WHAT AN EPIC EPISODE! This one is arguably on par with the Bercouli vs Vector fight! And despite a few alterations and a major twist and plot change in the first ten minutes, this is an awesome adaptation in itself.
The appearance of Eiji and Yuna and their fight with PoH is both a fanservice scene and a good addition to the story as a whole. Obviously, it is an anime-original content since Ordinal Scale isn’t part of the light novel canon, and therefore they do not appear during this arc.
Thus, it is a fanservice scene for fans of the movie, but it is also a good addition because it acknowledges the film’s story as canon while giving Eiji a much-needed redemption arc. Here, we finally see Eiji willing to help others instead of losing himself in his survivor’s guilt, and proving just how powerful the Knights of the Blood Oath are in a badass and epic fight with PoH.
Now one thing here that many people will notice is why Black Yuna has White Yuna’s memories despite the events of Ordinal Scale. As seen in the movie, they are two different existences: Black Yuna is an incomplete form of the original Yuna which her father initially wanted to merge with all the players’ memories, while White Yuna is the digital ghost that helped Kirito win Ordinal Scale, comprised of her emotions and personality.
The answer can be found in Cordial Chords, a light novel sequel to the movie itself. There it explained how the two Yunas merged, and how Eiji reconciled with his survivor’s guilt as well as Kirito, which led to the events seen in this episode.
The backstory for PoH is almost a perfect adaptation, and in fact better portrayed in the anime, but with some slight change that altered his motivations here somewhat. In the novel, PoH was really a real hitman and assassin, and his last target was inside SAO. But after killing the target inside, only then did he decide to take revenge against all Japanese.
Now the anime somewhat failed to properly explain his grievances against Kirito. There are actually two reasons for that: one will be explained in the next episode, while the other should have been fully explained here. Noticed how his older brother looks a lot like Kirito? That is PoH’s reason for hating him: because everytime PoH sees Kirito’s face, he is reminded of his older brother.
The rest of the scenes are almost the same as the novel, though I felt that the Sinon vs Subtilizer was underwhelming. Maybe because it took such a long time before the actual battle. And when they finally did, it was so short. The choreography is also not as engaging as the novel.
Leafa’s fight is probably the only scene I have trouble assessing. On one hand, that scene where the spear had pierced her eye was an incredible and better portrayal than its light novel counterpart. The gore, the blood, even Leafa’s agonized expression is better in here.
But on the other hand, the rest of her fight is less brutal, though that is probably because they didn’t hold back on that spear scene, which acts as a balance. They also changed the ending slightly; in the novel, she was pierced by ten more spears before killing the last player, and when she collapsed on the ground, the spears suspended her in midair in a scene very similar to Eva Unit 02’s destruction in the movie End of Evangelion.
Overall this episode had easily surpassed the previous ones and deserved a perfect 10/10.