I feel the need to add a disclaimer: I will be reviewing this season half-separated from the other seasons. The reason is because I want to present this in a way that feels like an “exhibition”, if you will. By that I mean that, despite it being pointless, I want to review Alicization within a vacuum. To make it feel like there is more leeway to talk about positive aspects and maybe give this season a better chance. However, since this is a direct sequel; as evidenced already by the first episode,this is likely impossible to do consistently and I am gonna have to reference past seasons in some way. Additionally, this season, regardless of standing, will not “save” SAO. After all, if you look at it as a whole SAO is still too broken and has gone way too long that even if it somehow manages to fix every single problem; new viewers will still have to tread through the many shortcomings of the first seasons to get to this point. That is all.
The best way I can describe this episode specifically is that… Stuff happened. That doesn’t sound very exciting but it’s also not, like, a bad thing. At least by SAO standards it is even an improvement. While it wasn’t enthralling the first bit was informational to the plot. So, let’s break it down: Eugeo, straight up, is just a less Kirito-Kirito. By which I mean they look exactly the same with the exception of their color palette and Eugeo just seems less courageous. That’s all there is to their personalities so far. I would even gander this is intentional because this is all one big fever dream within Kirito’s psychosis. So, it is natural for even Alice to have distinct similarities to Kirito. That’s all well and good but I do not find it acceptable to ever have one main character look exactly like another even if it makes sense. It simply feels like a waste to me and I don’t care for it personally.
But at the end of the day, neither of these characters impacted me within the 20+ minutes of screen time that they had. I don’t hate them. Just nothing interesting about them. Alice is a decent cook. You know the deal with Eugeo. And Kirito is Kirito. They move forward with the plot; talking about white dragons inside icy caverns that is, essentially, the gateway to the “Dark Territory”. Again, this all just happening and by no means am I interested so far. I’ve merely taken in the information to understand it going forward. As such, I don’t have much to say other than something is clearly wrong within the system of this world that Kirito, maybe, has mentally created. A monarchy lead by a church who’re willing to “execute” a little girl because 3 of her fingers crossed the border into the Dark Continent. Of course something isn’t honky-dory. But the most notable thing that feels out of place to me is how these children feel so ‘adult’. Like, their behavior, mannerisms and demeanor do not reflect that of their age.
Cut to the better half. I say that but it almost immediately starts off with a chase scene that looks very shoddy and… Not appealing. It is reminiscent to one of the chase scenes in SAO: Alternative but I guess this one looks less stilted, I would say. There’s also this scene where Kirito is blocking a bunch of bullets with his photon sword and Asuna intervenes to free him of it but it looked like bullshit. You know those dbz scenes where one character is kicking so fast that it looks like a blur but the other guy is perfectly dodging his kicks anyways? It looked like that except with more camera motion and it did not look remotely good at all. It wants me to believe they were deflecting bullets but I can’t even tell because I am not seeing the bullets connect with the swords. Regardless, let’s talk about what’s important: Asuna’s GGO design is badass and I am convinced she looks good in everything she wears. Girl can’t have a bad look. Maybe the Ordinal Scale AR suit looked uninteresting at best but she still rocked it, for the most part. My favorite one is still the one outfit she wore on the day with Kirito in the same movie.
Since I am slightly fanboying over Asuna I might as well bring up the fact that Asuna keeping track of Kirito’s heart rate 24/7 on her smart phone is one of the best things to have ever happened in SAO. No! Fuck that! It’s one of the best things to have ever happened EVER! And really, this is what makes… Relationships entertaining to watch and the absence of this was what originally made Kirito/Asuna’s relationship feel non-existent in the first place. Because they didn’t really have these moments as Asuna was always sidelined past the first season. And it is these moments that should be more prevalent. Not necessarily making it the focus of the whole plot but just making it important in the face of it. To have it be something to have their relationship matter. Granted, I know this heart rate thing will be used in some way for the sake of suspense or something plot-related and then it might not seem as adorable/wholesome as it is now. But to know that Asuna will play a role, in some capacity, is reassuring at least.
We even have another moment where apparently Kirito is planning to move to America to learn more about where virtual reality technology is heading since it is more developed there. With this in mind, he asks Asuna to join him on this trip. Which is, like, the most humanity the man’s ever shown. This wasn’t out of a necessity to make him look fucking cool. This was him genuinely putting himself in a vulnerable situation for something that, in hindsight, is probably gonna be the end-reward. Survive this season and you get to live happily ever after with Asuna in America. Which I am completely down for. The stakes have been set. Kirito just needs to not di- He’s dead… Well! See you guys in episode 2 where, I assume, will take place within his dream world.
Oh! Final notes: The whole explanatory dialogue of how this new technology that Kirito is experimenting with is important in more ways than one. Firstly, it kind of gives up on trying to make sense of the technological logistics that they’ve tried to kind of follow with the previous SAOs. Now they’re making it sound as absurd as possible what with the “soul translator” to make sure people know this is not something that’s supposed to make sense. Rather, “just go with the flow”. Which is… Probably for the best. But I can tell you now it won’t be well-received and, really, it doesn’t deserve a good reception. But I don’t know much about this kind of stuff so I’ll likely leave it out of the final review. I do understand that the bit about being in the dream world does not follow the same concept of time as the real world and I am sure that’ll be important.