Sword Art Online – Epiosde 3 Review: It’s Christmas in August
There is a lesson to be learned in this episode… Well a a few lessons really. First and foremost: avoid being arrogant, it causes nothing but problems. Second, go with your gut instinct. If something seems bad, then it probably is. The other lesson? We’ll get there in a few minutes. Episode 3 jumps ahead by several months to the eleventh floor of Aincrad. Kirito is at an inn celebrating with the Moonlit Black Cats guild that he saved from certain off-screen death.
Fascinated by Kirito’s strength, the Guild Master of Black Cats asks him what his level is. Kirito tells him it is in the twenties, when it is actually 40. Keita, the Guild Master, invites Kirito to join their guild after explaining how everyone in the guild are all part of the same computer club at their school. In a surprising move for a primarily solo player up to this point, Kirito agrees to join them.
So over the next couple of weeks, Kirito and the Black Cats fight indigenous monsters like the giant praying mantis to earn experience to level, earn the SAO in-game money known as Col, and progress further into the game. Shortly afterwards, everyone takes a break to eat lunch and discuss the progress of the cutting edge groups that have managed to clear the 28th floor. During this scene we learn that Keita has ambitious plans for his guild and hopes to someday be on the front lines with all the other elite players of SAO. Keita declares the importance of protecting friends and all the other players in the game. Kirito ponders how the attitude of the top players would change if they had more people like Keita on the front lines.
Later that evening while Kirito is out doing some solo monster slaughter, he runs into Klein, but the two don’t talk for very long before Kirito leaves. Kirito receives a message from Keita saying that one of their guild members, Sachi, is gone and no one can find her. Kirito then activates an awesome looking, yet overpowered tracking ability that is basically begging to be used for deviant activities. Using his tracking skill, Kirito finds Sachi’s footsteps and follows her down to the sewer.
So far in this series, players must have been taking being stuck in the hellish deathtrap that is SAO surprisingly well. Sachi is one of the first characters to contradict this. She tells Kirito that she is terrified of dying, and she doesn’t understand why they all have to be trapped in a game where they can die. Kirito tries to comfort her and reassure her that she won’t die, and it seems to work and cheer Sachi up a bit. During this scene, Kirito displays an overly strong sense of confidence that he can protect all the lower level players in the guild.
In the next scene, Keita leaves to buy a house in-game for his guild. While they wait for him, the rest of the guild decides they should go to a dungeon and raise more money. Kirito tries to persuade them to stick to their usual hunting grounds but everyone else thinks it would be faster to take the riskier option. So, putting common sense aside, the group heads to the dungeon.
As they progress through the dungeon, they find a secret door that leads into a small room with a chest in the middle. Kirito’s Ackbar Sense starts tingling and he tries to warn his fellow guild mates to not go into the room and open the chest. One of the other players open the chest anyway, the door locks behind the group, and a large horde of monsters come pouring out. The group gets quickly overwhelmed and despite Kirito wholesale slaughter of the monsters, everyone gets killed except for him. Even Sachi dies, despite Kirito assuring her that she wouldn’t die.
The scene then jumps ahead to Christmas Eve that year on the forty-ninth floor of Aincrad. Kirito is speaking to an information broker, trying to learn more about a Christmas event that is about to take place. According to the broker, a boss will appear later that night known as Nicholas the Renegade. It is rumored that he will drop an item that can actually bring back players that have died. Kirito seeks to obtain this item so that he can gain redemption for letting his arrogance get the best of him and believe that he could protect a bunch of lower level players in a dungeon that was a little too high level for them. Kirito hopes to revive Sachi so that he can hear her last words.
During a flashback it is revealed that Kieta committed suicide after discovering that everyone in his guild was dead. Kirito acknowledges that attempting to solo the holiday boss may end with his death, but he seems at peace with the possibility of that. As Kirito approaches the fir tree where the boss will spawn, Klein and his friends show up. Kelin begs Kirito to stop playing SAO like it’s a single player game and join them in killing the boss. Suddenly a group from one of the top guilds in the game shows up, looking to get the item and not feeling too particular on how they get it.
While Klein and his friends hold off the other guild, Kirito runs in to fight the boss. Shortly afterwards we finally see what this holiday themed boss looks like, and it turns out to be… a demented walleyed Santa Claus that would probably haunt a child’s nightmares for years to come. The scene ends abruptly as Kirito charges toward the festive monstrosity. We cut back to Klein and his friends, who have managed to fight off the other guild.
As Klein congratulates Kirito, Kirito throws the item to Klein so that he can examine it. It is then discovered that the item will only work if administered to the dead player within ten seconds. Sachi has been dead for a little over half a year by that point. Kirito tells Klein to use it on the next player that dies. Kirito then leaves as Klein cries out for Kirito to survive to the end.
While lamenting about the item, Kirito receives a gift message from Sachi. In her audio message, Sachi assumes that she will be dead by the time that Kirito hears the message. She talks about how she knew there was a good chance that she would die and that Kirito would blame himself for it. She reveals that she accidentally saw Kirito’s true level, and that even though she didn’t know why he was hiding it she was glad that he was there with them. Sachi tells Kirito that he has to keep moving forward to learn the truth behind SAO and discover why they met in the first place. She then hums the tune of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the message ends.
This is without a doubt one of the more depressing episodes of the show so far. This was a tight knit group of friends, and with one mistake they are nothing more than a memory. While Kirito can’t be blamed entirely for what happened, he did do a few things wrong. Believing that he could protect everyone was arrogant, and that led to this mess of a situation. Of course it is possible that even if Kirito hadn’t joined their guild, the Black Cats might have eventually done something similar and gotten themselves killed anyway. However that is merely speculation on my part.
The second thing that Kirito did wrong was hide his level. It may seem like an insignificant nitpick, but honestly when it comes to a life or death situation like SAO it does no one any good to hide information like that. He may have been wanting to hide his status as a ‘beater’, but there is no reason to hide your level. Also, it seems odd that players can’t check one anothers’ levels simply by looking at them like you can in most MMORPGs in real life. Final lesson of this episode? Don’t conceal information unless it is absolutely necessary, and it wasn’t necessary in this case.
So overall, I’d say this was a great episode, although I wish they hadn’t skipped through nearly 25+ floors worth of possible episodes. It feels like they might be rushing a bit, but I could be mistaken. Only way to find out is to keep on watching.