Special Move: Break the Glass Ceiling!
Kirito and Eugeo happen upon Fizel and Linel, two sisters-in-training for the church. They seem harmless enough, up until the girls stab the two of them with their knives and paralyze them, revealing they are the 28th and 29th Integrity Knights. As their motionless bodies are carried to a different chamber, the girls also explain how they were part of an experiment done by Quinella for resurrection, which only Fizel and Linel survived and so became Integrity Knights. But they still weren’t taken seriously and hoped to get promoted by taking down the intruders that entered the castle.
They are then met by Fanatio Synthesis Two, who asks them to hand over Kirito and Eugeo. While the in-fighting happens, Kirito takes this chance to paralyze the twins and get Eugeo ready to use his Perfect Weapon Art. Then he faces Fanatio head on, dodging a deadly reflective solar laser that springs forth from their blade. Thinking fast, he summons a mirror to reflect part of one of Fantatio’s blasts back, knocking off their helmet to reveal…SHE’S A G-G-G-G-G-G-GIRL?! Well, she takes offense to him finding out, having apparently gotten a lot of flack for it in the past…that she shouldn’t remember, but whatever.
Kirito, being an equal opportunity opponent, retorts that he doesn’t care that she’s a woman, only that she lost all her composure after having that found out, so it’s really her fault for being this mad! He also pieces together that she’s in love with somebody because…she wears makeup. And there’s no way a woman would want to look pretty unless they wanted to get a guy’s attention! So, in a last ditch effort to beat him, Fanatio uses her lasers to fire randomly throughout the chamber, injuring both her and Kirito in the process. Eugeo, having recovered from the paralysis, uses his Perfect Weapon Art, Blue Rose Bloom, to freeze everyone except Kirito in place. Eugeo almost lets his hatred for the Integrity Knights cloud his judgment until Kirito talks him down and then activates his own Perfect Weapon Art.
Well, I asked for more Integrity Knights and I sure as hell got some. Three more in a single episode, in fact, including the second-in-command! Although two of them were basically one character and the other…well, we’ll get to that. But off the top of my head, I can say that once these three are thrown into what we know about the Integrity Knights as a whole, it starts to paint a clearer picture about the organization and what Quinella is using it for. She’s very committed to maintaining their illusion of being heaven sent guardians, even manipulating their memories to do so. But she’s not above using them in her deadly experiments, meaning she pretty much just sees them as tools for her will and plans as opposed to actual people who she needs to convince with purpose and cause.
Though in regards to this episode, throwing this much at once ended up making it feel pretty cramped. The twins’ whole part of the episode basically amounts to them taking the boys by surprise, throwing out a bunch of exposition, and then dragging them to the next knight who Kirito actually gets to fight, after which they’re basically forgotten about. Almost like we could have cut their section entirely and not lost anything of value. It also begs some questions about why these two were allowed to remember their pasts, especially pasts that were so heavily involved in seemingly very confidential experiments, when other knights weren’t allowed this. And it makes me just a bit more confused about the numbering system, since it seems to be by order of who got knighted first, but I have a hard time believing these two became the twenty eighth and twenty ninth knights before Alice, who is the thirtieth.
And then there’s Fanatio, who ALSO seemingly gets to keep her memories of being underestimated as a lady, but that’s not the worst of it. Sexism is clearly a problem in Underworld and I’d be more concerned if it wasn’t, but it has oddly not really been that much of a problem for the three previous female Integrity Knights we’ve met so far. Alice seems to be regarded as an equally revered knight regardless of gender and Fizel and Linel are patronized because of their age more than anything else, so Fanatio being the one to make her character basically all about this is pretty odd.
Plus, putting aside that the “OMG! The masked person with a clearly female voice turned out to be a female!” trope has been done to death and back, what I find to be the biggest misstep is that it’s Kirito of all people who is lecturing this woman about how SHE’S the only one with the problem about being treated unfairly because she’s a woman, or how she’s only making herself look pretty because of love. The latter might be true in her case, but neither of these are things Kirito could possibly know anything about because…well, he’s not a woman. He’s simply not going to have had the same experiences as Fanatio or even Asuna, Suguha, Sinon, or any of his female friends have had because he’s not in a position to know what kinds of treatment they’d deal with. That said, neither could I, but I feel like there was an easy way to make this conversation not feel so tone deaf: Have another female character on Kirito’s side (possibly one who already lives in Underworld and has to deal with those kinds of struggles) be the one to fight Fanatio and find common ground on this issue. Too bad we don’t have any of those, I guess.
But yeah, added with all that, this was not really one of the show’s better stabs. Better luck next week, I suppose.