With the closure of Episode 14 and the conclusion of Kirito and Eugeo’s fight with Deusolbert Synthesis Seven, we finally start the gauntlet of battles within the Central Cathedral. Unfortunately, this journey is stopped temporarily, with the presence of Linel and Fizel, two training Sisters, who after a bit of socialization with the “better with kids” Eugeo, reveal themselves to be Integrity Knights. As we come to learn in this episode, these two had been given a Calling of killing each other to find new ways to perfect a resurrection technique for Administrator. Over the course of many killings, these two discovered a way to become skilled assassins, skilled at killing without causing pain.
On one hand, it’s tough to sympathize with these two, especially after they mock the other Integrity Knights for their failure, but the real problem is not with Linel and Fizel themselves, but with the pontifex Quinella. Quinella has been experimenting with people all this time, nearly unchecked after establishing the Taboo Index as a means of preventing anybody from being able to challenge her directly. Quinella herself has gamed the system to obtain immortality, and creates this army of Integrity Knights to rule over the Human Empire. I know that this took me a bit to think about at first when I was reading the light novels because these citizens were already obedient, but after reading it again recently, I remembered that Quinella was running out of storage capacity and thus needed to offset that load into these Integrity Knights, who were once human or criminals who had violated the Taboo Index. It turns every one of these characters from two-dimensional Knights to tragic characters manipulated into a false sense of duty.
As we start getting to the good stuff, the two girls arrive on the 50thfloor after having dragged Kirito and Eugeo up the stairs. After announcing their presence to the Deputy Commander of the Integrity Knights, revealed to be Fanatio Synthesis Two, Kirito and Eugeo then surprise the girls by having undone their poisoned paralysis and rendered the girls immobile using their own weapons. For a lot of the anime viewers, this could have potentially been confusing, even with Kirito’s explanation. What we also should remember is that Kirito has spent a good amount of time in VRMMOs like Sword Art Online, ALO, and GGO, and thus he’s developed a breadth of experience with various weapon types. In this case, the daggers that these girls used were similar to the weapons used by the player-killing guild Laughing Coffin from SAO, and he was able to recognize the sinister effects without saying anything, instead leaving Eugeo to entertain the girls while he recited a chant in the background to disable the poisons.
Fanatio, on the other hand, is no slouch. Her weapon, the Heaven Piercing Sword, is quite literally the Master Sword, which can shoot laser beams. This weapon was forged by Quinella with the strength of a thousand mirrors, which focused on a single point leading to the weapon’s creation. Fanatio is accompanied by her disciples, the Four Whirling Blades, who end up being ordered to stand down and let the two fight, with Eugeo in the background reciting his chant to perform the Enhance Armament. As this fight progresses, Fanatio gains the upper hand and discharges another beam towards Kirito, who counters this attack with a mirror of his own, which ends up catching her helmet and revealing that she is a woman, to everyone’s shock. Oh boy, she is not happy about this revelation as she recalls with fury the knight who refused to take her seriously. It sheds a lot more light (ha, no pun intended) about her fighting style, her helmet, and her demeanor. Kirito and Fanatio exchange words, words about why they’re both fighting to protect the Human Empire. Kirito is, to Fanatio, absolute evil, and Fanatio (and all the Integrity Knights) see herself as absolute good. During this intense exchange of words, an equally intense display of swordplay is shown. Fanatio desperately seeks the upper hand and unleashes her weapon’s true power, the Release Recollection, which is a giant area of effect that rains beams of light down, affecting everyone, including her. Kirito, in his rage as he sees this unfold, locks swords with her once again, and Eugeo seizes the opportunity to unleash his Enhanced Armament with the Blue Rose Sword. This is a unique crowd control ability that holds down the target in ice. Unfortunately, it’s channeled by rage and not his purest motivations, thus losing out to the absolute willpower of Fanatio’s Release Recollection.
An interesting point is Eugeo’s rage over the last several episodes. From the beginning of the season, Eugeo has been a cheerful boy who has definitely been through a lot. Ever since he lost Alice, he has been wracked with guilt about his inability to save her, despite it not being his fault. He was an eleven-year old boy with a block caused by a physical seal, preventing him from intervening. As we saw in the climactic Episode 10, he broke this seal in dramatic fashion, and in doing so is branded a criminal. So, where is this rather unfounded rage coming from? The answer lies not in the episodes, but in the light novels, a set of facts that the anime has unfortunately not been able to demonstrate adequately for time’s sake. In Episode 10, Eugeo laments that he is no better than a goblin, a criminal. As he peruses the books of Cardinal’s library in Episode 12, he’s actually searching for more than just history information. He’s actively searching to find out just what happens to criminals and what fate awaits them.
To date, within Project Alicization, few people even know of the existence of the Seal of the Right Eye. Even fewer people have actually broken through it. In fact, Eugeo is the first person to have broken it, something that makes him a criminal. Quite literally, Eugeo is the first criminal of the Underworld. He went from an ordinary wood cutter to a criminal, forever being ousted from having a normal life again. He can’t go back to Rulid Village after all of this is said and done. His noble ideals have all been crushed in the span of a few episodes, and it makes him swing his sword with hatred. It’s part of why he makes that statement when using his Enhance Armament that these knights don’t know anything about justice, which is conflicting with him because Fanatio is acting on her own definition of justice, attempting to keep order and peace from her new Calling as the second Integrity Knight.
Kirito helps Eugeo begin looking past the black and white, and reminds him that not everything is absolute, as by the end of the episode, he chants the words Enhance Armament, with a fade to black…
All in all, this was a fantastic episode that sets up the insane power held by the Integrity Knights. It’s a fantastically animated sequence, and seeing Kirito clash swords with Fanatio after her helmet is knocked off was just what I imagined it to be from the light novels. The sword clashes have been nothing short of perfect, and heighten the scenes. Eugeo’s voice actor, Nobunaga Shimazaki, displayed incredible range in his emotions, much developed from his timid, meek demeanor in the early episodes. The episode is a great foreshadowing, introducing the wild power of the Release Recollection, and as the episodes start to crawl on, we’ll start seeing just how intense these fights are going to push the two.