This is yet another set up episode, though better than the previous one in terms of pacing. The adaptation is almost on point, but some scenes are slightly altered to either fit the episode’s limited time or lessen the violence.
Higa Takeru is actually quite defiant in most of his scenes here, unlike in the novel where he is almost a nervous-wreck. And this slight change really enhances his character for the adaptation. Now it was not exactly confirmed in the novel which of the two slugs was Yanai, so it’s really good that they showed it here.
The scene with Siune and the Koreans is slightly altered here. In the novel, Siune’s arm was literally cut in half after she blocked the sword. But in this adaptation, it was only a minor injury. Obviously, they did this to remove the obvious violence in it. They also removed that part where Moonphase was attacked by PoH. In the novel, Moonphase was struck down by PoH after trying to defend Siune.
I also forgot to mention. Mei had a lesser role in the novel. But here they sort of gave her an increased screen time.
The gore in this episode, and really whenever the scene involves Asuna and the players, was toned down. This part in the novel was brutal, especially during Sakuya and Alicia’s scenes where they were sliced by the players. On a side note, they also removed the part showing that Sakuya is really just a college student.
Now about that cliffhanger. This picture shows the old SAO server booting up with a really cool sound effect, almost ominous. If the Ordinal Scale movie was not made, I’d say this is a hint toward Kayaba’s intervention. But since this server only appeared in OS and was connected to Yuna, I’d say there’s a chance that she will appear in some capacity and role.
Minor addition: My favorite part was when Leafa appeared and the Aerial Flight theme, last heard in the Fairy Dance arc of season 1, was briefly played during her entrance, making it a nice callback to her own entrance in that arc.
Overall, this is a solid 8.5/10.