This first episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization is longer than normal, and it needed to be in order to establish the important aspects of the story going forward.
But when the episode started, I was a little confused at first. We see Kirito in a new game world that we’ve never seen him enter before. It’s a medieval type setting, and one of the characters he interacts with is named Alice. Alice is dressed like Alice from Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland. Roughly the first half of the episode is spent establishing this new game world, as well as the new characters (Alice and Eugeo).
We see Kirito and the other two embark on an adventure to get icicles from a nearby cave in order to keep their food from spoiling during the hot weather. This cave has a story attached to it about a dragon and its treasure. But this cave is near a location where the characters in this game world are not permitted to go; if they go into the forbidden area, they will have violated an important law in the world and will be dealt with by the Integrity Knights.
While they do find ice in the cave, they also find that the dragon is dead. But they become disoriented in the cave, and ultimately find themselves heading for the exit to the forbidden area. Unfortunately, Alice trips and falls, and her fingers just enter the boundary for the forbidden area. But, unfortunately, this is considered enough to violate the law, and Alice is taken into custody by the Integrity Knights.
At this point, which is about halfway through the episode, we see Kirito awaken and realize that he was indeed inside a new game world using a different apparatus.
We then get to see Asuna, Sinon, and the others in Gun Gale Online, and they’re going up against a group of PKs. After this fight and a debriefing session afterward, Sinon says she wants to meet up with Kirito and Asuna in the real world to talk to them. She specifically wants to talk with them about an upcoming championship in Gun Gale Online that she wants their help with.
After this, most of the rest of the episode focuses on Kirito, Asuna, and Sinon meeting up. A lot of this portion of the episode is an “info dump,” where we hear about Kirito’s current part-time job of testing a new full dive apparatus. We also learn that currently, he retains no memories of what happens to him in this new world. When Asuna mentions Alice in Wonderland, though, something starts nagging at him that there’s something he needs to do.
And there’s a major cliffhanger right at the end of the episode, and it includes the reappearance of a character from Laughing Coffin, which, as I recall, is a reference back to the first season of Sword Art Online. Admittedly, it’s been quite a while since I last saw Sword Art Online and Sword Art Online II, so my memory is a little hazy.
But this episode does its job, which is to establish the new game world, as well as Kirito’s part-time job of testing new VR gear and games. While most of the second half of the episode consisted of “info dumping,” it’s information that the audience really needs in order to understand what direction this new season is going in. I expect that future episodes will be a lot more focused on action and progressing the plot, and much less on “info dumping.”
This is a promising start, and hopefully Sword Art Online: Alicization will be able to deliver on this promise over this next year.