Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 16 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
With episode 16, the adaptation of the 12th novel concludes by ending on the same cliffhanger. That leaves eight episodes to cover the last two novels of this act, which is a sensible pace for the anime at this point. On its own, this episode permanently brings Alicization's third protagonist back into the picture, rather than keeping her as an out-of-sight goal for Eugeo and Kirito to reach.
Last episode, one of the younger girls mentioned Fanatio possibly being upstaged by the Osmanthus Blade. It was a cryptic reference at the time, but this episode reveals that it was in reference to Alice. Based on that, it's easy to assume that Alice has become one of the strongest Integrity Knights, despite also being one of the newest. (Whether or not that has anything to do with her being a Fluctlight so special that Rath is looking for her is unclear.) Certainly her sword's ability is no joke; it's the incarnation of the osmanthus tree that stood at the center of Underworld when it was first created, and thus it's Underworld's oldest object. The golden blade is spectacular in its intact appearance but even moreso in its Perfect Enhancement form, which turns it into a cloud of tiny whirling golden blades. It's the same concept as Rangiku's zanpakuto Haineko from Bleach, but perhaps because of the gold color and improved CG animation, it makes for a more impressive visual effect. She seems to have to solidify it to deflect direct sword strikes, but it's an offensive terror not easy to counter without area-affecting attacks.
Alice herself is every bit as stern and formal as she was in earlier appearances, showing no hint of the girl she was in her childhood. What we've learned since then about how the Integrity Knights were made confirms that she was effectively brainwashed and thus has no memories of her time with Eugeo and Kirito, so they have quite a task before them even if they can restrain her. Alice and Kirito getting blown out a hole in the Catherdral seems like it's going to complicate that plan, and since they're now cut off from Eugeo, it'll be up to Kirito to deal with her on his own. This forces Eugeo to take initiative for only the second time in the series, but this time without Kirito at his back, which could also be interesting.
While Alice's reappearance is the episode's dominant feature, it does have other content worthy of mention. The episode starts with Kirito's sword's ultimate form: a black energy burst in the shape of a dark tree. It's not quite as spectacular as Eugeo's ice generation but still potent. Kirito seeking to save Fanatio seems more like a lesson for Eugeo than anything else, while the appearance of Operator (the other female character in the opener who we hadn't seen yet) demonstrates the monstrousness of what Administrator is doing. What worth is retaining your youth for over a century if you never get to go anywhere and can't even remember your name anymore?
I have more mixed feelings about the visuals. While some of the effects from the action scenes are spectacular, the heavy use of slo-mo especially in the Alice/Kirito fight bogs down the action, and the resulting heightened drama doesn't fully offset that distraction. I also can't shake the impression that Alice's design is far too close to a certain Heroic Spirit from the Fate/stay night franchise. Still, the sound effects in particular are effective, and I'm pleased with how the sword transformations are being depicted.
So this week delivers a solid action sequence that falls just a little short of being in a great episode overall.
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