Story: Reki Kawahara
Translation: Stephen Paul
What They Say
Kirito has faced innumerable hardships in the two long years since he first awoke in the Underworld, but his greatest battle yet lies ahead. As they near Administrator’s chamber at the top of Central Cathedral, Kirito and Alice confront a heartrendingly familiar foe on the ninety-ninth floor. The final obstacle standing before them is none other than Eugeo…wearing the armor of an Integrity Knight! Can Kirito’s cries reach Eugeo in the tortured recesses of his mind? Or will Administrator have the last laugh?!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
In a lot of ways, this volume acts as a climax of sorts for the arc. And we kick off the big events by Kirito and Alice having to face off against a brainwashed Eugeo, following up on the cliffhanger from last time! And… quite frankly, there’s not much to it. Really, it’s just some screaming and yelling at each Eugeo to snap to his senses and lots of angst until they do get through, and then he freezes them and leaves to go back to Administrator. Note that all of this is only about 20 pages, so quite frankly, it comes off like it only happened in the first place for the cliffhanger, while the author had no real interest in doing anything with the idea itself.
At least from there, things do actually heat up, though. After that, we get a bit of Eugeo trying but ultimately failing to take down Administrator on his own, to atone for what he had done. This is actually decently intense and a good moment for the character… though honestly, it’s a little sad that I’d say this is probably his best actual moment in the book, despite what comes later. But anyway, after that Kirito and Alice catch up, and it turns into a big fight between them and Chudelkin. There’s plenty of action to be had here, and I’d say it’s pretty all well handled.
Once that battle is over, though, Administrator reveals her ultimate weapon and big plan before they can bring the fight to her: A truly monstrous golem made of blades, produced in an absolutely disturbing manner. If nothing else, this bit does a real good job of driving in just how messed up Administrator really is, making you really want to see her get her just desserts extra bad. And man, does this enemy ever rip through our heroes, forcing Cardinal to come out to play.
From there, things really do heat up, and I’ll let you more or less experience this climax for yourself, and see how it certainly hits some strong notes before it’s all over. The one point I do want to bring up, though, is how Eugeo’s arc comes to an end. Throughout the whole book, he’s lamenting his own powerlessness, unable to live up to Kirito or accomplish anything, and essentially just living in our hero’s shadow. And when he gets his moment to shine… he turns into a sword. While this may make sense in context, it’s still just plain silly to have him have his big moment as a sword just kind of flying around and fighting on its own. Then in the climax of the fight, you get the point that’s thematically strong for Kirito’s past where he dual wields Eugeo alongside his own blade… but it seems pretty damn insulting for Eugeo’s arc to end up there after everything, with him LITERALLY ending up as Kirito’s tool in the final fight rather than his equal.
I’m of two minds with this volume. On the one hand, it’s a sort of climax to the arc, and it certainly fulfills that purpose with a ton of intense action and serious stakes. On the other hand, though, I have some definite issues with how Eugeo’s character arc is handled. It just feels like he gets completely crapped on for the sake of some big eye-catching moments both here and in last volume, getting shoved out of the spotlight and no real chance to truly come into his own. It’s a shame, as I love a lot of what this volume does, but that one issue is also sadly one that can’t exactly be ignored, dragging down an otherwise fantastic book a couple of pegs.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: N/A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 14+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 24th, 2018