Sword Art Online, Vol. 16: Alicization Exploding

By Reki Kawahara and abec. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Stephen Paul.

Thankfully, this is a much stronger volume than the previous one. It helps that this time around we have very little POV of Gabriel Miller, though the little we get shows he’s as awful as ever, and has a new reason to be after Alice. There’s also no Kirito POV, as he spends the entire book still comatose. This allows a number of characters to get POV scenes, which Kawahara admits in the afterword he’s not really used to, but it plays out pretty well, as we’re introduced to a number of Integrity Knights, as well as some villains, and get a little more into what makes them human. Which is good, given that the entire premise of this arc is that the cast of the Underworld are meant to be just as important and sentient as our heroes, even if Alice is framed as the most special of all. And, coming down as a gift from heaven – literally – Asuna joins the fray, with God-tier powers and an immediate rivalry with Alice, because the author never met a cliche he didn’t like.

Unfortunately, sometimes that means cliches that shouldn’t really be used. I sighed when we got to the Integrity Knight with a massive crush on Fanatio, who was forced to become a knight because she fell in love with another woman, falls in love with Fanatio while a knight, and is promptly killed off protecting her. I should be grateful she wasn’t framed as evil or predatory, I suppose. The ‘bad guy’ cast also ranting about the “white iums’ (aka the good guys) also rankles, though I know that it comes from a fantasy base where white = good and black = bad, and was no doubt written into the Underworld by the developers. Better handled was the cowardly Knight who decides to hide from the final battle, and unfortunately for him ends up in the same tent as Ronie, Tiese and their unresponsive charge, and he is forced to learn the true meaning of Christmas. Or at least that some things are worth fighting for.

Most of this book is a fight sequence, and there are some good ones, particularly a battle between a stoic and (mostly) silent Integrity Knight and a Pugilist (who are basically a bunch of Hercules guys) on the opposite side who find that each has an equal bloodlust for a good fight. That said, we can’t avoid the plot entirely. Asuna is in the game now, but she won’t be enough, as the villains have hacked it to allow a bunch of Americans to log on – not telling them these are anything other than NPCs – and let them kill everyone. Fortunately, Yui – who laments the fact that she’s not as good an AI as Alice and company while at the same time surpassing her own limits, a scene that’s very deftly handled – is bringing in a few more ringers. Yes, at last, we’re getting the rest of the band back together, as the other “main” cast members prepare to enter the Underworld as well.

We have two more books to go in this arc, and I will be very surprised if the next one does not end with Kirito ascendant. But there’s no denying that things are tough right now. Fortunately, with the power of More Deban on its way, we can likely find a way past it. That said, SAO is every five months now, so be prepared for a slightly longer wait.

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.

Speak Your Mind