Originally Posted by something
For me, what you just described illustrates why I think this arc's writing is so very lazy. At least the SAO arc kinda had to struggle with establishing a world and character relationships and an overhanging threat that I could buy into and find pretty interesting, and managed to do it well at times. ALO not so much.
I want that show back. I really, really want that show back, badly. It took so long to finally obtain it, to give Kirito real emotional depth, and then that show just dissolved before my eyes.
I think it's probably telling that Kirito isn't really the focus of the narrative in this arc anyway. He's a subject, but the perspective more-often follows Suguha and Asuna than Kirito directly. Right now, coming off of a "death game", this is very much more of just a "game" for Kirito, except for the need to verify if that's really Asuna on top of that tree or not. So I don't think he's really had an opportunity to show much depth yet, because it's been rather low-risk so far. He does have limited time, but the objective is still hazy at best. If he knew what we knew, it'd be a different story, so we in the audience sort of just have to wait until we see the pieces come together.
If the story is going to return to the themes you enjoyed, I think it will only happen once the "real fight" becomes clear -- a fight against an opponent that can't be beaten by gamer skill alone. Because then Kirito/Kazuto will have to again come face-to-face with his weakness. In the meantime, though, he's "kicking ass and taking names" because that's what allows the story to advance to the next stage. In a game where "death" is really just an inconvenience, it was going to be pretty hard for it to keep sense of gravitas until we get to the real meat of the story where real lives are (once again) at stake. In the meantime, personally I'm enjoying the sort of side story well enough, but I've always enjoyed the game aspects of this story a fair bit.