Surprisingly, this episode turned out good. There are some slight changes and one skipped scene, which I’ll go over shortly, but these changes actually made the story flow better. The opening, sung by the talented Haruka Tomatsu, contains some obscure spoilers that you would not get unless you read the novels. Animation-wise, this is good. The only thing I found odd is Kirito. He is a little bit more expressive here than the novel, though maybe that’s just because the animators wanted to emphasize his actions since he could not speak. Either way, it’s not a bad alteration.
So, the changes. The beginning of this episode is nearly the same. The only difference is the arrival of Selka. In the novel, she arrived after Alice took Kirito for a walk, and even brought lunch, unlike here where she is already with Alice before they go to the lake. Also, the anime adaptation gave her a farm, which was not in the novel. That is a nice addition to the story.
Meanwhile, the meeting with Eldrie is nearly the same too. Though one minor detail was not included; in the novel, it was revealed that he has a wine collection and even brought one to have a drink with Alice. One thing I did note, and I think was not in the novel, was Eldrie’s brand new armor painted with his color scheme. This is a nice addition too.
The Axiom Church scenes are merely told in the novels. But here, they actually showed it. Again, a nice touch.
Now the skipped scene. It’s an introduction to the main antagonist of this arc, Gabriel Miller, who was already shown at the first episode of last season. It explains his motivation and why he wanted Alice so badly. I don’t know why they skipped that. But if I have to guess, they will simply merge it to another episode focusing on Gabriel so as not to break the pacing.
Overall, a solid 8.5/10.