Easter, the most holy of Christian celebrations, is only a few days away. And so, in light of the holiday, I thought it would be very appropriate to talk Sword Art Online.
That’s right—Sword Art Online.
Kirito, SAO‘s lead character, plays the role of a savior, and as such, it’s not much of a stretch to compare him to Jesus Christ. And anyway, saying an anime lead is like Jesus is nothing new (think Goku of Dragonball Z), but still, Kirito stands out among a crowded field of shonen saviors for a number of reasons (SPOILERS AHEAD):
Kirito Performs Miracles (Including the Greatest One)
As the first season ends, Kirito fights the “villain” Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of the Sword Art Online game. As he is about to die, Kirito re-materializes and instead becomes victorious. He miraculously breaks the programmed rules of the game. A “miracle” is the breaking of rules of nature, and Kirito does the same within the rules of SAO.
The larger miracle comes afterward, though, when Kirito rises from the dead. This is nothing new to anime, but it’s particularly emphasized here. Kirito and Kayaba both die, and they find themselves in what appears to be SAO Heaven. This is a really interesting parallel with Kirito now in “Heaven,” because the title of the previous episode, where Kirito encounters the enemy, is “The Depths of Hell.” He’s gone from hell to Heaven, reflecting the belief by some that Jesus descended into hell following His death. And further, and more significantly, Kirito wakes up from SAO in real life, although he shouldn’t have according to the rules of the game. He has risen from the dead.
Kirito Changes Those He Encounters
Kirito’s similarities to Christ aren’t just in death and resurrection; they also have to do with his character. One thing Bible readers will notice is that when Jesus encounters people, they are often dramatically changed by him. The same is true of Kirito: Asuna gathers strength, and eventually falls in love; Klein becomes a leader and a strong player; Liz…well, she falls in love, too. And they’re changed primarily by Kirito’s great compassion, even though he has so much power that he need not demonstrate kindness to others.
Christ humbly came to teach and save. He suffered torture, humiliation, and degradation by walking among us, but He chose to do so out of His great love. And because of that, those who encounter Him are changed. Today, we no longer encounter the physical Jesus, but the Bible teaches that were are transformed, given new hearts, when we come to accept Christ.
And finally, note that Kirito rescues, just like Christ rescues. The entire second arc reflects Kirito’s determination to rescue the confined Asuna, the one He loves. Asuna is analogous to humankind, confined to the prison of sin, and needing Christ to break us free.
The Bible is often depicted as a stodgy book, but it’s also an incredible love story. God comes to earth, sullying himself – allowing people to insult him and eventually to torture and execute him – so that He can save us, the ones He loves. It’s quite an adventure, quite a quest, and quite a remarkable love.
While SAO isn’t a great anime by any stretch of the imagination, it has a beautiful heart at its center. It’s the story of a young man whose awesome power is matched only by his great love. And in that way, it’s also the story of the One we celebrate on Good Friday and Easter.