Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
The explosive content of last episode marked a major turning point in the series, although the full extent of its consequences will not be apparent until later. The more immediate consequences bolster an episode that's much calmer, pulling back on action and controversy to rest up for greater intensity next week.
In the process, we get our first interlude in a while about what's happening in the real world. Given the differing time frams and the fact that those on the outside are basically waiting for Kirito to recover, it's no surprise that little has transpired since we last saw Asuna. This interlude does drop the interesting notion that a robot body is being made for a Fluctlight to control; no doubt this is intended for military application given Kikuoka's previous statements, though it's easy to imagine much farther-reaching consequences. Some ominous music also clues us in that Asuna has a suspicious reaction to one of the Rath employees she walks past. That'll be important to keep in mind going forward.
Back in Underworld, Eugeo confirms that this is definitely his Alice; at least physically, as her memories have disappeared and her personality radically changed. Kirito and the audience likely reached the same conclusion from this; who was the ghostly form that appeared during the goblin incident in episode 3, if this is the real Alice? And why say that she's waiting in the top of the Cathedral if she's walking around at ground level? That mystery will linger for now, as Kirito and Eugeo must escape being imprisoned in the lowest level, recover their weapons, and figure out what happened to Alice. Escaping is easy enough with Kirito's clever abuse of item level and control mechanics, which allows him an edge in understanding the infrastructure of the world rather than having him rely on some particular power or innate stat advantage. But another Integrity Knight besides Alice has been waiting for them, promising a big challenge for next episode.
The episode's pacing is a little too talky and casual for its own good at times, but some stalling was necessary in order to get the episode to end at this key moment. Overall, this is a pretty faithful and complete adaptation of pages 102-149 of novel 11; some elaboration is left out as usual, but the only significant thing excised is an explanation about why Eugeo is so taken aback by the the maze being full of roses. On the technical front, the present-day version of Alice looks sharp in her armor, though her design takes a lot of noticeable inspiration from Fate/stay night's Saber.
Perhaps because of how intense last episode was, the reunion with Alice this week doesn't quite capture the spark of excitement that it should. Still, with Eugeo free of his bonds and the pair now at least on the grounds of their destination, the second act of the series is officially underway.
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