Sword Art Online: Alicization - 1.03 The End Mountains

In The End Mountains, Kirito continues to acclimate to the virtual Underworld. At the conclusion of the last episode, he'd decided to travel to the central city to find answers, but now he has to figure out how to get there. Kirito wants Eugeo to come with him, but Eugeo is forbidden to leave his Calling of cutting down the Gigas Cedar. So (in typical Kirito fashion), the stranded Kirito decides to find a way to cut the entire tree down. And there might just be a weapon that will let Kirito fulfill his ambitious plan: Eugeo shows his new friend the Blue Rose Sword (briefly introduced in the first episode), a legendary weapon once guarded by a white dragon. Given Kirito's proficiency with swords, there is a definite tease that Kirito might be able to cut down the tree with this sword.

Thankfully, as with the axe in The Demon Tree, Kirito's efforts come up short. While he can wield the Blue Rose Sword, he has not mastered it, so it's not nearly as effective as it could be. I'm so happy to see Kirito struggling with a sword for once; when the previous episode revealed that sword skills existed in the Underworld, I was very concerned that Kirito would instantly become this overly-skilled figure but that doesn't appear to be the case at all. In fact, every time Kirito seems to be gaining ground in this new environment, something happens to remind him that he is not in the old VR environment. He is not a top tier figure anymore and you can tell Kirito is not used to that feeling at all.

The other sub-plot in this episode involves Kirito's interactions with Selka, the young nun at the church where Kirito is temporarily staying. It comes out from Eugeo that Selka is Alice's little sister and after the latter was taken away, she moved to the church to take over studying the sacred arts (formerly Alice's Calling). Whether by coincidence or design, Selka reminds me of Asuna, both visually and in how she interacts with Kirito. This similarity is reinforced after Selka gets Kirito to tell her why Alice was taken away six years ago; it's clear she is planning to do something with this information. Not surprisingly, Selka is missing the next morning and all evidence points to her heading towards the End Mountains (this is the kind of impulsive action Asuna would definitely take). If I had to speculate, I think Selka has gone there in the belief that if she breaks the Taboo Index also, she can be taken away to where her sister is.

Kirito and Eugeo track Selka to a cavern deep inside the End Mountains where they find Selka...and a horde of goblins holding her captive. The episode ends with the bloodthirsty goblins bearing down on the pair with the intent of killing them while Eugeo is frozen in panic. Clearly a fight is coming, but considering Kirito and Eugeo have no weapons...the next episode will be very interesting.

Given Kirito's failure to cut down the Gigas Cedar with the sword, I think this upcoming fight with the goblins might be setting up how Kirito finally makes it to the central city. There's still no update on Kirito's status in the real world, but I'm sure it will come when we least expect it. Three episodes in and Sword Art Online: Alicization is telling a solid story.

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