Sword Art Online: Alicization War of Underworld Part 2
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization War of Underworld Part 2 ?
Only one challenge remained at the end of last episode, but it was a doozy: either defeat Subtilizer or at least stall him long enough to allow Alice to traverse the final distance to World's End Altar, and do it within a limited time frame before the hyper-acceleration occurs. No small task, given that the Incarnation system allows Gabriel to unleash the full terror of the dark and twisted soul of a serial killer. Vassago was a total bastard, but he was at least partly a product of his circumstances. Gabriel, who can make no such claim, was a monster from the beginning. (Perhaps Vassago sensed that, and that's why he respected Gabriel.) That makes him fitting as the final boss.
And that's exactly what this is: a classic Final Boss scenario. This is not about redeeming someone who has gone astray; this is a battle against true evil. Because of the way the Incarnation system works, it essentially comes down to a battle of raw willpower, even if that is couched in terms of energy tentacles or Kirito's trademark Starburst Scream. (Though that technically is an Aincrad Sword Skill, it shouldn't manifest in Underworld because, like Mother's Rosario, it's unique.) That gives Gabriel an advantage, as the Incarnation allows him to manifest what has always existed within him. As capable as he is, Kirito can only counter that by drawing support from others.
That brings up an interesting point about the franchise in general: at only a couple of points has Kirito ever taken down a major foe without any assistance. (The first was the demon Santa Claus in episode 3 of the first series, and the second was Eiji in the movie.) Every other time he has had at least some help at some critical point, and that is no different here. This time the help does not come in the form of a fighting partner, but rather in the form of ghost-Eugeo once again coming to his aid and Kirito drawing energy from everyone in Underworld through the effective equivalent of Dragon Ball Z's Spirit Bomb.
As corny as that may come across, Kirito has made a lot of connections across Underworld and had an undeniable impact on events there, so it is justified. The metaphor of using his black sword, the Night Sky Blade, to spread nightfall across Underworld is also an interesting one, as normally the spread of darkness symbolizes terror and evil. Here, however, it is a pleasant, comforting night sky, one awash with stars and a sense of peace. It's no wonder that even people who do not know Kirito might attune to it. Another way to look at it is that Gabriel ultimately gets defeated by superior networking.
Although the battle does achieve a certain cool factor, it is not the peak spectacle that the series has shown it is capable of. It also cuts out a scene from the novel showing what Gabriel experiences as he fades out, which kills a connection to some earlier content. This could possibly be in the next episode, as the narrative is clearly kicking ahead to next episode a couple of other scenes on the Ocean Turtle that were interwoven with this battle, but we'll see on that. I was pleased to see the flashes to other various locales, including numerous figures coming out of Underworld (they were kicked out automatically when the hyper-acceleration started, since non-local connections could not keep up) and another suggestion that Renly and Tiese are going to hook up; they make a good couple, and Renly is hardly a weak consolation prize for not getting to have Eugeo.
That Asuna stayed when Alice was successfully sent out of Underworld should be of no surprise to anyone. She's made it plenty clear that she goes where Kirito goes, and if that means being stuck in Underworld for 200 years, so be it. This is, however, the end of the Underworld portion of the Alicization arc. Plenty of things are still happening on the Ocean Turtle, and I expect next episode to be totally devoted to resolving that. The Underworld part may be concluded (for now), but with half of novel 18 left to go, Alicization as a whole is not.
Sword Art Online: Alicization War of Underworld Part 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, Hulu, and Funimation .
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