Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 05 – The Eve of Reckoning

With a title like “The Night Before Battle”, it was clear there would be one more calm-before-the-storm episode before that battle took place, but in this case, it was not only earned, but welcome. After all, there a lot of reunions that need to happen before battle is joined. That starts with Alice’s protege Eldrie and her “uncle” Bercouli.

Eldrie is concerned about the dead weight that is Kirito, but Bercouli demonstrates that he’s still capable of defending himself through sheer willpower. That means he may yet come back to them, hopefully in their hour of greatest need. That’s coming soon, by the way—their forces are outnumbered more than 16-to-1.

Alice considers that perhaps Kirito can’t hear or react to her voice because she’s still suppressing her feelings, and that maybe a gesture of those feelings may finally wake him up. She comes close, but is interrupted by Tiese and Ronie, who heard Kirito was at the camp. I suppose kissing him wouldn’t have mattered; the conditions haven’t been met for him to come back yet.

The pages are beside themselves upon learning of Kirito and Eugeo’s fates, and Alice can’t help but notice they act as if they loved the boys. They rebut that assertion by saying they don’t deserve the right to say they love him, citing their traumatic experience that led the boys to break Axiom law to save them. Alice rejects their position, transforming to “peacetime” Alice Zuberg that would have been had she not been kidnapped.

Her lesson to the two is that bodies are unimportant compared to the hearts and their souls. If they feel they love someone, or that they can and should do something, they need not be ashamed to carry those feelings with pride. It’s something she learned from Kirito and Eugeo and is happy to pass on.

Alice is less enthused by Lady Fanatio carrying such feelings with pride, especially when she asks to see Kirito so she can “try various things” in an attempt to revive him. Alice betrays her own personal feelings for Kirito by barring Fanatio from seeing him. But such bickering has to wait; it’s time for the war council.

Administrator truly screwed the Human Empire in her management of their military forces. The remaining Integrity Knights must make do with what little they have and pursue a strategy of bottle-necking the enemy’s superior numbers in a narrow, barren ravine, hoping that location will also prove challenging to dark mages, who require material in order to cast their arts.

After saying what could be her final goodbyes to Kirito (leaving him in the pages’ care) and Eldrie, Alice mounts her dragon and the forces move into the ravine. The gate resolves, heralding the “Final Load Test.” The good guys are at a huge disadvantage against Miller’s massive forces.

I don’t doubt they’ll need to rely on a last-minute intervention from…someone; maybe Kirito answering the call in their greatest need, maybe Asuna, finally arrived in Underworld and ready to fight to save her fiancee. As for Alice…we just saw a lot of death flags… :(

Kino no Tabi – 12 (Fin)

In Kino’s final adventure of the season, she and Hermes find themselves relentlessly pursued by a huge flock of super-aggressive sheep. Yup, definitely didn’t see that coming! Hermes suggests they’re after her as payback for all the sheep she’s eaten in her lifetime.

When Kino comes to a steep ravine, she has to ditch Hermes and climb down to escape the raging flock. She walks upstream, but the sheep follow her. Even at night, they watch her like hawks, waiting for her to come back up so they can get a piece of her. Eventually, she comes upon a Land Rover, a drum of fuel, and their dearly departed owner, whose skeleton Kino buries before commandeering the truck.

Returning to Hermes, who is surrounded by the killer sheep, Kino rides dozens of them down, creates a ring of fire with the fuel drum, and picks off the ones caught inside with her various guns. She then builds a quick-and-dirty ramp, gets on Hermes, and they jump over the ravine, leaving the sheep behind.

They later learn from the next country they enter that their sheep were bred for fighting each other, much like fighting dogs in other countries (like, say, ours). Animal rights activists shut the system down, and the sheep were released into the wild, where they now terrorize any passersby unfortunate to come afoul of them. Kino wisely omits the fact she killed a good number of them before arriving in town.

With the sheep escapade complete, there’s only a little bit of episode left, and it’s spent mostly on just one shot: the camera slowly pulling back on Kino relaxing in a hammock between two trees.

It’s a very static segment that goes on a bit too long for my taste, and Kino’s assertion that one journey has ended and another is about to begin doesn’t elicit much more than a shrug from me.

Still, she’s not wrong; journeys begin and end when we wish them to. It was nice to see Kino & friends back in action for twelve episodes. Here’s hoping no matter what journeys may come in the future, she never stops being a pragmatic badass.

Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 04

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WareMete gets all adventurous and sentimental as the “search for lost future” turns into a trip down memory lane for Kaori and Sou. It all starts with a beautiful day, a new old camera, and the desire of the astronomy club not to waste it. So they play hooky!

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I loved the tension and excitement of their escape scene, trying to do it as calmly and casually as possible until they’re off school grounds, then making a run for it. In a nice bit of continuity, Yui is among the athletic members of the group, and the only one who can’t quite match pace is Kaori, which Sou realizes and lends her a supporting, encouraging, and much appreciated hand.

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Their prison break becomes a bit of an odyssey when they miss their stop and end up at the end of the line, which turns out to be a ravine Kaori and Sou visited as kids with her mom. It’s also some very gorgeous scenery: verdant, tranquil; exactly the kind of place you’d want to be on such a nice day.

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On that trip years ago, Kaori lost her teddy to the river and tries to go after it, but Sou springs into action to help her. They both end up in the drink with her ankle sprained, but he carries her back. It’s a memory she treasures, and she’s annoyed Sou doesn’t seem to remember it, but he later brings it up, making it clear that he remembers too, to her relief. In somewhat uncertain terms, she expresses her gladness that he not only carried her back then, but held her hand during the jailbreak.

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When she loses a loafer to the same river that took her bear, history is poised to repeat itself…then the rest of the club arrives, including Yui. Now, Yui may well know Kaori died in another timeline, but for now, all we know is that she gets concerned when others do potentially risky things. With that in mind, she goes after the shoe, and Sou is there to catch her when the rock beneath her hand gives way. Kaori’s a little disappointed in this turn of events, but Yui didn’t do what she did to step on Kaori’s toes, but to protect her from threats only she seems to fathom.

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Like all good impromptu day-long trips, this one ends with everyone wiped out on the bus ride home, a great quiet, cozy scene where, Kaori gets a little more Sou Time. Those shots of Sou and Yui flash by in Kaori’s head, and while she allows that Yui’s a “good girl,” I still detected a hint of yearning. Just as Sou has no idea how his non-digital shots will turn out, we have no idea how Kaori’s future will turn out. It looks like Yui’s looking after her, but how will her presence affect her and Sou this time?

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