Following the much dragged-out Phantom Bullet arc is the Caliber side story arc. This will be my brief thoughts about these few high-spirited episodes.
Kirito and Leafa discovered the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur a year ago, but could not acquire it due to guardians blocking the path. Well recently, towards the dawn of New Year’s Eve, Suguha discovers that the “Caliber” quest has been unlocked to the public. Kirito immediately bands with his friends Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica, Sinon, and his sister’s avatar Leafa to conquer the castle Thrymheim in Jotunheimir and claim the most powerful weapon in ALO before the year is up!
The whole GGO experience lacked the traditional SAO feeling of ‘playing’ in a game, considering the high stakes. Now, Sword Art Online II brings back the basic concepts of gameplay to add a very crafty and cool mechanical undertone. Many people do not like ALfheim Online, and for obvious reasons I can understand why, but this arc doesn’t dig up those brash emotions and opinions for the Fairy Dance arc; this here, fellow cafe-goers, is traditional RPG, and with its playful references to game terminology envisioned in unique, colorful and appealing animation. This change of pace is absolutely necessary to Kawahara’s planned plot progression and character development, whether we like it or not. Besides, it’s just the characters doin’ what they do best and love!
It’s always wonderful to see the older characters, but I have to spotlight Sinon and Asuna in particular. Upon entering this new fantasy world, Sinon dons the Cait Sith cat attire, complete with cute little ears, and becomes flying fan service! She’s not all fluff, though, as she uses a magic bow to target enemies from far away. This subtle yet crucial decision is very befitting for her sniper-like character.
And Asuna, dayum! She is given the front lines for parts of the fight against King Thrym, pulling out hidden rapier for combat, and might I say that Asuna battles with the swift furiousness of a true KOB commander once again; however, it’s not quite enough to make up for her time served as “Titania.”
So if ALO is a Norse-based world, then why the hell Excalibur of English legend?! The World Tree design in SAO is by far favorite, and the consistent “-heim” worlds add to the Norse feel, but I don’t know why they chose Excalibur; is there no other legendary weapon from Norse Mythology?
*spoilers ahead* Now this side story was pretty mediocre, so what made me change my view was the way Sinon let it end, or rather, didn’t let it end. Thrymheim begins to collapse, and ultimately Kirito is forced to leave the heavy Excalibur behind. Sinon, disagrees, and whips out her bow, calculates distance, takes aim and fires a retrieval arrow at the holy sword, hoisting it back up by a magical rope then giving it Kirito as a token of remembrance in her honor. This on-the-spot action was just so freakin cool, as it made the whole arc worth it. Seriously, Sinon is waifu material :3
Last thing to mention was the new opening, “courage” by Tomatsu Haruka, Yuuki Asuna’s voice actress. It is matched in its fast beat with crisp, brightly colored visuals of Alfheim and the characters. It’s a really respite-filled and cheery song, so give it a listen!
Thanks for reading! Check out my Sword Art Online II (Phantom Bullet) Review for more thoughts on SAO’s fun and adventurous sequel. You can watch the entire anime for free at Crunchyroll. Till next time,
– Takuto, your host