|“||You’re soft, Kenji, and I admire that. But I’m not. Besides, you’d have regretted doing it. I won’t. Something had to be done. Was I over-the-top? You bet I was. Do I care? Not one whit. Would I do it again? For you? In a heartbeat. And why? Because you’re better than me.||„|
|~ Excerpt from Kenji's journal, where Kusaka highlights the lengths he would go to for Kenji after torturing Loki.|
|Real Name||Kusaka Kori|
|Height||181 cm (5'11½")|
|Weight||67 kg (148 lbs)|
|Family||Sojiro Kori (cousin)|
|VR Played||«Sword Art Online»|
|Appears In||«Sword Art Online (Kenji)»|
Kusaka Kori (日下コリ), known by the username Arashi (嵐) in various online games, was one of the original beta testers for «Sword Art Online». He subsequently became one of the 10,000 players trapped within the game when it was officially launched. In addition, he was viewed as a "dirty Beater" by some. Kusaka co-led a Clearer guild called «Brightscale» and was known as the «Raid Leader».
Kusaka's character serves as a foil to Kenji in the author's works and is portrayed primarily as an antihero. This is depicted most commonly in-story by Kusaka's willingness to shoulder burnders his allies may balk at, which usually results in him turning into an orange player.
Kusaka is a fair-skinned man with grey eyes and black-coloured hair usually styled into various messy spikes. He is quite intimidating, almost always wearing a scowl, and has been described as frightening to look at even by his closest friends. In terms of physicality Kusaka is a well-built man with clearly defined musculature, with a physique comparable to Yoshiro's own.
Sometime before December 7th 2022, Kusaka applied several tattoos to his avatars face, seemingly in response to a quip made by Airi that she would "scratch his face off" when they quested together. The first comprised a set of three scars straight over his right eye that continued down his cheek, the second comprised a "69" on his left cheek, whilst the third consisted of a blue-stripe tattoo that ran across his left cheek and over the bridge of his nose. According to Kenji the tattoos contributed to Kusaka's punk-like look, and he commented a few times that he found him frightening to look at. This opinion was echoed by Fujimaru, who also found Kusaka physically intimidating.
Kusaka and Yoshiro were the first combative members of «Brightscale» to adopt casual attire. When he joined Yoshiro to collect Akiye after her picnic with Fujimaru, he did so without his staple Tanking gear in evidence. Even before this however Kusaka disliked wearing helmets, claiming that they stifled his vision, and voiced a dislike for the weight of the various armours his Tanking role required him to wear as they limited his mobility in a crisis. Seemingly in answer to his venting, Momoko created a casual uniform rather than a strict battle uniform, allowing for the members of «Brightscale» to exhibit their own unique appearance when questing. The uniform she settled on was distinctly Eastern in design and consisted of a black-coloured kimono, white shitagi, black hakama, white ōbi, white tabi, waraji, and a simple armband with the «Brightscale» insignia emblazoned on its surface. In addition, Kusaka's uniform was modified to be sleeveless, and sported two bands on his arms and a third around his neck. These uniforms were in use by the members of «Brightscale» by the 22nd of December 2022. During the Christmas festivities Momoko knitted a jumper for Kusaka with a big grumpy Santa Claus on the front with HUMBUG written in big letters overhead. Although he complained he admitted in his journal that he liked the gift.
As a Tank, Kusaka predominantly wore heavy suits of armour with limited mobility and high defensive strength. His initial set was «Iron Armour», and he was thus described as a "tin soldier" by Kenji, with this particular set being worn alongside a large two-handed sword.
Armour of Xiphias
Kusaka was the only member of «Brightscale» whose first unique suit of armour was not crafted by either of the twins, with it instead being a monster drop from a one-time event on the 2nd Floor, known as the «Armour of Xiphias». This suit incorporated the upper-body, arms, waist, leg and feet slots, and completely covered Kusaka's body in pitch-black interlocked scales described as being darker than a bottomless pit, with the design of the scales being similar to that of a fish. The knees, elbows, and shoulders of the suit featured various spikes. In addition to its defensive functions the suit featured a glowing red eye set in the centre of the chest-piece that glowed demonically, specifically when its HP restoration was active.
This armour had a paired two-handed sword known as «Xiphias» which was roughly as long as Kusaka was tall. It sported a massive chunk of blackened steel with a silver edge, had an enclosed handle offering added protection, but lacked a guard of any kind. It's size and colouration aside «Xiphias» possessed a red eye-like decoration above the handle that glowed demonically, specifically when its HP stealing effects and «Bleeding» status took effect. Prior to its name being revealed Kenji comically referred to it as "Arashi's monstrosity" because of its high attack rating and ridiculous size.[Notes 2]
At an unspecified point prior to March 2023, Kusaka replaced his «Armour of Xiphias» with a new set of armour known in-game as «Venture» which, according to Kusaka, was the first suit he encountered with the same «Lightweight Property» that so appealed to him in regard to his old set. This suit comprises a tight-fitting golden-hued chest-piece, an enlarged pauldron on the left arm that is strapped across the chest, golden-hued vambraces, padded cloth trousers, and golden-hued greaves. The helmet resembled a Western European nasal helmet with large metallic wings towards the back.
|“||Arashi’s foot impacted the ground mere inches from my head and his sword glowed a majestic yellow. Zagan had dropped onto all-fours and was preparing to gore me but Arashi swung out at his horns and miraculously managed to divert the raging Boss.||„|
|~ Excerpt from SAOK: The Eventful Taurus, were Kusaka saves Kenji's life.|
Kusaka is a cage fighter in real life and his occupation bleeds into many aspects of his everyday life. He is excessively violent, confrontational, is in possession of an explosive temper, and has been described as a punk, a prick, and a pain in the ass. Despite this he is fiercely loyal to those he considers a friend and has been viewed as a foil to Kenji for much of their lives.
Kusaka is more apt to solve his problems with violence as opposed to diplomacy, and has been described as being quick to anger; to the point Kenji has observed Kusaka's temper as a volcano that could erupt at any moment. It takes very little to set Kusaka off, and he often comes across as rude and uncaring, but was actually very worried about his cousin Sojiro. He was initially against welcoming the twins Momoko and Akiye into the group and found their antics childish, especially when said antics directly affected him. His attitude towards the twins softened when they introduced Ino Choyo to the group as this helped to organize the groups finances and, in his eyes, they became useful. In secret, however, Kusaka was arguably the twins' greatest champion. Whilst Kenji, Fujimaru and Yoshiro succeeded in momentarily frightening Loki off, Kusaka put the literal fear of God into the man and left him in no uncertain terms what would happen to him if he ever went near the twins again. He also spent his Christmas morning with them slaying Event snowmen to gather Christmas-themed drops, and admitted in his private journal afterwards that he had fun.
Although the best of friends, Kenji and Kusaka have an undeniable rivalry. Even before Airi joined them, their competitive spirit drove them to advance more-or-less at an even pace. Even when helping the other members of «Brightscale» catch up in terms of level, Kusaka was the sole member of the guild whose level remained on-par with Kenji. Against Boss monsters the two were often able to channel their rivalry into flawless teamwork and remarkable synergy, to the point their teammates were left speechless when the two more-or-less dispatched the «Armoured Revenant» of the «Dead Woods Mausoleum» by themselves. This is reinforced whenever Kusaka is seen in Kenji's company because he relaxes, and is generally calmer, though he and Kenji still clash frequently. Kenji states that Kusaka likes it when people stand up to him and this was one of the reasons he actually liked Airi and indeed he would extend his prevalent attitude with Kenji to her in-turn. Kusaka was impressed by her willingness to stand up to him without backing down and although the two continued to have their spats and differences of opinion, it quickly became apparent that she was one of the people Kusaka got on the best with. Despite a recent argument and her complete ignoring of him the following morning, Kusaka saved Airi's life without hesitation when she was threatened. Notably, Kusaka has shown himself more than willing to commit unwholesome acts -- such as torture and murder -- just so that Kenji, whom he views as being a better person that himself, does not need to dirty his own hands.
Despite his angry responses Kusaka is a serious and reliable man when the chips are down and is trusted to lead the guild's raid-team, replacing Kenji in the role, when Teams A and B join forces. He first demonstrated his leadership abilities when the founding members of «Brightscale» encountered «Zagan the Exile». Kusaka coordinated the entire party, calling out patterns, arranging DPS windows, and organizing pot rotations to accommodate his fellow Tank and keep the damage focused primarily on himself. Kenji was so impressed that he initially offered the leadership role to Kusaka, though Kusaka again cited Kenji's suitability to the role by claiming he was more of a people person. He went into further detail in a private conversation with Kenji where he openly admitted his belief that Kenji was a better man than he was. His serious nature extends to questing and grinding and can lead to instances of impatience, especially when his comrades lose focus. Airi and Yoshiro have noted his outlook to be very different from Kenji's relaxed way of doing things.
Although he could rightly be called fearless, Kusaka has shown a noticeable degree of hesitation with regard to angering Airi. When she said she was going to talk to them all in regard to their teasing of Fujimaru, Kusaka visibly gulped.
Even without using the «Howl» skill Kusaka is naturally loud. Despite being muffled by the entire content of Momoko's inventory Kusaka's shout was still heard clearly by all present. This extends to the battlefield. Kusaka's booming voice can clearly be heard by his friends even over the furious sounds of battle, whether it be in the open fields or in the depths of a dungeon. Ino has remarked that Kusaka can't communicate unless he either shouts or grunts.
|“||Suffice to say she had been the subject of some male ogling and said ogling only stopped when Arashi’s cursor changed from green to orange, and we had to help him resolve a «Karma Recovery» quest because he kind of lost his temper a little and attacked two players.||„|
|~ Excerpt from SAOK: Braving the Depths, were Kusaka is revealed to have gone orange.|
The colour of a player's cursor is a rough indicator of their alignment. Most players possess green-coloured cursors, allowing them to enter towns and safe-zones without meeting resistance from the powerful town guardians. Orange-coloured cursors indicate that a crime of some form has been committed, which in Sword Art Online is most easily achieved by either attacking other players -- usually for loot and equipment -- outside town or by harassing, or otherwise attacking, non-player characters.
Kusaka has struggled with his alignment since Sword Art Online began. Should one commit the same crime multiple times they are subject to rising repercussions; their cursor will return to green in the first three instances after a period of time has passed, but the fourth requires the completion of a quest. When Kusaka attacked two male players in the field who had been ogling Ino Choyo regarding the revealing nature of her armour and turned orange as a result, his friends helped him resolve a «Karma Recovery» quest, indicating that he had at the very least turned orange three times before this for attacking other players. One instance of Kusaka's willingness to turn orange was a secret between himself and Kenji and it involved the situation that arose between Momoko, Akiye and Loki. Kenji, in a fit of absolute rage, sought to kill Loki, and set out to do this after Loki encountered Akiye and Fujimaru some days following Kenji's own dual with Loki. Rather than allow his friend to dirty his own hands Kusaka talked Kenji down from his course, though he ended up confronting Loki himself and brutally torturing his fellow player. Kenji asked him why he did this and Kusaka willingly admitted that he did it because Kenji would have done it too but regretted having to do it, whilst he (Kusaka) would not have.
Kusaka's flirtation with orange status is a widely known fact amongst the middle-of-the-road players who sought to catch up to the front-line population, as these were the players the «Brightscale» membership interacted with the most. When Fujimoto tried to hit on Airi she recounted the tale of how she was responsible for giving Kusaka his scars. Fujimoto messaged Kusaka for clarification, and whilst Airi never seen the message nor did Fujimoto divulge the content of Kusaka's reply, Fujimoto paled considerably upon reading Kusaka's words. This implied a threat of some sort, or at the very least a threatening tone, one which Fujimoto was more than prepared to believe given Kusaka's reputation.
Kusaka grew up on Izu Ōshima, which was one of the volcanic islands of the Izu Peninsula, and described as an "island boy". Kusaka has a cousin called Sojiro. Sojiro himself was an only child and Kusaka, and he were of similar age. Yoshiro claimed that Kusaka was the only relative Sojiro maintained contact with after the death of Sojiro's parents.
Kusaka has been friends with Kenji Hiroshi for years, having known him since the two were in school, and they have remained close even when they progressed through adulthood. Kusaka often served as Kenji's wingman. In addition, he has often served as a voice of reason for Kenji, filling a role very much at odds with his violent personality.
It isn't known exactly when he took it up, but Kusaka was a professional cage fighter which, according to Airi, explained a great deal about his personality.
Alongside Kenji, Kusaka was a beta tester for the worlds very first VRMMORPG, Sword Art Online. He was aware of the Martial Arts quest but never attempted it himself. During the beta period Kusaka was a member of the front-line population advancing the game. Due to this he felt that Kenji, and he should be doing the same thing in the official launch, though they ended up making a slower start.
- Main article -- Sword Art Online (Kenji).
- SAOK: Unexpected Meetings
- SAOK: Pushing the Frontier
- SAOK: The Karma Scales
- SAOK: The Business of Grinding
- SAOK: The Eventful Taurus
- SAOK: The Moneymaking Crusade
- SAOK: Braving the Depths
- SAOK: New Year Resolutions
|Level||12.||December 3rd 2022.|
|Level||13.||Evening of December 7th 2022.|
|Level||14.||Following the battle with Zagan the Exile on December 14th 2022.|
|Level||15.||As of December 24th 2022.|
|Level||28.||As of January 27th 2023.|
|«Unnamed two-handed sword»||Two-handed Sword||Already in Kusaka's possession as of December 3rd 2022.||Replaced by «Xiphias» on December 5th 2022.|
|«Xiphias»||Two-handed Sword||Acquired by Kusaka as a rare drop on December 5th 2022.||Boasted incredible attacking power.|
|«Unnamed Knife»||One-handed Dagger||Acquired under unknown circumstances sometime before the 22nd of December 2022.||Boasted Level 1 Paralysis.|
Used by Kusaka to torture Loki.
|«Iron Armour»||Heavy Metal Armour||Already in Kusaka's possession as of December 3rd 2022.||Replaced on December 5th 2022 by the «Armour of Xiphias».|
|«Armour of Xiphias»||Heavy Metal Armour||Acquired by Kusaka as a rare drop either on the 5th of December 2022.||Boasted far superior defensive stats to the «Iron Armour».|
Provides a minor HP regeneration effect.
Possessed a lightweight attribute.
|«Unnamed Strength ring»||Ring||Received December 19th 2022, as a reward for the «Jade Key» quest.||Grants +1 to Strength.|
Kusaka is a two-handed sword-wielding Tank with a Strength and Vitality focused build, though he tends to prioritize his Strength stat. This runs opposite to the build of fellow Tank Yoshiro, whose Vitality is higher than his Strength, and whose focus is on interposing himself between his allies and opponents. Kusaka, meanwhile, focuses on counter-strokes, evasion, and outright cancellation of an opponents attacks whilst facing them head-on and toe-to-toe. Despite their differing styles the two have shown remarkable synergy, demonstrating precise switches for potion rotation, even during intense battles. Against monsters Kusaka's Strength and Attack Power is considered excessive, so when he turns it loose on other players the only thing that stops him causing long-term damage is the fact one's bones can't be broken in a virtual world.
Kusaka's third Skill Slot, «Howl», is the cornerstone of his Tanking strategy and the bread-and-butter Skill of any player trying to manage monster hate and direct it towards themselves. He commonly catches attention with «Howl» before solidifying it with a powerful Sword Skill or a devastating counter. His fourth Skill Slot, «Parry», allows him to effectively block incoming attacks in the same manner as a «Shield» would, with a slight hit to his HP as the only consequence. After many hours of questing alongside Kenji on the 1st Floor the only damage Kusaka had sustained amounted to roughly 30% of his HP gauge. Skills aside, Kusaka has a distinct equipment advantage over his allies that persisted even when Momoko and Akiye forged several high-powered pieces for his comrades. His sword, «Xiphias», healed Kusaka with a leeching effect when he dealt damage and additionally could apply «Bleeding» to the target with a 5% chance. The «Armour of Xiphias» possessed a healing effect that triggered at set intervals. These healing effects stacked with the slow regeneration of low-level healing potions which, during the early-game, provided a notable healing buff that allowed Kusaka to withstand the attacks of «Zagan the Exile» without his HP dipping below the green segment. Kusaka would add «Meditation» to his list of active Skills when he hit Level 20. This particular Skill increased Kusaka's HP recovery rate and heightened his resistance against negative status effects, amongst them Paralysis. The downside is that a "Zen meditative pose" had to be struck to benefit from the buffs. Kusaka learned the Skill using the «Awakening» route and ended up with a «Proficiency» of 500 the moment he learned it.
In addition to his Skills and role, Kusaka is a leader on the battlefield whose booming voice and in-your-face attitude ensures his commands and actions are seen and heard by his party. Against «Zagan the Exile» Kusaka skilfully commanded the flow of the entire battle and even when «Zagan» went berserk and his actions and patterns became randomized, Kusaka remained undeterred and adjusted his tactics to match. Whilst within the Boss Room of the «Dead Woods Mausoleum» Kusaka once again fell into his leadership role though he and Kenji got so caught up in their rivalry that the two effectively soloed the «Armoured Revenant» Boss with little actual input from their allies.
Unlike the core membership of «Brightscale», who all have their assigned roles, Kusaka is the only one whose stats and equipment allow him a degree of freedom in how he approaches combat. When he led a levelling party to rapidly catch Airi, Yoshiro and Sojiro up with Kenji and himself, Kusaka served instead as a damage-dealer rather than his usual role of Tank. Although a Tank, Kusaka's choice of weapon gives him considerable attacking power in addition to the ability to shrug off damage. His Strength stat, coupled with his weapon, was sufficient on the 2nd Floor to completely cancel out the strongest single-target Sword Skill employed by «Zagan the Exile». His strike was actually powerful enough to force the Boss to retreat, the feat drawing several expletives from his shocked companions who couldn't believe what Kusaka had managed to achieve. In addition, he actually managed to divert the Boss mid-charge with a vicious strike to its forward-pointing horns.
Sword Art Online
|SAO SKILL SLOTS|
|Two-handed Sword||Heavy Metal Armour||Howl||Parry||Meditation|
- «Cyclone» -- a two-handed spinning sword slash.
- «Back Rush» -- a counter-stroke used when the player is outflanked and approached from the rear. When activated the system assist allows the user to avoid the attack by increasing their reflexes to beyond-human levels, whilst lashing out with a counter.
- «Cascade» -- a simple overhead slashing attack.
- «Howl» -- the Tank's bread and butter skill and Kusaka's main aggro-building Skill. Kusaka's proficiency, coupled with his high attack-power, is extremely effective at building and holding aggro. Kusaka's «Howl» could easily keep his aggro ahead of his party members and even pull it back from Yoshiro without much incident.
- «Parrying» -- a technique allowing one to parry and suffer lesser damage and is effective even against Boss-level monsters. Kusaka's proficiency in the technique allowed him to constantly parry attacks whilst partying up with Kenji on the 1st Floor and suffer accumulated damage amounting to 30% of his HP over the course of several hours.
- «Meditation» -- an Extra Skill unlocked on the 6th Floor that increased Kusaka's HP recovery rate and heightened his resistance against negative status effects, amongst them Paralysis, through a timed buff. Said buffs are activated through the striking of a "Zen meditative pose" and best done prior to engaging in combat.
Outside System Skills
- «Sword Skill Cancellation» -- not a Skill as far as the system is concerned but rather a possibility brought about by clashing Sword Skills. Against «Zagan the Exile» Kusaka demonstrated the precise timing required to completely cancel the monster's Sword Skill with one of his own, whilst possessing the requisite Strength not to be moved backwards whilst simultaneously sending the Boss skidding backwards.
Appearances in other media
Kusaka has appeared in a number of specials and one-shot chapters, usually as the main supporting character. Whilst considered canon to the rest of Sword Art Online (Kenji), these chapters are designed to be light-hearted and not overly serious, with content that can rightly be called ridiculous.
The specials in question are:
- The Tortilla Crusade! -- one-shot celebrating "National Tortilla Chip Day".
Behind the scenes
- Kusaka's height and weight measurements, including physical appearance, is modelled on Shūhei Hisagi from Bleach.
- Kusaka was initially written as the «Brightscale» member who punched Loki in SAOK: Inbetweeners I. Given Kusaka's explosive temper, however, the resultant scene was very different from what was ultimately written. The decision was made to use the more even-tempered Yoshiro instead. That said, the original scene was later adapted into the events depicted in the «Brightscale Journal».
- Kusaka was put forward for one section of the Sword Art Online Fanon's 7th Year Polls in 2019, specifically the "Best Deuteragonist" category. Kusaka won the poll.
References & notes
- ↑ Kenji states that Kusaka and he used to be in the same class at school. Kenji himself is confirmed to be 26 in December 2022.
- ↑ You already knew this, but Arashi’s weapon was an absolute monstrosity of a two-handed sword which was roughly as long as he was tall. -- Excerpt from SAOK: The Eventful Taurus.