Sword Art Online: Alicization - 1.05 Ocean Turtle

At last! After several episodes following Kirito's adventures in the Underworld, Ocean Turtle finally takes the audience back to the real world to see what happened after Kirito got attacked at the end of the first episode. This is the first episode in Sword Art Online: Alicization that doesn't visit the Underworld.

The episode plays out like a mystery drama. After Asuna and Kirito's family learn  that Kirito likely has permanent brain damage from the attack, Mr. Kikuoka (a government official who worked with Kirito during season two) steps forward and suggests Kirito be transferred to a top medical facility for treatment. Everything seems straightforward until Asuna and Suguha, Kirito's sister, attempt to visit him and find out Kirito isn't there. In fact, he isn't anywhere in Tokyo. Asuna and the rest of Kirito's friends spend the rest of the episode tracking down where Kirito has been taken. While they're only onscreen for a few minutes, it's nice to see all of Kirito's friends (excluding Agil, who doesn't appear) get a few lines apiece, mostly to express concern for Kirito.

During the search for Kirito, there are several references to prior events: everyone is wearing the Augma AR device (introduced in Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale); Yui talks about how Kirito searched for Asuna (during the second half of season one); and it turns out the base design of the Soul Translator comes from Akihiko Kayaba (the computer designer who set the events of season one into motion in the first place). Eventually, anything connected to VR technology in the Sword Art Online series connects back to Kayaba. And  it's this connection to Kayaba that helps Asuna locate where Kirito has been taken. Kirito had previously talked with Dr. Koujiro Rinko, a scientist who worked with Kayaba on various prototypes of VR technology.

After talking with Asuna, Dr. Rinko agrees to join Kikuoka's project, which is being held on the "Ocean Turtle," a massive complex that resembles a turtle. Here again we receive another Alice in Wonderland reference, as Dr. Rinko comments that the Ocean Turtle "has the face of a pig" and muses about whether such a creature appeared in Wonderland. Dr. Rinko is joined by her assistant, but it's very obvious that this is actually Asuna in disguise (the giveaway is the sunglasses used to obscure her distinctive eyes). Upon arriving at the facility, the episode reveals another surprise as Kikuoka (ostensibly a civilian working for the government) is addressed as Lieutenant Colonel, revealing that he is actually part of the military. We're also given a slightly closer look at the control room that ostensibly monitors the Underworld, a room full of high-tech equipment including a large monitor that shows a panoramic view of the virtual world.

It's amusing that Kikuoka is genuinely surprised to see Asuna reveal herself and demand to know where Kirito is. Kikuoka knows full well how much Kirito and Asuna have gone through together, did he really think Asuna wouldn't come looking for the man she loves? It will be interesting to see what happens now, since Asuna has apparently snuck into a top secret military operation (I'm assuming it's military since Kikuoka has a military rank) that isn't meant for civilian eyes. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see Asuna's reaction when she finds out where Kirito is. And...I can't help but wonder if Sinon is on to something when she wonders aloud if Kikuoka is "making Kirito do something again." I hesitate to speculate, but Sword Art Online does have a history of hiding villains in plain sight, so Kikuoka definitely bears watching.

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