Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 15 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
So is anyone even slightly surprised that the two girls who appeared at the end of last episode turned out to be fledgling Integrity Knights? Anime has much too long a history of seemingly-innocent children turning out to be battle-honed powerhouses. Thankfully for the protagonists, Kirito wasn't any more fooled by their antics than the audience, though I find it inconsistent that he was planning ahead on the counter-poison move yet wasn't more on-guard against a sneak attack. I suppose I can buy that they were just that fast (which is the explanation that the novel gives), but it still smells of plot convenience.
Anyway, they aren't the main opponents in this episode. Fizel and Linel fill the classic trope of the experimental test subjects, exposed to horrifying conditions from an early age in order to accomplish some great feat. Making them ultimate warriors wasn't actually the goal of the dastardly experiments, which were more focused on developing resurrection; it was just a by-product of their ability to endure and adapt from the grueling process. Rather than being embittered by all this, they have instead become playful child sadists. Now that's a tired cliche, so seeing them sidelined quickly wasn't a disappointment for me. Besides, they were never fit to be challenging opponents on the level of Fanatio Synthesis Two.
This leads us to the second spectacular battle of this Cathedral run, which goes even more all-out than the fight against Deuselbort last episode, creating quite the spectacle. In the classic shonen action tradition, she displays an entirely different approach to tactics then previous opponents, using sunlight concentration to achieve laser-like effects, though she also proves handy with her sword when Kirito gets close. The animation team opts for a looser style to keep things flowing quickly, and while I'm not a fan of this model-warping approach in general, it's at least tolerable for this scene. Eugeo's ice field was about what I would have expected, but it looks like we'll have to wait for next episode to see what Kirito's sword's enhancement will be.
The other issue I have with this episode is Fanatio trying to hide that she was a woman because she didn't think men would take her seriously enough in a fight. The presence of Alice among the Integrity Knights demonstrates that there is at least some tradition for female warriors in Underworld, so her attitude seems out of place, as does the way other warriors have reacted to her. Of all the female characters introduced so far in Alicization, she's the one I find the least interesting in terms of personality.
With this episode, the new opener adds “Alicization Rising” as a subtitle—the title of novel 12. That means episode 16 should end at novel 12's cliffhanger, leaving eight episodes to cover the remaining two volumes in the story's first act. For now, that feels like exactly the right pace to be setting.
Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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