Sword Art Online: Alicization-1.06 Project Alicization

For the second straight episode the story stays in the real world as Asuna finally gets some answers as to what is really going on with Kirito and his work with the Underworld.

Project Alicization is in essence a large exposition dump; the entire episode is written to explain the purpose of the Underworld and why Kirito was involved in the first place. Information dumps of this size are always a risky endeavor, since all you're seeing is characters talking over details without anything really happening, which risks boring the audience. However I must admit the writers do their best to present this wealth of information in as interesting a manner as possible.

As the nature of Project: Alicization (the name of the overall Underworld project) is explained by Kikuoka, I realized that potential seeds of discord are being sown between him and Asuna (and Kirito by extension, should he learn of the project's true nature). The purpose of Project: Alicization is to create true Artificial Intelligence that can do anything a human can do...including killing. The reason Kirito was involved? While the A.I. inhabitants of the Underworld developed into thinking beings, they followed rules (i.e. the Taboo Index) without question. Kikuoka involved Kirito in the hopes of breaking one of these rules to push one of the A.I.'s over the edge to create what they call an A.L.I.C.E (Artificial Labile Intelligence Cybernated Existence).

Asuna makes the horrified leap to the truth that the military is attempting to engineer A.I.'s that can kill, a prospect that she guarantees Kirito would want no part of. Knowing this, as he must, it would be in Kikuoka's best interests to keep Kirito in the dark during his journey through the Underworld. I could see Asuna (and the rest of Kirito's friends) attempting to hijack the system to get the truth to Kirito (it's already been revealed that there are multiple STL devices aboard the Ocean Turtle, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Asuna entering the Underworld in the future).

Aside from the main exposition about the nature of the Underworld, there is a minor sub-plot where Rinko talks to Asuna about her connection with Akihiko Kayaba, but the bulk of the episode is devoted to Kikuoka's explanation. There is also the completely random revelation that Nurse Aki (who we met during season twp) is part of the military too.

Now that Asuna knows the truth about Project: Alicization, it will be interesting to see what she chooses to do with that information, if she acts at all. After all, Kirito's life is (literally) in Kikuoka's hands and until that changes I don't think Asuna will risk jeopardizing his life. Given that the title of the next episode is Swordcraft Academy, I think it's safe to say we'll be returning to the Underworld next week and catching up with Kirito and Eugeo's journey.

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