Contrary to what you might think about him literally spending every moment of 2+ years in an MMO and returning to the real world an atrophied mess with the girlfriend that he made in-game being held hostage in another game by a one-dimensional villain with his eyes on the family fortune prize, Kirito doesn’t have a lot going for him. This has understandably left him with residual guilt, him being unable to help those close to him despite actually being perfectly capable of doing so. With the pain of being unable to help the girl that he loves threatening to smother him like a bleak snowstorm, he’s turned to another MMO in the vain hope of finding his long lost love—the only evidence of her existence in the game being the threats of a dumb asshole, and a convenient, super grainy photo.
The many mournful hours that he’s spent marathoning The Crow while listening to The Cure have blended together in a grey-ish black blur, so much so that his apparent infatuation with both has manifested in his Alfheim Online character taking on the elf-eared appearance of Brandon Lee in Crow makeup and an equally made-up Robert Smith. It would almost be tragic if it weren’t so gut-burstingly, fairy-stabbingly (unintentionally) hilarious.
Not including Yui’s return to life in the same fashion as a brine shrimp, which accounts for approximately the seventy-billionth miracle in the show to date, the number of clichés crammed into the episode serve as a stark reminder that the worst part of Sword Art Online is the bog-standard writing, which eschews several chances to make Kirito into more than an unlikable, whiny bitch with a fondness for black clothing in favor of giving him virtually no development in the journey from the soul-sucking world of an MMO to… the soul-sucking world of another MMO with fairies and distressed damsels in cages. That’s hardly a compliment for a fucking novel adaptation.
Specifically, the transfer of Kirito’s skills from Sword Art Online to Alfheim Online almost entirely intact (no dual wielding; I mean he’s not perfect, after all), wasted the potential for Fairy Robert Smith to show any kind of vulnerability, something that he sorely lacked in Sword Art Online, when he did nothing but angst at shit betwixt stabbing it. Yes, it’s explained relatively well to a point and isn’t necessarily specific to Kirito for once, but the fact that it’s even in the story is more of a copout ass-pull than a smart detail. It completely ruins any sense of struggle that Kirito has when the only Alfheim Online concept that he has problems with is the flying, and even that isn’t used for anything more than comic effect, in a vain effort to make him less of a prick.
I know I’ve thrown around “author insert” quite a bit when writing these posts, especially since the episodes somehow manage to outdo each other, but the difference between penning a story that you think others will enjoy and dribbling one from the least functional part of your brain is obvious, and it’s abundantly clear that Sword Art Online is aiming to be the latter when it keeps pulling bullshit like this and the fight scene at the end of the episode. It’s a missed opportunity to insert some semblance of development, rather than have a douche in a black coat and grey face paint shamble from Point A to Point B with no change in between. Static characters are fine in (intentionally) comedic shows, but the comic effect doesn’t go away when we’re actually expected to CARE for these walking, talking slabs of rebar.
And that’s all that Kirito is: a shuffling chunk of emotionless concrete in a black trench coat, flawed in that very “Hollywood” way that only solidifies his status as the apex of the MMO player. And the result couldn’t be any more delightfully awful.