Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 18 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
In adapting the second part of novel 13, this episode covers three bases. It details Eugeo's battle with the commander of the Integrity Knights, it shows a little more about what's going on with Kirito and Alice, and it introduces maybe the single most obnoxious character in the entire franchise.
It should become clear why Prime Sentator Chudelkin holds this dubious title by the end of the episode, and he will manage the remarkable feat of only becoming less endearing as time goes on. As irritating as Suguo's over-the-top villainy was, Chudelkin is in some senses worse because Suguo was only a figurative clown, while Chudelkin is a literal one. If Reki Kawahara was trying to go for something completely different from the SAO norm with this guy then he succeeded, even if that meant dragging out the hoary trope of the Wicked Jester. Even so, I was interested to see what his character design would be like based on how he's described in the book, and in that respect the series doesn't disappoint. The abilities he shows in this episode – including pulling a Han Solo on the knight commander – are also no joke, and the scene ends with genuine fear for Eugeo's safety.
Up to that point, we got some brief action scenes sprinkled amongst a whole lot of exposition. The battle scenes are wonderfully sharp and dynamic showcases for the series' animation chops, including an awesome power by the knight commander and some splendidly innovative tactics by Eugeo; even Kirito probably couldn't have pulled that off smoother. This helps assuage how much the exposition bogs down that confrontation. That doesn't make the info-dumping necessarily bad, as some of those spilled details are quite important; the opening comments by the knight commander better establish his character and position relative to others, while his later explanation of how his Time-Splitting Sword's ability works is interesting. Eugeo's later efforts to convince him of his true identity—the legendary Bercouli who originally owned the Blue Rose Sword and defeated the dragon in the northern cave—are also significant, as they prove Eugeo's passion alongside the fight and demonstrate that not all of the Integrity Knights mindlessly accept their situations, even if they are inclined to believe what they're told by Administrator. Some details are still left out, like Eugeo's more involved reaction to hearing that Alice had been a knight for six years, but overall there had to be a better way to avoid making these details feel cumbersome.
We also get a brief return to Kirito and Alice out on the wall. They're in a holding pattern until the moon rises and gives them enough energy to resume creating pitons, so that's understandable. The interaction between Kirito and Alice, especially involving the steamed buns, is almost cute, and Kirito accidentally letting slip that Alice has a little sister looks like it could be the crucial pivot point that decides where she will stand in the future. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until next episode to find out all of the details on that.
Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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