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Kayaba Akihiko has been defeated, and all the living players have been freed from Sword Art Online. Now, two months later, Kirito is trying to adapt to life in the real world.

Okay, this episode appears to be heading in a new direction for the series. If you watch the new opening sequence, it s clear the studio want to bring Kirito s sister/cousin Suguha to the foreground. She gets as much screen time as our male protagonist, and sneaks into shot as the opening sequence closes. This next arc is as much about her as it is about Kirito or at least, that s what the intro suggests to us.

Also, fairies. I refuse to make any comments about that until I get some kind of explanation in-series.

Kirito s rehabilitation back into the real world is going fairly smoothly. The lengths he has to go to recover his physical strength is played fairly realistically two months of rehab, and his body is still a little shaky. His experience in Sword Art Online has made an impression on him, though, and he almost beats his kendo semi-finalist sister in a duel. His muscle memory seems to have been linked to his online experience as well when the duel finishes, he absent-mindedly tries to sheathe his sword the same way he has in the MMO.

Asuna has not been so lucky, unfortunately, and has been in a coma since the big Log Out. Kirito has been visiting her since he got out, it seems, and hoped to continue their digital relationship when she woke up in the real world. Any hope of that is quashed when he meets Sugou, Asuna s real world fianc . After seeing Heathcliff s antagonistic yet mild demeanour in the last episode, it is kind of jarring to meet this arc s villain and be hit with paint-by-numbers evil traits Sugou wants to marry Asuna for her money, cares little for anyone else s lives, and gropes her while she is unable to stop him. This devil in plain sight is a little two dimensional, but it brings to the forefront one of Kirito s real world drama. As strong as he was in Sword Art Online, and as smart as he is, he can t do anything in the real world to help Asuna. It is only when old friend Egil finds a picture of Asuna s avatar that Kirito can hope to save her.

I said last time that it would take a huge motivation to get Kirito back into the digital world, and I am happy see there is a decent amount of justification, instead of a vague stuff is happening, go investigate plotline. It seems that this new storyline is heading in a good direction from the start. I am also pleased to meet Sugu and get to know her as a character. She works well as Kirito s foil in this episode, giving him the plotwards push that he needed. She also provides the outsider s perspective on the events of the last fourteen episodes, seeing her bro-cousin in his comatose state over the two years. Although we aren t given a huge amount of time in her shoes, I think that she s going to be a strong new character to begin this new arc. Hopefully in the next episode we ll learn a bit more about Sugu, as Kirito investigates just what is happening with Asuna.