This is it. The end game is now in place, with this episode setting up the finale and Volume 14’s Alicization Uniting. With this episode, we fully witness Eugeo’s fall into becoming an Integrity Knight, after undergoing the full Synthesis ritual of his own volition.
Now, wait just a second, what do you mean by “his own volition?” you are asking? In the last episode, he was seduced, right? Turns out, there’s a forced ritual, which Alice went through because she did not want to participate in that scheme, so Prime Senator Chudelkin had her restrained with Sacred Arts and had the Senate forcibly convert her. Chudelkin’s an awful character, absolutely revolting in the anime, and makes Fairy Dance’s Sugou Nobuyuki look like a hero by standard. Chudelkin basically gets off to a younger Alice’s suffering.
In this episode, it’s pretty much play by play from the novel, and I knew exactly where it was going to end. It was nice to see the comedic opening in which Alice berates Kirito for staining her clothes with sweat. I was happy that this wasn’t cut, as it gives the newly “humanized” Alice a funner personality, despite her being kind of aggravated with Kirito. The anime, for what it has to work with, does a delightful job in playing these two off against each other, and it helps that it’s the voice work of Ai Kayano. The episode also explores her relationship with the Knight Commander Bercouli, who was turned to stone by Chudelkin in previous episodes. Their relationship is interesting, reminiscent of the close, familial bond but officiated as master and disciple. Alice clearly cares for him, and he clearly is happy that she’s happy and able to defy the Church now. I am, however a bit curious that Bercouli referred to Kirito in such a manner. Seemed a bit off for his character.
This episode also brought in a genuinely unsettling moment as we finally find out just who comprises the Central 46… er, the Senate, of the Underworld. The Senate consists of formerly human users with high Sacred Arts skills, who are now forcibly imprisoned into containers that are way too small for human beings, and they’re essentially force-fed crap. It’s a revolting scene that the anime played out well with the soundtrack. Alice is pissed. What the show cut out, though, was a moment in which Alice wavered, and wished to kill them to spare them from their pain. That right there is an important omission, and one that needs to be mentioned for sure.
The latter third of the episode showed us Chudelkin’s chamber, which is as gawdy and tacky as you can imagine, and it revealed just how vile and clever he is. Voice actor here deserves a ton of props. He is impaled by Alice but not killed, and he flees to Quinella’s chamber, only to be replaced by Eugeo, who is now a full-blown Knight, and an insanely powerful one. He knows how to use Incarnate Arts, which allow him to summon his weapon to him at will. Man, the anime nailed that entrance and his flat, emotionless delivery. From his silent descent from the platform to his weapon summon, the episode ends with an incredible frame beginning his fight with his former best friend, Kirito. It’s a moment that genuinely feels as powerful as the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker duel on Mustafar.
This episode was almost as close to the adaptation as it could get, but with a few minor omissions. The soundtrack and cinematography were fantastic yet again, and it’s clear that the studio is pushing to make this as close to a legendary end as they could. Next episode is going to be a real treat.