Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
Episode 11

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online ?

SAO Alternative has had many quirks over the course of the season, but it's generally been good at delivering on major action sequences, and this episode is no exception. While it still has weak points, the episode finishes with easily one of the series' most thrilling action sequences to date.

The weak points primarily come from some characters' tactical decisions. After playing so sharply in the previous episode and elsewhere in the Squad Jam battles, team SHINC's all-out charge into M and Pito's defensive position seemed stupidly reckless. Granted, the whole point of their charge seems to have been to push LLENN into a frenzy, and it did work on that front (given that LLENN was intimidated by Pito's ability), but it still comes across as wasteful. This move made more sense for Fukaziroh, and I was amused by the whole Gordian Knot business, although that also seems like a real stretch of established game mechanics. Surviving all four appendages being shot off is surprisingly less of a stretch, given that this is a video game and there are even numerous real-life cases of people surviving after losing all four limbs. One late scene where LLENN entirely misses Pito despite riddling the inside of her vehicle with bullets is more out there, but I'll tolerate that for dramatic staging purposes.

The rest of what the episode does, it does very well. The opening scene with Pito using her photon sword to finish off the remaining two MMTM guys is chillingly intense, and Pito using a piece of M's barrier as a makeshift shield, complete with an effective shield bash, is a nice touch. The story might be going too far in making her monstrous through this part, though it does make her later assertion that she's not a monster more ironic. This episode makes up for that by playing Pito's mania smarter in a later scene, which suggests that M is trying to inconspicuously maneuver her into a position where LLENN can take her out, but she doesn't bite because she's remained level-headed enough to realize that getting close to LLENN would still be too dangerous. In terms of the action scenes, the episode truly starts to sizzle once the vehicles get involved, and seeing LLENN's ploy to finagle M into driving off a ridge work yet also fail (because the water beyond wasn't that deep) is also a neat surprise. The following flip-and-shoot over the vehicle was cool too, and Fukaziroh turning the rest of the battle into a vehicle-vs-vehicle affair made things zing even further. Naturally the end of the battle had to come down to a face-to-face confrontation, but apparently the final blows are being saved for next week's season finale.

The technical merits of this episode aren't outstanding, but the vehicle animation in particular is sharp and the direction makes excellent used of shot selections and camera angles throughout the climactic battle. I'd go so far as to say that it's one of the best action sequences of the season, not just this series. The one lingering detail that could rear its head in the climax is that LLENN, Fukaziroh, M, and Pito aren't the only four players left; there is one other team out there, the unheralded T-S. If we've seen them before now, then I don't remember them, so they may bring the element of surprise. However, given the initials, that M is supposed to be the only remaining male avatar, the mention of sniping, and that this episode has had no other call-outs to the main series, I wouldn't be shocked at all if Sinon turns out to be the S. Either way, they're sure to be a factor in the final resolution of the story. I'm also looking forward to the final formal reveal of who Pito is in real life, although at this point I'm still completely convinced that it will be the singer Elsa. But that's all anticipation for next week.

Rating: B+

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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