Sword Art Online: Alicization – Episodes 7 and 8

Due to a glitch in Toonami’s programming two weeks ago, SAO episode 7 “Swordcraft Academy” and episode 8 “Swordsman’s Pride” were shown back-to-back this weekend. We’ll discuss them together here. 

After the long-awaited revelations about the Soul Translator and Kirito’s involvement/dependency on it, this week it’s back to the Underworld. Two years have passed – remember, the Underworld’s time acceleration is much faster than the real world – since Kirito and Eugeo left Rulid. In that time, they won a qualification tournament to attend the Northern Imperial Swordcraft Academy in Centoria. Their original goal remains: become Integrity Knights and infiltrate the Axiom Church to rescue Alice.

“Swordcraft Academy” marks the debut of Kirito’s new mentor and fan-favorite character from the novels, Sortiliena Serlut (sore-til-lee-nah sur-loot), and the anime’s portrayal does her justice. Liena, ranked Second Seat at the Academy, is a picture of elegance with the personality to match: humble, kind, strong and fiercely loyal. In her opening scene, despite it being a day off, both Eugeo and Kirito still bow and refer to her as “ma’am”, an immediate sign of the respect she commands.

And that’s ultimately what episode 7 is: a wide-ranging glimpse into student life at the Academy with new characters introduced, while Kirito gains a powerful new black sword carved out of a branch from the Gigas Cedar. In addition to Liena, we also meet stuck-up nobles Raios Antinous and Humbert Zizek who view Kirito and Eugeo as inferior due to their “common” birth.

While the episode is slower-paced, there are some intriguing reveals about the Underworld as well as the boundaries of the Taboo Index. First, power is not merely determined by strength stats and life value as in games. As Liena explains to Kirito, one’s belief, or willpower, to visualize a move or an end result can have an impact on his or her abilities. When Kirito must serve a “punishment” via a sword duel with Volo Levantein, the top-ranked student at the Academy, he sees that Volo’s fantastic strength and skill is greatly enhanced by that willpower.

Liena discovers a newfound self-belief and defeats Volo in their final duel. (Photo courtesy of A-1 Pictures.)

Although Kirito’s duel with Volo is disappointingly short, both swordsmen are briefly able to show their best skills through their self-belief. Episode 8 “Swordsman’s Pride” largely centers around that belief and its importance, both in battle and in life. Sortiliena, for all her skills and intelligence, struggles to believe in the “Serlut Style” that has been passed down through her family for generations, and this is the key factor that separates her from Volo. However, with Kirito’s confidence and a new wave of her own willpower, she defeats Volo in her final duel and graduates as the Academy’s top-ranked student.

Both episodes do a great job developing the close-knit bond between Liena and Kirito and how, despite the fact that Liena is an elite disciple and Kirito the trainee, they learn much from each other and grow together. Thankfully there’s no comedic “another addition to Kirito’s harem” moment for Liena, as it would’ve detracted from a strong and independent female character. Although the episode ends with her graduating and moving on, I hope we see more of her in the future.

Eugeo, despite being an outstanding student, continues to struggle with self confidence and, at times, an over-reliance on Kirito. He’s primed for some solid character development in this area and the appearance of Raios and Humbert, who are able to commit crimes without breaking the Taboo Index, may be the trigger he needs to break through his current AI limitations. With such a kind and gentle personality, can he make the breakthrough without changing the core of who he is?

Even the ever-confident Kirito has his inner struggles as the anime splendidly adapts one of my favorite parts of this story arc:

Kirito grows a garden of Zephilia flowers as a graduation gift for Liena. (Photo courtesy of A-1 Pictures.)

gardening. Yes, gardening. Liena mentions that the Zephilia is her favorite type of flower, so Kirito spends months attempting to grow some and present a bouquet to her as a graduation gift. As a foreign flower, however, the odds of them surviving a different culture and climate are slim at best. The metaphor is clear: Kirito is the only true human in the Underworld, trying to survive and thrive in a world with different customs and values than he is used to, and without his family and friends. He is deeply upset when Raios and Humbert vandalize his garden out of jealousy, and it is important to note that this is apparently not punishable within the laws of the Taboo Index.

As he mourns the broken flowers, a mysterious voice calls out to Kirito, telling him to believe in them and to visualize their rebirth. The Zephilias then absorb some of the life energy from the flowers around them, and the bulbs become whole again. It’s a gorgeously animated scene that teaches Kirito a valuable lesson about the power of belief in the Underworld. It’ll be interesting to see how he and others utilize this power as they move forward on their journey.

The first cour of the Alicization arc continues to be a well-written and faithful adaptation of the novels, largely improving the material in its changes and cutting down on unnecessarily lengthy parts. Kirito and Eugeo’s year-long journey to the Academy, for instance, was pleasant in the novel but not really necessary in the faster-paced medium of anime. The new characters are given worthy introductions and, with Eugeo and Kirito becoming Elite Disciples themselves with trainees of their own, the stage is well set for the second part of their stay at the Academy.

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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