Sword Art Online added another entry to its franchise with its third season adapting the Alicization arc. It seems like it’s better than what we have seen before… or is it? SAO has been heavily critiqued for its badly paced storytelling and plot holes but nevertheless there is still a great fan base for it. Why? Well, because it works, that’s why. It has an appealing idea for a story, great visuals, and a decent animation budget. These all make this show hard to go unnoticed.
Kirito dives once more into a new fantasy visual world called Underworld and wakes up in the middle of a huge forest. Having few memories of what exactly happened to him before he logged in, he starts wondering around searching for clues. Looking for a way out of the forest, he meets up with someone that looks like an NPC named Eugeo who helps him get acquainted with the world and its mechanics. As they bond together, Kirito has flashbacks of sharing moments with Eugeo and a girl named Alice in the past as kids. Eugeo soon tells him that Alice was taken away when she was little by Integrity Knights into the capital city and that his whole lifetime goal is to go there and find her. And thus, Kirito and Eugeo’s adventure begins as they travel through the world to reach the city, become Integrity Knights, and find more clues about Alice’s whereabouts as well as a way for Kirito to log out.
Plot & Story
The story of Alicization started so well but as it progressed, it lost its sparkle. We learn about this new virtual world and how Kirito helps with some testing of what they call ‘Fluclights’ aka ‘Soul Translator’, but then after a terrible accident he is forced to stay logged in the Underworld, because if he doesn’t, his life might be in danger. So he is kept alive by the machine until they manage to find out a way to heal him. Diving into the Underworld, he doesn’t have any of the memories he created with the NPCs before, so it looks like a new experience for him, but as he interacts more with Eugeo, he soon finds out that it’s not his first time there. Intense bromance occurs between them as they are trying to become Integrity Knights and find Alice. They go to the Academy together but after a horrible incident they are taken to the Axiom Church where they see Alice grown up and brainwashed, so they try to break free, rescue her, and kill the Administrator, who seems to be manipulating people in order to win the Dark Territory.
The general story is not bad, but the execution lacks something. Hearing that the season would be four cours long gave me the impression that this is going to be a good thorough adaptation where we will be able to get even the smallest details from the light novels, but as it seems I was wrong. A lot of content is skipped, which doesn’t necessarily make it hard for the viewer to understand and figure out how things happened, but the whole show just misses depth. The characters have emotional breakdowns that required the necessary build-up and in general, you cannot really feel for any of them or their problems because everything is just mentioned and passed without the right amount of attention. What I am trying to say is that, I understand that some people say that Kawahara’s writing skills are not that great, but for me it seems like the real problem here (like with many other anime out there), is the way the anime decided to pace its story. Maybe the extra content that was missed, would make this more notable and enjoyable, because as it is now, it’s just mediocre.
Art & Music
So, in terms of animation and production, Alicization is top-notch. The first episodes are so well polished and animated that they made me shiver: the light, fighting, action scenes, color palettes, environments, backgrounds, everything is just outstanding. They even included the appropriate amount of violence and blood in the fights, which made the scenes so much more impactful. The scene of Kirito fighting the goblins at the beginning, the fight between Bercouli and Eugeo as well as the scene of the Administrator burning in flames, were just unbelievable. Such good production value.
The sound effects and voice acting are really well done as well. Every time Alice moves you can hear the noises from her armor; every time there is a fight you can hear crystal clear the sound of their swords and magic skills (even though the bass is a little too intense), when they walk, when they run, when they are falling, the sound is just superb. Generally, the music and soundtrack are very good as well; the opening and ending songs didn’t really do it for me, but they are appropriately catchy for this type of show.
Themes & Trivia
The rapping scene was censored: Even though it is surprising that it actually managed to get aired on U.S. streaming services, the scene was heavily edited in order to be more appropriate. If you would like to read more about the censorship of that episode and see the differences with the raw version of it, you should check out this article. It has a lot more disturbing things going on. Also, apparently, in the web novel, Raios and Humbert actually raped the girls but it was rejected in the light novel publication. His editor probably put some sense into him.
Kawahara talks about the female characters of SAO: In an interview that was posted on Dengeki Online, he mentioned that ‘the female characters are going to get more active in the story from now on’ and addressed the matter in more depth. He specifically mentions the following: ‘When he went to overseas events, he received feedback for his writing, and he came to the conclusion that he should write stories with “political correctness” in mind to a degree. For this reason, he is trying to give his female characters more agency.’ Well, it’s about time he stops using no sexual assaults as a plot device. You can read the full article of the interview here.
Having followed SAO ever since it first started, I was always bothered with all the pervy male villains that just wanted to lick and molest the female leads, but in this season the rape scene made me so furious to the point that I was ready to drop the whole season just because of that. I mean it’s just inappropriate and unnecessary. Eugeo could have lost control either way, they didn’t have to show up the rape of two girls in order for him to ‘break free’. Also, the fact that the Administrator is naked during the entirety of the last fight is just ridiculous. I mean I don’t mind nudity but this one is just done for the sake of fan service. Why didn’t we had Bercouli fighting naked as well? Why did he had to put a robe one and Quinella didn’t? If you are trying to be edgy and provocative, at least do it right.
- Great action and fighting scenes
- Amazing animation and sound effects
- Nice character design and environments
- The story is okay but lacks depth
So is Sword Art Online: Alicization good? I would say so. Is it better than the previous seasons? This is up to you to decide. I think it’s an entertaining anime to follow but if the story was taken better care of, it would elevate it to a whole different level.
Sword Art Online: Alicization
Winter 2019 | Anime Info | Similar Anime | Season 1 Review | Season 2 Review