Visualizing a Novel: Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17

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So, if this cover image doesn’t have you at least questioning things even a little bit… Anyway, last we left off, we had a big cliffhanger of an episode. That’s me being literal, by the way, because in this episode, Kirito and Alice are literally hanging by their swords off of the Central Cathedral. It’s an episode that I’ve been waiting to see for so very long now because I had always wondered how they did this in the novels.

Big questions from this episode – how the heck did Kirito not lose his balance on those rods? Did he really just pull Alice up with one hand despite her wearing heavy plate armor? They actually managed to fight with swords on that balcony? What in the heck are those monsters, and how did they end up on a level of the Cathedral that almost nothing else could possibly reach? The good news is, most of those are rhetorical, or simply yes and no.

At this point in the chronology, we are in the opening of Alicization’s Volume 13 – Alicization Turning. True to its name, it represents the turning point of Alice’s character as she goes from a stoic knight to something else entirely. I think that the relationship that she shares with Kirito is something that is entirely unique for him, given that most of the characters seem to fall head over heels for him. This also represents a portion of the story where Kirito is without his partner Eugeo, who is currently climbing the tower alone.

After getting blown out of the Cathedral, the partner team of Kirito and Alice are hanging for their lives with their swords. Alice’s unofficial nickname for the episode is going to be Idiot. She gets called that eight times after trying to wrangle herself free from the dishonor of being rescued by a criminal. From the last episode, we watch her completely wipe the floor with Kirito, but in this episode, she’s about as useful as a ton of bricks. Having never been put into this kind of situation before, she’s naturally petrified while still maintaining a degree of haughtiness with Kirito. Their task is simple – climb to the open-air part of the 95th floor, despite being somewhere below the 80th. The two naturally call a truce (cue episode title) to continue onwards.

What happens next is absolutely absurd. In the novel, you get the sense that they are incredibly high up. The episode does a brilliant job of illustrating this plight. They can’t break the wall from the outside, and it would take a long time to reach a level platform below them, so they have to ascend. While this ascent looks absolutely absurd, we also have to keep in mind that Kirito has more than likely been a character who dumped a heavy focus into his strength stat from all of his VRMMO days, so this more than likely translated into how he was able to pull Alice up, despite her being in chain armor. The balance issues aside on the thin rods, he’s pretty darn acrobatic in this episode as he does swings and handstands while generating these rods.

The major part of this episode is as the sun starts to set. The resources to generate the rods have become rather depleted at this point, and Kirito can no longer generate these rods. Alice is able to transmute some of her armor into rods – they are the same type of metal, and she isn’t transforming the properties of the metal, merely molding its shape. That’s a big distinction because only Quinella can change properties because of course she can. As they start heading up, you get these ugly statues that are gawking down, and then to Kirito’s horror, they start transforming into, well, winged demons. The novel has a picture of them, but the anime translates, incredibly well, just how awful these things are. They serve as important plot connections for Alice, who begins to start doubting things based on their presence. Dragons cannot get past the 30th floor, and birds can’t fly past the 50th. So, what are these ugly Dark Territory minions doing so high up? Naturally, putting two and two together, Alice realizes that they were placed deliberately for some reason.

So as they’re being attacked, Kirito is running out ideas, and so he decides to essentially toss Alice up, with her returning the favor, although she’s not exactly happy. This whole episode alone, Alice has shown such a wide range of emotions, including fear, haughtiness, smugness, and inquisition. It’s a joy to see this all unfold, especially after the last episodes she’s had. The demons die, and as the episode ends, Eugeo makes it to the 90th floor, where he encounters the first Integrity Knight, Bercouli, voiced by none other than Junichi Suwabe (Archer from FATE). Oh man, this guy brings the intensity up to about a 15 real quick. I can see him becoming a fan favorite, and I imagine anime viewers are going to get a kick out of him in the next few episodes.

This episode translated incredibly well from the book but it wasn’t without its hiccups or losses. It had its degree of laughs, and seeing Alice actually emoting is a huge step in her development. It has its moments of disbelief and eyebrow-raising, but it’s another high point in this series as we get ever closer to the battle with Quinella at the end of this cour. While we lost some of Kirito’s internal dialogue (no vertical wall running!), the adaptation is and has, for the most part, been faithfully translated to the visual medium.