Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld ?
Dark World forces have been hemorrhaging named characters on a regular basis ever since “Emperor Vecta” appeared, and they lose at least one (and possibly two?) in this episode as well. The difference this time is that the Human Realm forces also take their first significant loss, and it isn't a big surprise that the loss they suffer is Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-Two.
In many respects Eldrie was the most expendable of the named characters on the human side. His whip just isn't as impressive in a pitched large-scaled battle, he made a major blunder in letting the goblins get past him via the smoke screen, and he has maybe the crappiest attitude of all of the Integrity Knights profiled so far. Most importantly, his character potential was capped by him being the hopeless wannabe-love interest for Alice. Though Alice clearly cared about him, it was entirely as a mentor; any romantic interest was completely one-sided on his part. Hopeless love interests generally do not fare well in anime stories (especially one where characters can die), with them commonly coming to tragic ends, and that is more or less the case with Eldrie. In retrospect, death flags along this line have been flying for him since his first encounter with Alice this season and only got reinforced during episodes 5 and 6. The only question was whether his death was going to be pathetically tragic or a final flaming moment of glory in support for/protection of his beloved Alice. He definitely got the latter, with him absorbing a spell powered by the lives of thousands and intended to wipe out that many or more, an action which sent his life totals soaring into the negatives – something that should have been impossible. There was nothing lacking on the visual front, either, and the final moments also raise the interesting suggestion that Eldrie's attraction to Alice may have had something to do with seeing her as a substitute for his mother.
Though Eldrie got the feature treatment, others also had their moments. The ogre chieftain at least doesn't go out with a whimper, thus fulfilling his role by revealing to Alice that Emperor Vecta has returned and that he's probably looking specifically for her. Dee Eye Ell is also quickly taken through the range of extreme emotions, with this episode firming up that she has ambition which surpasses even the emperor's. The way her final scene plays out suggests that we may not have seen the last of her even though she seems to have been killed. Shockingly, Lilpilin also gets a star moment when his beloved orc lady sacrifices herself to fulfill Vecta's uncaring directive. I rather doubt that we've seen the last of him, and I won't be surprised if this whole business ends his servitude to the Emperor, whom he is literally incapable of defying due to the system operating Underworld compelling servitude to greater powers.
Just as importantly, the discovery that Alice may be the Priestess of Light sought by Vecta brings the story to its next stage: a diversionary force is going to escort Alice in attempting to split the Emperor's forces and thus stall the invasion of human lands. Now that Gabriel/Vecta knows exactly who his target is, that's certain to work. Hence the pitched battle which has dominated the last three episode is now turning into a chase.
As a couple of final random thoughts, the emphasis on Bercouli eating with gusto in his meeting with Alice in the middle of the episode was weird almost to the point of being creepy. Also, the series is partly pulling its punches on the graphic content (the Dark Mages burning up) and partly not (Eldrie's severed corpse, the orcs' death). I'd like to see a little more consistency there.
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