Sword Art Online: Alicization – Episode 2 “The Demon Tree”

After last week’s action-packed hour-long premiere, the second episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization – titled “The Demon Tree” – is almost entirely dialogue-driven but succeeds thanks to its stunning soundtrack and the continually endearing Eugeo.

After being stabbed by Johnny Black’s poisonous syringe in the real world, Kirito wakes up in the middle of a forest…back in the Underworld. However, his real-world memories remain intact, unlike last time. This means that somehow, Rath and Mr. Kikuoka must have taken Kirito to their headquarters and hooked his body up to the Soul Translator. But why? One reasonable conclusion seems to be that he is in pretty bad shape in the real world, otherwise he would surely have been taken to a regular hospital.

In the meantime, as Kirito tries to deduce what’s going on, he soon runs into a blonde-haired boy dressed in blue…named Eugeo. The two have no memory of each other, but Eugeo is now 17 years old, confirming last week’s theory that time acceleration in the Underworld is far faster than Kirito had been led to believe by Rath. There is no way to naturally log out of this world, so it seems this time that Kirito will be staying in the Underworld for the foreseeable future.

Eugeo’s life calling is to swing an axe at the impossibly powerful Gigas Cedar. (Photo courtesy of A-1 Pictures.)

The two spend much of the episode discussing Eugeo’s life calling: to swing his axe at the impossibly large and powerful Gigas Cedar, aka the “demon tree”, whose gargantuan size blocks important nutrients from reaching the region’s crops and farmlands. He is supposedly doomed to this job for the rest of his life, though it’s not much of a stretch to presume that Kirito will find a way to help bring it down. Eugeo also reminisces about his best friend Alice – the name again triggering something in Kirito’s memory, as it did in the real world – and his frustration at being unable to go south and search for her after her arrest.

SAO tends to be hit or miss with episodes that rely mostly on dialogue, but “The Demon Tree” is very much a hit. It’s nice to see the often aloof Kirito bonding with a male character for a change, and the soft-spoken, tender-hearted Eugeo (shoutout to English voice actor Brandon Winckler for an outstanding job) acts as a perfect foil.

But where this episode truly shines is in its animation and soothing soundtrack. The beauty and tranquility of the Underworld’s northern region is fully conveyed through bright, beautiful color palettes and stunning faraway shots of Rulid’s fields and its very rural atmosphere. Swirling classical instruments – including the oboe, violin and piano – are all used to wonderful effect throughout the episode, emphasizing the peacefulness in which the town’s citizens have always lived.

“The Demon Tree” ends with Kirito being welcomed to stay in Rulid at the local church, and he goes to sleep thinking more on his current situation. He reasonably concludes that these people are neither game testers nor NPCs, which means that the Underworld is likely not a game at all but rather a world of fluctlights – artificial copies of human souls – created by Rath. But for what purpose? And where does Asuna fit into all of this? For now, it seems, Kirito’s real-world survival depends on him staying in this world, so it will be interesting to see what kind of impact he – the one true human not bound by the Underworld’s laws – has on Eugeo, Rulid Village and its citizens.

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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