an oft-used ploy, but, at least in some instances, it’s set up. For example, we see a character put a Bible in his shirt pocket, then later he gets stabbed in the chest, only for the Bible to prevent the knife from touching him. This, at least, gives us a good set up. What we get in SAO is just random. Sure, it allows for some suspense, because we are unaware of the existing barrier, but ultimately it’s just kind of unnecessary. I’d rather have seen the syringe scene not even happen when considering this point of criticism. Ah well. On the other hand, it is kind of nice to see Kirito in a situation where he’s not dominating the fight. While he may have gotten the element of surprise, the fact remains that this fight is an actual struggle, and not just Kirito being an over-powered tank.
On a more positive note, Sinon fans should be elated to see her finally overcome her phobia, no matter how shaky it may be. In reality, this portrayal is more realistic. I don’t know that anyone would just suddenly overcome a phobia, so it’s praiseworthy to see Sinon struggle at first and then to be clearly shaken after the fact. The road to recovery is long, but she takes the first steps. In addition, her seeming addition to Kirito’s group of friends should also please her fans. While I don’t know how much of a role she will play in subsequent material, it’s still fun to see her introduced to Asuna and Liz. If that’s not enough, Sinon also finally gets some closure on the robbery incident from her past. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, but I felt myself begin to tear up at one point. In this writer’s opinion, the scene in question was very well done.
So there you have it: the Phantom Bullet arc is nicely wrapped up. I’m assuming, anyway, that we don’t have anything left to cover here. Having not read the novels (because I can’t read Japanese and don’t use scanlations), I can’t say until I see the next episode. It seems we aren’t done with Death Gun, though, as he leaves Kirito with an ominous warning.
A Christian Perspective:
There may be more appropriate verses for the lesson I’m about to give, but this is the one that came to mind.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. – Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
This verse seems particularly relevant to the events at the end of the episode. Without spoiling the goings-on, Kirito (along with Liz and Asuna) does something that is, for all intents and purposes, stepping over a line. When Sinon finds out, she gets angry and stands up as if to leave. Kirito refuses to let her, though, and informs her that he wants her to get better (my paraphrase). In order to bring Sinon closure on her rough past, Kirito goes out of his way to find something his new-found friend needs. He could have left it alone. After all, he saved her life from Death Gun and put himself in harms way. Most people probably wouldn’t have concerned themselves with the emotional problems of the person once they saved that person’s life, but a friend loves at all times. If we truly love someone then we should do all we can to help that person. It may not always be fun. Our help may even be hurtful at times (imagine confronting somebody on a rampant sin in their life; you’re probably going to step on some toes and hurt some feelings), but if we truly love the person then we should have their best interests at heart and act out of regard for those interests, not out of regard to what is going to make that person like us more. Kirito and company weren’t afraid to step on some toes, and, as a result, they brought some much-needed closure to a bad situation.
Language: 1 “h*ll”, 2 “j**z”, 1 “cr*p”
Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Kirito’s shirt is pulled up to reveal his stomach and chest
Violence: Two male characters fight with each other–tackling, punches thrown, choking, etc.; a male character is injected with something; a character is hit over the head with a stereo; a character disarms another
Blood/Gore: A character has blood coming from his nose; bloody flashbacks to Sinon’s robber incident