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In a surprising turn of events, this episode of Sword Art Online launches into the confrontation between Kirito and game creator Kayaba Akihiko.
Since my previous post on episode 13, I had been expecting the next episode to ease into the concluding arc of Sword Art Online perhaps my experiences with Accel World, by the same original author, had convinced me that the series would take much longer to conclude. However, an episode title like End of the World seems to an unambiguous taste of the direction of this episode. We resume the episode with the rather epic fight with the almighty Skullterpede.
After a load of glowing explosions, we discover the loss of fourteen warriors. This is incredibly bad news on level 75 if this is the prelude boss, there is no way that anybody could take on the end boss on floor 100. Confusingly enough, this is precisely what Kirito attempts. Okay, he might not have been wholly aware of what he was attempting to do, but striking head knight Heathcliff while his guard is down was not something that would have resulted in an amazing conclusion. However, we do get a nice summation speech, where Kirito draws upon all his observations to unmask Heathcliff as game creator Kayaba Akihiko.
Suddenly, we are launched into the final duel. It is not as flashy as their first, and I feel that Kirito performed better in that duel as opposed to this despite the fact that Heathcliff has all those cheat mechanics turned off. There are, however, the kind of dramatic turns that a viewer should expect from a series with Sword Art Online s track record. I shall not take them apart because these events should be watched and not described.
Instead, I would like to make note of the ways that Sword Art Online runs parallel to its sister series Accel World. The protagonists in both series have been seeking the mysterious creators of their games; they are inspired by their love interests to become stronger, to the point that they can protect everyone they care about; and, as revealed in this episode, the strength of their digital selves comes not from strength but speed. Comparing both series, I am glad that the viewer is treated to a view of Akihiko, but I had wished that the fight between them had been drawn out longer. Also, after such a huge drive to find out Akihiko s motivations behind the events of SAO, I am probably not the only viewer who was disappointed when he reveals that he doesn t know. I feel that it was supposed to suggest mislaid optimism or thwarted desire Akihiko informs us that he dreamed of a floating castle, and wanted to make it real but on its own, his justification of his actions ring hollow. I am unaware if the protagonists of Accel World have met their respective creator yet, but I hope that his justification is given slightly more depth.
Episode 14 is still a climactic episode, however. Tensions run high, as the world of Aincrad are brought down Laputa-like to the ground. There are some images that will remain burned into my mind for a while particularly those of Kirito and Asuna. My only issue is that, following all the trauma of his two years in Sword Art Online, Kirito is going to lack the motivation to return to any kind of digital plane for a long time. This is particularly jarring when you realise that the next episode title is Return . I hope that next time, the justification of Kirito s return to MMOs is well thought out. It may not be a crime to high art, but I would hope that the next episodes will continue with the immediacy and drama that made the first half of the series entertaining to watch.