“The outcome of this battle is already clear.” Oh, my foolish Quinella, if only you knew you were the antagonist of an anime. And not just any anime at that, but Sword Art Online. If only you knew what the black garb from Aincrad really meant, and how many years of trauma are imbued into that outfit.
We’ve finally arrived at the climactic duel that’s been setup since the first few episodes, we all knew this was coming. There were twists and turns along the way that blasted us from the side, but there was never any doubt the end result would be Kirito versus Quinella. Surprisingly enough, she makes use of the High Norkian style, indicating that she’s not someone foolish enough to rely entirely on the sacred arts. Considering how long she’s lived, I suppose it’s expected that she branded the combat styles of the Human Empire into her head. She may be evil, but at least she’s not stupid. Furthermore, it’s not just the Norkian style she’s versed in, but a huge variety of sword kills that range from katana single strikes to rapier flurries.
Kirito’s quite clearly on the backfoot, unable to stand up to someone who has access to every ability in the entire world. Not only that, but she’s an absolute monster with full control over the sacred arts. I’m sure at this point, we were all thinking it. When the heck is Kirito going to dual wield, and Eugeo gives us that answer. Infusing his blood with the Blue Rose Sword, he provides Kirito with the means to stand toe to toe with Quinella. The “Swordland” theme we know all to well arrives on cue as Kirito sends Quinella back with his overwhelming ferocity, something we’ve sorely missed in Alicization. The great thing about Kirito being relatively weak for the majority of the show is that we can finally rejoice in this cathartic release of potential.
In classic duel fashion, Kirito lops off Quinella’s remaining arm as she does the same for his right. Now here I thought she’d start reciting sacred arts and blasting him with projectiles, but she instead grabs him with his hair, which I found a bit amusing and underwhelming. His Gigas Cedar swords drops onto the ground, but with the red sword infused with Eugeo’s blood, he pierces Quinella’s chest, leaving her with wounds too great to sufficiently heal.
Forced to reveal her true ace in the hole, she summon a terminal that’ll allow her to ascend into reality. The specifics are an absolutely mystery, but it’s not even clear if she’s still alive after Chudelkin jumps after her and the two explode in a massive flame. There’s a couple of possibilities here. One, they’re both dead. Two, they’re both in reality. Three, they’re infused together into a single entity in reality. A part of me wishes it’s the first possibility, mainly because I think everyone dying feels a bit less impactful now that she got away. It also takes away from this entire climax as a hole, since it’s not really a climax, but now another stepping stone to the true final battle with Quinella.
Eugeo’s death is the heartbreaking thing for me in probably the entirety of the Sword Art franchise. Mother Rosario comes close as a second place finisher, but I don’t think I’ve felt as emotionally troubled by a SAO character’s death than from Eugeos. I don’t know man, we’ve just been through so much, and Kirito’s been through even more. As his memories returned to him, Eugeo is quite literally someone Kirito has known for YEARS. They’re best friends, no doubt about that. Not just a fluctlight, but someone Kirito will remember for the entirety of his life, and watching him pass with that context absolutely wrecked me.
The episode ends with a twist that’ll leave me frustrated for the next six months. Kirito calls RATH through Quinella’s terminal, and the plot point that was planted very long ago finally comes to fruition. RATH is under assault by external forces, which officially starts Plot B of Alicization. The special forces access the electrical room and send a power surge through the facility, sending the world of Alicization into this glitchy limbo state. The episode ends with the image of Asuna descending down towards Kirito, and I’m curious as to what it could mean? Is he just seeing things? Has Asuna really gotten into the STL and joined Kirito? Guess I’ll find out in six months!
Overall, I enjoyed the first twenty four episodes of Alicization, and I think it’s a general improvement over former installments of the franchise. However, it does seem to still fall into pitfalls of its predecessors just as useless, creepy characters and still relying on Kirito to mop up. Quinella was an interesting antagonist for Sword Art standards, but not particularly in the grand scheme of good villains. I also believe this climax was a bit iffy, and didn’t really give me the huge boom I expected from the battle with Quinella. However, I will say the development of Eugeo was splendid over the course of the series, and that I enjoyed every second of the friendship between him and Kirito. It was one of my favorite parts of Alicization, watching the two bro out, and I’m interested to see how the show tackles the next cour.