Sword Art Online: Alicization
Episode 20

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 20 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?

The way this episode ends shouldn't be the slightest surprise to anyone. After all, last episode spent the bulk of its time showcasing how Eugeo was being seduced to Administrator's side, and the possibility of facing him is brought up multiple times this week. The episode is also titled “Synthesis”. Besides, turning an ally into an enemy is a classic choice for the foe before the final boss.

The encounter with Eugeo in Integrity Knight form only comes at the end of the episode, however. In the leadup, the episode faithfully adapts the rest of novel 13, with the minor exception of some exposition being timed differently. (The conversation about the senate happens before they enter the frozen bath in the novels, but that difference in timing is inconsequential.) That includes the running conversation between Kirito and Alice, which is more about firming up Alice's state of mind than any major revelation, since she doesn't actually know much about the top floors. While Alice could stand to be a little more emotive, her dour demeanor and simmering anger against the Axiom Church make a strong enough impression about who she is right now.

The revelations that do come are more from personal observance, as Kirito discovers the source of the mysterious face that's appeared a couple times before durint Taboo Index violations. It belongs to one of many senators who supposedly direct the Axiom Church. Administrator has made them nothing more than biological automatons whose only task is to monitor the Taboo Index and report on violators. This visual depiction is more effectively disconcerting than it was in the novel, especially in the feeding tube scene. Chudelkin is also back on the scene, proving to be quite the clever little bastard in paradoxically goading Alice into a stall until he could set up his little trick. I still absolutely despise him as a character, though I also have to marvel at how effectively rendered he is in the anime, especially the bizarre children's room design surrounding a bloated, sadistic, truly creepy older man.

Ultimately, the most interesting revelation is still about the Synthesis ritual itself. Alice's description explains why Administrator had to go through the trouble of seducing Eugeo last episode; while it can be done without the subject's consent, overriding the protections on personal identity built into Underworld is a time and resource-intensive process. Based on what happened last episode, it can apparently be done much more quickly and easily if the target is convinced to provide Administrator with access to their internal structure. In other words, the whole process is much like the difference between breaking a firewall and just having the password in a computer system, no doubt a deliberate comparison. It's in line with her character that Alice wasn't a willing subject, but any further consequences of forced versus consensual conversion are not clear at this point.

While there are still a couple of key revelations and massive plot twists coming, the expositional part of the series is mostly done. Four episodes are left to detail the fights with Eugeo, Chudelkin, and Administrator, before all loose ends are tied up and we can get back to what's happening in the outside world. This should be a more action-packed run to the finale than anything we've seen to date.

Rating: B+

Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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