Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld ?
With episode 5, the series completes its adaptation of novel 15 and thus also its very long set-up for this season's main story. The shattering of the Eastern Gate and the flashing of the words “Final Load Test” mark the point at which the titular war truly begins.
Devoting five episodes to the set-up may seem like a long time, but given that the war will last for most or all of the remaining 18 episodes, the length of the set-up is justified. There's also already a payoff, as the situation existing as LiSA's haunting closing song plays at the end is a compelling. (I may have said this before, but in terms of a pure musical effort it's one of the year's best theme songs.) The human forces standing at ready are outnumbered more than 16 to 1, and even the seven mighty Integrity Knights – who are each easily worth hundreds if not thousands of enemy soldiers – cannot fully compensate for that numerical disparity. On top of that, at least one of them – the young man with the braided green hair – looks very unsteady for being in his position, and we don't know anything yet about what the female Integrity Knight with the short, grayish hair can do. On top of that, the human forces aren't even aware yet that the true goal of the assault is Alice, and the attacking forces aren't aware that she is the linchpin of the human defenses.
But some final set-up has to be completed before the battle commences. Alice could feel reasonably assured that she would be welcomed back, as the human forces need every competent person that they can get and she has those who love her are there, whether it's Bercouli's parental feelings or Eldrie's clear but unspoken romantic interest. Kirito was another story, especially given that Alice left without telling anyone because she feared for his safety. However, he, too, has those who respect and/or love him. Fanatio actually wants to thank him for changing her mindset about things and Bercouli feels that someone who could stand against and defeat Administrator could eventually be a game-changer, while Ronie and Tiese finally reappear to tearfully learn the truth about Kirito and Eugeo. Eldrie might not like how much Alice cares for and looks out for him (a bit of jealousy, perhaps), but the two girls would look after him faithfully and protect him with their lives, and that does, indeed, seem to be where things are going by the end of the episode.
While Alice puts down Eldrie's advance gently, Fanatio is another story. Eldrie isn't the only one who's fiercely possessive, and the cattiness between her and Fanatio over Bercouli looks like just a warm-up for her eventual clashes with Asuna; it's like a daughter and potential future mother-in-law conflict. (Interestingly, she doesn't seem to regard Ronie and Tiese as threats concerning Kirito.) Her conversation with the trainee girls also shows that she still doesn't feel that she's the real Alice, but at this point who can say whether the real game-changing AI is the little girl persona who left with Eugeo or the proud, strong young woman who grew to replace her? Ultimately Alice isn't giving herself enough credit, and that could be a problem down the line if she faces foes who are more resolute in their character.
On the technical front, I liked the varying of the series' core musical themes, especially in the tent scene involving Ronie, Tiese, Kirito, and Alice. Getting a second hot woman to work in purple armor is also quite the feat, though Fanatio and Lipia actually aren't all that different in appearance.
Anyway, the time for peaceful, low-key scenes is over. From this point out, the franchise is headed into its longest run of near-continuous battles, one which, with only short interludes, should span most of the rest of the series. The war is upon us, so let's see if the adaptation can make it sufficiently memorable.
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