Many Sword Art Online fans are drawn to the series, in part, thanks to its iconic character designs. From Kirito’s classic Coat of Midnight to Asuna’s Knights of the Blood Oath uniform, a character’s appearance is always attention-grabbing. Perhaps the most shocking SAO design, however, has nothing to do with clothes -- it’s Kirito’s dramatically different Gun Gale Online avatar.
With long hair and soft features, Kirito’s GGO avatar is strikingly feminine, leaving many wondering what prompted the redesign. The avatar caused many to mistake Kirito for a girl, which put an interesting spin on his introduction to a new video game post-ALO and SAO. However, it turns out there is a specific reason why Kirito's avatar was so different. Here’s a look into why GGO transformed Kirito’s look and how his feminine avatar affected his experience during the Phantom Bullet Arc.
Following the reports of a GGO player, “Death Gun,” allegedly killing players he shoots in the game in real life, Kirito was hired to investigate the mysterious deaths. In order to understand how Death Gun was actually killing people, Kirito had to dive into GGO himself. When he spawned into the game, his avatar from SAO was converted into a GGO model, but the shift was much more radical than he had expected.
The GGO avatar turned out to be an exceedingly rare model from the «M9000» series which let male players adopt a feminine look with long hair and eyelashes as well as a shorter and more slender build. The girly avatar is so uncommon that it's become a hot0ticket item among many male players, with someone even offering to buy it from Kirito.
While the change is initially confusing and seemingly random, some theorized that Kirito was rewarded with this coveted model due to his extensive playtime in SAO, which transferred to GGO in the conversion. Others have speculated that during the system scan he may have been perceived as feminine, as Kirito's usual look has already been called girlish, as Klein pointed out in Sword Art Online Season 1, Episode 2.
Regardless, Kirito was understandably stunned by his new avatar. At first, he was put out by it, thinking it distracted from the “soldier”-like aura of his original avatar. However, Kirito quickly realized that such a rare model might boost his notoriety in GGO and catch Death Gun’s eye, bringing him further in the investigation.
Kirito’s instincts weren’t wrong -- the avatar did give him an advantage while navigating GGO’s new environment. GGO expert Sinon seemed more willing to help Kirito out when she thought he was a woman, explaining some of the game’s fundamentals as well as showing him where and how to get gear. Sinon eventually discovered Kirito was in fact not a girl while in a changing room, and was appalled and frustrated that he took advantage of the mistake. Despite the initial upset, Sinon still entered a tournament with Kirito. With her fantastic sniper skills, their friendship was essential for Kirito to eventually reach Death Gun.
Another interesting facet of Kirito’s GGO getup is his Kagemitsu G4 photon sword. Though typically deemed inefficient and useless in a shooter game, the lightsaber-esque weapon suited Kirito’s combat style perfectly and he quickly proved his look is just as threatening and impressive with his glossy-eyed feminine avatar.