Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld ?
Episode 12 completes the run of War of Underworld for now, as a recent article has clarified that the series will be taking a season off before finishing with its last 11 episodes in the Spring 2020 season. I have mixed feelings about where they chose to cut off the story; cutting off after last episode would have provided a better cliffhanger note to end on, but including this content provides two anticipatory notes for the final part: Alice needing to be rescued and that we're finally going to get to see who Gabriel's henchman (his name's Vassago, but I don't recall if that has ever been stated in the anime) actually was in SAO.
The content of this episode traverses the early parts of novel 17, carrying it up to page 53 and including several important turns of events. While I have generally been very pleased with how the adaptation has handled the story, that's not the case with some of the details here, as it stumbles on two significant points. The lesser of those two points – that one of the Human Army members didn't speak up and voice an opinion on who Sinon is supposed to be – is an oversight that likely will be corrected at the beginning of episode 13, though I feel that identifying what role she's coming in as is important enough that it should have been included here. The other point is a more damaging one: not elaborating on what Vecta did to render Alice unconscious. Anyone who hasn't read the novel is going to be left with the impression that he accomplished it all too easily using some undefined mechanism, and I can't fault them for thinking that. On the off chance that it does get explained in the next episode, I will refrain from describing what happened here, but will put a spoiler-tagged explanation in the response thread for those who are interested.
I wasn't a big fan of the “Alice gets carried off and has to be rescued” ploy in the novel and I'm not any more thrilled about it here. It does set up a high-stakes chase scenario, but her getting carried off with so little resistance devalues how strong she is. Bercouli flying off after her promises one hell of an upcoming fight, so there's that at least. There is also a lot here to be pleased about. Seeing Sheyta and Iksam team up is one of the episode's high point (if we were doing a Best Frenemies category for the year-end awards, I'd absolutely vote for them), as is seeing Iksam turn on Vecta and decide to work with the Human Empire forces. Because he yanked his eye out rather than getting it to explode, he's still bound by Vecta's orders, but not being limited by the pain means he can more liberally take action. And of course Sinon's arrival gives Asuna the outside support she desperately needs.
All of this also means that there is no shortage of action, as there are oodles of American interlopers to fight and a second wave arriving near the end. Sinon's first shot is an impressive display, but so are some of the moves laid by others, especially Iksam. Overhead shots give a good sense of how the overall battle is going without having to strain animation resources or resort to clunky CG. Use of sound effects also continues to impress; I am hard-pressed to think of another action series in the last year or two which has done as well or better.
The fact that Shino is now in Underworld using what is presumably one of the super-accounts also raises one big question: where's Suguha? If we presume that Shino is logging in from the Rath facility in Roppongi, then Suguha should be here as well. Sadly, you'll have to wait about three months to find out where she ended up and how she will fit into the picture.
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