Sword Art Online, Episode 11: Family from Finish to Start

Throughout episode 11 of Sword Art Online, I couldn’t shake a peculiar feeling I had.  The characters’ actions all felt very strange, and for once, I wasn’t enjoying this episode.  I soon realized that one particular point of peculiarity had to do with the theme of “relationships going in reverse” in this episode.  And this idea pops up right near the beginning.

Asuna, Kirito, and Yui
Proud parents (Art by 東雲)

Let’s Be Friends

I didn’t like how Asuna treated Kirito at all in the early days of their honeymoon.  She isn’t mean to him or anything, but she acts as if they aren’t married.  She can sleep with her husband, but she won’t let him see up her skirt; she can be intimate with him, but she can’t admit that she wants to be with him forever.


Then I thought, maybe this really isn’t so strange.  The two married without much thought (at least in the anime – I’ve been told there’s much more development in the light novels).  Their marriage was based on emotion, but more than that, an honest and powerful love between the two.

But that doesn’t mean the two are best friends.  They’re not.  In fact, they really don’t seem to know know a whole lot about each other.

I’ve long promoted the idea of dating (and later marrying) one’s best friend.  It creates a whole other sense of love that I think is so important to a marriage – the trust that develops when you have someone to whom you can tell anything is a powerful ally in creating a strong relationship.

But Kirito and Asuna, whose marriage was abrupt and whose entire existence right now is unique, have done it a little backwards.  They trust each other with their very lives, but not with their innermost feelings.  It’s ironic, but what else do you expect from two people who aren’t best of friends?

And (Pre-Teen) Baby Makes Three

Asuna does something totally inadvisable when she quickly accepts Yui’s invitation to be her mom.  Kirito likewise agrees to be “Daddy.”

Yui, strange as she is because of whatever events have led her to this state, fulfills a (maybe unexpected) longing for the new couple.  They quickly take to their mother and father roles and beam with happiness at the new bundle of pre-adolescent joy whom they’re caring for.

Not everyone is meant to be a parent or to even be married.  But for those who do become parents, there’s a sense of fulfillment that comes with having children.  My wife and I often comment on how lonely we feel when our son or daughter is away from us for even a short period of time or how incomplete it would feel without either in our lives.

I think that, to some extent, Kirito and Asuna’s actions reflect this desire for completeness and the sense of fierce love that attaches itself to parents.  At an early stage in their relationship, they get a chance to be “parents,” going in reverse and enjoying the “toddler stage” without all the pain that is infanthood.  That certainly must spark this emotion the two display in this episode.

Children Are the Spice of Life

Slightly off-topic, I thought I’d bring up the spicy sandwich scene, where Yui tried to imitate her “Dad” by eating Asuna’s hot-sauce drizzled lunch.  If anything, this episode of SAO hit that part of the relationship between parents and kids on the head – the latter try their best to be like the former.

My daughter certainly likes to eat whatever we eat, including spicy food.  From a very young age, she’s loved a spicy staple of the Korean diet – kimchee (though not as much as this girl!). I’m a little more Kirito than Asuna in my household, exposing my kids to things that maybe they shouldn’t be, like peppery foods, just to let them try and either succeed/enjoy or fail/dislike.

The two get to enjoy a little bit of the joys of parenting through the funny scene.

As the episode marches toward its conclusion, the “reverse relationship” theme continues to play.  Kirito and Asuna travel from their more advanced level back to Beginner’s Town, moving backward to reestablish relationships for Yui.  And then, Asuna reverses the bullying relationship, in effect bullying the bullies of the Army by knocking their squad leader to the ground over and over again.

Now, it’ll be interesting to see how this theme reverses on itself and progresses – through Yui’s relationship with her parents (?) and with Asuna and Kirito in this arc, and later, how the two leads mature in their relationship with each other.


15 thoughts on “Sword Art Online, Episode 11: Family from Finish to Start

  1. It might be helpful to think of Kirito and Asuna as adolescent soldiers, fighting in a world where life is infinitely more precarious than in the Real World. That might partly explain the disconnect.

    1. That’s a really good way of putting it. In fact, that gives me an idea for another post – thanks for the comment!

      1. I would guess at the content of that post, but as I type, I’m in the middle of this episode and have just watched Yui soldier through part of “Daddy’s” sandwich. 😉

        At the beginning of the episode, Kirito asked exactly the right question, and Asuna gave exactly the right answer. I didn’t much like how she let his question get her angry, but at the same time I can see her side.

        Also, my theory is that Yui actually is their daughter, “in the game” so to speak, which “spawned” (!) a new character when they um … “knew” each other in a Biblical sense. We’ll see if my crazy theory holds any water. I can’t wait to see the look on Kirito’s face when he realizes it, if so! 😀

        Another thought that occurs to me on reading Andmeuth’s thoughts is — are we sure that life in the SAO world is that much more precarious than in the “real” world? Or even in the real world (without quotes)?

        And that’s more than enough trolling from me for one day. I have to finish this episode after all. 😉

          1. I actually read the translated light novel and Yui has a different origin. It’ll probably come up in the next episode. 🙂

          2. I came up with another theory as to Yui’s origin, equally crazy but much more tragic, so I guess I’ll have to wait until the next episode to see. Hopefully hayase is right and we’ll find out then! 🙂

            By the way, a-certain-website-that-I-probably-shouldn’t-name made mention of a poll for popularity of recent male anime characters. Kirito was #1. 😉

  2. Come to think of it, I also like the idea of good friends first before going into a relationship, then getting married. Because in the end, when the children are gone , there are only the two of you left, and really, it would be nice if you were best friends first with similar likes and dislikes. It would annoy me to no end if my future partner would only listen to rap, while I’d be listening to Billy Joel. can you imagine the fight that would ensue in the car?

    1. Haha, true. But of course, you’d be right – Billy Joel > rap.

      On the other hand, having similar tastes doesn’t mean “best friends.” I think a truer measure is having such drastic differences, but still loving that person despite and being able to suffer through, say, some terrible rap song for that person. Just cause you care. 🙂

  3. There are lots of different types of relationships, but the fact that Asuna and Kirito weren’t BFFs before becoming lovers was addressed realistically and head-on by the story. This was kind of the point of their commentary on the Grimrock-Griselda story, where Asuna flat-out asks Kirito how he would deal with finding out someone he loves had a side to her he didn’t know. I thought Kirito gave a good answer, especially when you consider how closely both characters keep their cards to their vests: Asuna has serious trust issues (remember she wouldn’t volunteer even her name in her first appearance, and how dismayed she was at leaving herself vulnerable to sleep-PKing during her nap). Kirito more obviously holds onto secrets (his “Beater” status, the massacre of the Black Cats, his reluctance to reveal his dual wielding skills). These are characters who are deeply attracted but aware that they haven’t fully opened up to each other, and they are dealing with it the best they can.

    Asuna’s shyness on their honeymoon is also entirely justified; the “don’t look up my skirt” incident just underscores that they are really newlyweds and familiarity hasn’t set in yet.

    What I don’t get is why in-town combat is terrifying enough to cause a squad of bullies to run away. No HP damage, no pain, just the potential of getting painlessly knocked on you butt a few times, and this causes the Liberation Army to turn and run? Jeebis, they have to be the biggest, dumbest wusses in the world.

    1. Thanks for the commentary and reminding me of some of that background information. That makes sense. Though just from personal experience, having been a newlywed, once you get to know each other “biblically,” as R86 says, that physical shyness disappears. Small point, but still.

      A bigger point has to do with the Liberation Army. I kind of like that they act that way; it fits better into the analogy I was making for bullies, who often flee, physically or otherwise, when confronted by someone their match.

  4. Might be slightly off-topic to the discussions in the comments, but I laughed when I saw a pic which compared Yui and Sachi. They really look like each other…maybe now we know who the REAL mom is…

    DUN DUN DUN =))

  5. I don’t think Asuna’s feelings about Kirito seeing up her skirt during the piggy-back ride are misplaced despite the fact that they are married and lovers. She says it playfully enough to be almost a flirtatious taunt and there’s the issue of time and place for such things, too. I’m going to write it off as perhaps a curious way of depicting her tsundere character at worst, but it didn’t bother me.

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