I’m confused. Did I just witness some character development in Sword Art Online II? Who let that happen? I guess Kawahara Reki must have remembered that Asuna exists and might stand to have a little bit of time dedicated to her character that wasn’t entirely demeaning and misogynist. The material isn’t too much, to be sure: the storyline is telegraphing some arranged marriage proposal that Asuna, like an idiot, naturally won’t tell anyone about until the most inconvenient time, creating some emotional drama and no doubt requiring some shenanigans in ALO-land to rectify because the evil, lecherous man with rapey-eyes will just happen to play ALO hardcore. Or something like that. They could just play a children’s card game and save some time, you know. What’s nice is that Asuna stopped being the neglected trophy wife for an episode and was depicted as something resembling an actual human being, even though she’s still not fucking Kirito every second they’re alone together like a repressed rich girl would. Here we saw a little bit of refreshing criticism, as paltry as it was, toward Japanese culture and its treatment of women. Asuna had the gall to say that dressing up in kimonos and play the part of a rich girl sucked, even though none of her friends took her seriously despite all the obvious red flags she was waving. You guys are terrible friends, by the way. Can’t you take a hint? Sinon didn’t even see Shinkawa coming, and that shit was color-coded with neon lights and blaring trumpets.
Kirito, of course, is over there not noticing any of this because he’s a moron. I don’t hold this against him, though, since it serves to make him less of a Mary Sue. The guy is really only good for defying computer code in contrived life-or-death situations. When it comes to the normal grind of everyday life, he’s just another Joe Schmoe. Moreover, he’s always sucked ass at reading people or paying attention to the emotional needs of the friends/creepy admirers he’s surrounded himself with. It’s not like we had an entire half of a season to watch this character flaw unfold in slow motion. Oh wait, we did.
So Asuna is going to fight this Zekken guy and probably win, leading to her getting a badass Original Sword Skill. That would be nice. It would be nicer if Kirito had nothing to do with her success in this particular venture and this arc focused on her doing things her own way. Am I holding my breath? You know the answer, but still, this was the first SAO2 episode in a while that didn’t rub me the wrong way. There is some balm in Gilead after all.