Anime Spotlight: Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld

Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld is an anime series based on a light novel series written by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by abec. The anime is produced by A-1 Pictures and is directed by Manabu Ono. The first part of the series aired on Japanese television from October 12-December 28, 2019. The second half aired on Japanese television from July 11-September 19, 2020. As of this writing, Aniplex of America holds the North American license for Sword Art Online: Alicization.

Early on in this series, I felt like these episodes had a better grasp of pacing and story momentum than Sword Art Online Alicization did. In my reviews for these episodes, I kept commenting that this is the type of storytelling and pacing that the first series should have had.

It was an interesting plot point to see that Kirito had become mute and emotionless after the ending of Sword Art Online Alicization. In fact, this plot point is there from the beginning of this series and lasts through a good portion of the second half of Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld. But when Kirito finally snaps out of this, that’s when it felt like the pacing of the story started being rushed. It was giving me flashbacks to the rushed ending that Sword Art Online Alicization had.

One thing that this series had going for it was the fact that were getting a lot more intercutting between the events of Underworld and what was simultaneously going on in the real world. Of course, considering the plot of this series, the storytelling had to change in this manner. We have some “baddies” in the real world who have infiltrated Ocean Turtle… hired Americans who have a mission to steal Alice. Two of the “baddies” dive into Underworld with superaccounts for characters in the Dark Territory. They decide to use these accounts to encourage the inhabitants of the Dark Territory to launch a war against the humans and others in Underworld. This actually makes up a good portion of the story of this series, hence the addition of “War of Underworld” to the title.

The two main “baddies,” Gabriel and Vassago, are both rather messed up individuals. There wasn’t going to be any redemption for these villains, that’s for sure. They were definitely the kind of villains that you “love to hate.”

This series also allowed Kirito’s and Asuna’s friends, who had been all but sidelined in Sword Art Online Alicization, to play an important role and become involved with the events taking place in Underworld. We also get to see more of the characters from Rath who are on Ocean Turtle and how they have to deal with the invaders.

The first half of Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld was very strong, and it felt like it had been quite the improvement over the previous series, which I had been disappointed in by the time it ended. The second half of this series had started out strong, but after Kirito came out of his catatonic state, it felt like the story was being rushed again. And I wasn’t satisfied with how this series ended. The ending felt vague, and I found myself wondering why I spent time watching all 47 episodes (between Sword Art Online Alicization and Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld) if this was the ending it was going to bring me to. The endings for the previous series of Sword Art Online didn’t leave me feeling so underwhelmed. Will I watch anything more from the Sword Art Online franchise in the future? Probably. However, I’ll be going in with lowered expectations.

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