SAO: Alicization Episode 12

SAO: Alicization Episode 12

The Sage of the Library

Last week, Kirito and Eugeo broke out of their prison cell by using the power of chains. This week, their chains continue to bring them victory when they go up against a rookie Integrity Knight, Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One, Alice Synthesis Thirty’s disciple.

When the Integrity Knight sees that the two escaped prisoners are simply wielding chains, he decides not to fight them with his sword, but rather give himself a handicap and use his whip instead. And, already, we have my first complaint of the episode:

Why would chivalry and honor be programmed into what’s supposed to be an elite soldier who upholds the iron rule of the supreme leader of the Underworld?

Kirito and Eugeo manage to temporarily defeat Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One by reminding him of his past life before he became an Integrity Knight, and we see some sort of object start to leave his head. This object is understood to be what suppresses the memories of the Integrity Knights, changes their personalities, and keeps them in line.

So, again, if the Integrity Knights are being manipulated in such a way, then why do they have the freedom to choose whether or not to show mercy to those who break the law? It simply doesn’t make sense, just as in last week’s review I argued that it didn’t make sense for Kirito and Eugeo to be allowed to break out of prison.

Well, if there’s one thing SAO is known for, it’s plot armor.

Integrity Knights

Now let’s get into something I found more interesting about the episode, which is the Integrity Knights as a whole. After meeting Alice Synthesis Thirty, it was pretty clear to both our heroes and the viewers that she wasn’t the girl Kirito and Eugeo once knew, but we didn’t really know why this was the case.

An episode later, and we have some clues as to what happened to Alice, but the full picture is still a bit out of view. From the way Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One reacted to hearing Eugeo talk about his past as Eldrie Woolsburg, we can tell that his memories have indeed been suppressed, but they’re still very much intact just beneath the surface.

We can then assume the same must be true for Alice Synthesis Thirty and her memories of when she was Alice Zuberg. This is good for our heroes, but also brings up the question, “why do the Integrity Knights have their memories suppressed?”

Further, not only do they have their memories of before they were Integrity Knights suppressed, but artificial memories are in their place which lead them to believe they have some sort of divine history. Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One truly seemed to believe he had only recently been summoned to the human realm from the heavens by the leader of the Axiom Church.

I think the best way to break this down is to go in reverse order, so let’s start with why the Integrity Knights’ new memories make them believe they have a divine origin. Simply put, I think this is just to keep with the theme of the Axiom Church which controls them.

If the Church can claim that the Integrity Knights who uphold the laws of the land are of divine origin, then the citizens will be less likely to question them and their rule. This is essentially how order was kept for thousands of years across many civilizations in our own history as well.

Now that we’ve solved that part of the mystery, why do the Integrity Knights need to have their memories suppressed and altered in the first place? I’ll get into the details of why exactly this is in the next section, but it all comes down to their potential threat to the Church.

The stronger someone gets, or the more potential they show to become strong, the more dangerous they are to the Axiom Church. However, instead of simply eliminating these threats, they’re turned into Integrity Knights and thus brought over to the side of the Church.

I’m also going to guess that not all of the Integrity Knights came to that position willingly, such as Alice. Alice was probably one who was seen as a potential future threat and so was scooped up by the church early on. However, the opposite is likely the case for Eldrie, at least in some sense.

Eldrie’s father is apparently an Integrity Knight general, and so it was likely his dream to follow in his footsteps and become an Integrity Knight as well. He also was one of the most powerful swordsmen in the world, and even won a prestigious tournament to prove it.

However, I think the tournament itself is actually a trap laid by the Axiom Church to filter out those who may be too powerful. By winning the tournament, Eldrie likely solidified his place as an Integrity Knight, but not for the reason he thought he would. Instead of being rewarded for his skill, he was really being punished for becoming too skilled.

The History of the World

While trying to unlock Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One’s memories, Kirito and Eugeo are stopped by the arrival of a second Integrity Knight who chases them away before they complete their task. The heroes are then saved by the Sage of the Library in the stupidest way possible:

She uses Sacred Arts to give Kirito a magical agohe which points them in the direction of her humble abode.

Once inside the library, the Sage tells our heroes that her name is Cardinal and that this library is a portion of Central Cathedral which is sealed off from the rest. She then sends Eugeo to get cleaned up so that she can have a private discussion with Kirito, whom she recognizes to be someone from the outside world.

But, Cardinal isn’t someone from the outside world herself. Instead, she’s the embodiment of the Cardinal System which runs the Underworld. The fact that the Cardinal System would lock itself up in a library and have nothing to do with the world it’s supposed to be governing is something I don’t yet understand, but I’ll leave that for a later time.

So, just what does Cardinal want to talk to Kirito about in private? The history of the entire world, I guess.

The citizens of the Underworld all originate from eight originals which were raised by four humans from the real world. Some generations later, a descendant of these eight originals is given the Calling of studying the Sacred Arts and in turn learns the inner workings of the world around her. This girl is Quinella.

Quinella discovered that by hunting foxes (or level 2 boars for all you Old School Rune Scape players) she could drastically increase her own levels compared to everyone else around her. Not only did she increase her object control level, but her Sacred Arts level as well.

Once she was a master of the Sacred Arts, she was able to perform “miracles” for the townspeople and gain their allegiance. However, soon after she came to be the ruler of Central City, Quinella realized that by simply doing as she did, anyone else could gain her same power.

Thus, the Taboo Index was born. Remember how three weeks ago I predicted that the Taboo Index actually doesn’t have any real power over the citizens of the Underworld and the only reason they follow it is because they believe it does? Well, that seems to be correct.

"Administrator" Quinella from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
“Administrator” Quinella

Quinella has writes the Taboo Index and has it distributed with the express purpose of preventing anyone else from becoming as powerful as she is. To this end, she specifically prohibits both hunting and murder, because she understands that these actions can drastically increase a person’s level.

And, this is where the Integrity Knights come into play. It seems clear to me that the reason Eldrie was turned into an Integrity Knight was because he was becoming too powerful, and as I mentioned, the same happened to Alice.

However, the difference for Alice is that she was originally arrested for breaking the Taboo Index. Then, once she was imprisoned, this is when I believe it was found out that she was a student of the Sacred Arts who had made considerable progress. This progress was seen as a threat, and so she too was turned into an Integrity Knight.

But, even if Quinella was the most powerful person in the Underworld, she’s still just as mortal as anyone else; or at least, she was. In her old age, she finally discovered what she needed to cement her rule over the Underworld, the complete command list.

You may recall that the Sacred Arts are simply system commands, and so with access to the complete command list, Quinella was able to revert her appearance back to that of her late teens and also prevent herself from ever aging again. She then tried, but failed, to gain control over even the Cardinal System.

But, as the absolute rule of the Underworld, the Cardinal System was too much for Quinella to overpower, so instead she was merged with it. At this point, she gives herself the title of “Administrator” and her absolute rule is now complete.

However, we know that absolute rule isn’t actually possible in the Underworld due to how it was set up. As long as someone follows the rules, they too can become as powerful as Quinella without being discovered until it’s too late. For example, Kirito and Eugeo can already go head to head against Integrity Knights and come out alive.

And, if you’re going to tell me that it would take longer than a single lifetime to get to Quinella’s level, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention to this series so far. All you need in order to become the strongest in the world is the belief that you are the strongest in the world.

Conclusion

Unfortunately for all you SAO fans out there, this may be my final episodic review of Alicization. Don’t worry, I’m not dropping the anime, I’m simply planning to drop it from my weekly review lineup. If this does indeed come to pass, then you can still expect an update on my thoughts at the end of each cour going forward.

My reasoning for this is that I’d like to free up my schedule so that I can write about more of the new anime which will begin airing as part of the Winter 2019 season. However, depending on when certain anime in that season begin airing, there may be one week left of SAO: Alicization before it’s phased out.

If you enjoyed this week’s review of SAO: Alicization, be sure to let me know by clicking the like button ❤ down below. It’s possible that this series will come back again as a weekly entry for a future season, and a great way to let me know if this is something you want is simply to like the content.

I’ve already mostly finished my content schedule for the next season and will be sharing that in their this week’s or next week’s update over at Patreon.com/DoubleSama, but there’s one slot left for a new series to be added. And, I want to invite all of you to make your voices heard.

If you aren’t already, follow me over on Twitter @DoubleSama and keep your eyes out for a poll coming soon to decide which anime gets the final slot in the Winter 2019 weekly schedule. Twitter is also the best way to stay up to date with all of my content.

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