Sword Art Online may not be an anime you would imagine to have anything to do with Christmas, since it’s about getting stuck inside of an MMORPG (massive multi-player role playing game), then dying in real life if you die in the game. In fact, I forgot that there actually was an episode that had a segment about the holiday season. But I’m excited to cover episode 3, Red-Nosed Reindeer for our 12 Days of Christmas series of posts.
I didn’t remember much from this episode except the crazy looking Santa around the end. Though after watching it again, I can say it’s sadder than most joyful Christmas episodes in anime. Kirito goes through a rough time and the anime shows how not every Christmas is one of happiness and being together.
The episode begins with Kirito reluctantly joining the Black Cats guild, which has a bunch of kind and helpful members that want to get stronger. They are aware of Kirito’s strength but don’t know his level, so he lies about it when they ask him. Going forward, he helps them train and takes one of the members, Sachi, under his wing to show her how to fight better. As they continue training, Kirito comes to realize that the leader, Keita, has a positive attitude that can change the atmosphere of how other guilds are led in the higher levels of the game.
This helps Kirito to feel more hopeful that the guild can do some good and get stronger, so he feels closer to them all. He spends some time with Sachi, who confides in him that she is afraid of dying and what would happen if she did in the game. It is an appropriate fear to have, considering you are trapped in a game and have no way to get back to reality! Kirito does his best to console her and tell her that he will protect her no matter what since he is at a much higher level than all of them.
Later in the episode, the guild is inside a dungeon and find a treasure chest. One of the members rushes to open it, but Kirito realizes it’s a trap. It’s too late, and they get locked inside the room full of strong enemy monsters. One by one, they are defeated and that means they have died in the real world. Sachi is the last to fall, mouthing some final words that aren’t revealed until later on. She breaks apart into digital bits, and in the real world her coma has become permanent and she is no longer alive.
Kirito takes her death very hard, as well as the loss of the rest of the guild, and quietly goes about Christmastime in SAO in sadness. He realizes he wasn’t strong enough to save them, though he thought he was since his level was so much higher. That made me think of some of some RPG’s I’ve played myself, where you get to a point in the game where nothing is a challenge anymore. Suddenly, you encounter a boss that you thought you could handle and it wipes you and your team out! Ouch, there goes my ego crying in a corner! Yet, it doesn’t matter because I can just equip better armor, increase my skills or stats, try a different strategy, and go at them again. When Kirito and the group were caught in the trap, there were no extra lives or continues to use. Their deaths were real, and there was no bringing them back.
The only solution Kirito can think of is some kind of resurrection item that may bring back Sachi. He fights some crazed looking Santa Claus, but still comes up with nothing. While sitting in the room of an inn, he finds a message that Sachi left him. Ominously, she knew she would die soon so she left her final words to Kirito with encouragement, a song, and a goodbye. I left the message below, which will likely bring tears to your eyes (grab the tissues before watching!). Though this entire episode had nothing joyful in it as is the par for Christmas time, I saw something that isn’t often highlighted this time of year.
For many people, Christmas is not a time of family, food, happy memories, and parties. Some go through it melancholy or depressed as it reminds them of times they would rather not. Even for me, it’s not the most exciting time of year. My family is very small on my mother’s side, I am an only child, and my parents have been divorced since I was two. Mom never remarried, so I was raised by a single mom and my Christmas times weren’t spent with many people. I more enjoyed going to a friend’s house than just sitting around not doing much. To this day, I still respond to invitations that we receive to spend time with other families that aren’t our own on the holidays. My wife’s family is also very small, and they live in South America, so it’s a little expensive to get there. I’m a bit like Kirito, who is stuck in a game alone; all his family and friends are off doing their own thing while he is in a coma and surviving through a digital world.
Christmas should be a time of happiness and enjoyment, but in real life, not everyone experiences the holidays that way. Sure, it’s easy to just pretend like that’s someone else’s problem and just go about our lives, buying gifts and hanging lights or decorations on a tree, but that’s not what this time is truly about. It is about Christ and His birth, but another aspect is His commandment to His disciples to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). What I get out of those verses is that as much as I love myself, I need to love others just as much. Practically, that means serving others when you don’t want to, giving money, time or items to someone that doesn’t have all the abundance that many of us do. When I start to live out this principle, life becomes more tender and humbling. It makes me stop thinking about how blessed I am and instead, become a blessing to someone else.
God said he would never leave us nor forsake us many times in the bible. For those that are feeling lonely, sad, or regretful I want to leave you with some scriptures that will encourage you. They have for me, and through knowing I am loved by my Heavenly Father He gives me peace. It sounds cliche, but for me it’s not. God is the only Father I’ve ever known, and He has never left me even when I mess up.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
1 Samuel 12:22
For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families,he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Watch this episode of Sword Art Online on Crunchyroll!