Before we begin the episode’s rant proper, it dawned on me that I should explain something left out of the anime’s first and second episodes. If you’ve been paying attention thus far, you’ll know that since being trapped in SAO (something which is still ridiculous to comprehend but bear with me), it’s been quite some time. Anything over a few days is a lot, but here’s an important question: what are these people doing for nourishment? Their bodies in the real world cannot ingest food as their brains are plugged into the game.
The anime forgets this factoid, choosing instead to force the food nonsense on us IN the game. However, the novels shed a bit of light on this. And by that I mean open another glaring plot hole. After the start of SAO, it seems Kayaba (who as of yet in both anime and novel hasn’t been mentioned to be in custody or even any real update to be honest) arranged for the people in the game to be transported to hospitals. He did this by temporarily “powering down” the game to allow for safe transport of the people from their homes to hospitals across the country. I’m getting upset and we haven’t even begun the ranting for Episode 3.
There is no reason for these people to be trapped in the game. I made it abundantly clear how easy it would be for anyone to remove the helmet from persons playing SAO without much of a chance for those “deadly microwaves” to inflict any kind of harm. But even if you ignored that, we now have a clear chance to remove those helmets now that the persons trapped in SAO have been put on a minor suspension of brain activity to allow for safe transport. After all, they can’t hope to move these people while they’re connected to the game. So even if we were to disregard my point from two episodes ago (removing the helmet while plugged in would cause no issues), we now have a perfect opportunity to free everyone! Their minds aren’t directly plugged into SAO. A quick yank of the helmet and they’re free!
But no, somehow the Japanese government allows this mass allocation of soon-to-be vegetables from their homes to hospitals. Driving up country taxes and draining the country’s fund as they’re tended to day in, day out for an obscene amount of time. Just keep that in mind, okay? They had a chance to escape, and they didn’t take it. You would almost think the people outside SAO hated the gaming populace. Maybe that’s why Kayaba was allowed to get away with this nonsense in the first place?
Now, Episode 3 proper.
We open on the 11th Floor of Aincrad, dated April 8, 2023. This is roughly four months after the events of Episode 2, and we find ourselves amongst the Moonlit Black Cats, a guild that has foolishly decided to accept Kirito into their group.
I find this very hard to believe but I suppose it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Kirito was off being a prick somewhere and just so happened to kill monsters that would otherwise have ended this guild. While the anime leaves out HOW Kirito saved them, in the novel it’s stated that he was off doing his own thing (told you) and happened across them as they were getting whipped by a horde of monsters. That conscience he doesn’t have? It got to him, so he saved their necks.
In any case, the Moonlit Black Cats are apparently treating him to drink and food as thanks. Never mind we established how pointless consuming food and drink are. Kirito being the asshole he is should extort them for every col (currency) they got. But on top of being a sociopath, Kirito is also dickless so he just embarrassingly accepts their hospitality. Never mind he looks like he doesn’t even want to be there in the first place.
Sometimes I feel like the author has never actually played an MMO before in his life. I mean no disrespect to Reki Kawahara (honest, I think he’s a good writer all things considered), but some of the contrivances infused into SAO make it seem as such. Maybe MMORPGs in Japan are radically different, but the few I’ve seen from Japan proper don’t do things the way they’re portrayed in SAO. What Keita (leader of the guild Moonlit Black Cats) is referring to here in this caption is Kirito’s level. According to SAO, levels are kept hidden from other players. For no adequately explained reason other than to allow such contrivances in the plot. In fact, preventing others from seeing your level allows for some of the bullshit that plagues this series from start to finish.
Add to that this mentality that it is somehow rude to ask what a player’s level is. Why is it rude? About the only thing I can come up with is answering such a question would only leave you open to being targeted by people who wish to bully you for items or money, and by extension potentially killing you off. But as of yet such an issue hasn’t been brought up, so the anime lacks any real reason to explain this taboo on sharing player details such as levels. Or any reason for Kirito to lie and claim his level is about 20 when it is in fact much, much higher.
Not to mention the anime is grossly inconsistent when it comes to these little details. In the previous episode, exact information such as how many HP Kirito has, or his level aren’t shown. But now are when he looks at his own health bar. This also begs the question why party members aren’t allowed to see each others’ levels and exact HP numbers. It’s a detriment to working together, after all. But again, CONTRIVANCES! It allows the plot to go the way the author wants it to.
Naturally Keita is impressed Kirito is able to handle himself as well as he does. I mean, clearly it’s a testament to Kirito’s skill and not video game numbers that despite being the same level as them, he’s able to handle mobs that they as a guild of five cannot. I’m trying to paint Kirito the villain here but anyone else he encounters is so fucking stupid it’s no wonder Kirito gets away with everything he does. All the same, Keita offers Kirito a chance to join the guild.
We’re introduced to Sachi, the Moonlit Black Cats’ sole female member and apparently their pet as well. Every time Keita pats her on the head like that she visibly recoils from pain. The guy’s an asshole; she’s a person, your friend and classmate (as we’ll later learn), and yet Keita treats her like a dog. What’s more, Keita speaks as though she has no will of her own, claiming that he wants to put her on the front line as a vanguard despite her protests. Guy is clearly leader material, doing what he wills with his friends’ lives and roles in the game.
Despite this protest in front of strangers, none of her guildmates care or even respect her enough to take her seriously. I imagine Sachi only sticks around because she’d have no one else in SAO if she left. Actually, their brazen attitudes towards her are probably why Kirito was okay with joining in the first place. They’re all pricks of about equal caliber.
Never mind that Kirito joining a guild is crazily out of character. But there’s a reason to this madness. Can’t have people killed if you don’t participate, right? Oops… that might have been a spoiler.
We cut to May 9th, one month after Kirito joins the guild and on the 20th Floor. This means that in a single month amongst the guild, Kirito has pushed them from barely surviving Floor 11 to hunting game 9 floors ahead. I guess it works when you have someone of the same level who’s just inexplicably so much better than everyone else in your guild, huh? How have these people not realized Kirito is miles ahead of them in terms of level? They must really be the worst gamers in general. It shows when a month of training Sachi on the front line, she’s still finding it difficult to stand her ground. Why then do they insist she remain the vanguard?
THE GAME LITERALLY ANNOUNCES WHEN SOMEONE LEVELS UP. THEY ANNOUNCE IT AND SHOW IT TO EVERYONE, AS SEEN HERE:
How then has no one found out Kirito is double their level? How has no one questioned that in all the hunting Kirito has done with the guild, he’s never once leveled up in their presence? There’s coincidences and then there’s jumping the fucking shark to keep your plot on the rails. And the Moonlit Black Cats are the sort to pester Kirito constantly about his lack of leveling up, too. So there’s NO EXCUSE as to why he hasn’t been found out yet.
This one is solely for my benefit, the newspaper that shares status updates on clearing the game is named after Argo the Rat, sadly absent from the anime.
Keita is amazed by the fact the front runners have cleared Floor 28, and asks Kirito what the difference between them and their own guild is. Kirito claims it’s that they hog the best means to grind EXP, which is honestly bullshit but Keita buys it anyway. The simple fact is if Kirito was honest with Keita and the rest of the guild, they’d allow him to lead and turn the guild into a force to be reckoned with. Kirito is among those assholes who hog the best EXP grinding spots, and could help the guild become uber strong. But Kirito is such an asshole that he prefers to see the guild sweat to barely keep up with everyone. That and he has to maintain his fake “I’m Lv20 or so” nonsense.
Oh you poor, poor bastard. You’re too noble for this anime. Nobility gets you on Kirito’s hit list, you know.
While Kirito does have a point that the presence of Keita on the frontlines would have a positive impact on the front runners, it will never come to pass. That’s not me spoiling what’s to come, that’s simple truth because of what Kirito is doing. Not two seconds later we see his level, which is now 48 while they’re still trying to get past mid-20s. This scene also shows how close the guild is as real world friends, and emphasizes just how much of an outsider Kirito is. Perhaps that contributed to his dishonesty amongst them?
We cut to the guild back at the inn, where Keita announces that they’ve saved up 200,000 col from all their hunting. He plans to buy guild lodgings with it, but honestly that’s a stupid fucking idea. Even when this game has become pseudo reality for them, wasting money on vanities like lodging proves how idiotic they all are. Someone then pipes up and says the money should go to better equipment for Sachi, since she’s clearly the weakest of the bunch. THIS IS A SMART IDEA. Which is immediately shot down by Sachi herself. The girl’s a fucking moron and honestly should just be left out of the guild entirely. Still Keita insists on Sachi being the front line, and Kirito doesn’t object so that he can continue to watch this guild spiral towards its inevitable doom.
We move on to Floor 28 on May 16, where Kirito goes off hunting in the middle of the night. This explains why his level is as high as it is, even when he spends every waking moment with the guild. From afar he watches Klein’s guild take on some monsters, working together rather well. Klein notices Kirito, and immediately notices that Kirito has joined a guild. Because while you can’t see a person’s level, you can tell that they’re part of a guild. I just… I don’t even know.
Either way, Kirito leaves without so much as a “how do you do”, making me wonder why Klein even cares to consider Kirito a friend at all. Klein’s not the straightest arrow in the quiver, but he can certainly do better than hanging around the asshole that is Kirito.
Kirito returns to the floor where his guild is stationed and hears from Keita that Sachi has gone missing. Kirito uses a skill that allows him to track the girl through town, a skill which honestly has creepy enough implications of its own. All the same, he eventually finds her hiding out under a bridge like some troll. Kirito’s really only there to bring her back, when Sachi goes and says this:
Kirito the dense idiot asks what she’s going on about, to which Sachi implies and then confirms she means a double suicide. Clearly Sachi is having a mental breakdown, and if Kirito were any kind of a decent human being would tell everyone so they help her out. Then again, she’s probably having this breakdown because of her asshole friends, all of which seem to want to use her as a meat shield on the battlefield. Honestly I don’t blame the girl for seeing suicide as the only way out. And sadly she’s sharing these feelings with the worst member of the Black Cats.
She’s asking the hard questions. And it sucks that because the plot has holes you can drive a truck through she’s doomed to this fate. Even if she could make it out alive, she’d probably need intense counseling for months, years to follow.
Saddest part is he’s right. Mark my words.
Sachi confesses that she’s afraid of dying, and honestly who wouldn’t be?
What kills me is Kirito is so STUNNED by this revelation he has no words at first. This is proof that he has no conscience, no grasp of what is real and what isn’t anymore. Whether he was like this before SAO or now as a result of it, he’s become completely disconnected with the concept of mortality. To him, Sachi being scared of death is so mind-blowing he has her clarify what she means for fuck’s sake. The girl is losing sleep over this constant fear. And all Kirito can do is lie to her about it all.
He lied about her not going to die.
He lied about the guild being strong enough to survive.
He lied about being there for the guild.
He fucking lies about forcing her onto the front line, when they’ve been spending more than a month doing that very thing! HE’S LYING ABOUT SHIT THEY’RE DOING AT THAT VERY MOMENT AND STILL SHE BELIEVES HIM!
AND SACHI BELIEVES HIM! This poor girl is so broken already she’ll cling to any kind of hope, no matter how weak or false. And to top it off Kirito again lies about her seeing the real world again some day.
AND HE DOES IT WITH A SMILE.
So taken in by his sweet lies that Sachi begins to bunk with Kirito THAT VERY NIGHT. This isn’t just wrong, it’s fucking corrupt. Whether intentionally or not, Kirito has taken advantage of a mentally unstable girl who would fear her own shadow if Kirito so much as pointed it out to her! And still he continues to lie to her about surviving.
The biggest lie he’s ever told anyone, including himself. I want to believe SOME part of this sociopath actually thought he could come through on that promise. But in the end… well, you’ll see.
We cut to another day, where Keita leaves the group for the day to buy the guild lodging. In the end they went with vanity, but I suppose they’ll never make use of it anyway. Even if I didn’t know what was going to happen, it’s painfully obvious they’re all doomed anyway. It only gets more blatant when the guild decides to hunt in the dungeon that day, claiming it would be easier and faster earnings than taking on monsters in the fields. Kirito knows this is a bad idea, but keeps his mouth shut. THAT’S STRIKE ONE.
We cut to the dungeon on Floor 27, it is June 12. Mind you not two weeks ago they were having trouble with monsters on Floor 20. This is going to end bad and you know it. Despite claiming the hunt went well, they group stumbles across a hidden room in the dungeon, and spy a lone treasure chest inside it. Kirito immediately gets a bad feeling about it, but again doesn’t say anything to them. THAT’S STRIKE TWO!
The three guild mates rush in for the chest, leaving Kirito and Sachi at the door. One of them starts to pry it open, which triggers an alarm and causes the room to seal up and flood with monsters. Mind you by now both Kirito and Sachi have wandered into the room, a HUGE FUCKING MISTAKE. Kirito knew this would end badly. He knew it before they set foot in the room, and not only did he let them waltz in, he allowed Sachi to do the same. STRIKE THREE! YOU’RE OUT!
NO SHIT SHERLOCK.
I wish I could say Kirito is the one who’s out, but he’s not. He had three chances minimum to prevent this catastrophe, and did nothing. He could have advised against the dungeon, and didn’t. He could have told them to avoid the chest because it was rigged, but didn’t. And he could have instructed Sachi to STAY PUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM, but didn’t. He lead them all into this trap, and because the Word of God is unjust, they are all doomed to die.
Well, except Kirito.
The first to go is the idiot who set off the trap. He gets pickax’d to death by these monsters here. Kirito could have saved him by telling them about the trap thanks to his high level and prior experience. He didn’t.
Another member dies as Kirito tries to kill more enemies than he can possibly manage alone. Had Kirito mentioned his time in the dungeon, they never would have set foot in there.
A third member is killed because they got cocky thanks to Kirito’s involvement. They thought he’d protect them. He didn’t.
I want to claim there’s a hint of concern in Kirito’s voice in this scene. I want to believe he cares enough about Sachi that her death means something to him. But he put her in this situation. She’s there, fighting to survive because he didn’t speak up.
And so she dies, too.
We get a cold cut to December 24, 2023. It’s been six months since that event. There’s a holiday event going on, as you can tell. People look to be in festive spirits. Guess a year into this game you kinda forget what it was like to be free.
AND HEY LOOK ARGO DOES SHOW UP! Guess I was wrong. Anyway, she informs Kirito about a rumor going around involving a one time boss event. Kirito seems hard for this quest, but given the lack of information most people are going crazy searching for the right spot for this boss. Attached to the rumor is the boss drops an item that can revive a character.
Okay, stop. Stop right there. An item that revives someone? Do you realize how fucking stupid that sounds? You’ve been trapped in this game for a year now. You’ve seen people die. Assuming you believe this is true, that they are dead, what fucking hope does a revival item do you six months after the fact? Clearly he wants to use it for Sachi, but she’s been dead SIX MONTHS. Assuming she really did die in the real world (she did), she’s long since buried. Assuming she didn’t die, using such an item isn’t going to bring her back; such a thing would only wreck whatever fear people have of death in Kayaba’s scenario. Sitting down and thinking this through logically would show that. But logic and reason went out the window, it seems. Kirito is dead set on getting this magical item.
We cut to a scene from back in June, when Kirito told Keita about the fate of the rest of the guild. Not only did Keita get to hear that all four of his best friends were dead, he learned they were killed because Kirito refused to share critical information that would have saved their lives. Because Kirito’s privacy when it came to his level and experiences was more valuable to him than the lives of the guild. Than the life of Sachi, whom he had developed feelings for after blatantly lying to keep her from killing herself in the first place.
So poor Keita throws himself from the castle to his death. Kirito’s desire to tell the truth cost Keita his life. The one time a lie would have been beneficial.
I don’t know if it’s a boon or not that he comes to realize and accept that it was HIS fault they all died. Actually, it isn’t. Kirito doesn’t learn anything. He’s working to revive just one of them in some selfish attempt to cleanse his guilt. He doesn’t get why he got them killed in the first place. He gets how, but not why. I don’t think Kirito’s capable of such a thing.
On the way to the place where the boss spawns, Kirito runs into Klein. Sad to say Klein has the right idea here, but Kirito refuses to listen to reason tonight. His mind’s made up, and since Klein can’t convince him otherwise, he offers to guard Kirito’s rear from another guild looking to snatch the kill from him. It sucks that Kirito treats Klein like shit, and still the man just wants to help him out best he can. Kirito deserves NOTHING he gets in SAO.
The boss ends up being a demon zombie Santa Claus. Cool, but sadly we don’t get a fight scene. Kirito wins, of course.
In the end, the rumor proved true. Kirito has his revival item, but it comes with a hilarious catch: it can only be used on someone who had died within the past TEN SECONDS. I mean, we all knew this would be the case, but the fact that Kirito looks absolutely DEAD inside is honestly worth it. He gives it away to Klein, which is a good thing. He’ll make better use of it than Kirito would.
We cut to Kirito in his inn room, when he receives a delayed message from Sachi. I could bag on how a delayed voice message like that is bullshit, but I’ll let it slide for a reason I’ll list later. In it, Sachi informs Kirito that she sent this message in case she died before the date of December 24, and she did it with the intention of saying good-bye unless she was still alive. How disgustingly noble and defeatist of her. She tells him that she knew about his real level, but never said anything to anyone. She kept it to herself and relished in the fact that he’d protect her for it. It’s almost disgusting to see how much faith she put in Kirito because of this.
She insists he keep on living, even if she’s gone. And then sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to him to finish the message.
Now, I would bag on this whole scene. I would, but I want to give credit where credit’s due. The scene as written in the novel is amazing. Damn heartwarming. So while I can say it’s an easy way to assuage Kirito’s guilt over this event, the fact remains Kirito caused her death and the death of every other member of the guild. But at least Sachi’s farewell remains the highlight of the entire anime and series to date.
Kirito Death Count: 6 (Four guild mates dead, and he caused the fifth to commit suicide. All to keep his level a secret. Worth it…?)