Empty Promises Preceding Empty Actions

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23 Review

I’ll give this episode its positives first, because to be honest I’m kind of at the point where I’m not sure if next season I’m going to continue with episode reviews or whether I’ll just watch in batches of three or four episodes at a time and review once it is done. On the positive side, we finally got some action and significantly less exposition. The action was flashy and sparkly and suitably dynamic and all and all it kind of worked.

And there the positives end.

Cardinal - Sword Art Online Aliciztaion Episode 23

Cardinal makes the Administrator swear on her fluctlight that she’ll let the others go and then offers essentially to die. Administrator, agrees (as if anyone believes her) and then proceeds to blow Cardinal around the room with a bunch of flashy light and explosions ending with a limb flying off and Cardinal flopping onto the ground to be held by Kirito.

So, why didn’t the Administrator just kill her?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23 - Eugeo are you...

Oh I know, this is meant to be showing us how cruel Administrator is by playing with Cardinal. Also how over-confident etc, etc. But mostly it is just making her look like a complete idiot because what it does is gives the Cardinal a chance for one more program.

Then we have the whole sword automaton thing that is apparently made up of three hundred people somehow drawn from the memories of the inegrity knights (okay, that part lost me a little, but it had to do with the shiny little crystals in the roof).

Sparkly Ceiling - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23

However, if I thought the Cardinal was dumb for trying to make deals with the Administrator, and then I thought the Administrator was dumb for not just actually killing her, then Eugeo gets the prize for most idiotic decision making of the episode.

Cause, you know, turning into a sword and flying around is going to fix everything.

Eugeo - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23
The imagery was also somewhat less than subtle.

What’s tragic is Eugeo’s one sword, I’m guessing because he chose and accepted it, took out the core of the 300 sword thing. Which just kind of makes you wonder if maybe they couldn’t have figured out a better way to do that.

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Then he turns his attention to the Administrator and attacks her. Admittedly, he does land a blow and injures her but the end result is one dead Eugeo.

I kind of feel like this series threw his character well and truly under a bus. Giving Kirito and off-sider and a male companion was actually kind of novel but mostly he’s just been used by the plot over and over again and now they’ve split him in two and dropped him bleeding on the floor. I’m just not convinced that this was a particularly compelling character arc and given how idiotic his actions were here I’m not even particularly upset that he met his end.

Eugeo Sword - Sword Art Alicization Episode 23

Kirito also has Asuna flashbacks as Alice gets in-between him and the Administrator and that is apparently what triggers him into action. Not Cardinal’s death. Not Eugeo choosing to turn into a sword, which no one did anything to stop. Not Eugeo subsequently fighting alone as a sword before being cut down. Not Eugeo dying. But a flash back of Asuna jumping between Kirito and Heathcliff from Aincrad. That gets him moving.

I like the Aincrad arc a lot, but really?

More importantly, unless Kirito has some program destroying move in mind he’s still going to lose. And if he does have a program destroying move in mind, Eugeo’s death was worse than idiotic, it is pointless.


Really wondering what is supposed to be appealing about the current state of the story because I’m just not getting it.

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Karandi James

Anime Characters Should Not Review Their Own Episode

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Review

While I’ll get to reviewing the episode in a moment, I just want to look at the opening act of this episode which addresses the fight between the Senator (only barely introduced a few episodes ago) and Eugoe (no longer brainwashed), Kirito and Alice. Mostly because there was a lot of build-up around a character only just introduced, a cliff-hanger as the fight got started, and then we spend the opening scene rewatching his power up. Only to essentially one shot kill him. Alice distracts his flame creation with little difficulty, Eugeo diverts attention from Kirito by half-heartedly attacking the administrator causing the senator to look away, and then Kirito light beams him to death. The end.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Kirito

In the words of the Administrator herself, that was boring.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Administrator

All that build up and a week’s wait and nothing. Barely even a whimper.

Then without any further discussion, the Senator’s body is flipped against a wall and promptly forgotten. Discarded as the bit character he was but he essentially served no purpose. None at all. Not even a cool fight sequence and diversion. Literally he just put the breaks on the story for a build up that never delivered.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 dead Senator

Following this the episode gets back into exposition and sermonising mode. They did at least draw parallels between whether the game world and reality are similar in asking whether humans live their lives in fear of being reset by some unknown creator, so points for thematic linking back to the original SAO. However, again, this is a lot of back and forth covering content we already knew. The only real take from this is that Eugeo now knows Kirito isn’t just someone from his world (which I’m left wondering why Kirito hadn’t told Eugeo this by this point, but whatever).

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22

However, the Administrator then decides to reveal her ultimate weapon that will replace the incredibly flawed system with the integrity knights. It is shiny and golden and really large. So cool. In a matter of seconds it impaled both Alice and Kirito and left them bleeding on the ground and Eugeo shaking in his boots.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Alice is stabbed

Of course, after a spider vs sword golem moment that makes about as much sense as it sounds like it should, Eugeo stabs the special dagger into the floating platform and somehow that lets the Cardinal appear. In an instant Kirito and Alice are healed, we get some more exposition while the Administrator just kind of floats and gloats, and then the episode ends.

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This show makes me want to face palm so badly almost every week at this point.

Nothing is having any consequence at the moment. Eugeo brainwashed – fixed next episode. Senator guy is really powerful – killed in one shot within minutes. Kirito and Alice stabbed and bleeding – instantly healed including their clothes and bloodstains.

Meanwhile, the Administrator seems to just have whatever power they decide to give her which makes you wonder why she doesn’t just rewrite the world’s code to disappear the floor and send Eugeo, Kirito and Alice back to the bottom and ignore them. Why bother fighting at all? As to the Cardinal, who knows what she’s up to?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Cardinal

I’m almost all for letting the humans outside of Underworld hit the reset button at this point. It couldn’t make it any sillier.

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Karandi James

The Power of Friendship Strikes Back

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 21 Review

I’m in two minds about this fight between Kirito and Eugeo. On the one hand, I’ve been wanting to see these two go head to head for a fair while in Sword Art Online Alicization. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like either one ultimately took the fight all that seriously. More importantly, that was some fast acting brain washing and just as quickly removed with a few words about friendship.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo and Kirito

I actually kind of get that the original brainwashing job wasn’t exactly first class, which explains why she was trying to redo the whole process now that she had more time, but still… it all seems like an unnecessary step. Plenty of characters get brainwashed and go to the darkside (look at Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon), but having it last not even a whole episode kind of makes it seem like a relatively shallow point. Like they thought it would be cool to see Kirito and Eugeo fight but had no ongoing narrative purpose for putting the two against each other and so rapidly backtracked.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo

Even then, it could have worked out except that Kirito didn’t overwhelm Eugeo with some amazing swordplay or even pull out any crazy or cool moves. Alice didn’t even fight. She was just bystanding. Nope, Kirito just spouted a whole bunch of names of people who haven’t been in the show for ages as if they are somewhat relevant or important and Eugeo turned Kirito and Alice into ice before going off to face the administrator alone.

It wasn’t exactly a satisfying outcome.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo, Alice and Kirito

Now of course we’ve got the three of them together facing off against the senate guy in the jester costume. Can I hope that giant flame monster thing he summoned means we’re going to maybe get a cool fight next week or is that asking a little too much at this point?

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The Story of Brainwashing and Exploding Eye-Balls

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 19 Review

After spending a week recapping, this episode looks like it is going to go much the same way with Kirito and Alice still chatting on the ledge outside the tower. Amazingly enough, Alice ‘feels’ that she does know the name ‘Selka’ and so concludes Kirito must be telling the truth about everything and therefore determines to fight against everything she’s been protecting up until now.

Alicization Episode 19 Kirito and Alice

I don’t know about you, but this seemed way too easy. I mean, the best cons are the ones that seamlessly blend the truth with the lie. Just because Alice had a sister named Selka doesn’t mean that Kirito was being truthful about the rest of the stuff he said but Alice accepts the whole lot at face value based on one feeling.

Alicization Episode 19 Alice's eye

Anyway, we already knew what happened to those who tried to break the laws and Alice’s eye begins giving her the alert. Despite being warned by Kirito, or maybe because of it, Alice chooses to defy the law anyway and pop. I just have to say, that has to hurt.

Alicization Episode 19 Eugeo

We then cut to Eugeo who is having some nightmare before he wakes up and goes through his own kind of brainwashing. Again it seems a little too simple to convince him, but I guess there’s something going on inside his head as well as the words being said as it seems like his memories are getting cut off or skewed so that might explain it. Honestly though, it all seemed a little too easy and what kind of argument is ‘your mother didn’t only love you’. Of course one person had love for more than one other individual.

Anyway, despite the usual issues when anime characters seem to get brainwashed or hypnotised in about three seconds, this leads to an interesting possibility now that it seems like Alice is joining Kirito and Eugeo is joining the other side. Now it would just be nice to get to some of those interesting possibilities and not have another episode with Kirito and Alice sitting on a ledge.

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The Journey So Far – Alicization Recap Episode 18.5

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18.5 Review

Sitting back and looking at the eighteen episodes we’ve traversed so far of Sword Art Online Alicization as Kirito recalls events for Alice as they sit on the edge of the tower kind of made me really think about this series. Recap episodes are always hit and miss on their own. They are seldom needed and seldom interesting (occasionally an anime like Kimi ni Todoke shows us the gold star of recapping where we get an entirely fresh perspective on one of the supporting characters), but most often they just make me skip them. In this case, I decided to watch the recap because part of me has felt like maybe I’m just missing something in this series given all the hype about this story before it started.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 1

However, the recap episode makes it abundantly clear I’ve missed nothing. In eighteen episodes an incredibly small amount has actually happened and we can probably point our finger at the exposition for that. The pacing of Alicization isn’t so much slow as it is incredibly uneven. The first episode was almost entirely Alice’s abduction and then Kirito getting injured which sets up why he’s in the Underworld but that is one long introduction for information we could easily have been given through other characters later. In fact, we have been given this same information over and over again.

Sword Art Online Alicization - Alice taken from the village

Alice was taken from the village. Eugeo recalls this event to Kirito in pretty much the next episode when they meet after Kirito is injured. Asuna hunts down where Kirito has been taken after his injury in episode 5 and we could easily have found out how he was injured in that episode which would have made for a great opening to the episode, and sped up how fast we got into the main story. What is actually happening to Kirito is explained in this episode as well so practically nothing out of episode 1 ends up being overly needed even though it wasn’t a bad episode in and of itself.

Sword Art Online Alicization Eugeo

This series lurches forward in leaps and bounds and then stalls. We skip time as we leave the village with Eugeo and Kirito and then end up at the sword school. In the intervening time Eugeo has been taught by Kirito how to fight with a sword (and wouldn’t that have made the more interesting story then introducing their senpais who essentially teach them one thing and then graduate the school and leave the story – I do assume we’ll see them again but really). Same as at the village though, a whole lot of general chit chat and nothing happens before things finally escalate and ultimately Kirito and Eugeo are arrested and transported to the next set piece which is the tower they are currently climbing. But the pacing doesn’t improve as we get whole episodes of chatting and flash backs followed by some plot progress to move back into exposition.

Sword Art Online Episode 13 Kirito the collaborator

To say I’ve been largely disappointed with how Alicization is playing out would be an understatement. I like Sword Art Online as a franchise and I really like Kirito as a character. Some of the best moments early in Alicization were when Kirito was allowed to just be Kirito. However, this new and older (I will not say wiser) Kirito talks way too much and has moved from being an enthusiastic gamer and supporter of virtual reality to an almost sermonising elder. Part of that is his teaching Eugeo and Kirito having to assume that mentor role, but part of it has been fairly poor handling of his character and a lot of what made Kirito fun is lost in the process. Where’s the guy who would happily chill and take a nap just because he liked the weather or even the guy who feared for his own life? We had a small glimpse of fear when he was fighting goblins but since then Kirito has been pretty flat emotionally.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito

I do like Eugeo’s character and I like how he is growing and developing. That’s probably my favourite part of Alicization so far and the most recent episode where we saw Eugeo fight on his own for the first time was actually pretty great.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Eugeo Ice

But these small moments of victory and enjoyment aren’t enough to overall off-set how slow this series is moving, how even the pacing is, and just how ordinary the story has become. I know someone will jump in the comments and tell me to wait because there’s good stuff coming and the light novels do this, that and the other, but even if Alicization did pick up now, could I honestly recommend someone sit through the previous 18 episodes?

Sword Art Online Episode 15 Alicization Kirito

At this point I’d be more inclined to tell them to watch the recap and pick it up from there and that’s only assuming the story does ever pick up.

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They’ll Need Teamwork If They’re Going To Make It To The Top

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17 Review

I’m going to start with Eugeo and Asuna before dealing with the bulk of this episode which was Alice and Kirito. Basically we don’t know what Eugeo is up to until the final couple of minutes and then we see him slinking around and entering the 90th floor a little worried that he’s on his own for literally the first time ever and then we set up a fight with a knight for next week. Eugeo’s role this week finished. Asuna equally gets sidelined though at least we see her for the first time in episodes. She’s eating and spots a ship that acts a bit weird and I guess this is set up for later but we’ve seen so little of Asuna, have no real clue what she is up to, so there’s just not enough context for me to care about this very brief sequence with her this week.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17 Eugeo

However, primarily this episode focuses on Kirito and Alice hanging off the side of the tower. Thinking about it logically, the scene makes no sense as Kirito is hanging suspended by one arm from his sword and holding all of Alice + Alice’s Armour’s weight and then later we see him flipping around rods he creates like a champion gymnast before hauling Alice up one level at a time. But, they are in a video game, strength is entirely numbers based, and let’s just not try and care if it fits any version of reality. It was cool enough to watch so let’s just go with it.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17 Kirito and Alice
If Alice has time to count how many times she’s been insulted, maybe she should try doing something.

He also manages to talk her into a truce for the duration of their time outside the tower. Of course, Kirito winning over yet another girl isn’t a new thing, but considering Alice is brainwashed this seems like a pretty impressive feat and it didn’t really take all that much.

Of course, I guess everyone realised you can’t just have two characters hanging off a tower for an episode and so midway during their climb they encounter some minions who fly around for a bit and then get turned into sushi because Alice and Kirito… Not sure what else anyone was expecting.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17 Kirito

I did actually enjoy the dynamic between these two and they refrained from any massive exposition dumps, so all and all, this wasn’t a bad episode. More time with Asuna might have been nice (at any point during this series) but I guess that might happen later. Meanwhile, I’m now waiting to find out how Eugeo goes on his first solo fight against a knight.

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Why More Time Isn’t Helping This Story

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Review

There are so many anime that cram a million ideas into eleven or twelve episodes and fans end up saying, ‘that was good but I wish it had more time’. When Alicization was announced we also got the announcement that it was going to run for four cours which is a massive length of time in seasonal viewing. That was kind of exciting. Having that much time meant the story didn’t need to rush through things and the story could be planned out and paced well.

Unfortunately, eleven episodes in and I have to concede that it isn’t what we are getting. While I have no idea what happens in the source material or what needs to get covered (nor do I really want to), as an anime viewer, Sword Art Online Alicization is missing the mark over and over again. There are exciting moments but they are scattered far and wide and the narrative in-between is anything but exciting. Not even the nostalgia of being reunited with Kirito (a character I actually quite like) is enough to keep me from starting to wonder if maybe they could have given this story a much tighter edit and produced something far more engaging to watch.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito and Eugeo

Episode 11 is a great example of what this series has consistently done wrong. It starts with Eugeo getting knocked down by Alice which is a fine enough transition for us given he was all stunned that he was seeing Alice, so no problems there. Then we see Eugeo and Kirito chained to the dragon mount about to be flown to the citadel. No issue. However, let’s delay the journey we started so many episodes ago yet further by having a tearful farewell from the pages who also hand their swords over to Alice.

You know, they could have just had the swords already strapped to the mount, handed over by the school, if they really needed viewers to know that Eugeo and Kirito would in fact get their swords back. This whole sequence was more amusing than emotional and to be honest I’m not sure how invested we’re supposed to be in the pages given they’ve been used strictly as plot devices up until now and with the scene change it is hard to know whether we’ll ever see these characters again.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito

The sequence in the cell works well enough though just when they are about to escape, Kirito decides to question whether Eugeo is ready to go against the church. Again? Really? Hasn’t this issue already been clearly established and put to rest? It really feels like a rehash at best and bloat at worst and it adds nothing. 

Jump a few minutes later to the boys pausing in the rose garden for a heart to heart. Again, it adds nothing to either character. It adds nothing overall to the plot. Every part of this conversation feels like we’ve heard it before and it is neither interesting at this point or particularly relevant to the current situation.

Finally, we get to the end of the episode where they encounter a knight who has apparently been waiting for them in the garden and they all get ready to fight.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Knight

So all those overly long pauses and conversations were just trying to time it so the episode could end on this cliff-hanger rather than getting to this fight this episode. Seriously? And while it wouldn’t be a problem if they had kept the conversations fun and interesting, instead we just feel like we’ve heard it all before.

The cut to Asuna was also pretty bland and while we did gain some new information from that, again it was given in the least interesting way possible outside of text scrolling across the screen so no excitement to be found there either.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Asuna
Have they actually told us why she can’t go into Underworld?

There isn’t a lot more to say. Sword Art Online Alicization has a potentially very interesting premise that it has so far managed to drag out the execution of to the point where it is almost actually distracting and even as a fan I’m finding myself losing focus mid-episode because not enough is happening. While early on this could be forgiven as setting its scene, we’re now nearly one cour through the show. There’s no excuse at this point for still feeling like we haven’t even finished setting up.

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Pandora Hearts Series Review


Pandora Hearts Overview:

Oz has just turned 15 and at a coming of age ceremony is attacked and cast into the Abyss where he meets and makes a contract with a chain named Alice. on their escape from the Abyss, Oz is going to have to confront these mysteries head on as well as a whole pile of new ones.

Pandora Hearts Review – Not holding back from spoilers at all:

Right, if you are looking for an anime that finishes or offers any resolution you can pass on Pandora Hearts right now. While there are 25 episodes of this we are really just starting to meet the characters who have some of the answers to some of Oz’s and Alice’s mysteries when the show comes to an abrupt and inconclusive end.


Before I talk about the end anymore, I am going to point out that Pandora Hearts is actually an amazing anime and I really enjoyed watching it. Right, so now I’m going to spoil the last few minutes of the final episode so if you want it to be a mystery skip over the next bit.

Okay, Oz has an epiphany about his own existence and goes and tells his father off but otherwise we aren’t given much in the way of a resolution. And are Oz’s daddy issues really the main point? Other than that we’re given this pearl of wisdom from the final episode:


And I’m just not sure that writers should advertise the fact that their own story is ridiculous.


If you can forgive an ending that pointless what you will find in Pandora Hearts is a really interesting piece that is an incredibly dark tale with heavy influence from Alice in Wonderland as well as a unique story in its own right.

While Oz remains 15, his time in the Abyss doesn’t measure up with time in the real world so his childhood friend is significantly older than him on his return to the real world. This creates a really interesting dynamic in the show because Oz’s memories of his friend and the reality of the man he has become keep blurring and his expectations are met and then betrayed again and again.

For Gilbert, while his motivation never changes, he’s had a lot longer to sniff around the mysteries surrounding Oz and has had to give up a lot to gain the power that he needed to be able to help him. It makes for one of the more interesting childhood friend stories I’ve seen in a while.


Oz himself is a bit of an air-head. He comes off as rich and pampered but of course has been rejected by his father and has been lonely and hurt (because who doesn’t need a tragic back story). He’s also really weirdly accepting of strange things to the point where even the creepiest characters in the show point out that Oz is in fact quite creepy.

The thing is, we’re never really sure where we stand with Oz. Is he what he looks like, a rich 15 year old who went through a trauma and is now out for answers and revenge, or is there really something going on with him (other than possible possession, past lives, or just plain evil). It’s fun guessing but without the series giving any answers that’s all it remains (and yes, I know some people will say read the manga and in this case I am seriously tempted but haven’t committed to that just yet).


Outside of the Oz/Gilbert relationship we also have Alice. She’s a chain from the Abyss but was human. She’s lost her memories and part of the story involves Oz helping her find fragments of her memories, though they might be better off if they just gave up on that one given every time they find one things get more twisted and confused and darker.

She also transforms into the Bloodstained Black Rabbit who is kind of awesome in a fight (at least at first) and seems overpowered though later in the series she seems to get defeated more and more often. Stronger enemies or loss of focus we aren’t really sure. That said, as is always the case in anime, when Alice and Oz’s feelings match up, she suddenly gets signficantly stronger again.


I’d also have to mention Sharon and Break. These two characters are fantastic (if equally creepy) but never really give us anything more than fragments of information. Whether that is because they genuinely don’t know the answers or because they are working at manipulating the situation (or a bit of both) is also never made clear.

The last character I’m going to talk about (although there are literally dozens of others that could be mentioned) is Jack Vessalius. He mostly appears in Alice’s memories and looks suspiciously like an older version of Oz and occasionally takes over Oz in order to make weird and confusing declaration. He’s definitely got his own agenda but what that agenda is remains shrouded in as much mystery as the rest of this series.

I think what I like about Pandora Hearts is that it just kind of goes. It has that Alice in Wonderland feeling of she’s fallen down the rabbit hole and now she’s reeling from encounter to encounter and along the way she’s going to learn about herself and she wants to find the way out but you are never quite sure when that’s going to come of why.

The exploration of darkness within humans is done really well and the idea of being careful what you wish for is also woven through the story quite nicely. That said, the anime is a mess of ideas that don’t get enough time or attention to ever be actually called a storyline. Instead our story is just Oz running from place to place and dealing with immediate threats while piling up foreshadowing that never really eventuated into a climax.


Normally I don’t rewatch anime that don’t end but Pandora Hearts just hits the right notes to suck me into the world and the story. It’s dark while not trying to be soul crushing, it has action but balances that with character development and dialogue, there is intrigue in the overall narrative but also smaller stories with side characters that are resolved, and at the end of the day I just enjoy watching it.

Pretty much if you like darker fantasy adventures with some character self-reflection this anime is going to appeal, though be prepared for an ending that just makes you want to throw your hands in the air and ask ‘why’.

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Karandi James