Trigger Warning: Sexual violence, gun violence
It’s been a while since I wrote about the Sword Art Online II episode where Shinkawa attacks Sinon. One more episode in the Phantom Bullet arc came out to wrap up all of the loose ends, and then SAO dove into first Caliber and now Mother’s Rosario. All the while, I’ve been keeping up with SAO and mulling over some of my initial questions. So even though the postman at io9 never chose my email to make it into the roundup, I’ve decided to reply to myself the best way I can. Spoilers below, folks.
After much thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that (at least subconsciously) the creators behind SAO were trying to make amends for the terrible way in which they treated Asuna during the Fairy Dance with Sinon’s actions at the end of the Phantom Bullet. At the end of episode 13, Kirito arrives in the nick of time to stop Shinkawa from raping Sinon and yells for her to run. At the beginning of episode 14, Shinkawa totally puts the beat down on Kirito, pushing him to the ground and punching him in the face. He even takes the syringe filled with poison and attempts to inject Kirito with the drug meant for Sinon.
Sinon then hits him in the head with a boom box.
It’s true that without Kirito’s arrival at Sinon’s apartment, she might not have won the struggle against Shinkawa, but ultimately it was Sinon who managed to stop him. If it weren’t for a little heart monitor pad still stuck to Kirito’s chest and for Sinon’s actions, Kirito would be dead. So after three story arcs of setting Kirito up as the gilded hero, here we get to see Sinon saving him instead.
The boombox attack alone was enough to make me excited. The writers didn’t leave her helpless the way they did to Asuna! They learned! Hooray! But the struggle with Shinkawa ended a few minutes into the episode, no more. What the writers spent the rest of the episode doing is what convinced me that they were treating Sinon right.
Sinon’s bullies at school have been using her PTSD from having shot a man when she was 11 as a way to easily get money from Sinon. This time, the lead bully has snuck a gun into school in order to intimidate Sinon. However, after having nearly lost her life at the hands of her best friend, Sinon is a different person. When she sees the gun, she begins to have a panic attack, but she is able to control herself. She slows her breathing, disarms the bully and demonstrates her knowledge of guns by removing the safety and shooting a can about twenty feet away from her. She turns the safety back on and returns it to the dumbstruck bully and walks away. Once alone, she breaks down a bit but is able to say that it’s only the first step in her recovery.
When Kirito takes Sinon to debrief after the GGO murders with Kikuoka, they talk about the nature of reality in a world with VRMMORPGS, how Shinkawa and his brother had both lost their sense of reality. Sinon announces that she intends to visit her former friend, so that she can talk to him and try to help him return to reality. While this may not be the safest or smartest option, Sinon demonstrates a level of strength and compassion that most people only dream about achieving. She’s also bold in her decision– it’s not enough to say she’d like to talk with him again; she says that she will see him, as if it is an imperative, decided fact.
The episode doesn’t end there, and Kirito has one more surprise planned for Sinon. He takes her to Dicey, where she meets Asuna and Liz, as well as the post office clerk whose life was saved thanks to Sinon’s intervention in the hold up five years before. The woman has a four year old daughter with her, and explains that on the day of the hold up she’d been pregnant, so both she and her daughter owe Sinon their lives. Kirito begs Sinon to forgive herself and think about the lives she saved instead of only the one that she took.
I was more than pleased with the end of Phantom Bullet. All of the problems with Asuna and the Fairy Dance seem to have been examined and subverted in Sinon. Fairy Dance still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth (and I took the time recently to rewatch it just to know if I still felt the same way…I did), but Phantom Bullet managed to end on the right note.
However, SAO hasn’t stopped there in correcting their mistakes. With Mother’s Rosario three episodes in, we’re finally getting awesome Lightning Flash Asuna action in her duel with Zekken and in the storming of the boss room with the Sleeping Knights. But more than that, we’re seeing Asuna and her mother going toe to toe in the most uncomfortably tense dinner scene I’ve ever watched. Asuna’s mother looks down on VR technology as just a toy, thinks Asuna’s school is a joke meant solely for surveillance, thinks Kirito is no good for Asuna and that she needs to marry someone more elite and respectable. Asuna is upset by her mother, but she doesn’t back down. Here are a few screen shots of Asuna’s commentary:
This is the first time the ALO incident has been mentioned since it happened, and Asuna is obviously still angry about it. She lays the blame on her parents, who facilitated her virtual abduction and assault by giving Sugou the idea that he could and should marry her unconscious body. Though Asuna’s mother deflects the blame onto Asuna’s father, it’s obvious that Asuna’s not buying it. Because her parents are almost as much the villains of Sugou’s ALO crimes, Asuna seems to be less so traumatized and more so furious about it. That anger is still inside of her; the effects of Sugou’s actions didn’t stop at the end of season one. This acknowledgement is what I’ve wanted from the writers all season long.
There are still a few more episodes to go in Mother’s Rosario, and (having spoiled the upcoming plot for myself) I know that it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster, probably starting with the next new episode. This story is already highly Asuna-driven, and she’s going to continue to take the lead. I hope that this means more moments like this, where Asuna’s emotions and feelings about the past punch through, and I hope that it leads to reconciliation with her mother.