Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 22 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
Welcome back to Sword Art Online: Alicization, where the Administrator remains completely nonchalant about being naked for the entire episode. I speculated last episode about why she doesn't bother to clothe herself, and as I watched this episode I became more convinced that her nudity isn't a display of vulnerability or exhibitionism (as is often the case with fanservice in anime), but instead of supreme arrogance. She is so far above such trivialities that how others see her isn't even an issue. Though one image in this episode of her covered only by her hair is taken directly from the source novel's illustrations, Reki Kawahara's original story never directly conveyed a reason for her being naked, so her arrogant depiction by the staff was definitely the right call for giving context to this choice.
After speeding through some content last time, this episode slows things down by adapting only 47 pages. That makes filling up two remaining episodes more feasible (86 pages are left as this episode ends), though I still expect that there will have to be some padding or extra denouement worked in. Either way, this episode resolves its initial fight against Chudelkin's flame creature rather quickly. It's a satisfying combined effort with Alice on defense, Eugeo performing the feint, and Kirito acting as the striker. How his finishing move works is only partly clear in the anime version; his Black Swordsman image manifesting is actually the result of him using the peculiar properties of Underworld to willfully invoke the heroism of his Aincrad days, and the move he executes is an Aincard sword technique that works like a lunge but extends much further. It was a pretty cool move in the original novel and plays even better visually here.
However, the real meat of this episode is the trio's confrontation of Administrator after the fight. It may get a little talky, but it is nonetheless a crucial scene that lays out more of what she's been planning and reveals to Eugeo and Alice for the first time that Kirito isn't from around these parts. (How much they understand the implications of this is another story.) It also clarifies that Administrator is fully aware of Rath's planned stress test, and she's not about to let herself be controlled by it. In effect, she sees herself as fighting back against the gods. That would make her the hero in other stories, but when you talk merrily about your Integrity Knights being dolls, your hero cred goes right out the window. It also gives Alice a good opportunity for a signature speech and sets up the introduction of one of Administrator's trump cards: the Sword Golem, which looks even more impressive in animation than it did in the novel's illustration. It's the most vicious-looking enemy that the franchise has produced since the Skull Reaper back in Aincrad, forcing the heroes to pull out their own trump card in Cardinal. Given Administrator's casual attitude about this reveal, it's probably exactly what she wanted.
The episode also brings back one other nearly-forgotten character: Charlotte, the little spider who tagged along with Kirito invisibly for much of the story. Her valiant stand bought crucial time, though it might have been more effective if more of the spider's thoughts on things had been made evident throughout the series. Still, her death was tame compared to the graphic nature of Chudelkin's death that was extreme enough to warrant censoring, or Kirito and Alice getting impaled by the Sword Golem. As a final thought for this week, I wanted to mention again how solid the musical score has been. It's always been a strong point for the franchise, and the last couple of episodes have featured some of its best pieces. I look forward to seeing how the upcoming finale plays out.
Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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