The Price of a Hero: Sword Art Online Episode 3 Review

It has been 5 months since the game of Sword Art Online was initially launched. The date is April 8, 2023. Kirito has now made relations with a guild known as The Moonlit Black Cats. (Well, let’s hope they don’t come across any misfortune.)

Guilds and Solo Players

In the game of SAO, players can form groups called guilds. There are many advantages to being in a guild. Players who join guilds are able to fight bosses in teams rather than by themselves. Items and money the players earn can be used collectively by the guild. Fighting in a guild also provides each player with safety – they can heal each other if their HP gets too low.

But of course, not everyone is a social butterfly. Instead of joining a guild, some players may choose to play the game on their own. These players are known as solo-players. Being a solo-player is a lot more dangerous than joining a guild because if the player gets paralyzed, there will be no one around to help them. And in the game of SAO, this is a life-threatening danger. Although, the advantages to being a solo-player are that you don’t have to fight or negotiate over who gets the items and experience points.

Kirito has most likely chosen to be a solo player because he doesn’t feel like he fits in with anyone else.

One month into the game’s launch, Kirito formed a party with a girl named Asuna. Together, they were able to defeat the first-floor boss and advance to the second floor. Despite being a hero, Kirito was rejected by most of the players in SAO for being an ex-beta tester. The non-beta testers accuse the ex-beta testers of hogging all of the best hunting grounds, looting all of the best items, and keeping all of the game’s best secrets to themselves. In order to prevent the other ex-beta testers from being discriminated against, Kirito presented himself as something much worse – a beater, a beta-tester and a cheater. Draping himself in his newly acquired Cloak of Midnight, Kirito disbanded his party with Asuna and sets off to clear the game all on his own.

That is, until he found another chance at forming a party.

The Moonlit Black Cats

In the sixth month of the game’s launch, Kirito finds himself drinking a toast to his most recent victory with the guild known as The Moonlit Black Cats. They are a group of five consisting of Keita, the noble leader; Tetsuo, the mace wielder (let’s hope he doesn’t go on an evil rampage); Sachi – the shy supporting player, Samsamaru…just Samsamru; and Ducker, whose name I actually had to look up because I don’t think it was mentioned in the episode.

If you’re like me, the only character you really remember from this group is Sachi. The other characters are kind of forgettable, but if you want to know more about them, take a look at this page:

Impressed by Kirito’s strength, Keita asks him what level he is.

“Level 20 or so,” responds Kirito. The HP bar next to Kirito’s head reveals to the audience that he is actually level 40. Kirito doesn’t want to reveal his true strength for fear of being rejected by the others as a beta-tester.

“You’re not that much higher than us,” remarks Keita, “how about joining our guild?”

Kirito hesitates at first, but eventually agrees.


One month passes. The date is now May 9, 2023. After battling a giant mantis, the guild lays on the grass to celebrate their victory.

Keita reads a report in the newspaper that the Assault Teams have cleared floor 28 already. The Assault Teams are the highest-ranked guilds in SAO. As such, they take the initiative in challenging the much more dangerous floor bosses. Two of these Assault Teams include the Holy Dragon Alliance and the Knights of the Blood Oath. Quite literally, they are on the front row of clearing the game.

“Hey Kirito, what is it that sets the assault teams apart from us?” Keita asks.

“Information, maybe,” responds the ex-beta tester, “They know all the most efficient ways to get EXP, and they don’t share them.”

“Well, I’m sure that’s got to be part of it, but I think it’s Willpower.”


“You could say it’s how determined you are to protect your friends…no, all the players. Now, we are still protected, but I think my will’s just as strong. Of course, our friends’ safety is our first priority. But someday, we want to join the ranks of the Assault Team too.”

I realized that just as Kirito adapted Diabel’s ideals of fighting for everyone, he will also adapt Keita’s ideals of using willpower to keep everyone safe.


One week passes. The date is now May 16, 2023. At an inn, Keita announes to everyone that they have finally raised enough money to buy a house. Another member of the guild suggests they use the money to upgrade Sachi’s armor instead.

“I’m fine with what I have,” replies Sachi.

“Don’t be shy,” someone else says, “It wouldn’t be fair to make Kirito take the vanguard forever, you know.”

“I’m sorry,” says Sachi to Kirito.

“I don’t mind,” responds Kirito, “Don’t worry about it.”

Later that night, Kirito sneaks out to do some late-night level grinding. While out and about, Kirito runs into a familiar face – it’s Klein! Klein sees Kirito and notices the green mark abouve his head.

“Did you join a guild?” asks Klein.

“Yeah, sort of” says Kirto, and coldly walks away.

“For crying out loud,” Klein says to himself, “Is it still bugging you?”

Klein is wondering if Kirito is still upset about not sticking together after the game first started.

As Kirito re-enters the town, he received a message from Keita. The guild leader informs Kirito that Sachi has run away. Kirito turns on his Tracking skill and begins to search for her.


Sachi was first introduced into the story at the beginning of this episode. She is the shy, timid member of the Moonlit Black Cats. Afraid of dying, Sachi prefers to stay behind the front lines of battle. The other members of the guild keep encouraging her to move up in the fights, but Sachi always declines.

During that night when Sachi ran away, Kirito finds her cuddled into a ball, hiding under a bridge.

“Hey, Kirto,” says Sachi, “Let’s run away together.”

“Run away from what?” asks Kirito.

“From this town, the monsters…from the Moonlit Black Cats…from Sword Art Online.”

Kirito instantly catches on to what she is saying.

“Are you talking about a double suicide?”

Sachi confirms, and then instantly takes it back.

“That was a lie. If I had the courage to die, I wouldn’t hide within the safety of the town, would I?

In my review of episode 1, I mentioned that since Sword Art Online isn’t necessarily a kid’s show, they didn’t have to shy away from the topics of death and depression. This story really dives in to what people might think and feel if this were to actually happen to them. Which, in a sense, makes this game world not too far off from the real world.

Sachi is having a mental breakdown because she doesn’t want to die in SAO. It’s just a game, right? So why does she have to die?

“What’s the point of all this?” she continues.

“I don’t think there is a point,” answers Kirito.

“I’m afraid of dying…I’m so scared I haven’t been able to sleep lately…”

“You won’t die.”

“Really? How can you know for sure?”

Kirito ensures Sachi that the Moonlit Black Cats are a strong guild and will be able to keep her safe. Kirito once again promises to Sachi that she won’t die.

(Oh, Kirito, don’t make promises you can’t keep.)

Buying a House

One month passes. The date is now June 12, 2023. The Moonlit Black Cats are finally ready to buy their own house. The guild leader, Keita uses the teleport gate to go look for one in the Town of Beginnings. The rest of the guild decides to go level grinding in a nearby dungeon and raise some money – perhaps they can raise some money for furniture. Kirito suggests they go to their usual hunting grounds instead, but the group doesn’t listen.

Despite making great progress, the Moonlit Black Cats are still fairly low-leveled. However, their recent victories are filling them with pride, making them oblivious to their own weaknesses.

The guild begins exploring in a nearby dungeon. Ducker finds a hidden door in the side of the wall and opens it. The door opens and reveals a room with nothing but a single treasure chest.

Treasure Box!” cries Ducker. He runs into the room and uses his locksmith skill to open the chest. Kirito warns them to stay back, but they all run into the room.

As soon as Ducker opens the chest, the room turns red. An alarm sounds, and an entire hoard of monsters appears in the room.

Dunker tries to use a crystal to teleport out of the room, but it doesn’t work. The members of the guild engage the monsters, but their levels aren’t high enough to withstand their assault. One by one, each guild member gets executed. The last survivor is Sachi. Kirito desperately tries make it to where she is, but there are too many monsters in the way. Alas, Kirito does not manage to save her.

Reviving the Dead

The date is now Christmas Eve 2023. Kirito learns from an information broker that an event will take place later that night called “Nicholas the Renegade.” The player who defeats the boss will receive a rare item that will allow them to bring someone back from the dead. If there is a change to receive such an item, Kirtio will take it and try to bring back Sachi. (Well, let’s hope Kirito has a better chance of brining people back from the dead than Edward Elric.)

Before she died, Sachi said something to Kirito, but Kirto couldn’t hear it amidst the commotion of the battle. If Kirito can’t bring Sachi back, at the very least, he wants to know what she said to him. Whatever words she used to curse him with, Kirito is ready to accept those words.

The swordsman clad in black makes his way towards the fir tree that Nicholas the Renegade is supposed to appear at. Along the way, he runs into the same familiar face that he met earlier in the episode – it’s Klein! Klein tries to stop Kirito from challenging the boss alone.

“Enough with your reckless solo raids,” calls Klein, “Join us. Whoever gets it to drop the revival item keeps it, no hard feelings.”

“Then there’d be no point,” responds Kirito, “I have to do it myself.”

Suddenly, an entire army of players appear behind Klein’s guild.

“The Holy Dragon Alliance!” cries a member of the guild, “They’ll do anything for a rare item, no mater how risky.”

Klein orders Kirito to go fight the boss while his guild holds off the Holy Dragon Alliance.

As ordered, Kirito arrives at the fir tree where Nicholas the Renegade is supposed to appear – which looks like a giant Christmas Tree. Kirito hears bells coming from the sky. He looks up and sees a figure drop down from a sleigh. The figure that drops resembles that of an evil, demented Santa Claus (and quite large, too).

Kirito engages the boss. The screen fades to white, and we as the viewer don’t see much of this boss fight.

When the fight is over, Kirito returns to Klein and his guild. Kirito tosses Klein the rare item he won. Klein reads the description.

“The target player…within 10 seconds?”

“Use it on the next person who dies before your eyes,” says Kirito.

Thank you, Goodbye!

That night, Kirito is resting his head on his desk in despair when he receives a Gift Box item. It’s from…Sachi!?

Kirito opens the gift. It’s a recording devise! Kirito presses the button to start the recording, and then once again, hears Sachi’s voice.

“Merry Christmas, Kirito,” says Sachi, “By the time you hear this, I’m guessing I’ll be dead. How can I explain it…you see, to tell you the truth, I never really wanted to leave the Town of Beginnings. But if I fight with that attitude, I’ll end up dying one day, right? And it’s no one’s fault, it’s my own problem.

“Kirito, ever since that night, you’ve been telling me night after night that I won’t die. So if I ever get killed, I know that you’ll really blame yourself. That’s why I decided to record this.

“Also, I know how powerful you really are. You see, a while ago I peeked accidentally. I thought really hard about why you would hide your level and fight with us, but I never figured it out. But when I found out how strong you really were, it made me so happy. I felt so relieved.

“So even if I die, you do you’re best to go on living, okay? Live to see the end of this world, and to see why it was created…the reason why a weakling like me ended up here…and please find the reason you and I met. That’s what I wish.

“Looks like there’s still plenty of time left. Since it’s Christmas, I’ll sing you a song, okay?”

Sachi then sings her rendition of Rudolph the Reindeer.

At the end of the song, Sachi continues, “Bye, Kirito. I’m so glad that I met you, that I could be with you. Arigatou, Sayonara!


In the third episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Edward Elric presents an interpretation of the story of Icarus – one that I had never heard before. As the story goes, Icarus made wings of wax so he could fly and escape from prison. He was warned not to fly too close to the sun, but did not listen. As Icarus flew closer to the sun, his wings of wax began to melt. After they had completely melted away, Icarus fell down to earth and drowned in the depths of the sea. Edward’s interpretation is that as people get closer to enlightenment and higher intelligence, they are more likely to fall down to despair.

Much like Icarus, the Moonlit Black Cats tried to rise too much too quickly. They wanted to advance to the ranks of the Assault Team. They trained day and night and worked hard to raise their levels, but after they raised their levels to a certain point, they began to think they were stronger than they actually were. This caused them to take on a challenge that was well outside of their abilities, and as such, all perished because of their decision. Such has been the fate of many other characters in anime, such as Yugo from Battle Angel Alita, or Tetsuo from Akira. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that one of the members of the Moonlit Black Cats is named Tetsuo.


In writing this review, I began to wonder why Sachi sings Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer to Kirito. The author of this episode could have had her sing any Christmas song to Kirito, but they choose to have her sing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Why? The character Rudolph was originally created by Robert L. May in his book Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, published in 1939. I’m sure there’s not a soul who doesn’t know the story of Rudolph, but just incase, the story follows a reindeer who lives in the North Pole with all of Santa’s reindeer. The odd quirk about Rudolph is that he has a nose that glows bright red. All of the other reindeer make fun of him for his quirk, and he is treated as an outcast by his peers. One Christmas Eve night, Santa has trouble delivering Christmas presents because of the thick fog blocking his view. He goes to visit Rudolph and asks if he will use his bright red nose to navigate Santa’s way through the fog. Rudolph happily agrees and thus becomes a hero among the other reindeer. The book was adapted into a song written by Johnny Marks in 1949, which is the song you hear every year at Christmas time, and is the song that Sachi sings to Kirito at the end of her recorded message.

I thought for a moment about why Sachi sings Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer to Kirito, and then it hit me. Much like Rudolph, Kirito is considered an outcast from the other players of Sword Art Online. I don’t know if he has any weird quirks other than being exceptionally strong, and a bit anti-social, but these traits are enough to keep Kirito distant from the others. Perhaps Sachi hopes that Kirito, like Rudolph, will lead the other players out of the foggy darkness of SAO, just as he helped her overcome her fears of dying. Perhaps he will, one day.

I’ve mentioned before that Sword Art Online seems to be the most polarizing anime. Everyone who has seen it seems to either absolutely love it, or downright despise it. One of the main turnoffs could be the frequent time skips, which even as a Sword Art Online fan, I find difficult to keep up with. This episode begins 4 months after where the last one ends, and spans 8 months of action with 4 time skips. The episode begins with Kirito joining the Moonlit Black Cats. One month later, they fight a giant mantis. One week later, they raise up enough money to buy a house. One month after that is when they all get killed. Then the episode jumps 6 months to Christmas Eve, where Kirito tries to bring Sachi back from the dead with the rare item that Nicholas the Renegade drops. I had to pay attention very carefully and write down all of the dates in order to keep track of them. Personally, I would like to know more of what Kirito does during these time skips, and Sword Art Online isn’t a very long anime, so adding more episodes shouldn’t be a problem. But anyways, that’s enough of my ranting, I guess I’ll have to work with what I got.

One more character that Kirito relates to in this episode is Spider-man. Much like Spider-man, Kirito has dedicated his life to protecting others because of the one, or maybe two, people he couldn’t save. Sachi will become Kirito’s Uncle Ben or Gwen Stacy (probably more like Gwen Stacy though), as the one that Kirito couldn’t save. Will this be the kind of motivation Kirito needs to succeed? Find out in the next review of Sword Art Online!


What are your thoughts on Sword Art Online Episode 3? Leave a comment down below!


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