SAO Now Presents: The Information Dump To Defeat All

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13 Review

For all the readers of the light novels heralded Alicization as the arc that would ‘save’ or ‘fix’ SAO, I have to say 13 episodes in and the anime is not impressing. Mostly because where exposition dumps occurred in earlier seasons of SAO, due to the limited number of episodes given to a particular arc, conversations had to wrap themselves up and get to a point. However, Alicization being given a massive episode count from the beginning, is really just stretching out fairly thin subject matter and delivering episodes like this one that you could literally just fall asleep during.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13

If you think I’m exaggerating, I hate to disappoint. Almost three quarters of this episode is given to Kirito listening to the Cardinal whatever as she drones on about the Administrator and her failed attempt to beat her that ended up with her trapped in the library. Admittedly, they do show some of the action, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the events are being narrated to us which kind of takes any kind of excitement out of the sequence.

Wait, I forgot she also states that her plan is to destroy all the copied souls inside underworld except for like ten that Kirito can pick and then she asks for a hug in the most awkward manner possible made only more awkward by Kirito’s continued lack of ability to pick up on the cues of those around him.

Sword Art Online Episode 13 Kirito the collaborator

This episode is SAO at its absolute worst including absolutely everything that I do find tiresome about the franchise in one twenty minute episode with no relief to be seen. Even Eugeo and Kirito dramatically walking side-by-side through a door into a hallway at the end ready to start their climb up the tower couldn’t save this from being an absolute snore fest because to be honest I’m getting a little over waiting for things to actually kick into gear. It feels like Alicization has been making me wait a lot and now the pay-off is going to have to be huge if it is going to undo some of the general apathy I’m starting to have toward this series.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13

I won’t drop Alicization. I know that. I loved Sword Art Online and I will stick with this franchise no matter where it goes at this point. However, I would be lying if I said I was actually still enjoying Alicization at this point. My enjoyment kind of peaked at episode 4 and given how many episodes we still have to go, that might be a very bad thing unless the anime starts turning things around.

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THEATRICAL FEATURE SWORD ART ONLINE – ORDINAL SCALE – ASUNA AR T-SHIRT BLACK (XL SIZE)
THEATRICAL FEATURE SWORD ART ONLINE - ORDINAL SCALE - ASUNA AR T-SHIRT BLACK (XL SIZE)

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And With This Monologue I do Progress the Plot

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During the Autumn 2018 anime season, it occurred to me that there are some narrative devices I just don’t take seriously anymore. They may have at one point served a valuable narrative purpose or been written with thought and care, but now it seems as though every example I run across is either tongue-in-cheek satirising itself or is just an example of lazy writing. That isn’t to say there aren’t good examples of them, but the problem is that when a narrative device is used well it almost seamlessly fits into the story in such a way that you barely notice its existence.

Some spoilers below.

However the villain’s monologue is a device that you just have to wonder if it has outlived its usefulness. Or perhaps it is more the case where you have to wonder if writers even try anymore. It is almost as though we get to that almost climatic moment and in order to just get to the smack down as fast as possible they have a character just narrate and vomit exposition at the other characters to tie everything together.

It almost reminds you of that moment in Space Balls where the characters after explaining something to one another turn to the camera and ask the audience if ‘everybody got that’.

Spaceballs (movie) - Everybody got that.

Though, I will make one correction to what I said earlier. It wasn’t actually a villain who decided to monologue and exposition dump that really got my attention last season (mostly because I stopped watching Index and to be fair every character in that show is prone to lengthy exposition). No, it was Mei from Release the Spyce.

Yes, Mei had revealed herself to be a traitor to the rest of her posse of adolescent female spies and gone to the enemy. And then – here’s the big reveal – it turns out it was all part of a plan to double-double cross and actually bring down the bad guys (like we didn’t all see that one coming given the strong themes about the power of friendship and the like).

Release the Spyce Episode 12

However, despite this being revealed in about two lines of dialogue, Mei then proceeds to explain how it came about and was planned and executed, eating up valuable screen time, giving the villain time to prepare her next move, and more or less killing any pacing the episode may have had (so the theory that a monologue gets you to the fight faster doesn’t hold weight in this example). It was a disappointing choice in a series that had great potential early on but never could figure out its tone or characters and then didn’t manage to deliver a climax memorable for anything other than this particularly poorly delivered monologue and a villain whose kimono like outfit was strategically slashed mid-battle.

Now why this particular monologue isn’t necessary comes down to a few points. Firstly, Mei’s motives and actions aren’t that complicated. There’s nothing revealed that is actually necessary to understanding the plot or gives more insight into the character. Sure we get some particulars about when the plan started but that’s largely unnecessary noise and could have easily been left out or revealed later. Secondly, these characters all the way along were about not making stupid choices in battles. And gloating to the villain rather than actually doing something is a stupid choice. It just doesn’t make any practical sense.

Now, if we were to compare that to something like Death Note where both Light and L get numerous monologues (both internal and external) we can see why the ones in Death Note work better. Firstly, it is a consistent narrative device throughout the whole series. Secondly, the information revealed and the insight it gives to the characters is usually not something the audience could determine otherwise. I mean, realistically L doesn’t give a lot away with his actions or facial expressions. His expository moments are highly necessary to provide some context.

And finally, Death Note uses the monologues and exposition to really push the tension and drama of a scene. It isn’t a delaying tactic nor does it break the mood of the piece. It sets the tone and drives the scene rather than hindering its progress.

The Incredibles (movie) - "You Sly dog! You had me monologuing!

Basically, monologues get mocked, a lot, in stories. And a lot of the time they should be. They are intrusive, poorly conceived and barely useful. Ready Player One is jumping to mind right now given the sheer amount of internal monologues we are subjected to as the world is explained to us as if we couldn’t just see it on the screen – fully understand why they were needed in the book but they certainly weren’t once the story was moved to a visual medium.

However, it is important to remember that occasionally when a character starts a monologue, there’s a real reason behind it and there might be a solid narrative purpose. Just because we see this device misused so often doesn’t mean we should throw it out altogether. It just means we need to think about how it’s being employed and whether or not it is doing its job.

And let’s remember: if it’s in an anime, the main job is to entertain us. So I ask, are you entertained? What anime monologues have stuck with you? Were they good, bad, or somewhere in-between? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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ONIMUSHA: WARLORDS
ONIMUSHA: WARLORDS

Short Battle Followed By Attack of The Exposition

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 12 Review

Sword Art Online Alicization continues to do what it does best – give us a short but reasonably interesting action sequence followed by a lot of sipping tea and talking. Oh boy.

It isn’t that the information conveyed in the second half of this episode isn’t important. It kind of explains the fundamentals of how Underworld got to the state it is in and why it is a little messed up. Though, to assume that only one of the original four humans passed on the idea of ambition and that no soul after managed to just figure out it wanted more is kind of overly simplistic and we could open the whole nature vs nurture argument on this one but let’s just shrug and go along with the logic here that whatever you are taught as a kid sticks.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 12

The problem is more that once again Sword Art Online looks at the most boring method of delivering information to its audience. First the episode sends Eugeo away to have a bath because he got wet during the fight and that means Kirito doesn’t have to worry about keeping any secrets about not being from Underworld and can have an open conversation. That’s fine and fairly necessary if we’re going to learn what we need to learn. But why then do we need to watch Kirito and the Cardinal whatever sitting drinking tea while she slowly narrates events? Surely they could have shown the audience what happened and let us experience it rather than just telling us that this happened.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 12 Kirito in the library

Admittedly, it would have needed multiple episodes to show us that kind of flash back. If only they had some more time in this series. Oh wait, they wasted half of last week on a conversation between Eugeo and Kirito that added nothing to either character and just delayed the fight until the end of the episode. And previously… well we could trim minutes more or less everywhere from this series.

Sword Art Online Episode 12 Alicization Quinella

It isn’t that I’m not interested in this story. I actually really like the ideas so far. It is more that the execution and the pacing have been lacking. Even the brief moments of action haven’t been enough to break this up or make it overly exciting to view. There’s a lot of potential in this story, but I’d struggle to recommend this given 12 episodes in and it still feels like we’re setting things up and unless you are already a big fan of the series, listening to all that exposition isn’t going to be high on a viewers list of priorities.

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Dropping A Certain Magical Index

A Certain Magical Index Season 3 Episode Review Title Image

A Certain Magical Index Episode 11 Review

Reminder: the poll is now open for you to vote on the best and worst anime of the 2018 Autumn Anime Season. Be sure to jump in and have your say.

I’ve been saying for awhile that at the mid-season I was going to cut this from my watch list. It ended up happening a bit earlier. While watching episode 11 and being bored senseless as Touma and Index went through their usual ‘I’m hungry’ shtick at the airport before we get introduced to the apparent Queen of England and three Princesses who all look totally appropriate for the role.

A Certain Magical Index Episode 11 Touma and Index

After some more exposition and dialogue we get the usual joke about Touma being broke and then we hit the road to find some terrorists. However, it was at that point that my boredom gave way to annoyance.

A Certain Magical Index Episode 11

They introduce the new terrorists the exact same way we were introduced to other random groups who ended up being of no-consequence earlier in the season. See one of the group talking on a phone before we skip over to another and each one does some sort of look or thing to distinguish themselves and once we’ve had a look at each one get some random comedic misadventure that leads to an encounter between one of the terrorists and Touma. 

A Certain Magical Index Episode 11

Cut over to another one who smugly claims she’s going to succeed and then she’s facing our B team of magicians leading into another action sequence. It was sometime around there I killed the episode. I have no interest in these new characters; I barely have any interest left in the ongoing cast. I find it amazing that I will sooner finish watching Conception than even finish one more episode of this show and I realised that Conception might be bad, trash, and fairly poorly written, but at least it hasn’t managed to bore me as much as Index has this season.

So, no season review of this one because I won’t be finishing out the season.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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THE ART OF YOH YOSHINARI ILLUSTRATIONS
THE ART OF YOH YOSHINARI ILLUSTRATIONS

Kiznaiver Episode 8

Review:

It’s been a problem throughout this series but episode 8 takes it to new levels: over explanation of the mundane while failing to actually tell us anything useful.

Did we need nearly 3 minutes of this episode devoted to the researchers explaining their views on the romantic relationships evolving (given they haven’t exactly been subtle in their development)? The answer is probably not.

Then, do we need the characters psycho-analysing each other as they wonder around an abandoned building in a typhoon? Definitely not.

And then there’s the big reveal by Nori only everybody saw it coming a mile away which essentially makes this episode pointless. Not unenjoyable, just without purpose.

Kiznaiver is available on Crunchyroll.