Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
If this story arc was being adapted into two or even three cours of animation, then this episode's pacing would seem sensible; the sword tournament in Zakkaria is easily one of the more expendable parts of the original story. However, given that over 48 episodes are available for use, the way things are handled this week is a mild shocker. I'm now very curious about what's coming up later that was deemed to need this much extra time.
For anime-only viewers, what happens in Zakkaria took up a full chapter of novel 10, so I fully expected this material to get a full episode on its own rather than just a flashback lasting less than a minute. Aside from providing a stepping stone for Eugeo and Kirito to get into the Swordcraft Academy in Underworld's capital of Centoria, the scene's main purpose was to introduce that differing sword-fighting styles exist in Underworld, and that it is possible to skirt the Taboo Index's rules through creative thinking. This episode suggests that the anime adaptation is just not going to bother naming the sword-fighting styles at all (which would at least be consistent with not naming most attack moves in the adaptation of the Aincrad arc), while the other point should become apparent over the next few episodes anyway. However, skipping this material does eliminate one character from the picture who may have to be worked in later.
That puts us right into the Swordcraft Academy action, as this episode adapts the bulk of Chapter 5. We get introduced to Liena and her own distinctive sword-fighting style. Some other prominent characters from this part of the story also pop up at this time, including a pair of nobles who are clearly going to wind up being antagonists; Kawahara has never been subtle about his portrayal of villains, and these two bad-mouthing nobles are just the most recent example. This also brings up a scene cut from earlier in the story, which explains that Kirito was carrying the tip of the Gigas Cedar on his back as he left Rudlig, with the intent of making it into a new sword on par with the Blue Rose; this gives off shades of the Elucidator for SAO, and Kirito definitely notices that too. Anime-only viewers may not pick up on why the flowers were such a big deal, but Kirito does ponder what he was actually testing with the flowers. It's an interesting notion that in Underworld, a person's will is much more closely-tied to their capabilities than in previous games, as if the system-exceeding stunts he and Asuna pulled off at the end of the Aincrad arc were built into Underworld. Finding out whether that was by design or accident could be interesting, but even now it opens a wide range of possibilities for what might happen down the line.
This episode flows along remarkably well despite its debatable narrative choices. One interesting scene that may go overlooked shows the top of the Axiom Church's central tower as Kirito concludes his ruminations on the importance of a powerful will in this world. It's little touches like this that keep my enthusiasm for this adaptation so high.
Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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