Subs were pretty late for this one, oh well.
I think I already gave a pre-text on what this post will have so let’s not waste any time.
Already off to a trippy start with the END of the Third Round where Alice is seen alone with Hakuno and the latter prepares to ascend after winning whatever ordeal the Third Stratum pit him through. Alice cries for him not to leave her alone but Hakuno promises to return after he wins the grail. In present day, our trio of Hakuno, Nero, and Rin embark from the elevator to find yet another forest to traverse. Right from the start though, they find an elevator to the Fourth Stratum surrounded by an impassable barrier. Seeing hope in trying to bypass the floor, they continue on and locate some building in the distance and head towards it. In transit, Rin brings up the location’s name, the Nameless Forest. This location was somehow “easy to access” before the war and the area is known to harbor “ghosts” but in this case, cyber-ghosts are mere bugs in the system that the Mooncell will flush out in time. Rin brings up Deadface again and Hakuno apparently seems to identify that term to whatever his “ability” is and wonders if Rin has figured him out. The trio arrive at their destination and enter through its multitude of doors.
The construct’s interior makes even less sense than the strange world outside and the trio travel deeper, finding no sign of life anywhere. A stack of cards fall on Hakuno but he’s unable to discern a meaning from one of the cards with a message on it before it vanishes. The trio make it out of the building and find themselves outside, with strange mushrooms growing everywhere. While Rin and Nero look around, Hakuno notices a girl run off in the distance and he follows her. He finds the girl playing with a tablecloth and she’s overjoyed over the fact that Hakuno can see her. She introduces herself as Alice, a ghost who has been alone on the floor for god knows how long and Hakuno decides to play along with her in a game of Hide and Seek. The two play for a bit before Alice explains the forest’s abilities stem from her and how she one day found herself here. She remembers one particular piece of knowledge of there being a war, how she was hospitalized, died and how she intends to become stronger and regain her life. Hakuno says he has to leave and promises Alice that he’ll come play with her again and in return, she warns him that the castle has monsters in it. Hakuno finds himself back in the entrance of the “garden” he entered to meet Alice and reunites with Rin and Nero. Hakuno is unable to remember what he was just doing aside from having the thought that he was just with someone. The trio head towards the floor’s center and Rin has a flashback where apparently she fought Amari? More ambiguous exposition occurs until we return to real-time and we learn that Rin has something to do with the Sixth Stratum. Hakuno then has some sort of vision where he conversed with Amari, where she apparently threw away everything she had to participate in this war. All this bullshit has Rin remember that this entire stratum messes up your perception of time and “visions” are commonplace. Soon the trio encounter one of the monsters Alice mentioned. Nero fights it but all three of them seem to have returned to the open where they first embarked from their ladder.
So much to my expectations, Alice’s stratum is bizarre as all hell where everyone has visions and shit just warps in and out of reality. Not much to really say here since I already complained about the Virtual Sea basically not existing in terms of design anymore. Alice hasn’t all changed all that much, she’s definitely more friendly but no sign of the Jabberwocky nor the Nursery Rhyme servant as of yet. The intro-foreshadowing also makes me curious on how exactly things will play out since Alice apparently survives.
Nothing much else here to really critique since the deviation from the original isn’t “that” enormous since weird shit happens there too. In Extra, Week 3 is mostly playing a game with Alice, only it’s a lot more hazardous than the one in LE. Alice puts you against one of her summoned monsters and it is ironically Rani, who just died in the previous stratum in LE, who assisted you in transmuting a specific piece of equipment for you. Then Alice uses her Noble Phantasm on the arena where you slowly lose your sense of self while trying to navigate through it. In LE, that sort of thing is already happening so the only thing that’s honestly different is Alice’s lack of reason to fight Hakuno. Hell, her identity as a cyber-ghost is already revealed. What did confuse is the number of command seals on Hakuno AND Rin that seems inconsistent so the some real distortion is going on with time in this stratum.
So with minimal things to discuss, I’d thought it would be good to go back and talk about the previous two stratums. Details and other nuances that I’ve overlooked because of unfamiliarity and mostly confusion as to why particular things were happening in the first place. I think the reveal that a couple decades having passed between Hakuno rising from the prelims into the first stratum really wracked my senses that I didn’t really take in the idea for Shinji actually not being an absolute cunt. The 8-year old reveal was impacting but Shinji died by a mistake made from his natural callousness. Contrast that to in LE where Shinji knows what he’s gotten himself into and actively tried to change and help others, it’s something that even I pointed out. Robin and Dan had their more subtle connection with how Dan focuses on the easy kills of sniping masters from afar while Robin deliberately goes for the harder targets by fighting servants, a vestige of who Dan would have wanted him to fight. To be fair, they could conveyed this slightly better and I’m only making these observations and connections due to knowing Extra’s original source. I feel like I’ve been too dismissive of the series the past few weeks but like I said, I think my brain was still too wracked over how much time passed in the series.