Although some people may like to be alone at times, we all have that one special friend or a squad of friends who we kick it and have some good laughs and fun with. However, there are friendships that don’t last a lifetime and usually, they end due to a falling out or a misunderstanding. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring some of the best friendships in anime and pop culture as well as the friendships that ended suddenly. We will talk about what a true friendship means to us, what we learned about ourselves and others through broken friendships, and our definitions of a “good friend.”
*Will contain spoilers to the Sword Art Online (season 1) anime
As a way to start this OWLS post, I will be using my favorite anime Sword Art Online once again as not only using it as my example for the topic but also a special year anniversary to my previous OWLS post about Sanctuary in which I also used Sword Art Online with the help of Takuto’s work. So without further ado, hook up your VR headset and let’s talk about what does it mean to be in a squad. Make sure you check out Mistress of Yaoi’s post on Transformers (G1 version) from March 2nd.
I stand alone
Everyone is different in this world. There are people out there who enjoys being in a team, squad, or group and feeling some significance. This may sound cheesy catchphrase from Sonic Heroes, but it’s usually fun being part of something in which you can agree with something and be with others. You make friends and if there is goal in which can be attained as a squad, it makes life easy. No one doesn’t have to feel alone and a squad can help keep you company anytime and anywhere. However, some can argue and say that being a squad doesn’t always have to give you sense of belonging, but rather, even being alone can be comforting. There may or may not be a reason why someone choose to be alone; it can be from experience depending if it’s good or bad, or just like the song “I Stand Alone” from the movie Quest for Camelot, people wants to be able to feel free without having to worry about others. It’s not a selfish feeling, but we all have moments where we want to experience something without feeling judged or just feeling something personal. However, being alone can sometimes be unpleasant and leaving people to caring their own burdens.
In this post, I will be focusing the themes of squad and the character Kirito.
Background: What’s Sword Art Online?
Sword Art Online is a story originally created by light novel author Reki Kawahara and art designed by abec. The light novel series later got an anime adaptation in 2012 and the popularity of the anime grew to the point it got two seasons with an upcoming season 3 and spin-off which will come out in 2018 of this year. The series even got a movie in 2017 along with manga adaptations and video game series.
Sword Art Online takes in fictional world in Japan in the year 2022 where virtual reality is the common norm for video games. In 2022, a virtual reality massively multiplayer online game (VRMMO) called Sword Art Online is released and 10,000 players got the first copy of the game, this includes the protagonist Kazuto Kirigaya (Kirito). At first, the game starts off as fun, but then turns into a nightmare when players are unable to log out the game. The creator of the game, Akihiko Kayaba, appears to the players and gives everyone some scary news: he captured all 10,000 players and if they want to escape, they have to beat the 100th floor dungeon in Aincrid. Whoever dies in the game, they die in real-life and if the player’s helmet gets removed by force by someone from the outside world, the player will still die. It’s up to Kirito and the players to fight the game and escape to the real world.
Kirito will go through a lot besides fighting monsters. He has to fight with people and alone; with a squad or even alone.
Kirito: The black sheep
In episode 2, after Kayaba made that startling announcement, Kirito and some players team up with the leader named Diavel in attempt to clear the 1st floor boss. This is also the same episode where are introduced to Asuna and Agil, but Kirito teams up with Asuna so they can work together in a group. At first, the fight with the boss goes smoothly according to Kirito’s calculations (he was a beta tester to the game, so he knows the game’s secret), but things get worse when the boss, Illfang reveal a new fighting style and Kirito tries to warn everyone. Unfortunately, even thought Kirito and Asuna and everyone defeated the boss, lives were taken and Kirito gets blamed for the death. No make matters worse, a player tries to call out other beta testers and blames them for hiding secrets. To help defend the beta testers, Kirito lies and tells them that he knows all the secrets more than the beta testers and doesn’t want to be categorized with the beta testers. This causes the players rook their attention on Kirito they labeled him a beater (beta tester and cheater combined together). After this episode, Kirito leaves the remaining group and ends the friendship with Asuna.
This is where Kirito took on the beater nickname and started his lonely adventure.
On This Christmas night, a boy ‘s loneliness is born
Episode 3 is the probably one of the darkest episodes especially since it really affects Kirito. This episode begins with Kirito joining a guild called the Moonlit Black Cats led by a player named Keita. To avoid getting hated, Kirito hides his high game level from the team and convinces everyone, he is a lucky player who can fight.One night as Kirito was grinding experience points and keep his level higher than others, one of the members named Sachi runs away and hides and Kirito sets out to find her. Kirito does find her, but he learns that Sachi is scared of this game and is afraid to die. Kirito comforts her and tells her that he will protect her and promises her that she will live. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen when Kirito and his friends gets attacked by a trap while looking for treasure; everyone including Sachi dies and Kirito wasn’t able to protect her. Things get dark when Kirito tells Keita what happened and admits he was hiding his level and thus prompts Keita to commit suicide.
In Christmas Eve, Kirito hears about an item that can revive a fallen ally if someone can defeat a hard secret boss called Nicholas the Renegade. Kirito was determined to get this item even if it means he is willing to die. Kirito does win, but the item he gets is useless because it works if the player died within 10 seconds and Sachi was already dead. Alone his room, Kirito gets a pre-recorded message from Sachi that she knew Kirito was stronger than everyone and she felt safe with him. She tells her to keep going and don’t hate himself if he fails to protect her.
After this episode, Kirito vows to never to join in any guild so that no one can die from his actions.
Stay with me, Asuna
Shortly after the events, the anime later focused on Kirito and his time on helping players. In one episode, he volunteer decides to help a girl named Silica and revive her dragon pet ally, Pina. In another episode, Kirito meets another girl named Lisabeth who can craft weapons. After accidentally destroying one of the best swords she made, he has to go on a quest and retrieve a rare item from a dragon; Silica joins him. Besides these two girls, there is one girl who left an impact on him and give him the confidence to rely on others, Asuna. Out of the girls that Kirito met, Asuna was one of the girls who made a move and even convinced him to work together. Even after being alone for a long time, Kirito admits to Asuna that it is starting to get difficult as they make to the 74th dungeon. Asuna decides that they should work together with him and observe his strength; however, Kirito tries to reject her help and comments that teammates often bring slow him down. Regardless, he reluctantly gave in.
With Asuna, many events have greatly changed Kirito’s perspective after learning that being alone is not the best. Kirito has had moments where he came close to dying that even Asuna comments that she will not know what to do if he died. Whether it was the fight with the Gleam Eyes or his near death from the traitor Kuradeel, Asuna would always appear and cry in relief knowing he’s okay. This teamwork later on became love and Kirito was ready to move on from being a solo player to someone who needed a partner. He was even able to feel comforted to have his friends with him on their quest to escape Sword Art Online.
College Story time – I was like Kirito
As Sword Art Online progressed in the story, Kirito would still be a solo player when it comes to life and death situations, but he is reminded that he’s not online. Whenever someone is willing to help him, he agrees to accept it. Whether it is a family relative, a new friend in a new game, or someone who has experience, Kirito can feel safe knowing that he has friends. I can relate to Kirito and why he decided to be alone for a long time. Kirito wanted to be alone because he didn’t want anyone experience the pain and suffering. He was afraid to lose anyone and he often tells others that he’s okay.
For me, I sometimes enjoy being alone and making myself available as possible for others. I do my best to help my family when they need help doing stuff like chores or helping others who needs it. I am always there for my friends when they need emotional support. If it’s about depression or the stress of the world, I make time listen to what they need to say what can’t be said to no one. Even if the issue is small or big, I take things serious and I try to find ways to help out. However, there times where I get this fear that since I do prefer being alone, what if there is time where I need someone and if I can’t find them, will someone find me instead? I think this sense of loneliness began after graduating high school and it carried all the way t college. Since my friends went to different universities, I had to start all over again. Thanks to my introvert personality, I was too shy to talk to anyone. I was afraid that if I make a friend and when the classes is over after finals, I was going to lose them and then get forgotten. I was fortunate enough have my friend from all the way to middle school and he is more of a brother than a friend.
For the rest of my college years, I mostly just went to school, studied, work out at the gym and went home. It was rinse and repeat for 4 years. I met new faces ever semester and then they leave. If I was fortunate, I would see them again and catch up for a bit. I was one of the those people who came to school to study and then go home. In a funny way, I did try to make friends in class especially to the professors, but it was only temporary after finals were done. I can relate to Kirito because I did meet people, but the bonds didn’t last long. I was willing to work together and cooperate, but I guess since we only became friends because of a class, we didn’t connect and get to know each other. Being alone was something I was good at doing and I didn’t really complain much. I guess God intervened in my life because in my last year of school, I did make a long lasting friend.
College Story time – Allie
In my last years of college, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and make the best of my school years. In a English Writing class I took, I was stuck with the same class for two different class sessions and instructed by a married English Instructor. In this class, I met one friend that even I am surprised that stayed friends with me. Her name was Allison “Allie” Turman. I met her every time I came to class early and whenever she did show up, I like to start with small talk. Whether if it was anime like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! or Inuyasha, we talked until class began; I even got her into Sword Art Online and later on after college, I got into her shows like Loonatics Unleashed. We also saw that Sword Art Online movie Ordinal Scale and it was amazing seeing something we both enjoyed together. For her birthday, I got her a Yui plushie since she thought she was cute. Heck, I even invited her to see my family and we had a good time. It was fun to bring home a friend and show her where I came from. In a funny way, I was like Kirito and she was Asuna (I like to call her Queen). To make a long story short, realized that it doesn’t matter if you only have a few number of friends or a bunch, as long they can give you happiness and make you feel important, you don’t need to feel alone. When you have friends like Allison or my brother-in-Christ Ezra, I feel like I can take on the world and show no fear. I can be like Kirito and feel strong and laugh at the face of danger. My family, God and friends is my source of strength. They help me laugh, express feelings and love more. Without them, I would feel dead and emotionless as a NPC (Non-Playable Character).
Conclusion: Stand by Me
Excuse me for this lengthy discussion, but I had a lot to talk about. The purpose of this post is to describe the importance of a “good friend” and how does it feel, in a sense, be part of a group that makes feel important. We learned from Sword Art Online that Kirito had some bad experience in groups and this led him stay away from people. He blames himself for deaths could have been prevented if he spoke up. Even if he remained alone, Kirito took time to help people, but he didn’t expect to be the one that needed the help when he met Asuna. With Asuna, Kirito didn’t want to be alone and he wanted to be there for her and experience the love he gained in 2 years of captivity. For me, I found some great friends. I have friends that are willing to listen me as much as I listen to them in my free time. I may not have a lot of actual friends, I do have people that think I am important. Doesn’t matter if the numbers are less or how much I have online, the ones that comment or cares about me are the ones worth having. The ones who will say “how are you or are you okay” are the ones that are paying attention to you.
Again, I am sorry you had to bear with my babbling. I hope you enjoyed this OWLS post. The next OWLS post will be on March 8th and the next writer is Matt Doyle.