Sword Art Online: Alicization – Episode 3 “The End Mountains”

For the second week in a row, Sword Art Online keeps its focus entirely on Kirito’s situation in the Underworld and mostly continues at a slower, dialogue-driven pace. While these elements worked like a charm last week, “The End Mountains” ultimately felt a bit tedious and left this viewer wanting a bit more action and solid story progression.

The episode begins where it left off last week: Eugeo and Kirito swinging their axe at the Gigas Cedar with minuscule progress, and during their break Eugeo reminisces further on Alice and her amazing cooking skills. Kirito wonders if there’s a weapon more powerful than the axe that they could use, and Eugeo leaves and shortly returns with…the blue rose sword.

You may be thinking, “Why on earth did Eugeo never think to use the sword before now?” A reasonable question with two answers. 1) Eugeo is not strong enough to use it, and seemingly has never trained with a sword before. And 2) despite all his genuine emotions and human complexities, he’s still an artificial fluctlight who can only follow the calling he was given: swing your axe at the tree for the rest of your life, or until you cut it down. But when Kirito discovers that weapons have assigned levels – just like in some VR games – he understands they both have to grow stronger to be able to wield the sword properly. His influence on Eugeo continues to be a critical factor.

The biggest takeaway from this episode is its increased focus on Selka. She is unsatisfied with her life for multiple reasons, one being that she struggles to live up to the expectations placed on her as Alice’s younger sister. Alice was an exceptionally gifted prodigy with the Sacred Arts, while Selka struggles to replicate those skills and leaves little room to carve out her own identity. That she feels such complex and very human emotions is a testament to the civilization and technology Rath has created. As a result she comes off as relatable and likable, albeit in different ways from Alice.

Selka reveals the painful toll Alice’s arrest has taken on her family and Eugeo. (Photo courtesy of A-1 Pictures)

Selka is also upset that neither her family nor Eugeo has ever told her exactly what Alice did that caused her to be taken away. Back at the Rulid church, she confides this to Kirito, who inexplicably reacts by telling her the story right then and there. Selka responds to receiving this information by sneaking out of the town during the night and traveling straight to The End Mountains, where she is soon taken captive by a group of goblins from the Dark Territory.

Yes, it needed to happen to progress the story, but there are tens of reasons why this was utterly tactless and idiotic from someone normally as intelligent and understanding as Kirito. What business is it of his to suddenly spill a secret that Selka’s own family – and Eugeo – didn’t want her knowing? Did he really not think about how a young girl with Selka’s mindset might respond at finally learning the story behind her sister’s arrest? How must it make her feel knowing that Eugeo told Kirito, who he’s known for all of two days (technically), but never told Selka herself in seven years? At the very least, he admits his mistake to Eugeo and the two go after her, leaving a tantalizing battle with the goblins on the horizon for the next episode.

Selka’s fleshed out character and developing story is the real highlight of “The End Mountains”, which doesn’t do much else otherwise. We still have nothing new on Asuna, Suguha and the rest of the gang either, nor on Mr. Kikuoka and Rath for that matter. Episode 4 will give us some much-needed Underworld action with Kirito and Eugeo fighting the goblins, but here’s hoping we get some story progression in the real world as well.

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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