Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
Editor's Note: This episode featured heavy censoring for explicit content, which was produced by Aniplex for distribution to terrestrial and streaming channels worldwide. Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Funimation received one of two censored versions of the episode for release. However, this version released in English-speaking territories is slightly different as another that was produced for broadcast in Japan. Some stations and services received one of two censored versions, and some received an uncensored version (most notably the streaming service Wakanim which is owned by Aniplex), but the episode's content was not modified by Crunchyroll, Hulu, or Funimation at any point. Please keep these discrepancies in mind when discussing the episode's content.
From the time that I read the source material for this episode, this was the part of the story I was most concerned about in adaptation. It uses sexual assault as a central story element, which is something that this franchise has a rocky history with. At least in this case, anime-only viewers had forewarning, as the episode started with a content warning akin to the one that preceded Goblin Slayer. The result is an intense but also powerful episode.
The assault by the two nobles on Tiese and Roni was set up last episode, with Kirito's discussion about how some actions are lawful even if they are morally reprehensible setting the stage. Then there was the detail that higher-ranking nobles have authority over lower-ranking ones, and the sexual harassment of Frenica drove these points home further while setting a trap for the other two pages. The incident isn't just meant to deliver shock value, although it certainly carries that impact. Its goal is to viscerally depict one of the most heinous abuses of twisting the laws to one's own end; the law of the land gives the nobles the right to punish Tiese and Roni, and the system is just flawed enough to allow for an immoral scope of punishment without consequence for those in power.
The other reason for the scene is to provide a definitive turning point in the story. The Taboo Index is so deeply ingrained in Underworld that extraordinary will is necessary to overcome it. Eugeo wasn't able to do this nine years ago when Alice was taken, but the subversiveness of Kirito's influence hadn't taken its full effect back then either. This incident forces him to break a nigh-inviolable barrier, and the consequences of this will propel the story into the next stage.
Could these same goals have been achieved with a different approach? Maybe, but the horrifying impact of the situation certainly justifies Eugeo breaking through that barrier. (As a side note, his eye bursting as he breaks the System Error is a potent visual touch, although its visual execution wasn't the smoothest.) It was a misstep for the scene to overplay its hand with the noble's comical leap onto the bed and some tongue action that was all too reminiscent of Oberon's assault on Asuna; those details only added extraneous discomfort. For better and worse, the clear message that the nobles are sending to Eugeo is that they can commit this level of evil within the bounds of the rules, and those same rules don't allow him to stop them. The assault isn't the only thing in the episode to merit a content warning either. The blood spurting from multiple arm severings makes this by far the goriest episode of the franchise to date, with extensive censoring throughout.
It's easy to forget in all this chaos the way the noble reacted to his arms getting cut off. It looked like he got caught in a logical feedback loop, with two different priorities of the Taboo Index – protect yourself and don't kill others – fatally limiting him. That could have some interesting implications for the future. And of course there's the crowning irony that Eugeo lost Alice the last time he was paralyzed by System Error, but overcoming another such incident has led to him finally meeting her again. It's no surprise that she turned out to be an Integrity Knight, and her new name – Alice Synthesis Thirty – is doubtlessly significant. We'll have to wait for the next episode to see if Alice even remembers Eugeo or Kirito, but this reunion does mark the end of the story's first act.
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