(Note: Episodic notes are still mostly to be found on the Episodics Notes’ page, but up to a couple every week will have their write-up appear on the main page, when I think they warrant it. For those who don’t know, I take the notes as I watch the episode, and merely re-order them afterwards.)
Ah yes, the episode that lays the thematic cards on the table, all of them.
Kirito and Sinon are similar. They’re both haunted by their past. “Crimson memories” is more or less what the episode about Sinon and her memory of killing the robber was called, but then again, so is Kirito’s memory of the punitive mission against the Laughing Coffin members.
“It’s not just a game!” – That’s exactly what Kirito believes in as well, because in Aincrad, there was no other way to think, and live. The strength within the game is obviously not limited to within the game, we can even see it as when Sinon is angry with Kirito not paying proper respect to their match, her heartbeat races, in the real world, which affects them in the game. The strength Kirito draws upon? That’s not limited to the game either. Here we see the lie in Sinon’s words from before, on how her separate the game-self is from the real-self, she knows it’s a lie, shewants it to be a lie, to transfer strength from Sinon to Asada Shino.
Also, this is the place to make a nitpick, Sinon told Kirito “Don’t screw with me!” rather than “Screw you!”
Ah, yes, that punitive mission. The laughter and bluster before the fight, to keep spirits high, but then you have players who trained their whole career in fighting against NPCs, and those who made it their job to fight other players. Those who had already killed others versus those who told themselves their mission is “just”, yet couldn’t really do it. Is there such a thing as “just murder”? And the punitive force members know they’re going to kill the Laughing Coffin members even if the latter party didn’t kill anyone yet, in particular, so they couldn’t kill anyone in the future. That’s as morally grey as it gets. That’s Minority Report and Psycho-Pass territory.
And then Kirito becomes a berserker. Just like he did in the fight underground in Aincrad. He’s killed people before, when pushed against the wall. Here we saw a glimpse of it in the fourth battle. There’s darkness within Kirito, but is it darkness as a result of the people he had to kill before, and the repressed trauma (again, “SAO survivor“, notplayer, many if not all of them are traumatized, certainly those front-line players), or is it said darkness that enabled him to kill others to begin with?
“If your in-game bullet could kill people in real life, but if you didn’t kill them, they’d kill someone else, would you still be able to shoot them?” – Good question. And to all those people who go all Akame ga Kill! sort of “I’d kill them, no sweat!” – if that’s true, then that’s troubling, but of course, it’s not true for most people. Reminds me of a situation where a soldier couldn’t kill a suicide bomber, who then exploded, and the soldier weeped about it later, and people in talkback comments attacked him for being a “pussy” and said how they’d have shot without a second thought to it.
Isn’t that even worse? And that’s exactly what Sinon knows. Kirito though, he too thinks strength is the strength to kill, rather than the strength not to. Then again, he’s a teenager who spent all his life playing video games.
P.S. The part about Kirito seeing her eye through the scope? That’s something that wouldn’t have come as a surprise if you’d read the LNs, and which the anime hinted at slightly when Kirito played in the “line-prediction game” – he knew how to dodge the bullets because he focused on the robot’s eyes. The anime did show it, but it didn’t focus on it, because it knew it’d use that explanation here. So it didn’t come entirely out of nowhere, though yes, I’m not going to claim it’s not “OP” :P
Coming from a game without prediction lines but with archers, or swordsmen, you see where they’re aiming at based on where they look, the LN also spent some time explaining Kirito could do it because the game’s based on the Cardinal system, so everyone has to look at where they’re aiming.