Sword Art Online: Alicization – 19 – Femme Fatale

In the last episode, Alice warned Kirito to give her the unvarnished truth; anything less and she’d strike him down. That’s fine with him. He wants her to know the truth, because once she does, they won’t be enemies anymore.

Alice remarks that, like Kirito, Bercouli and other knights were worried that the forces of the Dark Territory were growing too large to deal with, but their concerns were dismissed by Chudelkin, in a classic “I don’t pay you lunkheads to think!” kind of response.

To hear her real surname, the name of her village, and the name of her sister Selka, brings Alice right to the cusp of remembering. She cannot deny that the pontifex has deceived the knights, so it’s well within her to have been the one to steal Alice’s memories of her human life and lie about it.

The moment Alice rejects the Pontifex’s authority, a System Alert appears in her right eye, which threatens to burst, just like Eugeo’s when he attacked Lord Raios the rapist. Of course, as we’ve seen, Alice is tough as cold-rolled steel, and with help from Kirito, manages to overcome the pain of the eye.

She’s done being Administrator’s puppet. All she asks is that before she regains Alice’s memories, Kirito promises to take her to Rulid to see her sister. He promises, and just like that, the forced foes are are finally allies, and she is committed to the same goal as him: raising a human army to fight the Dark forces.

If only it were so simple. When Eugeo comes to from his deep-freeze, he’s in a dream, in the house where he grew up. His mother is on the bed, but it’s not really his mother, it’s Administrator, telling him he’s the one who killed his own father and brothers so that his mother would love only him.

Eugeo wakes up from the disturbing dream in Administrator’s bedchamber atop the Cathedral, and it’s clear what route the main boss will be taking in neutralizing him as a threat: by exploiting and amplifying his deep-seated longing for the total and unconditional love of someone, anyone.

First of all, I have to note the love with which Administrator is rendered throughout this sequence: she’s ethereally gorgeous, and combined with the delicate, aloof, and haunting voice of Sakamoto Maaya, she cuts quite the bewitching profile. Administrator can also claim to know Eugeo better than he knows himself, and backs this up by telling him all about his life and where it has never gone right: in the love department.

He may love his mother, but she loved their brothers and her husband too. He may love Alice, but she also loves Kirito (and Administrator jacks up the jealousy by showing him a memory of the two kissing as kids). Tiese is the closest thing to someone giving him all their love, but Administrator insists she’ll forget him, as everyone else has. And there’s nothing Eugeo fears in that moment more than not being loved or remembered.

Administrator proceeds to lay the seduction on treacle-thick, slowly disrobing and drawing the entranced Eugeo towards her, until he’s on top of her on the bed. She offers all of her love, and unimaginable pleasure, in exchange for Eugeo offering everything he has in return. In other words, a simple monetary transaction. Due to her otherworldly charms, Eugeo is in no mental condition to refuse her, and repeats after her the words “System Call: Remove Core Protection.”

Regarding this development, it’s a good thing Kirito has managed to bring Alice back to his side, because it sure looks like Administrator has manipulated Eugeo into joining hers. That probably means that order to get to her, they’ll have to through him first. Just as Alice is breaking the Pontifex’s hold over her, she’s fitting shackles on Eugeo, and trading one integrity knight for another—and one trained Aincrad style, to boot.

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To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 20 – No Excuses

The Russia arc reaches a satisfying turning point as allies start to join our over-matched heroes. Accelerator may have spared Misaka Worst’s life, but it’s not in Worst’s programming to be grateful for it; in fact, she’s quite pissed! But Accelerator has bigger problems: he’s seemingly out of control, letting the evil destructive side take over while lil’ Last Order slowly freezes in the snow.

As Touma and Lessar head towards Fiamma’s location, his words about Touma’s deceiving of Index weigh on his mind. Lessar reassures him he’s done—and is doing—the right thing: moving forward, helping where he can, and saving lives, both there and in Britain. Hamazura’s attempting to do the same thing, without the benefit of Imagine Breaker.

As Carissa and the British armies continue their advance across the channel, they bring the Mobile Fortress Glastonbury looms overhead, providing a mobile bastion of British soil that will allow Curtana’s power to be used anywhere.

They are met by the Holy Maiden of Versailles, a Joan d’Arc-looking warrior who crosses swords with the second princess. This part of the Russia arc is the least interesting to me so far, especially since it hasn’t yet really gotten anywhere (the channel isn’t that vast) and involves too many players to focus on any of them for long.

Far more engaging is the totally epic duel in the tundra between a Touma and Accelerator. One is pissed about being overpowered by Fiamma so easily; the other is pissed that Last Order continues to suffer. Their battle is accompanied by suitably badass battle music, and the two lads trade blows, but ultimately it’s Touma who gets the upper hand.

If Touma had any serious doubts about how he’s dealt with Index before, he certainly doesn’t after seeing an alternative scenario in Accelerator has dealt with Last Order. He’s so angry over the fact so many people have allowed her to suffer, and that his evil villain persona doesn’t seem to be enough to protect her.

Touma basically tells Accelerator to get over himself: he doesn’t need any reason or excuse to step up and protect Last Order, nor is there any reason for him not to rely on others to help if he feels he alone isn’t enough. Touma releases whatever magic had been applied to Last Order, and Accelerator betrays a smile of relief. These two together; they’ve got a change against Fiamma.

Hamazura doesn’t have any luck with a relative pea-shooter against an incoming privateer tank, but decides to repurpose one of the mines the villagers have collected as an anti-tank grenade. He stops the tank in its tracks, but then an attack helicopter buzzes overhead and prepares to take him out. Very well-supplied privateers, these guys!

The chopper is taken out by none other than Acqua, admiring Hamazura’s dedication to protecting the innocent villagers from massacre. So now Hamazura has a powerful ally in his goal to save Takitsubo, who still isn’t looking so great.

Back in the channel, Carissa ceases her duel with the French Maiden, blaming Fiamma for this war, and warns that if Russia’s mainland is invaded and its nuke facilities under threat of being taken over, an airborne killer virus wall will be dispersed, a scorched-earth directive that will result in appalling casualties.

Carissa admits she needs French soil to continue her advance, but at the moment the two countries have a mutual enemy: Fiamma. Rather than fight each other, they’ll need to join forces to stop him.

And just in case Accelerator+Touma, Hamazura+Acqua, and Britain+France aren’t enough against Fiamma, who is preparing to use Sasha to do…something bad, Misaka and Shirai finally learn of Touma’s whereabouts, and Misaka hastily begins packing for a trip to Russia.

Perhaps, finally, hopefully, she’ll be able to contribute something concrete and meaningful this season! Unfortunately, the plane it looks like she’s taking has a stowaway: Mugino, She Who Will Never Die, who isn’t done with Hamazura.

When Accelerator wakes up, he’s in Elizalina, and wouldn’t you know it, someone finally gave Last Order some climate-appropriate clothes and shoes! Thank goodness for that; I was worried she’d get frostbite and hypothermia. Touma and Lessar (who is glad he’s looking more confident and resolved) continue heading to Fiamma for Round Two.

TenSura – 20 – A New World In The New World

After a massive celebratory feast in which the capital doesn’t waste a bit of the megalodons they slew last week, and a hot bath with the ladies including Milim who is soon off to meet with other demon lords and warn them not to mess with her bestie, Shizu’s lingering regret is expressed in a dream of the promise Rimuru made to her, bringing tears even to his slime-eyes.

With the latest crisis easily dealt with and a formidable retinue of powerful warriors and specialists beneath him, Rimuru now feels confident to leave his capital and head to the Kingdom of Ingrassia, where Shizu’s students still require training and guidance.

His only companion is Ranga, who gets him there in three days and then hides in his shadow. For the first time, Rimuru’s in a big human city, and is amazed by the level of tech, from huge glass windows to teleporters at the academy. It’s hardly Esthar, but it’s a definite leap from his still impressive capital.

Ther, Rimuru meets the grandmaster, a former student of Shizu’s named Kagurazaka Yuuki, who sees Shizu’s mask and initially considers Rimuru a threat. They exchange powerful blows that destroy all the fancy furniture in the room, but when Rimuru insists he’s not a bad slime, he learns that Yuuki is from a time in Japan not too far removed, and a ravenous otaku to boot.

The ensuing exchange of pop cultural references is an absolute delight to behold, as both of these transplants revel in the rare instance being among their own kind. Yuuki is particularly astonished that there have been nineteen Final Fantasys, that Glass Mask and The Five Star Stories are still going strong, and that the Sagrada Familia is almost complete. He doesn’t care a whit about the prime ministers, however.

Even better, Rimuru transforms to Slime Mode and converts some blank paper Yuuki supplies to print a king’s ransom of volumes he’s accumulated in his vast slime memory, while also eliciting some scolding by the Great Sage, who considers it a “waste” of her abilities when it’s actually anything but!

Gifting Yuuki such a wealth of material from his old home proves beyond any doubt that Rimuru is indeed not a bad slime, and someone who can be trusted. When Rimuru brings up Shizu’s regret, Yuuki agrees to give Rimuru a job at Freedom Academy, teaching the five young, powerful, but short-lived “Summons.”

While Rimuru is initially overwhelmed by how, er, exuberant these five kids are, you can’t help but want him to succeed in finding a way for the misfits to survive longer than five years. His capital is essentially in cruise control, with his subordinates able to handle any number of threats in his absence.

With these five, Rimuru is definitely scaling back the scope of his assistance, but this is a project only he can undertake, what with his perspective, abilities, and most importantly, his connection to Shizu. I also have no doubt we’ll be seeing Shizu’s extremely powerful former student, Sakaguchi Hinata, in due time.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 19 – The Worst

Accelerator has a distinct “oh great, what now” kind of attitude in Russia. The dramatic arrival of his latest opponent, “Misaka Worst,” doesn’t help matters. Back at Elizalina HQ, Vento starts her duel with Fiamma by summoning a giant ice galleon that flings him across the street. She breaks out her tongue-mounted weapon to fire blow after blow at her fellow Right-Hander, and it looks like this is going to be a cakewalk for the enemy of Touma’s enemy.

It’s, um…not. Fiamma is just letting Vento beat on him. When he actually gets serious with his creepy right hand and decoder cylinder thingy, Vento doesn’t have a chance, nor does anyone else, apparently. He rips the stud right out of Vento’s tongue and vanishes it before grabbing Sasha and withdrawing, promising he’ll be back for a helpless Touma.

To be honest I don’t quite understand exactly what Fiamma’s power is, but suffice it to say if he can do this to the likes of Vento, he’s going to be serious trouble! Before he goes he asks Touma if the way he’s been treating Index all this time, while knowing what she really was, is actually the right way. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that yes, Touma indeed believes his way is right, while the nutso quasi-angel dude’s way…ehh, notsomuch!

We have a quick check-in with Shiage at the village. The doctor doesn’t have the means to treat the effects of the Academy City drugs that are causing all the trouble for Takitsubo, while Russian-backed privateers appear on the horizon, poised to level the village. Shiage is not having a great time, and isn’t sure why he came anymore, but if there’s a village that needs protecting, I’m sure he’ll help in any way he can.

The balance of the episode is the duel between Accelerator and this extremely pissed-off Misaka clone, who seems to carry the combined animosity of all the thousands of Sisters he killed in the past. Like Vento against Fiamma early on, it’s a one-sided affair, with Accelerator loath to lay a finger on another Misaka after promising never to do so again.

But when Misaka Worst threatens to kill Last Order, in order to pave the way to a “Third Season” of the Network that no longer needs her, Accelerator decides if someone has to die, it’s sure as shit not going to be Last Order. Once he starts using Reflection, the battle is basically over, and Accel goes a bit berserk in kicking her face in.

But he suddenly stops when he realizes Misaka Worst was sent here under the assumption he would kill her. He’s thus playing right into the hands of those he hates most, sitting back in comfort while he keeps killing and destroying. Rather than finish Worst off, Accelerator vows to protect her along with Last Order, not just to spite the bigwigs, but to prove to himself he’s capable of protecting something.

TenSura – 19 – Rimuru Can’t Lose

Well, that was underwhelming. Sure Charybdis is huge and heals quickly, but it was never a match for Milim, while its Megalodons were nothing more than small fry plucked out of the sky one by one by Rimuru’s many subordinates.

Even compared to past foes like the Demon Lord Geld, Rimuru kinda phones it in, making me realize there’s only so many times I can watch him and his forces win easily before the formula becomes stale and boring.

The only hiccup in this episode is that Rimuru thought Charybdis was coming for him, when it really had its eye on Milim, since deep within its carapace lurked a very pissed-off Sir Phobio.

But all this really means is Rimuru wastes the better part of an afternoon halfheartedly hacking at the boss before sending in Milim, who was on the sidelines the whole time begging to be let in on the fun. Milim barely has to rub the sleep from her eyes before Charybdis is nothing but a cloud of dust. Her biggest challenge was showing enough retraint to not kill Phobio.

Rimuru removes Charybdis from Phobio and heals him, then Demon Lord Carrion arrives to punch him anew and then take him away. For his part Phobio is foolish and contrite, and can’t believe Rimuru is so merciful. Throughout all of this, Rimuru just kinda shrugs everything off as “alright, that’s over with” and moves on to the next potential challenge: those annoying harlequins.

We’re constantly reminded in the OP: the only thing Rimuru ever lost in this world was Shizu, and even she’s somewhere inside him. I’m here to say that yes, I am tired of all the winning, especially easy winning. If there’s never going to be any chance of Rimuru losing anything or anyone else of value, it’s going to be a long final five episodes.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 18 – The Sword That Cut Through Time

Bercouli Synthesis One isn’t like the other Integrity Knights have Eugeo and Kirito have faced to this point. He’s not in a rush to fight; he agrees not to kill since they didn’t kill his apprentice Fanatio; he calls Eugeo “shounen” rather than “boy-o”; he doesn’t look down on Eugeo or question his existence, or curse his sinfulness.

Yes, Bercouli is a “friendly opponent”, the guy who, inadvertently or not, seems to lull less focused opponents into a false sense of security with his casual, charming manner. But there’s no doubting the guy can bring it, thanks to his Time-Splitting Sword that was once the hand of an earlier Cathedral’s clock.

He’s also more than happy to explain how his move works…but not until he’s already used it and Eugeo has fallen victim to it. Eugeo sees that he can’t make this a close-range fight, but also knows Bercouli wants him to think long-range for his next attack.

Eugeo does indeed go long range—there’s no alternative—but when Bercouli stops and shatters his ice, Eugeo uses the shards to obscure the fact he’s tossed his sword away and made a false one, which also shatters. In Bercouli’s moment of wondering what’s going on, Eugeo releases his real sword from the ceiling, catches it, and stabs Bercouli with it in a smooth sequence of moves.

Kirito would be proud: it’s an Aincrad combo if ever there was one, not only making full use of the surroundings and anything else to gain an advantage, even if the opponent thinks it’s unfair or underhanded. For his part, Bercouli is amused and even impressed by the sheer audacity of someone throwing their sword away in the middle of a fight.

He’s in good spirits because the Eternal Ice didn’t finish him, and he starts to break out of his frigid binds, but Eugeo summons the second memory of his divine object: The Rose, which slowly drains both of their lives. The reason this isn’t suicide for Eugeo is that being a character near the peak of his maximum life, he’s confident that his life will outlast that of Bercouli, who was turned into an integrity knight much later in life.

Bercouli wonders what he’s talking about, miffed that Eugeo presumes to know anything about his past. That response in turn angers Eugeo, who hates how all of these Integrity Knights believe they’re divine beings summoned from the heavens by the Pontifex, when they’re really human beings; their mothers gave birth to them; they lived their own lives.

Even if most of the people in those lives don’t remember the knights, Bercouli is different because the heroic deeds of his life are immortalized in the oral tradition of Rulid Village. It’s as if, in his case, Administrator overlooked the potential means of her first knight recovering his lost memories and thus regaining his humanity.

This is all very good stuff, so it’s a little jarring for a new party to arrive on the scene quite suddenly, especially when that party is of the “goofy carnival clown/jester-class” disposition. Before The Rose fully takes Bercouli’s life, this asshole, one “Prime Senator Chudelkin”, rolls in like a ball, then scolds Bercouli for his “treasonous” act of not going all-out against Eugeo.

Bercouli bristles at this and asks Chudelkin to stay out of the affairs of swordsmen, to no avail. Chuddy puts Bercouli in a Deep Freeze—far deeper than even The Rose—after informing him that both he and Fanatio will be “reprocessed” by the Administrator in due time, and that they’ve found a new pawn to replace him…in Eugeo, calling for Kirito’s help before he freezes over.

That would have been a perfectly respectable, even boss way to end the episode, but SAO:A wasn’t done. We check in with Kirito and Alice resting on a ledge, waiting for more light to keep climbing. Kirito complains about being hungry, assuming Integrity Knights don’t, but he’s shown to be mistaken when Alice’s stomach grumbles.

At that point, he produces the buns Cardinal had given him, and prepares to toast them with a fire spell. Alice snatches them away, and uses a much more appropriate combination of water and air to properly steam the buns right there in her hand. She even jokes about eating them both before handing one to Kirito.

This may seem overly sweet and lightweight after such a comparatively heavy and serious end to Eugeo (which worked despite Chuddy’s horrid design) but I for one enjoyed it, since it’s likely next week won’t have any time for such moments. Kirito, impressed with Alice’s cooking skills, recalls that her little sister Selka is also so skilled, and Alice grabs him like he’d just delivered a grave insult.

She wants to know what he’s on about, and depending on how honest she judges his story, she might kill him on the spot. I had assumed they’d get right back to fighting as enemies once they reached the open floor, but with Eugeo now incapacitated and only Chuddy and Administrator herself left to face, that might not be the case.

It’s possible Alice believes Kirito’s story about her, the memory block is ejected from her head, and the two fight side by side to safe Eugeo and defeat Administrator. But hey, that’s just one possible route; I don’t possess a blade that cuts through time to the show’s future…AKA the LN.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 18 – Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Ships of the Line

Misaka is one of the only people who didn’t get the memo that Russia is the place to be. We only catch her for a couple of brief scenes where she (and later Shirai) are reacting to news that Russia has issued an ultimatum to Academy City to cease all of its operations around the world or face nuclear annihilation. Well, that escalated quickly!

Hamazura Shiage, while eager to get Takitsubo out of danger and find a way to lesson her negative reaction to the ability crystal, instead finds himself once again right in the thick of things. Accelerator also wants to heal Last Order, but comes afoul of unmanned power suits who were after something other than them.

Shiage drove a car to Russia, Accelerator took a train, and Kamijou Touma…wait, did he run to Russia? Never mind; he’s thankfully not alone, despite his desire to be (which is probably why he didn’t invite Misaka). Lessar is tagging along, both to support him and protect British interests.

Elsewhere, an armada of ships crewed with a mixed force of Puritans and Knights sails out to meet the French vanguard of Roman Orthodoxy’s invasion, who create a hard surface of salt that halt the ships and enable their ground forces to attack.

Under the endorsement of Second Princess Carissa (who seems to have suffered few if any lasting consequences from her failed coup), Kanzaki Kaori lets the French have it. Meanwhile, while riding a train, Lessar announces her intention to seduce Touma, but his older, more sensible Touma prevails.

That being said, a capable extra set of eyes, ears, and fists has its uses, and at the station Lessar shows Touma she can handle herself if need be. After he saves the shopkeep he was going to rob from robbers who got there first, Shiage gets lucky again, when a passerby offers the services of a doctor for Rikou in exchange for fuel. As Shirai checks out the news in her and Misaka’s dorm (so underutilized!) Lessar and Touma arrive at the border of the Elizalina Alliance of Independent Nations.

There, they meet Elizalina, the sorceress who gave the alliance her name. She’s aware that Fiamma of the Right is after Sasha Kreutzev and the magical power stores she possesses, but before they can orchestrate a plan, Fiamma tears the roof off their headquarters. Yup, shit’s going down NOW.

I was not expecting a confrontation so soon in this, an episode where otherwise a bunch of pieces were being moved into place. But I’m not complaining about getting down to business. Touma shaters Fiamma’s attack, but it takes a couple moments, and Elizalina’s shield doesn’t last long.

Finally, sensing a huge amount of magical power that shouldn’t be there, Sasha Kreutzev drops in, and in the hastiest, most anti-climatic re-introduction possible, she’s immediately knocked out by Fiamma. He’d seem to have the upper hand, until yet another combatant takes the stage: Vento of the Front. She’s there to protect the interests and integrity of the Roman Orthodox church on which Fiamma is taking a piss.

Accelerator surveys a Russian military base that someone just kicked the shit out of, wondering who it might’ve been when he’s confronted by a number of cloaked mages, for whom he has no time and vows to deal with swiftly. And the cherry on top of this Russian sundae? That’s gotta be the imminent arrival of a masked Misaka by paradrop. There’s a lot of players old and new to juggle, but this still looks to be a lot of fun.

TenSura – 18 – Send in the Clowns…and Sharks

Sir Phobio of Lord Carrion’s “Beastketeers” (that name needs work) is still sore over being humiliated by Milim, and he wants some measure of revenge even though he knows he didn’t handle the situation well. He is immediately tempted by two majin appearing before them: Tear and Footman.

Have I ever mentioned that I loathe this particular brand of clown-like anime characters? Well, I do, and Phobio is all too easily suckered into their plans to revive Charybdis, just as Rimuru’s new pal Fuse has everything locked down when it comes to softening the monsters’ image, and Rimuru is planning to build a road to Blumund.

The next day, as Milim returns with the human adventurers with a big new haul, Treyni’s sister Trya appears before Rimuru, warning of the revival of a “calamity-class monster” in Charybdis, escorted by thirteen Megalodons (ancient sharks). The combined threat is on the same level as a Demon Lord; a legitimate threat that will require preparation to defeat.

Milim cheerfully offers to help her bestie out, but Shion, speaking for her Chancellor, insists that Jura Tempest Federation has to deal with its own affiars. That being said, Milim can certainly lend a hand if they run into trouble (odds are they shall) while Rimuru is also relying on his new pal King Gazel Dwargo to back him up. Looks like we’re in for an aerial battle…involving…sea creatures…  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 17 – Angelic Gibberish

Two former Aztec comrades come to kill Etzali, apparently independent of anything else going on in this episode. Thankfully this tangent doesn’t drag on too long, since I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be about or why. Like last time with Xochitl, Etzali seems to hang around the fringes of the show only to be suddenly confronted by old comrades who want to kill him, but always end up failing.

Moving on! Kinuhata uses a bottle of nitrogen she always keeps on her person in case someone tries to neutralize her powers by filling the combat space with flames, as Stephanie Goofyname does. The nitro enables Kinuhata to rush at Steph and punch her in the face, thus defeating her (?) and allowing Hamazura to escape with Takitsubo.

But Kinuhata is immediately arrested by SWAT under the command of the Girl in the Dress. She informs Kinuhata that the chase isn’t over for Hammy, as apparently all of Academy City’s forces are after him. He’s an unpredictable element that Aleister Crowley would rather eliminate than worry about mucking up his carefully-laid plans (whatever they are).

Next Up: Accelerator. His fight with Koga doesn’t last long, since whatever clever trick Koga tried on him ended up getting flipped around by another clever trick by Accelerator involving his electrode and walking cane.

I won’t get into the technical details because frankly I forgot what they were, but suffice it to say, as expected, Mr. Random Smoking Dude is not the one to do in everyone’s favorite unhinged Index antihero.

GROUP reunites and tries to get Shiokishi to spill the beans about what DRAGON is, when DRAGON itself appears, knocking everyone out but Accelerator. Appearing as a brightly-lit angel-like being, DRAGON reveals his real name is “Aiwass”, and he’s a being that was both summoned by and mentor to Crowley.

The two are now pitted in some kind of supernatural philosophical debate about the value of people’s independent actions versus the efficiency of using people, or something to that effect. Honestly it’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo that purports to get closer to the core of what exactly Crowley is up to, but doesn’t seem to have much to do with the events of the last couple episodes, except that Crowley and Aiwass were able to observe different kinds of heroes in action.

Did I mention the show brought back Mugino, mostly so she could tell Hamazura that Kakine Teitoku is still alive too, and so could kill her again in an aircraft testing chamber. Hamazura and Takitsubo escape on a military plane headed out of Academy City, while Accelerator grabs Last Order and boards a train out of Academy City.

Accelerator is headed to Russia, where Touma has just arrived, and seems to be a bit underdressed for the climate. Perhaps Hamazura will head there too. All three guys have gals they want to protect, while all three gals are in danger of having their lives snuffed out by current events. Perhaps we’ll find more clarity and focus in Russia…or maybe Etzali will run into more friends while Aiwass speaks to them in tongues…

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 17 – The Ascent

Considering the Rising Arc has consisted of “climb a few levels, fight a boss, repeat” structure, SAOA has managed to mix things up by demonstrating both the variety of integrity knights and varied ways in which they fight and think, and the variety of ornate settings in which they fight within the cathedral.

Things get shaken up even more when Kirito and Alice end up outside the Cathedral’s quickly-autohealed walls. All of a sudden things get a lot more simple and minimalist, both in where they are—Dangling from Kirito’s sword, with death beneath them—and who they are to each other: enemies who must work together to survive.

Interestingly, Alice inititally wants Kirito to let her plummet to her death, for she wouldn’t be able to live with the shame of being saved by “such a sinner.” Kirito actually has to remind her that as a knight, her life is not her own, but belongs to the church, and to her Pontifex. Whether she has to bear shame or not, it is her duty to live on and protect humanity from the incursion of the Dark Territory.

He even makes the case that his and Eugeo’s “invasion” of the cathedral is the will of the gods and of Stacia, since Alice herself cites that their will is revealed through the actions of her servants. So Alice holds on, lets Kirito raise her up so she can put her sword in the wall just as his slips out, and then she returns the favor and lifts him up.

A Truce it is, then: they will work together to climb to the open-air Morning Star Lookout on the ninetieth-fifth-floor, at which time the truce will terminate and Alice promises to slay him. Kirito soon learns he’ll be doing most of the work on this climb, as apparently Integrity Knights are a pretty specialized sort, and Alice neither has the athleticism (not to mention outfit) to do the gymnastics necessary to climb.

As Kirito climbs in the virtual Underworld, Asuna and Rinko are having lunch when they a Japanese escort ship on the horizon changing course in a maneuver that catches one of Ocean Turtle’s officials off-guard. In a neat little transition from Asuna piercing her salad tomato to Kirito piercing the wall of the cathedral, we return to the climb. I’m not sure what else to say about the brief trip to the real world, except that it’s possible the easy peace Asuna and Rinko of enjoyed may not last.

With the sun setting, Kirito is finding it harder to generate wedge objects, so Alice makes one of her own (gold and fancy-looking, of course), revealing she was letting him make them this whole time even though she could have chipped in earlier.

Eventually they can see a ledge above them where some kind of statues sit, but they begin to transform into dark territory minions, which start to attack the two. And just like that, what had been a tough enough job of climbing the sheer wall is made that much more perilous with these flying beasts.

Since dealing with the minions isn’t going to work of Kirito has to hold Alice up, he decides to hoist her up to the ledge above, in a move that catches her entirely by surprise, but does add some stability to their situation. Once she’s on solid ground, she hoists him up in the same way, though he hits the wall back-first and upside-down.

Detaching the chain so they can both move freely, Alice dispatches two of the three beasts with one slash, then waits for Kirito to take care of the third, asking if he needs any help. He doesn’t, and once he finishes his foe off, she likens his weird Aincrad style to a kind of dance that would be performed on stage at the summer solstice festival.

That’s an odd thing to note, because when Alice thinks about it more, her head starts to hurt. She’s never actually been to the festival, as she initially said, but heard about it from monks…apparently. Or maybe the Alice buried in the Synthesis is starting to claw its way back to consciousness, due to all of her interaction with her old friend Kirito.

Regardless, throughout the climb Alice’s opinion of Kirito seems to soften more and more, until she even offers her handkerchief to the “criminal” to wipe minion blood off his face. Perhaps she doesn’t want him at any externally-forced disadvantage for their 95th-floor duel. But even as an integrity knight Alice doesn’t like the fact their were minions in such a sacred place…it means someone in the church wanted them there.

Cut to Eugeo, who is without Kirito by his side for the first time in quite a while. He continues climbing, and makes it to a hall on the ninetieth floor, which appears to be a bathhouse. There he encounters a man bathing there, covered in muscles and scars: not just any Integrity Knight, but Commander Bercouli Synthesis One. He asks for Eugeo to give him a little time to relax, as he just arrived from a long dragon ride.

Will Eugeo be able to defeat or at least get past Bercouli without help from Kirito? Will Kirito manage to defat Alice, or possibly turn her to their side once and for all before they face Administrator? Either way, their epic climb is almost at an end.

TenSura – 17 – The More, the Merrier

As the Blumund Kingdom sends Fuse, along with the three adventurers who already met Rimuru, to meet with the Slime and get the measure of him, Vesta, Kaijin and Gabiru end up being a good team when it comes to developing a fully-restoring potion. It’s so effective, it’s overkill for anyone but elite warriors, so it’s suggested they enter a trade alliance with the Dwarves to produce lesser potions in Jura Tempest.

The peace is suddenly disturbed (again) by envoys from Demon Lord Carrion. Half of Riguld’s face is ripped off, and Milim pays the envoy back with a devastating attack, hoping for praise from Great Rimuru. The Slime is not happy, however, that she ignored her promise not to cause any commotion.

Rimuru doesn’t get much respect form the Demon Lord envoys, but sends them on their way anyway, hoping they’ll relay a message to their lord to meet with Rimuru directly. Milim let’s slip that she and the other Demon Lords have an arrangement in which they won’t interfere with one another’s affairs.

Rimuru bribes her with a new weapon in exchange for more info on the Lords, and she’s all too willing to oblige. Meanwhile, the Blumund envoys as well as a survey party from the Falmuth Kingdom cross paths just as the Blumund group is fleeing a giant spider monster. Fortunately Gobta is in that neck of the woods hunting, and not only bails out the humans, but turns the spider into dinner for the town.

The representatives of the two kingdoms meet with Rimuru, and once again the Slime initially isn’t taken seriously. But once Vesta vouches that the Dwarves have already recognized Jura Tempest as a legitimate ally, and the Falmuth envoys have spent some time in the town, their leader Youm not only recognizes Rimuru, but agrees to serve as his new leader.

As Rimuru makes two key human inroads, Demon Lord Clayman is keeping his eye on things with his harlequin spies, including the young, annoying, very pink Tear. Looks like the Lords’ deal not to interfere with each other has gone out the window.

Like Milim, Clayman is far more powerful than Rimuru; unlike Rimuru, he’s not so young and so easily manipulated. Right now, he and the other two Demon Lords look like the largest remaining threats to Rimuru and his vision for peace and prosperity.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 16 – Something Pretty Substantial is Happening

Hamazura uses all the guile and resourcefulness he can muster to get to Takitsubo, settling on commandeering a helicopter (the pilot basically agrees to drop him off, but has to report it as a hijacking). In doing so, he ignores Takitsubo’s warnings about Spark Signal being too heavily armed for Hamazura to rush in recklessly.

Of course, since Hamazura is classically a rush in and figure out everything later kinda dude, that’s what he does. When he finds Takitsubo, Accelerator is looming over her, but has no real ill will towards either of them until Hamazura picks a fight.

Accelerator uses minimal effort to beat the crap out of Hamazura before leaving him to be comforted by Takitsubo. Neither of the former ITEMers are in particularly good shape, but they’re at least better off together as they search for Kinuhata.

Meanwhile, Stephanie has made Kinuhata her present primary target, urging her to make peace with the fact she’s going to take her life for what happened to Sunazara.

Shortly after the subject of DRAGON comes up in the RV, it’s targeted and destroyed by a missle, and the electricity in Accelerator’s gear is cut. He eventually wakes up in the car of the guy whose beloved teacher he saved, proving that even villains are paid back for their good deeds, even if Accelerator didn’t expect it.

The other members of GROUP having survived, Tsuchimikado sends Accelerator to talk with Director Oyafune for political help in bringing down Shiokishi after he betrayed GROUP. Her bodyguard insists she’s no longer involved in the fight against the Dark Side of Academy City ever since her daughter was taken hostage.

But when one of the little kids Accelerator saved from Spark Signal demands to come and fight alongside him (he calls Accelerator a “hero”, the opposite of what he constantly calls himself), Oyafune is done being a coward who does nothing to stop the darkness.

Hamazura and Takitsubo finally locate Kinuhata, but she’s been driven into the metro by Gorgeouspalace, who sets the whole station aflame with explosions in an attempt to rob Kunuhata of the nitrogen she needs to fight. Will she, a Level 4 after all, yet be able to fight Steph off?

With Oyafune in tow, Accelerator and Musujime infiltrate Shiokishi’s “fortress”—the guy is a war hawk after all—and are quickly separated from Oyafune by blast walls. Musujime is then knocked out by poison administered when Shiokishi’s boyguard Koga lights a cigarette. Accelerator will have to deal with the man—part of an age-old family of tough, troublesome thieves—on his own.

As for Oyafune, she looks particularly vulnerable trying to negotiate with a guy so paranoid he’s wearing a mech suit. When negotiations break down Shiokishi prepares to kill her, but she reveals she’s not Oyafune at all, but Etzali in disguise. She may be in a safe(r) place at the moment, but she still had to sacrifice the skin on her arm so he could take her form. Now the negotiations will continue, as Etzali demands to know what DRAGON is.

They’re interrupted by two more guards Shiokishi sends in, only for them to pull of their skin masks to reveal they are two members of Etzali’s old group, Return of the Winged One. As if there weren’t enough tangled interests involved in this arc. I tell ya, it’s as if you can’t trust any face you see on this show!

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 16 – Duel at Cloudtop

While Fanatio was able to endure Eugeo’s Enhance Armament, Kirito delivers the coup de grace with his own, overwhelming her sword of holy light. There’s a moment when it almost looks like she’s giving up, and that’s when she’s blown all the way up into the dome of the hall.

Kirito passes out once his attack is complete, but Eugeo is able to revive him by transferring some of his life. Kirito rushes to heal the critically injured Fanatio, but neither he nor Eugeo can stop the bleeding. Kirito decides to use the dagger meant for Administrator, asserting that there’s no way he can walk away from Fanatio carrying the tool of her salvation in his hand.

A bemused Cardinal takes her away and promises to heal her, assuring the lads that they can still defeat the pontifex without the dagger provided they get the jump on her while she’s sleeping, which is…often. Cardinal also sends them potions to bring them back to 100% for the next fight. I wonder if the Fanatio who wakes up will be grateful to her saviors…or regain her memories.

The only way to the higher levels is a kind of elevator shaft glowing with green light. A floating platform appears with an almost robot-like “operator” who simply asks which floor they’d like. It doesn’t matter that they’re criminals, fugitives, or enemies of the pontifex; her calling is to operate the elevator, and that’s it.

The dreary drudgery of such a calling calls to mind Eugeo’s constant hacking at the Gigas Cedar, but at least he got to go outside. The operator, who doesn’t even remember her name, would wish that if they succeed in bringing down the pontifex and her calling were recinded, she’d want to retain control of the floating platform and use it to ply the skies.

She brings the duo to the eightieth floor, the Cloudtop Garden, where they find Saber Alice reclining against a tree, asking for a little more time to relax in the sun. When the lads keep advancing, she reveals that the tree is the ancient form of her divine object, the Osmanthus Blade.

She acknowledges that the boys must have some skill if they were able to make it thus far, but promises them this is the end of the road for them. Kirito and Eugeo have no intention of defeating her, only restraining her long enough to use Eugeo’s dagger to send her to Cardinal.

To put it mildly, Saber Alice…doesn’t make that easy. Her Osmanthus Blade scatters into thousands of petal-like shards, giving her far more unpredictable and adaptable offensive power than a mere single blade. I likened it to the shikai of Kuchiki Byakuya’s Senbonzakura, though I’m sure there are plenty of other analogues.

Things seem to go according to plan at first, with Kirito constantly retreatin, then turning aside Alice’s blows until he’s close enough to grab her and hold her still. That allows Eugeo to unleash his Blue Rose Sword’s Enhanced Armament, capturing both Alice and Kirito in a block of ice.

But that’s where things stop going their way. Alice’s blade is exposed, and it scatters into petals and dissolves the ice. Suddenly on his heels, Kirito breaks out his AE again, and seemingly fights Alice to a draw, as the combined force of their attacks blows a big hole in the side of the cathedral.

They’re on the eightieth floor, the pressure differential sucks them both out before Eugeo can get to Alice with his dagger. Worse, the wall almost immediately completely repairs itself, sealing Kirito and Alice outside and Eugeo inside. Neither Kirito nor Eugeo alone were ever going to be able to face the Commander of the Integrity Knights—let alone Administrator. Yet alone is where Eugeo now finds himself.

I can’t imagine he’ll go all the way back down to the entrance to meet back up with Kirito, and possibly continue assisting him in his duel with Alice. Or perhaps the duel is over as far as Alice is concerned. In any case, getting the two lads back together will take some doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if a dragon was involved.