Sword Art Online: Alicization War of Underworld Part 2
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization War of Underworld Part 2 ?
Last episode brought the Underworld side of the Alicization arc to its climax, and now this episode brings the real-world events to their climax. Importantly, though, neither side has been brought to conclusion. While the epilogue showing Kirito and Asuna flying off into Underworld (and facing potentially 200 years there from their perspective) feels very much like a series-ending scene, the climaxes of the last two episodes have actually left a lot unresolved, and it will take both of the final two episodes to handle those resolutions. To put it another way, 105 pages of the novel remain to be adapted at this point.
In last week's review I mentioned a scene that was either skipped or delayed until this episode, and the latter case proved to be true. It's the one where the ghost of Alicia – the girl Gabriel killed as a child – confronts him and drags him down to Hell as he experiences fear for the first time. (This point is more heavily emphasized in the novel, but astute viewers may recall that he has not been shown as being even slightly unsettled by anything prior to this.) The scene is suitably harrowing, with the blood coming out of Alicia's left ear being an especially nice little add-on. (Remember, he killed Alicia by stabbing her through the ear.) But Gabriel's death still leaves a mess to deal with. He had a contingency plan to destroy the Ocean Turtle by making the reactor which serves as its engine go nuclear, and now Critter is left to carry that out. Kikuoka gets badly wounded in the process of protecting Higa while Higa tries to bring Kirito and Asuna out of Underworld and be the hero in stopping the engine as well, but that role falls to another: Akihiko Kayaba, who has inhabited the robot body Niemon.
Even if I had not read the novels first, Kayaba reappearing here would not have been a surprise. In fact, him not appearing here would have been illogical. The climax of Fairy Dance and early scenes in the first half of this arc both suggested that he still exists in some digital form, and Underworld is both an extension of his research and perhaps the ultimate form of what he was striving for. That gives him every reason to be checking out the Ocean Turtle and what Rath is doing there, and with both Underworld and the woman he may have genuinely loved endangered, he has every reason to make an appearance. Also, Yui cannot be the one to save the day in this circumstance; since she has never had a physical body, she does not have the sense of balance that the robot needs to move as effectively as this task requires. A former villain coming back to make a heroic sacrifice to save the good guys is also quite a common storytelling feature in comic books and long-running anime series. The only thing illogical here is the robot rebooting itself for a last stand based on Rinko's cajoling, which does result in a cheesy final effort, but I'll accept that as dramatic flavor.
All of this raises one of the series' biggest moral questions: does Kayaba acting to effectively save thousands of lives (a dozen or so on the Ocean Turtle and innumerable ones in Underworld) redeem him for what he did in Aincrad? I don't feel that it does because Kayaba is still acting out of personal interest here rather than making a specific attempt at redemption, but the heroic portrayal of the scene shows that the story is at least leaving alternate interpretations open. Of course, Kayaba might not be done here, as his robot body mysteriously disappears at the end. So does Vassago in an all-too-predictable twist, though Gabriel is definitely dead.
The episode ends with several other loose ends as well. Alice's fluctlight cube has been safely ejected and is in Rath's hands, but what will become of her? Asuna and Kirito did finally get logged out of Underworld, but only after enough real-world time for well over 100 years to have passed game time. (Remember, at an acceleration rate of 5 million, 9.5 years in Underworld passes per minute in the real world.) What effect will that have on them? Did Kikuoka survive his ominous-looking injuries? What did Kirito and Asuna get up to during the decades they spend in Underworld? And what will be the ultimate status of Rath, the Ocean Turtle, and Underworld given the potential international consequences of what has happened? All but one of these loose ends will be at least addressed (if not fully wrapped up) over the final two episodes, and the next episode being titled “Alice” suggests that her case – which is arguably the most impacting for the world at large – will not be short-changed.
Sword Art Online: Alicization War of Underworld Part 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, Hulu, and Funimation .
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