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Sword Art Online: Alicization
(All episodes watched):|
'Why in the world is Kirito now a child, and apparently a child within a peaceful and idyllic world?' I asked myself as I watched the 47-minute first episode of Alicization. It seemed kind of boring; for a while the impression I got was that him and some friends solving problems like how to preserve food with pre-industrial revolution technology might be the main theme. I wondered if major character Alice had been transplanted there from Alice in Wonderland, hence the title. Eventually (I wish it hadn't taken so long) it becomes clear that this is an experience Kirito was having while attached to a new virtual reality system. The twist is that this system, STL, is incredibly realistic and apparently it disconnects you from your memory so that you don't remember much afterwards (and presumably forget that this is just virtual reality while you are in the midst of it). At least that's my guess; unless I wasn't paying close enough attention (which is difficult while feeling bored and confused) just what is going on here is never completed explained, which is frustrating. I didn't completely grasp the role played by one's 'soul' in this, or what 'fluctlights' are. Anyway, it's easy to see how using this system would be a tricky business and people might be traumatized by experiences that never actually happened. Back in the real world (and more conventional video gaming) Kirito has run ins with old enemies from seasons one and two of SAO. My guess was that there's a conspiracy afoot to do something nefarious with STL, and it would be up to Kirito and friends to get to the root of it; but in fact it turned out that the main conflict existed almost entirely within this virtual reality. I almost wonder why the makers bothered to include the part about where Kirito's physical body is in the real world and stuff like that, since little is done with it. So, for all its length episode one didn't make the premise all that clear; it struck me as neither brilliant nor terrible, but I must admit that I was glad to see another season of SAO, since they are generally of above average quality.
In episode two Kirito finds himself back in the game where Alice was arrested, but six years have passed. Also, he retains his real world memories, but for some reason can't log out. He runs into Eugeo, who apparently doesn't remember him; either he has forgotten, or a reset has been done, and the same scenario is playing out but without Kirito until now. It's confusing, and the explanation we get in the final episode doesn't clarify things all that much. But for the most part I found myself enjoying this SAO sequel which has a fairly clear ultimate goal which Kirito and Eugeo want to accomplish, namely to find Alice. They are confident that she is still alive, in spite of everyone being told six years ago that she would be executed.
In episodes five and six Azuna and the others conduct a real world investigation into just what is going on after Kirito is mysteriously moved from his original hospital to an unknown location. As is often the case, the details of the explanation were confusing, especially since I have yet to buy this notion that computer software can read a person's soul. But the basic explanation made sense and the story remained largely interesting and entertaining. In episode seven we switch back to Kirito and Eugeo's story. We now have an idea why Kirito is here though how the adventure he is undergoing will fix his problem remains unclear. He's aware that he's in a virtual reality, but cannot remember how he wound up there or much of what his real world life is like. Two years have passed in this VR (but that's OK because time moves at a somewhat faster rate there than in the real world). The two boys are now students at a swordsmanship academy, having earned scholarships via their unique 'Aincrad' style. They get into disputes and duels with asshole aristocrats at the school, but I don't see how these have anything to do with their goal of finding out what happened to Alice. I noticed that we were already 3/4 of the way through a season, yet hadn't learned a thing about what became of her back in episode one. At the end of episode ten she finally turns up; but she has no memory of either Eugeo or Kirito. But I couldn't help feeling that we had lost track of the main theme. Alice has been away for so long, and now feels so distant, that I didn't feel all that great a need for her to be 'saved'. I could only guess the plot of this show is supposed to be about seeking an explanation for why several different characters have experienced memory loss of one sort or another; but it is confusing and I found myself with little confidence that the answer would make any sense. Whereas previous seasons of SAO had two major plots (each one 12 episodes or so long), Alicization is all one long story. I can't help thinking that this story could have been trimmed down and told in 12 episodes, and that it would have been better balanced and easier to follow if that had been the case. I have often been surprised that the original arc, which set the framework for all the sequels, was a mere one season long while this somewhat less groundbreaking one gets two.
Episode 18.5 is a review of the first 3/4 of the story. It was useful because I had forgotten a couple of important points as the lengthy story goes on--like, why did Eugeo undergo the strange experience which made one of his eyes turns red? Is it important? One thing that wasn't mentioned in this review episode is that this is all basically a virtual reality dream that Kirito is experiencing as he undergoes treatment for the life threatening, real-world injury he suffered (right?). Is that important? It seems unclear what really matters and what doesn't. This show should have been nearing a climax, but I wasn't really feeling it. The development around episode 20--Alice is rescued but Eugeo is abducted and brainwashed--made me want to roll my eyes more than be thrilled. I wish more attention was being paid to how this fake world operates and keeps people in bondage than to yet another swordfight in which we already know who will win.
I was expecting episode 24 to wrap this all up, but, to my dismay, that didn't turn out to be the case. A new problem appears out of nowhere: (spoiler)the facility where Kirito's physical body is located comes under attack by an unknown faction. This was about the last thing I wanted when I already felt this series had dragged on for around a season too long. I guess I will have to watch at least one more episode just in case this new twist makes some sense and is intriguing, but all the signs are that it will not. The climactic fight with 'Administrator' (who likes to go around in the nude) was OK but not brilliant; I wasn't exactly moved by all the arguments over whether love or power should have priority, instead I was more pleased that a bad person eventually got what she deserved (right? there was some cryptic comment that she would come back to haunt Kirito in the 3D world). At least I learned that my confusion throughout the series regarding why Kirito didn't remember his childhood with Eugeo and Alice wasn't just my imagination. It really had been meant to be part of the plot, though I still don't know why. In the end, Alicization struck me as the least fun SAO incarnation so far. It seemed that the makers were more interested in quantity than quality.
Last updated Saturday, April 27 2019. Created Wednesday, October 10 2018.