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.
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.