Anime Spotlight: Sword Art Online: Alicization

Sword Art Online: Alicization 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 series aired on Japanese television from October 6, 2018-March 30, 2019. As of this writing, Aniplex of America holds the North American license for Sword Art Online: Alicization.

When I heard that there would be another Sword Art Online anime series, I was excited to see how the story would continue after Sword Art Online II. The opening episode for Sword Art Online: Alicization had a runtime of roughly 45 minutes, and it seemed a little on the slow side. However, I was willing to give the pacing the benefit of the doubt, since this first episode was trying to establish the new elements that would be introduced in the series.

Unfortunately, pacing issues kept coming up during this series. In fact, it got so bad that there were two episodes that were back-to-back which was essentially flashbacks accompanied by narration. While the information imparted during these episodes was important, the way in which the information was presented made these episodes boring to watch and helped the series feel like I was slogging through it at that point.

Then, there was the completely unnecessary recap episode that only helped to emphasize just how little plot had really happened over the previous 18 episodes. And then, in the very next episode, Kirito tells Alice in a quick piece of dialogue a summary of what had been seen in the recap episode. Honestly, instead of a recap episode, that slot could have been used to gain an extra 22 minutes to tell the story, because right after this, the pacing suddenly picks up at a breakneck speed. In fact, in a review of Episode 21 that was published on Anime News Network, the reviewer mentions that the episode covered 75 pages(!) of Volume 14 of the light novels.

I honestly got the impression that the writer adapting the light novels for the anime realized at Episode 21 that they were running out of episodes and had a lot of material of cover, so they had to suddenly rush through the rest of this section of the light novel’s story in order to fit everything into the episode count.

When it came to the new characters, I liked Eugeo, but was disappointed that he ended up being a sacrifice. I still don’t have much of an opinion on Alice at this point. Administrator was just ridiculous, and some of the plot points concerning her just didn’t work for me. Cardinal felt more like a “deus ex machina” instead of an actual character, so it was hard for me to get emotional when she sacrificed herself. Chudelkin wasn’t around for very long, but he was an obnoxious twit.

Now, I don’t know if the issues I’m having with Sword Art Online: Alicization stem from the original light novel or from the anime adaptation of the source material. But, either way, the series was a letdown after Sword Art Online and Sword Art Online II.

When the next series, Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld premieres in October 2019, I will be watching it as a simulcast. Unfortunately, I’m planning to go into it with much lowered expectations than I did when I started Sword Art Online: Alicization. I hope that the next series will surprise me and far exceed my lowered expectations.

Sword Art Online: Alicization: Episode 24 – “My Hero”

This episode sees Kirito going into a final sword battle with Administrator. When it seems like Kirito may not be able to get the upper hand, Eugeo (who hadn’t actually died in the previous episode) gives Kirito, through the power of friendship, a new red sword. So Kirito is now fighting with two swords. Unfortunately, before the battle is over, Kirito loses an arm and Administrator uses both of hers. But Kirito is able to make a fatal blow to Administrator, because neither of his swords are metal.

But Administrator thinks she isn’t quite beaten yet. Using her hair, she pulls up a computer and inputs something. As she rises up in the air and says that she’s heading to Kirito’s world, Chudelkin (who isn’t actually dead, either) jumps up and merges with Administrator, much to her dismay. But his merging thwarts her plan. So Chudelkin did something useul? Shocking.

Then, a dying Eugeo reveals to Kirito that it wasn’t only the Integrity Knights who had memories lost or twisted… both he and Kirito had this happen as well. With the memory crystal in his hand, Kirito and the audience is given the opportunity to see what really happened in a scene Administrator had manipulated to try to get Eugeo on her side. After this and a few words, Eugeo dies.

Kirito then goes to the computer Administrator was using and discovers that Kikuoka is involved. He hears audio of what’s going on at Rath, and what he hears is a lot of gunfire and confusion. This final scene seems to be setting up what will happen when the series returns in a few months, and what a cliffhanger it is. But the frustrating part is that since we never saw what was going on in the real world this season, the audience had no clue that this was even coming. Who’s invading Rath? What is their motive? As a viewer, it just felt confusing when this happened, because we were obviously being dropped into the middle of something.

With this ending, it gives me the impression that the next set of episodes, when the series returns, will be focusing more on Rath and on what’s happening in the real world. Will we have some episodes that build up to what’s seen here and then continue? I hope so. And from something Kikuoka says, we’re not quite done with Kirito and Alice yet, that they will also have a part to play when the story continues.

While this ending made me interested in wanting to continue when the series picks back up, I know I will be going in with lowered expectations. I hope that the next set of episodes, at such a time as they are finally released, will end up exceeding these lowered expectations.

Sword Art Online: Alicization: Episode 23 – “Administrator”

With the way this episode didn’t have the usual opening theme song, and instead ran the credits during the opening scene, I assumed that this was going to be the final episode. But nope, it turns out that this is the penultimate episode.

The theme of this episode is: sacrifice. Both Cardinal and Eugeo make sacrifices in order to move the story along. While I was glad to finally see Eugeo do something important to try to save the day, it was a little disappointing that he became a martyr by doing so.

Another theme of this episode: Administrator is a psychotic bitch. Yes, we knew she was psychotic and that she could be a bitch, but this episode showed just how much of a combination she has of both of these traits. Yikes!

Near the end of the episode, Kirito has an epiphany, when he once again has someone jump in front of him while he’s kneeling on the ground so they can try to save his life. At least Kirito finally realized that he could get up and fight, and was able to save Alice from becoming yet another sacrifice.

This episode ends with Kirito preparing to fight against Administrator one-on-one. So I hope this means that the next episode will be action-packed.

It’s too bad that Sword Art Online: Alicization finally found its pacing with the last couple of episodes of the series. After the slow start for most of the series, and then the overly fast paced episode a couple of weeks ago, it’s been very uneven in its pacing. But I wonder if I’ll be satisfied with how this story ends, and I assume that ending will take place in the next episode. I can’t see Kirito and Administrator’s fight taking more than one episode.

Adult Swim to Re-Air an Episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization After Error

Adult Swim’s Toonami block has announced that it will re-air the sixth episode of the Sword Art Online: Alicization anime on March 23, 2019 at 12:30 a.m., after its airing of the episode on March 16, 2019 had an error during airing, with the video supposedly being frozen.

The block will air the seventh and eighth episodes of the anime back-to-back on March 30, 2019 from 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Sword Art Online: Alicization premiered on the block on February 9, 2019 with a one-hour premiere.

Source: ANN

Sword Art Online: Alicization: Episode 22 – “Titan of the Sword”

This episode starts with Chudelkin using an art to create this flame monster that seems like it’s supposed to be pretty powerful. Alice holds this thing off so Kirito and Eugeo can go after the real Chudelkin. Unfortunately, instead of being an interesting battle with a powerful monster, the real Chudelkin is defeated pretty quickly and the monster disappears when he dies. As Administrator even quips, “Well, that was a boring show.” Considering how this series has gone so far, this line ends up coming across as true and unintentionally funny.

Then we spend a lot of the episode seeing both Alice and Kirito arguing with Administrator. And then Administrator decides to show off by creating a powerful Sword Golem. At first, it appears that this could be an epic fight. It cuts down Alice and Kirito pretty quickly, and it comes down to Eugeo. But all of a sudden, he hears a voice telling him to use the dagger Cardinal gave him and insert it into the floor next to him. A spider named Charlotte, who apparently has been on Kirito’s collar, enlarges in size and sacrifices herself so Eugeo can use the dagger. A doorway appears, and Cardinal comes out of it. She heals Alice and Kirito, and at the end of the episode, Cardinal turns her attention to Administrator. It looks as if the show is gearing up for some kind of showdown between Cardinal and Administrator in the next episode. Let’s see how this gets messed up. 😛

But by the end of the episode, Cardinal was really feeling like a “deus ex machina” to me. And I’m afraid she will continue this role into the next episode, and will somehow defeat Administrator a lot quicker than the time that it really should take. With both of the battles in this episode, there was hardly time for any tension to build before the enemy was defeated. To me, this makes for unsatisfactory viewing. It just feels like that when adapting the light novels for the anime, the writers messed up on the pacing early on, and then found themselves having to rush through the sections that should have been longer because they’re more interesting and would have provided the tension and action that helps to keep the viewer invested in what’s going on.

Right now, I’m going into next week’s episode without very low expectations. I really hope that the writers will be able to exceed my low expectations by a large margin. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

Sword Art Online: Alicization: Episode 21 – “The 32nd Knight”

This episode opens right where the previous episode ended, with Kirito and Eugeo clashing swords. This fight seemed disappointingly short. But this is due, in part, to Kirito starting to jog Eugeo’s memory.

When Eugeo goes to see Administrator, she decides to fiddle with the module. But when the module is out and Eugeo can speak, he is able to betray Administrator. Sadly, the sword that Cardinal gave to Eugeo and Kirito to take down Administrator doesn’t work because Administrator has made it so metal can’t damage her body. Darn. But knowing there are a few episodes left, I knew that there’s no way Eugeo could have succeeded here. Also, some new footage was inserted into the opening credits, and it’s clear that Administrator is going to be important in one of the remaining episodes.

Kirito and Alice join in, because it turns out Eugeo hadn’t completely followed Prime Sentor Chudelkin’s orders. Speaking of Chudelkin, that guy is quite a perv. But near the end of the episode, we see there’s more to this jester-looking guy than there appears on the surface. He’s going to be the next battle that Kirito, Eugeo, and Alice are going to have to fight.

With how the story is progressing now, it appears these remaining episodes will focus on battles with Chudelkin and the final boss, Administrator. Finally, this series is getting interesting to watch. Sadly, it took almost two entire cours for it to get to this point. And if the assumption that Sword Art Online: Alicization will be taking a break during the Spring 2019 season, then the series is hitting its stride right when its about to take a break. While I say it’s “hitting its stride,” I also admit that these last few episodes are starting to feel rushed in comparison to most of the episodes that preceded them. There’s definitely a pacing issue with the series, and that’s a little frustrating to me.

Hopefully the next episode will continue to keep the momentum going, but at the same time, not feel quite as rushed.

Sword Art Online: Alicization: Episode 20 – “Synthesis”

Most of this episode focuses on Kirito and Alice, with Kirito trying to figure out where Eugeo is. Using a command to search for Eugeo’s sword, Kirito discovers that it’s right below them. This leads them to the bath, where Bercouli was turned to stone by Prime Senator Chudelkin. Of course, seeing Bercouli in this state is devastating to Alice, since he served as her mentor. But even though Bercouli has been turned to stone, he’s still able to talk to both her and to Kirito, and they learn that Eugeo was taken away by Chudelkin.

As they go to find Chudelkin, Alice gives Kirito some exposition on the senate and their function. Fortunately, it was kept to a short amount of exposition before they reached their destination. But the truth behind the senate is revealed, and we get to see a confrontation scene between Alice, Kirito, and Chudeklin.

Chudelkin is such an ass. He already came across as annoying for the brief time we saw him a few episodes back, but now that he’s gotten more screen time, he’s a truly despicable creature. Unfortunately, it seems that traditional methods, such as running a sword through him, won’t get rid of him.

The episode ends with Alice and Kirito encountering Eugeo… who has now been turned into an Integrity Knight. But for some reason, he has somehow acquired rare abilities and is fully synthesized in such a short amount of time. Alice brings this point home a few times with her dialogue. As of right now, though, there’s no explanation as to why Eugeo was able to be synthesized so quickly and be so powerful. If they try to claim it’s because the depth of his wanting love is so deep (especially the part about only wanting the love of his mother for himself), I swear I will probably scream. That whole concept came out of nowhere in the previous episode to begin with. If this was going to be such a major plot point, it should have been reinforced early on, especially while he and Kirito were still in Rulid.

But I will give this episode credit for one thing. This episode has the done the best job of progressing the plot since who knows when. Exposition was only given when needed, and it was generally kept on the brief side (especially in comparison to some of the more recent episodes that were made up almost entirely of exposition). All I can say is, it’s about damn time that the story truly started progressing.

I find it interesting that this plot development of Eugeo being turned into an Integrity Knight is happening at this point, especially since it’s starting to look as if Sword Art Online: Alicization will be taking a break for the Spring 2019 anime season. If this is the case, what exactly is going to serve as the cliffhanger before the series comes back? I would have thought first encountering Eugeo as an Integrity Knight would have been the most appropriate place for a cliffhanger. But we still have, what, about three or four weeks left for the Winter 2019 season? Please don’t tell me that the fight between Kirito and Eugeo is going to last for the remaining episodes of this simulcast season.