She’s constantly oscillating between the damsel-in-distress archetype and being a strong female character. Which is it?
My Problem with Asuna from SAO
Sword Art Online’s Asuna radiates badassness from the moment that she appears in episode 1, shrouded in mystery under a cloak. I was impressed by her fighting abilities, which later earned her recognition and respect as the Knights of the Blood Oath’s second-in-command. It seemed a sure thing that Asuna would not fall victim to the dreaded “Trinity Syndrome,” in which a strong female character is marginalized.
Then, as the show progressed, something happened. Circa episode 6, Asuna’s character started to change for the worse.
The strong, independent Asuna that had fought her way to the top of her guild started to become squeamish, wimpy, and go so far as to literally hide behind the cape of her love interest, Kirito (Episode 8, “The Sword Dance of White and Black”). On several occasions, Asuna stands back passively just to let Kirito fight her battles for her. In one episode, she even goes running to Kirito with tears in her eyes, asking him to fight for her freedom to leave the Knights of Blood Oath (Episode 10, “Crimson Killing Intent”). God forbid she should fight for her own right to do whatever she wants! This new pattern of behavior was foreign to the strong, independent Asuna that we all knew and loved, and therein lies myproblem with Asuna’s character: she’s inconsistent. She’s constantly oscillating between the damsel-in-distress archetype and being a strong female character. Which is it?
There is nothing wrong with having a softer side. It’s OK that Asuna cooks and takes pride in her appearance; it’s also OK that she asks for help. Those things show that her character has complexity and depth. However, beyond those characteristics that make Asuna a complex character, she is also inconsistent because the helpless damsel act starkly contradicts everything that was previously established about her. Would a disciplined and well-respected leader of an elite guild repeatedly hide behind her knight in shining armor? Would one of the best fighters in SAO refuse to fight for the right to pursue her own choices? No.
The fact that Asuna becomes so dependent on Kirito within a few episodes of teaming up with him, made me wonder how she was able to make it so far without him. She’s supposedly been leveling with a top guild for two years, and is committed to finishing the game so that she may return to the real world. It sounds like Asuna had her own convictions and motivations, but despite this, she still admits that without Kirito, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself(Episode 9, “Blue-Eyed Demon”). It makes you think that maybe her convictions were not very strong to begin with if she’s not willing to rise up and fulfill them, with or without Kirito.