Sword Art Online: Alicization
Episode 13

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?

This episode is titled “Ruler and Mediator,” which is fitting I suppose, given the topics being discussed. However, a much more accurate title would probably have been “Massive Infodump Part 2.”

Even anime-only viewers could probably see this information overload coming given how the back end of episode 12 played out. The only real question was how this adaptation would try to avoid the potential talking-head drudgery of this material. The ultimate decision the staff settled on was fully animating the one potential action scene in this part of the story: the battle between Administrator and Cardinal when they first split apart. This is only described in broad strokes in the novel, with more emphasis on the disadvantage that Cardinal faced due to the height difference, but the battle is drawn out much more in this episode. The result is still the same, leading to Cardinal holing up in the Library while Administrator constructed the Integrity Knights to maintain her power base. Still, it's a welcome tweak that does liven the episode up a bit.

The infodump is also truncated by deleting an explanation of how Cardinal and Administrator create things using their Sacred Arts, which concerns me a little because this detail will be important later on. However, we do finally get an introduction to the character who's been nudging Kirito along sporadically over the last couple years: a spider named Charlotte (of course!), who's been riding along in Kirito's hair, basically one of Cardinal's familiars. So I have a feeling that the material creation explanation will come along later, close to when it's most relevant. Other topics covered by Cardinal include the explanation for how she came to be, that she was originally the subroutine of the system responsible for error-checking. The most interesting detail is her supposition about what's really going on, including how Rath never had peaceful intentions in mind for the world and the oncoming “stress test” on the system, which is presumably an all-out attack on the human realms from the Dark Territory. (We also get confirmation that the Dark Territory critters are Fluctlights too, which poses interesting possibilities for the future.) That realization, perhaps influenced by her original role, has led her to a remarkably nihilistic perspective, so I'm a little surprised that Kirito goes along with a scheme that boils down to “destroy the world except for a select few so that it doesn't get corrupted by whatever Rath is doing.” Her very human desire for a hug after 200 years of isolation was a nice touch, though.

The other important developments this week are that Kirito and Eugueo get instructed on how to harness their swords' “memory” and more formal details on how to undo the Integrity Knights' brainwashing. The revelation that the memory fragments taken from the Knight are probably stored in the Administrator's chamber on the 100th floor of the Cathedral suggests that the voice that Kirito heard back in the cave was probably Alice's stolen memories. That sets a firm objective for our intrepid duo: recover their swords and then make it up to the top floor. I anticipate that this is going to take the entirety of the second season to accomplish.

So if the last couple of episodes have been boring you, at least we're about to enter the most action-intensive phase of the story.

Rating: B-

Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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