Yes, it’s finally over! After all the forced melodramatic character drama, messy conclusions, and terrible filler arcs, Sword Art Online II has finally crossed the finish line. And with all 24 episodes over and done with, I can safely say that this season actually ended pretty decently. I know, I was surprised too. In fact, it’s hard not to admit that the Mother’s Rosario arc is the best one in the franchise so far, and that it was a nice conclusion to an otherwise messy show.
Let’s start with the negatives though, because there are quite a few of them! Most of this concerns the big reveal that happens in episode 22, aka the episode that should make you cry. Spoilers, it doesn’t. But that’s actually not because of the lackluster content of the reveal, oh no, that in itself is very tragic. No, the main reason the tragedy doesn’t work in this episode is because it’s way too dramatic!
Okay, so the basic gist of the reveal is that Yuuki Konno, aka the leader of the Sleeping Knights Guild that Asuna joins, has AIDS. Yep, after the previous two episodes of Asuna and the Sleeping Knights kicking a** in the boss arena it turns out everyone, not just Yuuki, has a deadly disease. Well if they were trying to put a deeper meaning behind the name of the Sleeping Knights, they sure as hell succeeded!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I necessarily have a problem with the reveal itself, it has a definite build up to it and it does pack a great thematic punch; but honestly it just felt kind of contrived writing wise. Yuuki especially feels really screwed here, because the entire writing staff just seems to like torturing her. Not only does she have a deadly case of AIDS, but her entire family is dead, her friends are slowly dying with her, and she lives in the virtual world because they’re testing out a new form of treatment on her. This not only effectively disconnects her from all living beings, but it has also left her alone in a hospital room for years while her family died without her!
In theory this huge dump of sad tear jerking information isn’t bad, but in execution it comes off as a very superficial way to pull sympathy out of the audience right before Yuuki’s inevitable demise. This writing really reminds me a lot of how Akame ga Kill (Wow comparing Akame ga Kill to Sword Art Online, how original) gives characters last minute development to make you cry when they die in the very next episode. It just comes off as lazy in the end, and considering Yuuki was pretty uninteresting up to this point, it screams of desperation.
However, despite this initial shakiness, Sword Art Online II managed to make all of this dramatic baggage work in the next two episodes. I don’t know if it was because my standards were really low at this point, or if it was because I had gotten past the shock of the reveal in episode 22, but the final two episodes of this season were really good. Sure, they weren’t on par with Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso or other good shows this season, but for Sword Art Online they were brilliant!
Asuna’s character arc gets wrapped in a satisfactory way? Check! Asuna uses Kirito’s new technology to take Yuuki to school and to her old hometown? Yep indeed! Yuuki gets a well executed, albeit drawn out death scene? A thousand times yes! Kirito only gets around 5 minutes of screen time in this arc! Thank god he does!!!
I was so surprised by how well everything ended! Asuna’s character arc got really nice closure, with her taking her Mom into the virtual word and telling her that she wants to make her own decisions. It’s nice to see Asuna finally grow as a character for once, because, with the help of Yuuki, she’s learned to have courage and stand up for herself. It’s because of this new found courage that her Mom decides to let her stay at high school with Kirito, and they now respect each other because of that.
Yuuki also gets a great drawn out goodbye near the end, where everyone in Alfheim Online gathers around as she passes on her sword skill called Mother’s Rosario to Asuna, feeling satisfied with the small life she lived. Asuna then promises to carry on her sword skill to future generations, and before you know it everyone is crying and everything is very bittersweet. Admittedly speaking the final episode goes on for way too long, and the amount of drawn out conversation scenes that it has is a little ridiculous, but considering how the finale of the first season was, it really could have been a whole lot worse.
Mother’s Rosario is not perfect. It’s sappy, over dramatic, and it has SAO’s typically self indulgent message about how the virtual reality of video games is a place to feel strong and confident; but it’s hard not to say it’s the best arc Sword Art Online has ever had. From its nice finale, to its strangely well thought out themes of courage and what it means to live, Mother’s Rosario really was the good arc of SAO everyone was looking for. Did it redeem all of the crap I had to put up with beforehand? Hell no! Nothing can ever fix the pain of those previous arcs, but it was above average; and honestly, that was all I was looking for at this point.
Goodbye Sword Art Online II. There were many times throughout your 24 episode run where you made me want to die inside, but you sent yourself off on a nice note. Will I watch a third season of you? Probably not, but hey, only time will tell. And with that I bid my readers, and this show adieu! I’ll see you in the future!