Have you already read the Alicization episode 3 review? You can find it here
Through turbulent action and, at the same time, with much to tell between the lines, the fourth episode closes the adaptation of the first Light Novel of this narrative arc, putting an end to "Alicization Beginning".
The episode opens exactly where the previous one ended: Eugeo is paralyzed by fear in front of the Goblins, ready to seek and attack the two friends.
Fortunately Kirito takes control of the situation, organizing a strategy that allows the two to recover a weapon and get out of that thorny situation by rescuing Selka.
What follows is a dynamic sequence of action sequences in which Eugeo keeps several Goblins at bay, taking advantage of the help of the previously generated shiny object, as suggested by Kirito, of which the Goblins seem to be frightened; meanwhile Kirito, after getting rid of several enemies, prepares to face the leader of the Goblins in a duel, quite sure of his skills thanks to the discovery, in the previous days, that the Sword Skill of Word Art Online are working in Underworld, allowing him to rely on the skills of swordsman he developed in the two years he was trapped in the VRMMORPG.
Although initially Kirito seems to have the upper hand, even managing to seriously injure his opponent, what happens catches him unawares: this time he does not have a trivial bot in front of him, but an articulated and well-developed artificial intelligence, an autonomous digital consciousness, whose reactions are not preprogrammed, a detail that makes Kirito's overconfidence the reason his opponent manages to stab his arm.
Here is highlighted yet another difference, which the protagonist had to learn at his own expense, between Underworld and the Seed-based VR games: Underworld is not a game, it is a simulation, and as such it does not care to screen the people who make it it starts from inconveniences and inconveniences that a game cannot afford to ignore, which is why the injuries reported now bring pain, which is not dissipated by the Full Dive device, making Kirito discover the sensation of being hit directly by a sword.
This triggers a rather convincing panic sensation in Kirito, which prevents him from fighting with the skill and safety previously demonstrated: once faced with the concrete possibility of his own death, a raw and painful death, the survival instinct takes over and lucidity is lacking for the protagonist.
It is Eugeo this time to restore concentration to Kirito, trying to defend his friend from the Goblin leader to the best of his ability.
The attempt, unfortunately, is not successful, since Eugeo is not a swordsman, but only a lumberjack, and his fighting skills are not enough to worry the huge Goblin, leading the boy to suffer a lethal injury.
Now on the ropes the crisis brings the two boys different flashes of their past together, giving Kirito the motivation and determination to go back to fighting until, with a well-placed blow, Kirito manages to eliminate his enemy by frightening the remaining group of Goblins, now without leaders, who decide to flee and return to the Dark Territory from which they come.
Although the situation seems to have resolved for the better, Eugeo is rapidly losing his life due to the injury, which requires the intervention of Selka's magical abilities who, unable to heal the boy on his own, asks Kirito for help using a spell who transfers their health points to Eugeo, healing him enough to save his life.
In losing his strength, however, Kirito has the vision of a female spirit that suggests she is Alice, telling him to be waiting for the two friends on the top of the Central Cathedral.
After this small but significant adventure, in a short time, Eugeo recovers his energies and returns with Kirito to cut down the demonic tree in his daily routine.
Analyzing the Blue Rose, Kirito realizes that their battle with the Goblins has raised their level of Object Control Authority, the parameter that in Underworld determines which tools an individual can freely handle, to a number greater than that of the sword, allowing the two to use it in a much more comfortable way.
Kirito scores a Sword Skill on the tree, causing a significant amount of damage and Eugeo, after verifying that he can handle Blue Rose with equal dexterity, asks Kirito to teach him his sword style, which Kirito names "Aincrad Style" .
The result is a short training montage at the end of which Eugeo, now fully trained, finally concludes the demolition of Gigas Cedar, completing the task that he could never have completed without Kirito.
The village celebrates the occasion the same evening, happy to have got rid of the problem of the demonic tree and ending the party with the assignment of a new task to Eugeo, which according to the laws has the right to choose their occupation after finishing that that has been assigned to him.
The boy, without hesitation, takes on the role of swordsman, letting Selka and his father understand his intentions, but without them interfering with his decision.
The following day Kirito and Eugeo abandon Rulid and begin their journey, with the capital as a destination, with the intention of finding and saving Alice.
The final episode of this first portion of the narrative provides us with the first real action scene after the pilot episode, the real focus of the episode, not only confirming a certain technical quality, which has remained constant and consistent with the other episodes and a choreography and fluidity never seen in the franchise outside of Ordinal Scale, but introducing an element hitherto unknown to SAO: violence.
Virtually every action scene so far has been set in a virtual world, causing characters and monsters to be injured only digitally, through lighting effects.
Although Underworld is technically a virtual setting too, its simulative rather than playful nature allows a more realistic approach to combat by causing those who are injured to bleed and feel pain making the battles more intense, the tension more concrete and giving weight to the whole context.
This element is a strong contributor to the perception we have of the Goblin leader: initially we see him as a high-level monster but, in any case, a banal Goblin, a low-level monster that Kirito, initially, has no reason to worry about.
This perception of ours changes, together with that of Kirito, when he is wounded. It is not a serious injury, but it is a new type of pain for the boy, who has certainly never been really hit by a sword, and that single sensation has not only probably recalled several traumas related to his experience in Aincrad, but has contributed to generate, also in the spectator, several questions: the Fluctlight is the digitization of a person's soul, his conscience, so what happens if this is killed in the simulation? Who put Kirito on Underworld took care to protect him from this eventuality?
Not only did Kirito's fears manifest themselves in this direction, but the Goblin himself, injured and even crippled by one arm following the first part of the fight with the protagonist, now appears much more threatening, imposing and on the whole monstrous compared to what is not was when he was unharmed, completely breaking down that sense of security that Kirito's typical competence makes unshakable in this kind of situation, thanks to Eugeo's injury that we do not know if he is a character "protected" from plot needs.
The CGI in this episode was used in a masterly way, creating that necessary detachment between humans and monsters (which however realistic they can never be reproduced in a real way, since they do not exist in reality) but without being invasive, so that often not you notice that the Goblins are made in this way.
The differences with Novel (in which Kirito does not yet know that the Sword Skills work in Underworld) have allowed the battle to be organized in a more dynamic and exciting way for the viewer, also allowing to show a portion of Kirito's Sword Skills repertoire , techniques that he has had since the first season of the anime but to which the adaptation had never given a name.
Kirito, as often happens, proves highly competent in these situations but Underworld overturns the spectator's expectations towards a seemingly very simple and linear situation: Kirito is powerful, but this does not mean that his victories will be as simple as in the past. In this battle with trivial goblins he had to organize strategies, grit his teeth and endure the pain, to fund all his skills more than previously done with very powerful bosses or rival players, giving a much more engaging rhythm to the battles.
All of this takes the story to the transition point where Kirito and Eugeo abandon Rulid. What Kirito brings with him is left shrouded in mystery for those who only watch the anime, but the importance of the scene is directed above all to the friendship evoked by the scene, in which the two protagonists work side by side, facing the unknown, ready to progress in their new adventure.
The title of the next episode suggests a detachment from what has been seen so far, bringing us back to the real world and probably giving us clarifications on Kirito's situation outside the virtual world.
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