Sword Art Online: Alicization
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Sword Art Online: Alicization ?
The end of episode 8 brings to a close the series' adaptation of novel 10 (the second Alicization novel) by ending exactly where the book ends too. Strictly looked at from an anime-only standpoint, this was a solid but unexceptional episode. Kirito held his ground against the school's most elite student, who had achieved the pinnacle of his particular sword style. Later he finds out that the noble pricks have wrecked his flowers and discovers just how far the system of Underworld can be pushed by the power of imagination, while Liena completes the mutual promise she made with Kirito made by defeating Vola in the final ranking match, concluding with Kirito getting to award her the bouquet of flowers. Kirito and Eugeo advanced in glossed-over battles and got a couple of cute juniors as room attendants as they advanced up to Elite Disciples for the next year. And all's well at the Swordcraft Academy, although those nobles aren't out of the picture yet; the next episode's title suggests that they will come back into the picture for a pivotal role.
This episode shines more if you're familiar with the source material, as it cleans up potential problem spots from omissions that the adaptation has made so far. One of the biggest is that the anime doubles back to avoid eschewing the complexities of the Sword Skills or the importance of fighting styles, by also connecting that element to the impact that imagination can have in a swordfight and hinting at a development that will become critical later on; that image of the Gigas Cedar appearing when Kirito was steeling his resolve is bound to be revisited. Tangibly connecting fighting spirit to the weight of blows is a relatively common gimmick in anime, but this is one of the rare times that I've seen it tied to a specific mechanic in a game world.
Then there's the mysterious voice that Kirito heard during the flower incident. It clearly wasn't Alice's, so I'm certain it's meant to be the character whose introduction was skipped when the Zakkaria content was short-changed. This is an excellent place to work that character back into the picture, lending a greater sense of mystery to what's going on. Her words combined with Kirito's tearful ruminations also fill in another gap by explaining the significance of the flowers; making them symbols of Kirito's own relationship to the world adds a welcome extra layer of emotion and raises questions about what else they may come to represent about Kirito.
Beyond all this, we get one good duel scene and a decent part of one, but that's something that Sword Art Online has always done well. The two noble bullies are still comically over-the-top, but the series is still doing enough right to balance out minor problems like that.
Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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