But before I talk about Eugeo, let’s set the stage. After two painful episodes full of exposition — why did Cardinal tell Kirito everything but not Eugeo? — the boys had to climb nearly all the way to the bottom of the tower in order to retrieve their weapons. And now, they have to climb all the way back up the tower in order to rescue Alice and presumably defeat the big, bad pope lady. Remember: religion, bad! Technology, good! On paper, this premise sounds like something straight out of one of those inane dungeon crawling JRPGs. Ascend a floor, explore, fight some baddies, repeat. Luckily, this tower appears to be mostly empty. Oh, there are still baddies to fight, but just the Integrity Knights. And since Alice is Synthesis Thirty, there really isn’t a whole lot for Kirito and Eugeo to worry about. At one point, they even have the luxury to take a break, sit their butts down on the stairs, and eat lunch. Big, bad pope lady sure doesn’t really worry all that much about security, huh?
Alright, let’s talk about those Integrity Knights. Shortly after retrieving their weapons — god forbid the bad guys actually defend the storeroom — our heroes run into some dude in red armor and a bow. We’ll later find out that he’s Deusolbert Synthesis Seven. Not only that, he was the guy who took Alice away from Eugeo all those years ago. The battle itself is nothing special. First, Deusolbert attacks them with a bunch of arrows. Standard stuff, really. Then he powers up and attacks them with flaming arrows. Kirito blocks a major attack by spinning is sword rapidly. Yes, that’s right. By spinning your sword rapidly, it turns into a shield. Even though he couldn’t really stop the attack altogether, he somehow managed to surmise that the cooldown on Deusolbert’s flaming arrow is really, really long (should’ve worn haste gear, tsk tsk). So as long as he can survive the attack, then Eugeo can retaliate. Our black swordsman is actually stepping aside and letting someone else have the spotlight for once! Aw, he’s all grown up!
Obviously, I hate all the “System Call” nonsense in this series. No, I get it. They’re in an MMO, and when they utter those words, this is akin to executing a command within a program. It’s also analogous to casting a spell. You utter the magic words and voila! You could argue that wizards and witches are doing the same thing. They just don’t realize that their world is programmatic in a way. But that’s the thing, though. Why bog every battle scene down with a relentless barrage of characters yelling out “System Call!” over and over? We already know how it works. Just have the magical fireball show up. Imagine if a wizard had to yell out “Fireball!” every time he wanted to cast a fireball. That’s stupid. Then again, a lot of the mechanics in the Underworld seems stupid. When Eugeo closes in on Deusolbert, he thinks back to Kirito’s advice from episodes ago. He remembers how he needs to infuse his weapon with the power of belief! As a result, he starts thinking about Alice, and this somehow gives him the strength to beat the Integrity Knight. Lame.
Anyways, bad guy is down, so it’s time to move on, right? Well, Deusolbert wants Kirito and Eugeo to finish him off. After all, his punishment for losing to them will be much worse, so he’d rather just die in battle or whatever. At this point, Eugeo finally realizes that he has met Deusolbert before. He realizes that Deusolbert was the guy who took Alice away. As a result, he starts seeing red. He wants to, uh, kill the guy who already wants to be killed. So right off the bat, this scene loses a lot of emotional impact. Not only that, we’ve been told over and over that these Integrity Knights aren’t exactly operating out of their own free will. Like Alice, they’ve been taken away and brainwashed by the Administrator. They have no memories of their former selves. Deusolbert doesn’t even remember the incident with Alice. But even after Kirito explains this in very clear terms and starts to leave, we see Eugeo lingering behind with his sword out. He had a tough time accepting the fact that Deusolbert isn’t really responsible for Alice’s current predicament. I mean, if you wanna pin the blame on the guy, you might as well also blame Alice’s entire village (including Eugeo) as well. It’s just difficult to take Eugeo’s outrage seriously when he sat on his ass for years because he was too gutless to go save Alice by himself.
And this is why I think Eugeo kinda sucks. Kirito had to tell him episodes ago that following the rules isn’t always the right thing to do. And now, we see that he doesn’t really have much a moral code if he isn’t already supplied with one. You get the feeling that maybe the author wants to give Eugeo a dark side. Up until now, he’s been such a polite, soft-spoken boy, but when his love for Alice is tested, that’s when he really turns nasty! Oooh, what a contrast! I just find the whole thing funny. First, good luck winning Alice’s heart with Kirito around. Second, what is killing Deusolbert even supposed to accomplish? Will it really make the kid feel better? Will he able to sleep soundly at night knowing that he murdered a soldier in cold blood? The punishment doesn’t fit the crime anyways. Alice broke a law, so she got “arrested.” Was the law she broke stupid? Yeah. Is it also bad to brainwash her? Sure, but Deusolbert didn’t do that. I’m not saying that Deusolbert didn’t do anything bad, but are his crimes serious enough to be executed?
Anyways, Kirito and Eugeo run into a pair of loli Integrity Knights at the end of the episode. Y’know, SAO used to be bad because it was jam-packed with shameless wish fulfillment. But if you could somehow look past the whole “Kirito is our lord and savior” nonsense, there was still a story about VR technology to sink your teeth into. Can you use virtual reality as a form of exposure therapy? Can you use virtual reality to escape from your responsibilities in real life? These ideas were explored poorly in the past, but at least they were explored. In Alicization, however, it sure as hell feels as though the focus has shifted back to just bog-standard fantasy fare, and as a result, the conflict is about as generic as it can be. Damsel-in-distress has been kidnapped, and we gotta save her! Saving her means climbing a really tall dungeon! And instead of fighting a monster of the week, we get an Integrity Knight of the week instead. I just find it hard to get excited for yet another meaningless battle, and maybe the world agrees with me. After all, Alicization certainly isn’t bring in as many views as its predecessors.