THIS IS IT, GUYS! ONE OF THE BEST MOMENTS IN SAO THAT ALL FANS HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!
Now this will be a fairly long review since I’m going to cover a load of things. The opening credits for one, as well as the differences between this episode and its novel version, what scenes were changed or enhanced, and what people would expect based on this episode.
So, let’s begin with the opening first!
The opening has been changed with the arrival of Asuna in this episode. The first change is already a dead giveaway both to LN readers and anime-watchers only. Unlike the first version of the opening where it showed Asuna and the gang seemingly on their way to rescue Kirito, this new version depicts the three goddesses, both in Kirito’s life AND Underworld’s myths. We have Suguha as Terraria, Asuna as Stacia, and Shino as Solus.
And I’m honestly freaking out over this.
The thing is, I had predictions for how this cour would end since they announced that a season break would occur from January through March next year. I had assumed that they would end this when Yui begins concocting the plan to, for lack of a better phrase that would not spoil SAO’s glorious moment ever, “assemble the Avengers”. (Yes, I can’t think of a better reference that would suit that particular SAO scene)
I honestly thought it would be that way, but since the goddesses were already shown here, we might get a cliffhanger ending. After all, we still have 3-4 eps left, and this ep has already reached and adapted 300 pages out of 380 of volume 16. Alicization arc ended at volume 18, so I think you can see where I’m going with this. But who knows? Maybe this was just a tease for what is to come.
Another one is simply a change from Yui reaching out for Alice’s lightcube to Asuna reaching out for her instead. Nothing really important, though, in this case, this change depicts the main priority of Asuna aside from Kirito: secure Alice and get her out of Underworld.
Now, there are new scenes in the opening credits that focused on the knights who would be the main highlights for the remaining episodes. Fanatio, Eldrie, and Deusolbert are now gone, replaced with Renly and Sheyta(fighting Ishkahn). That part where Bercouli jumped off his dragon is a hint of his final battle, which I will not spoil because that is also an epic moment.
The last change is probably my favorite part of the opening. It is MERELY A TEASE. A wishful thinking. A WHAT IF. Near the climax of the opening credits, we actually see Alice AND Asuna fighting Vecta. TOGETHER. But the sad truth is, this didn’t happen in the novel. Alice didn’t even fought Vecta at all. Much less Asuna. So I’m not really sure why the director added this. However, who knows at this point? Maybe he might change a few things. And I for one wish this would happen.
Now for some altered scenes. In the novel, Sheyta’s backstory was told from her own narrative. As part of Administrator”s experiment, she told Sheyta to go to a certain battlefield in Dark Territory and find at least one surviving creature. As a reward, Admin would use that creature to forge a weapon for Sheyta.
That was shown in this episode, of course. But with some slight changes to make it look like Sheyta didn’t know that Admin would create a weapon for her. Also, Sheyta’s monologues about her brutal tendencies were told by Admin here, unlike in the novel where it was told by Sheyta herself.
Other changes I noticed. In the novel, I seem to remember that the Fighters charged at Sheyta. But here, she was the one who charged at them. Vassago’s armor was terrifying in the novels complete with demon horns. But here, it looks… average-ish. No horns, no helmet.
Now, the Asuna scene. Personally, I prefer the way it was written in the novel. It has more suspense, more thrill. But the thing is, the scene in the anime is EXACTLY like the novel version. So I don’t know why I have this feeling. Maybe it was just how the angles were drawn. I don’t really know, but it’s not a bad portrayal. In fact, it’s majestic!
One thing I also liked in this episode is the fight scene between Sheyta and Ishkahn. That was a perfect rendition of the scene in the novel. Even the Martial Dance was spot on, especially the chant.
Overall, this is a perfect 10/10 for me.