Sword Art Online: Alicization – Episode 6 “Project Alicization”

Asuna’s calm intensity, exceptional intelligence and capacity for forgiveness steal the show this week as Kikuoka reveals Rath’s disturbing yet intriguing goals behind the Soul Translator.

SAO, particularly Reki Kawahara’s novels, has been criticized in the past for being too ambitious in scope and spending too much time with explanatory dialogue. Six episodes in, however, the anime’s Alicization arc continues to strike that balance perfectly. The excess fat is shaved off while cutting right to the heart of the mysterious agency’s experiments and explaining why Kirito’s role is so critical.

To keep it (somewhat) basic, Rath’s goal is to create a full-fledged bottom-up Artificial Intelligence for the purposes of war. The problem with top-down AIs – the same kind we have interacted with in real life – is that their creation is based off of already-developed adult mindsets, meaning they struggle to learn new things and behave in a truly human-like manner (think of those times Alexa misinterprets you).

Hence the Soul Translator, which they used to copy human children’s souls and then raise them in the Underworld. The only problem? The Underworld turned out to be too perfect, with the AIs being incapable of breaking any rule or causing any harm. No good for an organization that intends to use them as tools of war. So they needed Kirito’s VR experience and, more importantly, his flawed human influence to help make a breakthrough. And when Alice stepped into the dark territory back in episode 1, that was the moment they’d been looking for.

It’s a great discussion topic because it correlates with the goals and fears of AI development in real life. When will human AI creations become too intelligent? When will they start acting of their own free will, and how will they utilize that freedom? Do we want perfect human AI or flawed human AI? The “artificial fluctlights”, as Kikuoka calls them, have already shown a tendency to act on their own, both with the creation of the Taboo Index and Alice’s (admittedly accidental) breaking of the law. Kikuoka and Rath are so focused on their end goals that they haven’t considered one of the most critical points that Asuna

In a moving scene, Rinko apologizes to Asuna for her role in the SAO tragedy. (Photo courtesy of A-1 Pictures)

smartly raises: How do the AIs feel about all this? It represents an important moral debate that will surely go on for some time.

The Alicization arc is widely viewed as the strongest in the SAO novels so far, and with good reason. Six episodes in, the anime has actually improved on the novels at several points. Along with cutting the dialogue down to just the essentials, we’re also seeing the rest of the gang via updates in ALO from Asuna. The overall pacing feels about right so far, and “Project Alicization” proves you don’t need all-out action to provide compelling entertainment.

A shoutout must be given to this episode’s soundtrack, which utilizes dark electro undertones during Kikuoka’s explanations and then later plays the always-emotional “A Tender Feeling” as Asuna forgives Rinko for her role in the SAO tragedy. They portray two completely different moods in the episode and yet, again, find that perfect balance between dark and light.

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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