Sword Art Online Alicization: First Impressions

A wallpaper of Eugeo, Alice, and Kirito

It’s finally here!!!

I’ve been a fan of the Sword Art Online franchise for quite a while now. I like it so much, I even have a tattoo inspired by it.

Season 3, or the alicization arc, is something that I’ve highly anticipated for a while now, ever since I got to that point in the light novels. When I first heard about the anime adaptation, I was curious.

How many episodes? Will it incorporate Ordinal Scale? Will the anime keep the amount of gore that Reki described in the novels? On and on.

Well, after watching the first 7 episodes of the series, I can safely say that I have a good grasp of where the anime is going, and how it’s doing.

Back Story

The alicization arc takes on a new approach to the series. In fact, it nearly wipes out everything prior. Nearly.

Kirito, Eugeo, and Alice as children

The story starts off with us getting a look at childhood Kirito, and his friends Eugeo and Alice. Now, this is a bit confusing at first, since we know that this is not real, especially after the “Stacia Window”and “Sacred Arts” are introduced.

So…it’s a game?

Kinda.

After a treacherous scene of Alice being taken away, we cut back to reality: Kirito, after the GGO incident. It’s at this time that he explains to Asuna and Shino about the “Soul Translator”, which is a new technology he has been hired to help out a company called “Rath” with.

Kirito notes that, from what he can remember, he was unable to discern the “virtual” world from reality. Of course, he remembers only the test dives. He has no memory of the most recent dives. However, when Alice in Wonderland is brought up, he sticks on the name Alice, as if it has some importance to him.

Later, Kirito and Asuna are attacked by the last member from the “Death Gun” incident. Kirito is injected with a poison while protecting Asuna, and is rushed to the hospital. It’s at that point where everything gets fishy.

Kirito when he first awakens in the Underworld

Asuna, and Kirito’s family, are not allowed to visit him due to him being unstable. After digging around, she, and their friends, discover that Kirito has been taken away. On the flip side, Kirito awakens in an unfamiliar world, with no memory of how he got there. It’s at that time that he meets Eugeo, and realizes he is in the “Underworld”, or the Rath developed, virtual world.

Ordinal Scale Incorporation

The first thing I would like to point out is the great work on implementing the Ordinal Scale movie. The light novels came out before the movie so, obviously, they were not a part of the original content.

Suguha, Asuna, and Klein wearing the Augma device

The presence of the “Augma”, or augmented reality device, from the movie is shown multiple times throughout the first few episodes of the anime. This is done subtly enough to show that the Augma has been incorporated into society, even after the catastrophe of the movie.

The other big thing from the movie that got implemented was the fact that Asuna and Kirito are engaged. The ring can be spotted on Asuna’s hand in several shots showing that they are fully incorporating the lovers engagement from the movie. This is awesome, at least from my point of view, since it’s an easy thing to port over that doesn’t really mess with the storyline that much.

A scene showing Asuna wearing the ring

What I’m curious to see from future episodes is how much gets implemented from the movie. Okay, the Augma is there and Asuna and Kirito are engaged, but will it go further? I would assume so, since they have Yuna as part of the opening, and AI is a hot topic in this arc.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Anime – The Good

Let’s start off judging the anime on a good note, shall we?

Animation

First of all, it’s beautiful. So pretty.

I really like the updated animation and sound effects, which have the exact same look and feel of the Ordinal Scale movie. It’s a nice upgrade.

Gore

We have only had one, real fight scene so far, but it was great.

In the light novels, Reki wasn’t scared, at all, to mention how much blood and limbs were flying all over the place during fights. I’m really glad to see that the anime is sticking to that, without going full on edgy.

Kirito holding a goblin’s head

The first fight showed us that the anime is not afraid to show blood, and it’s not afraid to show decapitated body parts. This bodes well for future fight in the series, especially toward the end, when the fights get really brutal. I’m excited to see just how far they’ll take it.

Pacing

The alicization arc is the longest arc of the series, totalling 10 books! For comparison, everything up until now was books 1 – 9; alicization is books 10-18.

There is a reason it is that long: development.

The early part of the series focuses a lot on developing Kirito and Eugeo on their journey to strengthening themselves, and finding Alice. We also get a lot of back story on the Underworld, as well as reasoning behind it, thanks to Asuna doing some leg work on the real world side.

So far, the anime is staying with that pace. They are laying out the groundwork that is necessary for this arc to be great. Now, they do skip over some things, and I’ll touch on that later, but overall they are following the story pretty closely.

Fillers

There is a lot of talking and explaining during the start of this arc. When reading, it’s fine, but you can’t expect viewers of the anime to sit through all of that dialogue without something going on. To me, the anime has done a good job of throwing out information, while keeping viewers entertained.

A good example of this is the GGO fight in the first episode, which is not in the light novels. This is a nice action sequence to break things up. We go from kid Kirito, to a nice action break, to more information. It keeps the viewers entertained, and willing to absorb some more information. Not to mention, we finally get to see GGO Asuna. She’s so beautiful!

First look at GGO Asuna

Another example would be when Asuna is searching for Kirito after he is hospitalized. They put in some good group scenes that weren’t really present in the novels. In fact, if the anime hadn’t done this, most of the supporting characters wouldn’t have gotten screen time until late in the arc. They also implement the Augma in these filler scenes, which is nice.

Emotional Touch

There is really only one thing I would like to mention here, and it’s a split second scene whenever Kirito “wakes up” from his testing, right after Alice is taken away.

The scene shows Kirito exiting the Soul Translator with tears running down his cheeks, but remember, he has no idea why. This one little scene, which was not mentioned in the novels, adds an emotional punch.

Kirito sheds unknown tears

This was a great thing to add. Simple, but great. I love it.

Anime – The Bad

The age old saying of “the book is better” still holds some truth here. Though, all in all, not too bad. I’m not even going to section this up, because there’s really only one complaint I have: missing scenes.

The anime started off by following the books perfectly, but then it strayed a little bit here and there. The things they left out weren’t big, but I feel like it affected some of the character’s growth.

One important scene was Kirito kissing the head of Selka, the younger sister of Alice, after promising her he would bring Alice back. This was important on multiple levels. Kirito was testing whether or not he himself could violate the taboo index, and it showed his emotional attachment to the world.

Illustration of Kirito kissing Selka’s forehead

Another scene was the duel between Eugeo and the village guard’s son. This happens when Eugeo announces he would like to be a swordsman after he and Kirito felled the great tree. This scene affirms Eugeo’s will to become stronger.

At first, I was disappointed that they left out Kirito taking the limb from the great tree, but this was covered in a flashback, so it’s fine.

Up until episode 7, there were only these minor scenes that were left out, which was annoying, but fine. I mean, you can’t keep them all, right?

Then episode 7 happened.

The pacing was really off in this episode, and they skipped over a whole bunch, pushing a good chunk of book off as a quick flashback. We don’t get to see Eugeo and Kirito living in the barn with the family with the two little girls, the tournament in which they entered, the scheme that was hatched against them, and we don’t get the introduction of Charlotte, a familiar who assists them without their knowledge. That’s a lot of stuff.

I really disliked this episode, and it actually has me a little worried about the pacing going forward. They hurried through Kirito and Sortiliena’s relationship, showing us only one practice duel.

First glance of Kirito’s new sword

The sword looks a little off to me, as it’s supposed to be a black sword…because it uses dark sacred arts. Why does it look purple and blue?

I really hope this was just a one off thing, and they don’t continue to rush forward as they did in episode 7. The pacing up until then was beautiful, but episode 7 really should of been split into two different episodes. But, oh well.

Conclusion

Despite the little drawbacks, the season is going really well, I feel. I’m so excited to see the characters that I read about come to life in the anime. I also can’t wait to see Integrity Knight Alice, and watch her destroy everyone (including Kirito and Eugeo).

This season is gearing up to be one of the best. I’ve read many comments that have said this season alone has turned people’s opinions around about SAO. The great thing about this season is the fact that it also gives us a lot of back story on Aincrad, and Kayaba.

I’m so excited!

< Back to Articles