Sword Art Online: Alicization
Episode 4

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?

As expected, episode 4 completes the adaptation of the arc's first novel. That means that next episode should return the story to the real world for a while, as confirmed by its title – “Ocean Turtle”. Also, “Alicization Beginning” is the subtitle of novel 9, so I'm curious to see if the opener will be updated to reflect novel 10's subtitle.

But that's for next episode, and this one has plenty happening on its own. Its first half features the first true action scene since episode 1, and in so doing adds an element that hasn't really been present before in SAO: blood. Nearly all of the action scenes before this have been virtual, which means characters and foes just digitally disintegrate when they die and body harm is all done in light effects. Even when there have been more intense real-world scenes, no actual bloodletting has occurred beyond Sugou confronting Kazuto in the parking lot at the end of the Fairy Dance arc. While Underworld is still technically a virtual setting, characters can definitely bleed in this world, and we get to see that clearly in the wounds that Eugeo and Kirito take and the harm that Kirito inflicts on the goblin leader. We're not quite talking about a Goblin Slayer level of grittiness here, but it's definitely beyond what the franchise has shown before.

The tenor of the goblin fight is altered from how it plays out in the novel, because in this case Kirito goes into the fight already knowing that Aincrad Sword Skills work. So it's not as desperate an affair from the outset because Kirito already has some confidence that he can fight the goblins. Even so, it becomes tense enough when the goblin leader shows that he doesn't have his position for nothing and Eugeo gets badly injured. The battle as a whole is well-choreographed and more fluid than most battles we've seen in the franchise outside of Ordinal Scale, allowing Kirito to show off some Sword Skills that were always part of his repertoire in Aincrad but only got named in the novels. The details of both the fight and its aftermath are consistent with the novel version, including Selka's use of healing, the ghostly appearance of Alice, Eugeo's memories of younger Kirito coming back, and the resolution of the matter with the Gigas Cedar. I did find it interesting that they started referring to it as the “demon tree” at this point, when I don't recall them naming it such in the previous episodes. (It was always called that in the novel.)

All of this brings the story to the transition point of Kirito and Eugeo leaving Rulid. Even if we didn't know that this was going to be a four-cour arc, it's one of those classic scenes that suggests the story is only just beginning. What Kirito is shown carrying on his back will be a mystery for anime-only viewers, since Eugeo is clearly carrying the Blue Rose Sword, but that's less important than the spirit of friendship this scene evokes, even without the fist bumps shown in the opener. Kirito naming his swordfighting style the Aincrad style is also a neat choice, one that will have consequences as the story progresses. For now, I'm quite pleased with how the adaptation is handling things, and I'm looking forward to the next episode, which will finally detail what's going on outside of Underworld.

Rating: B+

Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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