I don’t know that I’ve mentioned this before, but I really like Kirito as a character. He’s like the little brother I always wanted but never had, and I love watching him struggle to overcome things and then overcoming them. He gets a lot of criticism online, but for me, Kirito is always just someone I enjoy hanging out with and Sword Art Online as a whole is something that I just enjoy returning to even if I do pick at some of the follow up arcs.
The reason I bring that up is because episode 4 of Alicization showcases what I like most about Kirito. He isn’t original or unique, not a bad boy, or smoking hot, or any of the usual draws for a character. Kirito is the ordinary nice guy who actually takes action and isn’t a push over, and I love him for it.
With the goblins advancing on Kirito and Eugeo and Eugeo frozen in utter panic, Kirito takes the time to get Eugeo out of it and gives him some clear direction. He isn’t using Eugeo as cannon fodder, or leaving him to hide behind the crystals while he goes rambo on the goblins. Kirito makes a clear assessment about what Eugeo can do and makes sure Eugeo is moving again.
Then Kirito goes to town on the goblins. Now, I love the way sword fights have been animated in SAO since the beginning and while it could definitely be seen as messy animation, I find it quite invigorating to watch and so this sequence was quite the treat and given we haven’t seen anything resembling action since episode 1 it was a nice delight. I felt a little bad for the goblin leader because literally as soon as Kirito decided to win the fight it was all over for him because Kirito is still wrapped up in plot armour that is pretty much impenetrable, but the goblin leader did at least make a good showing of it.
And that actually leads to my one criticism of the sequence. Kirito takes a strike to the arm that for once actually makes him feel the real pain of getting hit with a sharp and heavy object. None of the Aincrad little red line on the skin but keep on running. We actually see blood dripping down his sleeve and onto his hand.
And then it is gone.
Like it never even happened.
Now, I don’t exactly want Kirito to be rolling around on the cave floor in pain but given they are the ones that made the big deal about him feeling pain and then showing us the blood, there could at least be some kind of residual impact, you know like a blood stain on his sleeve, for the remainder of the fight. But no. Magically healing clothes as well as shoulders in this sequence.
Having spent a long time on Kirito this episode I should probably point out that the second half of this episode is very much about Eugeo. Eugeo making his choice, standing up, getting knocked down, standing back up and then finally freeing himself from his calling and earning the right to choose his new destiny. It is a nice character arc more or less dumped into about seven minutes of screen time making it feel just a little bit cheap even as it is exactly what the story needs to really get moving.
Sword Art Online Alicization remains this weird mix of things I love about Sword Art Online as well as some old problems perpetuated and some new problems thrown in. The big issue though is pacing. While I appreciate the large episode count means we can spend time on set up, I just keep thinking how Eugeo’s progress here got really short changed and yet last week we kind of sat around waiting for nothing to happen.
Despite that, I had a lot of fun this week and that’s what really does continue to work for this series. Fans of the series are at this point fans of the series and for me as long as this puts the characters I like on screen and gives them something even mildly interesting to do I’ll probably still happily watch. And a fight with a horde of goblins before knocking down a demon tree was more than mildly interesting so I had a great time.