Sword Art Online II Part 4 (“Part 4″) is the final volume in the Sword Art Online II anime series and follows on from the storyline developed in Part 3, which heavily relates to Yuuki (alias Zekken), a new Alfheim Online player who is perceived to be impressively good; being strong, fast, and perhaps even better than current resident great, Kirito.
Part 3 left off with Yuuki meeting her match in Asuna, who had slowly forgotten her value, worth and strength throughout the course of the Sword Art Online series. This storyline continues in Part 4, titled ‘Mother’s Rosario’, and sees Asuna regaining her value once more upon her encounter with Yuuki. She is then invited by Yuuki to join a new guild, the Sleeping Knights.
The Sleeping Knights, a group of tight-knit players with plans of disbanding, are determined to launch a single-party boss raid (i.e. defeat an in game boss without the help of multiple parties) in order to create one final, lasting memory and have their names engraved on the Alfheim Online wall of fame. Asuna, intrigued and touched by this, agrees to help them.
Sword Art Online II as a series, heavily focused on Kirito and, in a way, pushed Asuna to the sidelines as nothing more than just a bystander. It was incredibly refreshing to see her take on a more active role, with flashback moments of her time being leader of the Knights of the Blood Oath guild in the Sword Art Online game reminding viewers of just how badass she can be.
What was even more fantastic was to see just how in sync the members of the Sleeping Knights were when it came to battles. From sword fighting to wielding magical spells, each member played a vital role and contributed to the team. In this way, Part 4 truly focussed more on the key elements and fun aspects of an MMORPG game. In addition, it was exciting to see Kirito and Klein, former team-mates of Asuna’s, appear out of thin air to help when things got a bit tough for the Sleeping Knights.
My only disappointment was that no one battered an eye when Kirito pulled out the legendary sword that is Excalibur. It was as if the sword and the episodes surrounding the sword in Part 3 held no real value and was meaningless.
While Part 4 was exhilarating in terms of its music soundtrack (which is as good as all other Sword Art Online soundtracks), visual effects and action sequences, its main plot and underlying theme focussed on a topic that was heartbreaking and melancholic. Behind the fun, laughter and joy lies a sad truth and one that Asuna finds truly difficult to come to grips with. This aspect of Part 4 truly caught my attention as for the first time, I was witnessing an animated series deal with concepts of taboo and frightening illnesses such as AIDS.
Part 4 captures and depicts the severity of AIDS well and forces viewers to appreciate and understand the plight of those who suffer from the disease. In a rather bold way, Part 4 attempts to teach viewers a few lessons about life through Yuuki, who we see as being so full of optimism, vigour and joy. It is impossible not to like Yuuki and thus it is impossible not to sympathise with her. It was also heart-warming to see Asuna take on such a selfless and kind role as well, going out of her way to bring happiness to others.
Despite being a mere five episodes long, Part 4 of Sword Art Online II did fairly well to do its main characters justice. I personally would have liked to have had a longer Excalibur arc and a bit more depth to the Yuuki arc. It would have made for much better viewing rather than what felt like a slightly rushed, zero planned/thought out few episodes. Regardless, this final volume is a good watch and I would certainly recommend checking it out here.