Sword Art Online Episode 20: Salamander General Eugene
General Eugene expressed astonishment as his upper body, from right shoulder to his left waist, slid away without a sound. The light forming the square dispersed in every direction. Right after, his body began burning, and he collapsed into a huge End Frame.
No one moved.
Reaching the Butterfly Valley where the conference is about to take place, Kirito and Lyfa realize that the Salamanders have made it there before them, forcing Kirito to confront and battle General Eugene, who is in possession of the Demonic Sword Gram and is said to be the Salamanders’, and therefore ALO’s strongest player. While initially at a massive disadvantage due to Gram’s special ability, Ethereal Shift, Kirito manages to pull off a victory by borrowing Lyfa’s sword and using Dual Blades once more. Informing Sakuya that Sigurd was behind the ambush, Sakuya banishes Sigurd from Sylph territory, and together with Alicia Rue she agrees to aid Kirito in reaching the top of the World Tree.
Looks like Kirito and Lyfa didn’t make it there quick enough to stop a confrontation entirely – which would have been the ideal solution if they had managed to get the Sylph and Cait Sith forces far enough from the valley for the Salamanders to notice their presence at all. With 68 players in the Salamander force, sheer numbers would have been enough to overwhelm both Sylph and Cait Sith, though it strikes me as odd that Alicia Rue wouldn’t station more players loyal to her nearby just in case there was a problem, as the valley is geographically near to Cait Sith territory anyway. It’s true she seemed on good terms with Sakuya, and clearly no-one expected the Salamanders nor Kirito and Lyfa to show up crashing the party. Hahahaha it was incredibly bold of Kirito claim to be the ambassador of a Spriggan-Undine alliance, especially when he’s never met an Undine before, and all it takes is a bit of cross-checking or friend messaging to foil his plan entirely. Thank god for the Salamander he spared a few episodes back, who seemed to be willing to cover for him. Kirito’s attitude is sure netting him a lot of girls though – that makes three in the world of ALO alone.
Of course, the main attraction of today’s episode, as advertised was the first epic-scale fight Kirito’s engaged in since arriving at ALO, forced upon him by the Salamander General Eugene, who is apparently the strongest player in the game with the legendary weapon and stats he possesses. What was supposed to be a 30-second proof of identity turned into a full scale brawl that we haven’t really seen since the likes of Kirito vs Heathcliff, and this time they made sure to emphasise the use of aerial combat and the differences it makes – speed becomes an ever-increasing important factor, and there are a host of different tactics you can use, like what Kirito did with the black magic smokescreen as well as making full use of his height and position in the air to push Eugene down. Speed was already pretty significant – though Eugene had superior armour, weapons and experience within ALO, Kirito’s sword speed was fast to the point that Eugene’s HP bar went straight from green to yellow with one plunge. I enjoyed the extra thrill you get from realizing Kirito was actually losing to start off with – the ability Ethereal Shift is damn scary, which literally bypasses all defences and is put to full use through its owner being a Salamander, a race known for its superior attack power in combat. Kirito borrowing Lyfa’s katana and using Dual Blades turned the tables entirely, which had that “crowning moment of awesome” feeling that I think could have been greater – this was because we didn’t really get much of a proper explanation. General Eugene almost stopped trying to retaliate completely after Kirito started dual wielding, while it was different in the LNs – the fighting wasn’t as one-sided, and what the anime never emphasised was that Ethereal Shift can only phase through one weapon at a time, meaning that it could only have blocked one of Kirito’s two swords, allowing him to gain an upper hand. Dual Blades is free to use in ALO, but is hardly ever attempted due to the difficulty it takes to make two swords work in sync – and so this would have been Eugene’s first time fighting a dual wielder. Well, he lost, and it was an epic fight nonetheless. Just me nitpicking a bit xD
I won’t say I feel sorry for Sigurd, as he was the cause of the entire conflict having tipped off the Salamanders and really, he deserves to be banished to the neutral zone as he has no loyalty to the Sylphs whatsoever. His personality isn’t great either, and I find it pretty hard to believe that the two girls lying by his sides are actual players, as there’s no way people would stoop so low. It was proven that he wants power – both in terms of stats as well as politically within Sylph territory, and clearly with the Salamanders in the lead to the World Tree race, being a Sylph would not serve his purposes. I doubt Salamander Lord Mortimer would have kept his promise anyway, as politically, it would be hard to trust a high-ranking general of a directly conflicting race – maybe it’s fine to use his info as a spy, but to directly accept him into Salamander ranks is another matter.
Onto the World Tree then! Kirito’s somehow got lots of money from his various adventures in ALO, and now he has aid from Sylph and Cait Sith to reach the top of the World Tree as well – which will be useful, as I can’t imagine such a team-oriented game having bosses at the base of the World Tree that can be soloed completely. More importantly, at the top of the World Tree a certain someone is taking her first steps towards freedom as well as her reunion with her beloved Kirito-kun, managing to escape when Sugou isn’t around to harass her. The tension as Asuna explores is going to be so thick you can cut it with a knife, buuuut that’ll have to wait for next time xD This marks the end of Fairy Dance Volume 3, which means that we’re around halfway through the ALO arc. I don’t want it to end ;_;