Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 17 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
When considering how this series would adapt the pivotal parts of novel 13, my main question was whether or not the production team would try to do the whole part with Kirito and Alice on the walls in a single episode, but it looks like it will be split across two episodes instead. The question now is whether the adaptation will continue in book order and describe Eugeo's fight first or focus on finishing Alice and Kirito's journey upward. Given how closely the adaptation has stuck to the novels so far, I'm betting on the former.
The only notable deviation this week is that the scene on the Ocean Turtle was novel 13's prologue, rather than being stuck in the middle of Alice and Kirito's wall-climbing escapades, but its relocation doesn't create any problems. In providing the first flash back to Asuna in a while, the scene efficiently executes a vague sense of foreboding while also trimming out some not-so-necessary details. The scene at the end where Eugeo advances also cuts off right where it should, with the next Integrity Knight encounter, making his first true solo fight imminent.
However, most of the episode focuses on how Alice and Kirito are hanging – literally! A fight against the suspiciously out-of-place minions provides the requisite dose of action, but the wall-climbing mechanism that Kirito comes up with is also engaging. The climb never achieves anywhere near the sense of danger that it probably should, given that balancing on those pitons well enough to pull someone up couldn't be easy, but since they're operating within an artificial realm where game-like mechanics apply, this doesn't feel too life-threatening for a scenario our of an RPG, even if it would be harrowing in real life. Fully animating Kirito's acrobatics helps, as do the interesting little touches like the practical limitations on generating the pitons or how Alice can transform her gauntlets into chains to get around those restrictions.
At least as important as the climb is the interaction between Alice and Kirito. Alice presents a personality that Kirito hasn't had to deal with before from the ladies in his life: strong and proud. Alice isn't someone that he can impress just by swooping in to rescue her; she's immediately suspicious of his motives and only cooperates when he makes the circumstances for her cooperation and survival clear. Even though she's effectively been brainwashed, she's sensible enough to acknowledge when things aren't adding up, but she's also not letting Kirito off the hook; the scene where he gets thrown up into the wall felt like a little payback. The scene with the handkerchief had a bit of a tsundere flavor to it, but she doesn't strike me as going hard in that direction, with much more anger under the surface before getting to much vulnerability or softness.
This episode firmly establishes Alice as distinct in character from previous SAO heroines, achieving its goal in the story handily.
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