A satisfying conclusion to one of Sword Art Online’s best arcs. This is what best describes today’s final episode. It is emotional, chilling, and ends on a high note while leaving room for the Unital Ring sequel. There are some altered and cut scenes, which I will cover shortly, but I personally felt that this is a great season finale overall.
The Alice scenes are mostly spot on, especially her brief duel with Kirito. Ai Kayano perfectly portrayed Alice’s inner turmoil through her excellent voice acting, and I really felt her anguish over being in a world where she is treated as an object of science rather than a real person.
The fight with the Abyssal Horror is this season’s final battle, and A-1 Pictures never disappointed. It is every bit as epic as the novel—much better, in fact. Playing the original version of Swordland enhanced the scene even further and gives us one last battle to remember.
One thing to note here is the symbol of Kirito, Asuna, Eugeo, and Alice: The Night Sky Sword and Radiant Light surrounded by flowers, which has become Underworld’s insignia. Readers of Accel World would probably remember this, as this symbol was first shown in Accel World volume 16, becoming a major clue to how truly connected these two series are.
(NOTE: As of writing this, Reki Kawahara is still denying these connections, but is open to the idea of bridging the two series together)
Now regarding the altered and removed scenes in this episode. All of them are mostly comedic in purpose, though some show just how advanced Alice is. In the novel, it was explained how Alice tricked everyone in Rath and even the delivery guy so she would be shipped to Kirito’s house, which shocked Kirito because Alice had only been living in the real world for two months. The anime also glossed over Kirito’s terror that Alice could manipulate wireless appliances and gadgets on her own.
Another scene they removed is a funny encounter with Asuna and Alice as soon as they arrived in Rath using Kirito’s motorcycle. In the novel, the two girls nearly have a catfight until they see Kirito running away to escape them.
A minor scene involving Yui was also removed. In the novel, she traced Kayaba to Ireland before being blocked by the firewall. When she promised to continue pursuing him, Kirito warned that Kayaba has already evolved into something like Yui and it will be dangerous for her, but Yui boasted that she is far stronger than Kayaba.
The end-credits scene with Kayaba holding an underwater cable actually came as a surprise to me. In the novel, it supposedly happened after he vanished from the Ocean Turtle, so I thought they totally removed it when it was never shown last episode. But now that they showed it, I am slightly divided. In the novel, it was very clear that Kayaba was the reason why Underworld is now connected to the Internet. But in this episode, the scene might be confusing to non-novel readers because it was only shown at the very end.
Regardless, this episode is a perfect way to end the season. A solid 10/10 for me.
Now for my overall impression on the season itself.
Sword Art Online Alicization arc(all seasons) is an excellent adaptation, but not without its flaws. For one, the anime skipped many of the exposition regarding how Underworld works, especially the Incarnation System. Many Eugeo scenes were also removed, including one mini-arc focusing on him, which should have strengthened his relationship with Kirito much more than what the anime showed.
Furthermore, they gave Eiji and Yuna too heavy roles to the point of being fanservice. And while I thoroughly enjoyed their scenes, a part of me wished that they should have just appeared as cameos instead of being given nearly half of an episode.
The gore was spot on in some key scenes, especially in the Alicization season, but I feel like they toned it down a lot during the War of Underworld, especially during Asuna’s fight. Of course, I’m not totally against this. But again, I wanted to see the real violence that the novels portrayed.
Perhaps my biggest gripe in this adaptation was how they diluted most of Asuna’s screen time. Every major scene was poorly adapted in terms of emotional impact, and some of her biggest fights were completely removed. Her skills were never portrayed properly either, which was utterly disappointing. In the novel, Asuna was dominating every fight she engaged in, but here we only saw brief glimpses. Moreover, her sweet moments wth Kirito were left out, particularly their reunion kiss.
The only thing they adapted perfectly and enhanced even further was the Mother’s Rosario scene, and I consider that one of her character’s saving grace.
But despite this, the anime made up for its flaws with quality animation, music, voice acting, and epic fight scenes. Every battle was ten times better than what the novels portrayed, especially the Bercouli vs Gabriel and Kirito vs Gabriel showdowns. And for that, I will consider this adaptation as excellent and will give it a solid 8.5/10.
Two years. I can’t believe this is how long since I started my seasonal anime review for SAO. And now it’s over. It’s bittersweet, yes, but the stories are far from over. SAO Progressive is coming, so expect another round of reviews when that airs.
In the meantime, stay tuned for my upcoming Mahouka and Danmachi reviews starting October! 😁
Stay safe guys!