SAO: Alicization Episode 4

SAO: Alicization Episode 4

Introduction

If you’ve read any of my other posts from this past week, then you already know the drill. There’s currently a poll on Twitter to decide which other Fall 2018 anime gets added to my weekly, episodic reviews. The poll ends at 11:30am EST on October 31st, and all you have to do is click the embedded tweet below to cast your vote.

As the vote currently stands, there’s a tie between My Sister, My Writer and SSSS.Gridman. So, if you don’t want me to flip a coin to choose between those two, I’d suggest either voting for one of those so it takes the lead, or one of the other two options before time runs out.

With that out of the way, let me start today’s introduction for real by saying that episode 4 of SAO: Alicization was actually good. There were definitely problems with it, but all things considered, this was a really good episode.

Since this season still taking place in a virtual world of some kind, the focus on realism came as an unexpected twist. However, while this season attempts to portray a world that’s more realistic than ones we’ve previously seen in the series, it still very much falls into what I’ll refer to later as “the anime problem.”

Departure

Last time we left off with our two heroes, Kirito and Eugeo, about to fight a horde of goblins in order to save Alice’s younger sister, Selka. Eugeo, being the Armin-like character that he is, is afraid of the goblins, and freezes up with fear. Luckily, Kirito is there to snap him out of it.

Kirito’s plan for defeating the goblins involves him and Eugeo rushing them, putting out the torches so the goblins can’t see, and then picking up swords off the ground. But, before we congratulate Kirito on his plan-making abilities, let’s break it down just in case.

First, rushing armed goblins while you’re unarmed doesn’t really seem like a good idea. Luckily this works out for them though, and they’re able to make it past the first four enemies and to the torches. I’ll have to chalk the success of this first step up to luck though.

The purpose of the second step is to remove the goblin’s light source, which sounds like a great idea at first, until you realize that goblins probably have better night vision than humans anyway. But, Kirito has already come up with a countermeasure for this by having Eugeo keep his grass-light, right?

Wrong. There are two possible scenarios here. The first is if the grass-light is able to provide enough light for both Kirito and Eugeo to see their surroundings, then it’s doing the same for the goblins, and therefore knocking over the torches solved nothing.

The second scenario is if Eugeo’s grass-light is only bright enough to illuminate his immediate surroundings. If this is the case, then Kirito would have been fighting mostly in the dark, and the grass-light would serve as a beacon to tell the goblins exactly where Eugeo is, without providing him enough light to see them coming from a distance.

Of these two scenarios, I’d have to say the first one is more favorable, despite it not changing anything. The second scenario, which is the one I think Kirito was going for, only serves to put him and Eugeo in a worse position than they were in when they started.

In practice, however, it seems like the cave is naturally bright enough to see anyway, even with the torches put out, so the second phase of Kirito’s plan didn’t matter in the end. Again, we can chalk the success of this step up to luck, because as it turns out, the goblins are afraid of magic light sources.

The final step of the plan is the most sound of them all: pick up swords off the ground. From seeing this cave previously, we know there are a variety of weapons lying around from when the dragon once lived here. Naturally, arming yourself with one of these swords is better than fighting with your bare hands.

Now that Kirito’s plan has “succeeded,” it’s time for the real fight. Eugeo’s role is to hold the goblin horde off while Kirito takes down the hobgoblin leader. This fight is both where this episode succeeds and fails in my opinion.

VS. The Hobgoblin

For starters, the animation for this fight was good; really good. After watching the fight animation of other fantasy/isekai series recently, the surprising fluidity of this fight animation and choreography was a sight for sore eyes.

But, good animation isn’t the only thing this fight has going for it. This is where the “reality” and “realism” of this world are introduced in full. We already knew that the Underworld is a surprisingly realistic-looking virtual world based on what Kirito says, but we now see that it’s more than surface level realism.

When Kirito’s arm is cut by the hobgoblin’s sword, he actually feels real pain, and there’s blood, something that was missing from all the other virtual reality games we’ve seen so far. But what exactly does this mean?

Kirito’s first thought was probably that this virtual reality is surprisingly realistic, because that’s how he tends to think. However, as the pain lingers and his wound doesn’t heal, he probably begins to wonder if this is actually reality.

The truth is likely somewhere in between. While the world Kirito is currently in is almost certainly not reality, as far as he’s concerned, it is. By this, I mean what happens to him in this world has a real effect on his condition in the real world.

You could make the argument that the original Sword Art Online game was essentially reality for those who were stuck in it since if they die in the game, they die in real life, but what I’m proposing goes a step further. Remember, the technology that runs the Underworld is more advanced than that of Sword Art Online.

I’m predicting that something went wrong, and some of the suppressed memories about the Underworld came to the surface, thus putting Kirito into a coma in which he’s dreaming as if he were trapped in the Underworld. The difference between this and Sword Art Online, is that he can’t be sure this isn’t real.

This means that any pain he feels is likely real, but not the cause of a direct wound. For example, if his brain and body truly believe that he was cut by a sword, they’ll respond as if he really was. This means pain receptors would fire and the body would act as if it actually received a wound.

If Kirito had been sliced across the stomach as Eugeo is later on in the fight, it’s likely that his body in the real world would begin to go into shock, which could kill him. Now, this is all just my speculation, but that’s what you’re really here for anyway, isn’t it?

So, back to the fight, after sustaining an injury to his upper arm, Kirito isn’t able to match the hobgoblin and begins to be overpowered. Now, this is where “the anime problem” I mentioned earlier comes into play.

You know how in many action/shounen anime people get hit and go flying back into walls and the like, dealing massive damage to whatever they hit, but getting back up to continue to fight? That’s exactly what happens when Kirito is hit into a crystal formation in the cave.

If we’re talking about a series like Dragon Ball, it makes sense because everyone’s either a super human or some kind of super-powered alien. It even works in a series like Monogatari because Koyomi is a vampire. But, it doesn’t work with regular people like Kirito.

If the impact didn’t kill him, being impaled on the crystals surely would have. You can chalk this up to him being in a virtual reality world, but as I just explained, this world is supposed to be extremely realistic in its portrayal of things such as injuries.

This wasn’t the only one of such should-be-fatal injuries, however. After Kirito is unable to get up due to immediately get up due to his injury, Eugeo rushes in to save him and ends up with a gash across his stomach. While that alone would have killed him if not for Selka’s magic, he should have already been dead.

The blow from the hobgoblin which dealt the wound was a hard hit with the blade of a large sword. The force of this blow was enough to lift Eugeo off the ground, his body slumped over the blade. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but something like that would easily cut a human in half.

I understand that both of these “anime problems” are due to fight choreographers wanting the fight scenes to look more intense, but the issue for me is that they don’t follow the rules of the “world” which have already been established. It’s always the little things that prevent me from suspending my disbelief.

In the end, Kirito gets back up and beheads the hobgoblin, which causes the rest of the goblins to flee. Selka then uses magic to transfer her and Kirito’s life force to Eugeo, thus saving his life. During this, Eugeo remembers that Kirito is his childhood friend, and Kirito has a vision of Alice.

The Gigas Cedar

After returning to the village with Selka, we see Kirito and Eugeo back at work chopping away at the Gigas Cedar. While Eugeo is using the dragon bone ax, Kirito checks his own stats and finds that he’s now able to wield the Blue Rose Sword due to his fight against the hobgoblin.

He then tests it out by dealing a massive amount of damage to the tree with a single strike, and turns the sword over to Eugeo so he can try it out as well. Despite not actually doing much fighting, Eugeo is now also able to wield the Blue Rose Sword, and asks Kirito to train him.

At this point I’d like to point out that this sword is supposed to be some legendary treasure, and yet both of these losers are able to wield it after fighting only a few goblins (which are usually among the weakest monsters). Either this is a severe case of the “protagonist condition,” or that sword isn’t anything special after all.

Kirito then trains Eugeo in the Aincrad sword technique, which appears to simply be wildly swinging a sword with one hand. You’d think that a two-handed grip and an actual stance would allow for more power, but I guess the Blue Rose Sword does enough damage on its own so that’s not needed.

Now that he’s a Kirito-certified master swordsman, Eugeo finishes off the Gigas Cedar and the village holds a celebration in his honor. Apparently, once someone completes their Calling they’re given the right to choose their next Calling, and Eugeo picks that of a swordsman.

While this is an interesting idea, we need to keep in mind that very few people in the history of the village likely ever completed their Callings. Remember, Eugeo’s Calling wasn’t supposed to end for another 900 years or something.

But, although it was going to take countless generations to complete, Eugeo’s calling was, in fact, completable. Some people surely have Callings which can never be completed, no matter how many generations, such as a doctor, farmer, or baker because they’ll always be needed.

Also, what if you fail your Calling? It’s implied that an integrity knight will come scoop you up if you abandon it, but what about failing? What if being the village leader is your calling, but then the villages switches to democracy, thus voiding your Calling?

I could get into these kinds of situations in greater detail and go off on another tangent about what we can learn about this society as I did with the dwarves in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, but I’ll save you the lecture this time around.

Kirito and Eugeo from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
Kirito and Eugeo

Anyway, now that Eugeo’s Calling is officially that of a swordsman, as is Kirito’s I suppose, the pair set off for Central City. Kirito is notably carrying some sort of long, wrapped up object, which I assume to be a sword. However, it doesn’t have a distinct hand guard, so I can’t be sure.

What we do know from the OP though is that at some point Kirito will obtain his signature black sword. I don’t really have any idea how he’s going to acquire it, but that seems to be what will happen. Perhaps he already has it (somehow), and it will be revealed in the next episode.

Next Episode

As with any series that doesn’t include true next episode previews, there isn’t much to talk about here regarding what’s going to happen next week. All we know is that the title is “Ocean Turtle,” which could really mean anything.

However, if we’re to take it at face value, then I’d wager Kirito and Eugeo will come to an ocean of some sort, and a turtle will be involved. More likely though, is that either the ocean, turtle, or both, are simply metaphors for something else. It could also go the classic island-is-actually-a-giant-turtle route as well.

At the very least, we should get to see more of the world known as the Underworld, and that in itself should be interesting.

Conclusion

So what did you think of this week’s episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization? Did you take issue with any of the parts I did? What do you think is the true nature of the Underworld? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to click the like button down below and follow me on Twitter @DoubleSama to keep up to date with my new content. Don’t forget that as of the posting of this review, there’s less than 24 hours left in the twitter poll, which can once again be found here.

Finally, there’s a Discord server for anyone who wants to join in on the conversation in real-time rather than in the comments. Along with the Discord server, there’s also a Patreon page for those who want to go one step further in being a part of the community.

My review of the next episode is available here.

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