Asuna from Sword Art Online: An Angry Rant
Asuna, the second main character, the love interest. I hate her. I did not at the beginning, honestly, but slowly my disdain for this character grew and blossomed into a beautiful flower. But why? Why you hate something is of course rather subjective, but there is a couple of more objective reasons to dislike this character. First, a little summary of her role in the series.
The Early Portrayal
Asuna appears early, teaming up with the main character Kirito. She is here hooded and rarely speaks, which seems a little at odds with her later personality, where she was not afraid to speak her mind. But some change in personality is natural when suddenly thrown into such conditions. Anyway, the two of them fight together and defeat the boss of the first floor. Kirito becomes hated by the other players, but Asuna thanks him, and they split up. Here, they cooperate well and you might even call Asuna a powerful warrior, but alas, this is going to change.
They meet some time later, however, and investigate a murder case. Asuna has now become the vice-commander of the guild “Knights of Blood” and has now reached the design and personality she will have for the rest of the arc.
It is here that she becomes mostly useless. It is hard being a non-fighting character in an action show, but Asuna is basically in this category, as she never fights any serious opponent, the only fighting she does is defeating some nameless unimportant monster as we enter the scene, then she never does anything, as if ashamed to show her violent side to the audience. Instead we get some fairly typical romance scenes between her and Kirito.
No Respect at All
Is it wrong to say that I find the “Knights of Blood” guild's treatment of Asuna hilarious? The portrayal may be sexist, but...actually, that is what makes it so funny. It is like a stereotype of sexism. No one in the entire organization respects Asuna, who is supposed to be the second in command. Sure, they may salute her and such, but they certainly do not care about her opinions or take her orders. Look for example at a scene where the guild assigns a bodyguard named Kuradeel to Asuna. Asuna is not interested, and orders Kuradeel to leave. He refuses, and tries to make her return to the guild's headquarters. Apparently Asuna does not have the authority to make Kuradeel obey, and he indeed treats her like a child.
This being a conflict between Kuradeel and Asuna, or else an internal conflict inside the guild, it is a little bit strange that Kuradeel suddenly focuses on Kirito. But for some reason the two get into a duel, if Kirito wins Kuradeel will leave Asuna alone. I must ask, why is Kirito fighting this fight? Why does Asuna not make use of her authority, or else talk to the guild leader about changing Kuradeel's orders, or else have Asuna duel. Why Kirito, an outsider, is dueling in Asuna's place is beyond me, especially since Asuna is a powerful player. We are told she is powerful, anyway.
There is another great moment with Kuradeel. It turns that he is evil, and Kirito has to fight him, but he has been poisoned. So Asuna takes up the sword and fights in Kirito's stead. She pushes Kuradeel back, scoring hit after hit, not letting him slip away. And the entire time I am just waiting for her to fail. I am not disappointed either, as she struggles to land the final hit, and Kirito comes in to finish the job.
Then this amusingly repeats itself when Asuna wants out of the guild. The guild leader Heathcliff does of course not turn to Asuna to discuss this, he talks to Kirito. Again, Asuna has the same authority in this organization as a towel. So Heathcliff and Kirito starts dueling over Asuna, and Kirito actually loses.
But it turns out that also Heathcliff was evil, and Kirito and Asuna must face him another battle. Then he disables Asuna, as he has no interest in her, and wants to fight Kirito one on one. Her part of the final dramatic battle of the first arc is lying silently on the ground. She then sacrifices herself for Kirito, which accomplishes nothing as Kirito dies anyway.
An Amusing End
No, Asuna was nothing more than a love interest, and for the second half of the anime, a damsel in distress. But this is where it gets interesting. The helpless Asuna who would just watch Kirito fight is here transformed into a much more capable person, who tries to escape any way she can. She resembles her earlier character to a degree, and although she does not manage to free herself, she plays some part in the plot, and her determination is above all refreshing. Of course, she has to be saved again in the end, but that is what you should expect at this point.
It should be considered that Asuna's weakness may not come from a sexist world view. Kirito may just be a bit of wish-fulfillment from the author, and so all battles and all victories is fought and won by Kirito. It is not only Asuna who is showed into the background. But it is so much more apparent with her.
And that may be where my disdain for this character comes from. What is more annoying than a weak character? A weak character which the writers insists is great. They claim she is powerful and influential, and everything we see denies that. This makes Asuna seem so hollow, an empty character lifted up on a pedestal. If they had made her a healer, it would have been a cliché, but it would still be something. Yet there something how Asuna in the show differs from the Asuna the other characters talk about that I find extremely amusing. I did laugh a couple of times at her predictable failing at being important. That is kind of sad, thinking about it.