Sword Art Online: Alicization – Episode 13 “Ruler and Mediator”

The full story of Cardinal and Administrator’s past conflict is revealed as Kirito and Eugeo prepare to fight for the Underworld’s future. 

Continuing right where episode 12 left off, Cardinal unveils even more startling revelations to Kirito this week in “Ruler and Mediator”. After assuming full control of the Underworld, Administrator accessed her own fluctlight and saw that her memory capacity was full, so she summoned a young girl – Cardinal – to Central Cathedral in order to erase her memories and store her own in Cardinal’s mind. The process inadvertently makes Cardinal a part of the operating system, and she can only view Administrator’s action as an “error”, something she must fight against and undo.

What do you do when you’re up against a well-loved dictator overseeing a largely apathetic population, who is immortal to boot? Escape. Cardinal opens a portal to a place only she can access – the room where she brought Kirito and Eugeo – where she has waited for 200 years for someone who can help her fight.

Despite being a few hundred years old with the wisdom to match, Cardinal still displays some traits of the young human girl we

Cardinal fulfills a 200-year-old wish: to know the warmth of human contact. (Photo courtesy of A-1 Pictures)

see on screen. There’s a lovely moment when she indirectly asks Kirito for a hug, desperate to know what genuine human contact feels like. It’s one of the Alicization arc’s best qualities, constantly reminding us that these AI characters – viewed as mere fluctlights and eventual tools for war by Rath on the outside – are as emotionally connected, intellectually depthful, and flawed as anyone in the real world.

It’s on the back of this reminder that Cardinal reveals the Underworld is in even more dire straits than we realize. Able to read the system like Administrator, Cardinal learns that Rath’s goal is to create a war between the residents of the Underworld and the Dark Territory. The Underworld would, of course, be annihilated thanks to a long-apathetic population with little defense aside from Administrator and her 31 integrity knights.

It seems to be a catch-22 as even if, against ridiculous odds, Kirito and Eugeo defeat Administrator, they are essentially ridding the Underworld of its only real protection from an outside invasion. Armed with two special daggers – intended for use on Alice the integrity knight and Administrator – that would allow Cardinal to restore their old memories, the episode ends with Kirito and Eugeo heading back to the Central Cathedral, armed with the full understanding of their mission and the faith that what they intend to do will somehow work out positively for the Underworld as a whole.

200 years before the present, Administrator (L) battles Cardinal (R) for the first time. (Photo courtesy of A-1 Pictures)

Outside of the excellently flowing story, there are a few noticeable moments in this episode where the animation quality drops. Multiple times, Kirito’s head appears to be longer than usual and one shot of him and Cardinal talking even has Kirito’s eyes out of alignment. It’s a surprising flaw for a show that’s usually stunningly animated, but hopefully this was just a one-off.

Near the end of Kirito and Cardinal’s conversation, the sage reveals a tantalizing prospect: even if the worst should happen and a Dark Territory invasion ultimately brings ruin to the Underworld, she would be able to save “ten or so” fluctlights within their light cubes. It opens the possibility to what many viewers would love, unlikely as it seems: that Kirito’s closest friends from this world could somehow escape with him and exist in some form in the real world. With many of Alicization‘s new characters having such distinct, absorbing personalities, it would be a joy to see them given the chance to start new, completely free lives in the real world – assuming this is even possible. Of course we have a long way to go until that point, and for now the goal is simpler: defeat Administrator and her integrity knights and restore Alice’s memories. The battle at Central Cathedral begins next time – don’t miss it!

Sword Art Online: Alicization is currently airing in North America every Saturday at 12:30 am EST/11:30 pm CST on Toonami.

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Author: Joe Ballard View all posts by

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