When reading other peoples’ thoughts on Sword Art Online, many of the points can be boiled down to one of three broad, all-encompassing summaries: Either the person’s played MMOs in the past and thus at least likes the occasional references, they’ve played MMOs but don’t find the periodic winks and nods enough to save it from falling into the trap of drudgery, or they have had nothing to do with MMOs and have plenty of gripes all the same. I belong firmly in the second category, having tried my hand at a few MMOs but never finding much relatable to my experience in this show.
But finally there’s a cooking episode, where my favorite near-vestigial game feature is given a rare moment to shine and Asuna once again threatens Kirito with cutlery. Hell, I’m willing to say she’s my favorite character just because she hurts or threatens Kirito on a semi-regular basis, and if cutlery-based threats are a recurring element in the light novels, it might even make it worth my time to give them a read.
In my last post, I took a moment to ask the readership what they saw in Asuna when she just seemed to check every trait off the spunky, free-spirited love interest checklist. That may not have been entirely fair to her character, because I’ll be damned if she doesn’t carry this episode, and not just because she’s as fed up with Kirito’s tough guy act as I am. Yes, she’s still somewhat bland when compared to the whole spectrum of anime characters, but in a show like this where the characters seem to spend their time either brooding or falling for the inexplicably perfect lead, she manages to really carve a niche for herself. Or at least she does until she inexplicably loses her ability to convince others and forces Kirito to defend her from her self-proclaimed guardian, but baby steps.
There’s not much else worth mentioning about the episode. The characters actually discussing their place in the virtual world and how much they’ve integrated was nice, but the content was still ridiculously sparse, the menacing specter of the main plot remaining far out of sight. It’s a little telling regarding the quality and presence of the plot when a little throwaway side story about Asuna making Kirito a meal from a rare drop is probably one of the highlights of the series so far, though admittedly, that might also be my inexplicable love for cooking features talking.
So yeah, good cooking bit, slightly worse Asuna defense bit. It’s not a great position to be in, but the writing’s been far worse than this.