This episode seems like it was about Sinon, but it was about Kirito, and Kirito’s past. I’ve said this before the season aired, but one of the things this season does, which is not all that subtle, but it’s also not entirely spelled out, is using Sinon’s character, and her character development, to actually explore Kirito, and to retroactively explain his actions and fill him with more depth.
When Kirito is talking to Sinon, he’s actually talking to his past self. “I’m fine with going there and dying on my own. I’d rather die than be weak.” You can also replace that wit “I’d rather die than be depressed”, but who does that remind you of? Why, Beater Kirito, who would fight alone, who would fight against opponents just on the threshold of too strong for him, rather than fight safely. Why? Because if he were to die, it wouldn’t inconvenience anyone else, and it’d be just him dying on his own.
More than that, like Sinon, Kirito felt guilt, guilt over leaving Klein behind, guilt over leaving all the starting players behind on the first day. He went alone in order to obtain strength, then he can keep fighting alone and dying alone. Sinon’s words about “Will you protect me forever? Will you take responsibility?” also ring back to the memory of the Moonlit Black Cats, when you help people, by lying to them, you give them a false sense of security, and you assume the blame. Kirito’s words to her bring us back to the end of that episode, with Klein falling to the ground, crying over Kirito’s headlong charge into nihilism and potential death. We don’t fight alone. We don’t die alone.
Kirito’s berserker rage isn’t a sign of his strength, it’s the sign of him leaving behind everyone, it’s him fightingbecause he is afraid, and can’t leave with himself otherwise. “Everyone can fight, should they choose to.” That is the real strength of Kirito, it’s not that he “focuses” himself, because he could also focus himself on not fighting, it’s the ability to make a choice and act on it.
But Kirito knows something of responsibility now, after having led the Moonlit Black Cat guild to its death. Sinon asks him if he’ll take responsibility (a marriage proposal if I’ve ever seen one! :P), because if you save someone’s life, if you give them strength they don’t possess, then you must keep protecting them, or you basically gave them false hopes, or robbed their hope of actually protecting themselves on their own from them. This is why he’s willing to let her go. Kirito is admitting that even though he doesn’t fight alone, he might not have the strength to protect another.
Kirito never did have the strength to protect another, did he, after that third episode? When he tries to leave Asuna behind, it’s an admittance to not having strength. When he kills Kuradeel, when he tries to protect Yui and she ends up protecting him, underground in ALO with Suguha, he either has to be rescued, or he goes berserk. Going berserk, as already covered, is a sign of fear, a fear of his weakness, of his inability to protect them otherwise.
Choice is strength. Five years ago Sinon made the choice to pull the trigger, or did she? It just happened. Right now, if Sinon is weak, it’s not because she made the choice not to pull the trigger, though her words seem to hint that way, but because she made the choice of pulling the trigger but couldn’t follow through.
Kirito had a death wish as a beater, which is why he fought alone. He felt guilty, and as Sinon said, one might rather die than live as helpless, and full of guilt and self-loathing. “Murderer!” screamed the children at Shino, but the problem is she felt sick of herself, on her own. “Will you hold the hands of a murderer?” Before Kirito would accept Asuna’s love, he had to tell her of his own weight, and the people he felt responsible for killing.
There are no two worlds, that’s something Kirito learned early on. There’s just “us”. Sinon can’t pull the trigger, because the real world weakness is pouring in. She knew it was a lie she told herself, after all, she did try to get strength from this world to the real world, but that also means weakness can pour back in, but also that this strength she seeks, she already has it, she just needs to realize she does.
Everything that Sinon says in this episode, everything we know of her, should also be applied to Kirito’s character, in Aincrad, and since. Kirito, who hates himself, who hates his weakness. Kirito now is talking to his past self, trying to make it see the light. Where they differ is where Sinon says she’d have chosen not to fight if she could, and Kirito chose to fight, first because he had nothing to lose, and then because he did.
- Death Gun on his Death Horse; seriously, that robot horse looked white like bone, and you could see all of its joints, with its golden brain. Looked quite striking, like a rider of the apocalypse, didn’t he?
- “We’re already involved!” – “Then you protect me for the rest of my life!” – A marriage proposal :>
- “The horse, it’s too hard to use!” – You thought he’d go for it anyway, eh? Like he did with the Buggy. Guess Death Gun is just as OP as Kirito ;-)