Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld
Episode 10

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld ?

In last week's review I wondered about whether they would try to finish this season with just one episode or stretch the remaining content out for two episodes. This episode makes it clear that the latter path was chosen, and thus the cour can be expected to end on episode 12 – in other words, with the game-changing plot twists that end volume 16 of the source material. So yeah, there should be some exciting turns of events next episode.

This episode, however, had plenty enough to talk about. The early scene showing Asuna talking to Higa back on the Ocean Turtle was only briefly referred to but not detailed in the novel, so a little bit of the stretch happens there. Otherwise the episode just takes an unhurried pace in letting the dramatic events surrounding Asuna's arrival in the Human Army's camp play out, and that works perfectly. Asuna and Alice's first meeting was about as fiery as could reasonably be expected, with the dull thuds of their swords impacting with each other contrasting nicely with the elegant battle movements and whirling capes and skirts. Arguably the two strongest and most determined female characters in the franchise encountering each other, with Kirito caught in the middle, could only lead to blows and petty verbal sniping, and the scenes of the two together certainly fulfill that.

This was also the part of the story that I was dreading a little on being adapted. I can just see the eye-rolling reactions to the last few minutes of the episode, where Asuna and every female character in Underworld that Kirito has connected with assemble for a night of girl's talk about Kirito – including Sortilena, who suddenly pops up again after not having been around since episode 9 of the first half of the arc. Although the scene happening isn't a stretch at all, there's no way it can be looked at without to some degree considering the harem angle, and the production staff apparently did not even bother to try to cast it in a different light.

Among other important details which come out this episode, the existence of a mole in Rath, which the writing has been hinting at for a long time, is now both confirmed and linked to the Pontifex's cryptic comment about “that person” back in the late stages of the first part. That the eye seal was a bit of sabotage, rather than something engineered knowingly by Rath, clears up the inconsistency about the seal existing when the whole goal is to see Fluctlights break through the Taboo Index. Who, exactly, the mole is should now be obvious to anyone who was paying attention during the Ocean Turtle scenes in the first part. Since Higa and Kikuoka don't know about him yet, you have to figure that his role in this is not yet done. I also have to give props to Bercouli for not only not being thrown one bit by Asuna's story but also even making enough connections between it and what's going on in Underworld to guess tha Vecta is probably one of the outside opposition that Asuna mentioned. Props also go once again to the seemingly straight-laced Sheyta for once again making the most of her limited role and screen time.

The final impression of the episode – and this comes across much more strongly in the anime version than the source material – is that this is no longer just Asuna and Kirito's story. Their reuniting in Underworld (even if Kirito is still out of it) should have been one of the feature moments of the whole season, but like with Asuna's arrival last episode, it is getting overshadowed by another conflict, this time between Asuna and Alice. I am definitely not intending this as a criticism, but it's once again an affirmation that the story does not have to rely on Kirito to be entertaining.

Rating:

Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld is currently streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and HIDIVE.


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