Journey’s End – 旅路の果て
Sword Art Online really turned on the waterworks this week with the revelation of Yuuki’s story, along with the beautiful music and wonderful voice acting from Tomatsu Haruka.
I knew it! Someone is going to die and it isn’t just Yuuki, but another member of the Sleeping Knights as well. However, I still appreciated how everything was revealed to us bit by bit, and how we were kept speculating till now. After Yuuki logged out on Asuna last episode, she hasn’t logged onto ALO for three days. Asuna was getting worried and desperate for another chance to talk to Yuuki, but Siune told Asuna that it was better to forget about them since Sleeping Knights was going to be disbanded. That half-hearted suggestion wasn’t going to convince Asuna and with help from Kirito, she traced Yuuki’s whereabouts to a hospital.
Medicuboid is the research of full-dive for medical purposes and patients with certain illnesses get help from the technology behind Amuspheres to help them gain or cancel certain sensations that they have lost (i.e. for the blind or deaf) or can’t bear (i.e. for patients who have to bear with intense or prolonged pain). Yuuki was the first person to become the research subject for Medicuboid and she has been immersed in the full dive system since three years during the height of the SAO fiasco. Even though Medicuboid can’t cure the patients of their illnesses, it offers them a world of dreams in which they can do things unavailable to them otherwise. It is indeed something great for people who are bedridden, diagnosed with a terminal illness like Yuuki. However, the sad truth remains, that they will have to live the entire of their lives in the virtual reality and that their time alive is still limited.
That’s what Sleeping Knights is all about, and the name suddenly took on a new significance – they are knights sleep during a good half of their lives. Yuuki was diagnosed with a special type of AIDS which is drug-resistant and she opted to become a research subject for Medicuboid three years ago, in a bid to lengthen her life and for the chance to live in a virtual world. I suppose that’s how she met the other members of Sleeping Knights, who should be patients as well. Her parents died a year later, and her twin sister (former leader of Sleeping Knights) in the following year. After she, and another member of the Sleeping Knights found out that they have about three more months to live, the members of Sleeping Knights decided to leave a proof of their existence within ALO before disbanding the guild.
Yuuki decided not to meet Asuna anymore, probably because she was afraid of Asuna’s reactions towards her after seeing her true self. Asuna, being the Asuna that we know, didn’t get turned off by Yuuki’s situation and was still worrying over Yuuki in the hospital room. Touched by Asuna’s concern for her, Yuuki decided to meet Asuna again in ALO at the place where they first met. After Asuna finally get to talk to Yuuki again, she tries to get Yuuki to be optimistic again and offers to fulfill Yuuki’s dream of going to school. The ED came in very abruptly IMO and there’s this clear difference between a cliffhanger and a cut-off ending. I’m sure this ending wasn’t a cliffhanger, but it still left me jaw-dropped – in a bad way.
I seldom find myself liking female voice actors or even appreciating their work but Tomatsu was perfect in this episode. Her voice got me so emotional that I couldn’t not cry during the parts where she was in the hospital and during her whole exchange with Yuuki. Although there were parts where Yuuki Aoi sounded too upbeat IMO, her voice acting was in general superb as well. I wonder how many takes they did just to achieve that level. I think we’re not done with the crying scenes yet; although the next episode is set to be a happy one, with Asuna bringing Yuuki to school with, I’m guessing Kirito’s help, there remains the fact that Yuuki doesn’t have much time to leave. Although I was a little sceptical of the medium Sleeping Knights chose to leave proof of their existence in this world, given that the virtual world is all that they will ever have, I don’t think there can be a more appropriate place for them to leave their mark in the world.
Just two more episodes to the end and I think I’m really going to miss this show.