The typical ‘work together’ message undermined by super powered teen.
Kenja no Mago shows us the right way to blow off some steam…
Okay, maybe not but I have to admit that Shin made that look so satisfying even
if the results were kind of destructive.
The war ended up being pretty abrupt, much like its set-up
really. One minute they are fighting and then the empire realises there are
demons in their capital and return just in time for the guy who declared war to
be killed by Schrom in a fairly confronting early scene this episode. I will
point out, I’ll give the demonoid points for at least knowing that if he wants
to make sure someone is dead you do have to kill them yourself. Most villains
never get this point down which is why they end up losing.
Still, the realisation that there are plenty of demonoids
around and that they aren’t exactly what the original description of them made
them out to be, gives this narrative plenty of fodder for future confrontations
for Shin. We already know Schrom at least managed to survive a fight with Shin
and so overpowered or not, if Shin has to fight all of them he’s going to
Which might be the whole point of the get along and work
with friends message of the rest of the episode.
The Knight School and the Magic School run some joint
training in the forest but the Knights and the Magicians absolutely don’t get
on despite clearly having complementary abilities. I think the point was
supposed to be for the group to learn how to get on but then somewhere along
the way that message got dropped and we got another round of isn’t Shin awesome
as a horde of demons stormed toward them and Shin wiped them all out.
Naturally he was in a bad mood because the Knights had
started fawning over Sicily and we got another round of the two kids blushing
and denying but not denying a relationship.
Honestly, as silly as this anime is and as cliché as a lot
of the developments are, it actually just makes me smile while watching and I’m
quite enjoying it. There’s certainly no argument to be made that this is
brilliant. The static images with panning during the war sequence and demon
invasion of the city displays the corner cutting and averageness of the
visuals, even if the off-model faces from a distance on almost every character
didn’t, but that doesn’t actually take away from the enjoyment of the overall
Bell’s reputation took a serious hit at the end of volume 10. The people of Orario saw him stand between adventurers and monsters and in the end they now see him as someone who puts his own needs above protecting them from monsters. However it isn’t just Bell who has been affected as his whole familia is now on the back-foot with everyone wanting to take their shot at the family that rose to fame so quickly.
It is a really interesting turning point in the series as prior to this Bell was looked down on for being small or inexperienced. Then he began his rise to fame and gained respect from so many people and other adventurers that while there was jealousy and some hostility, for the most part Bell has had a steady climb in status over the previous 10 books.
Volume 11 turns the tone of the series on its head. Seeing Bell despised is actually kind of hard, particularly when as the reader you know what bell was actually trying to do and you also know that even if he explained it very few would listen to him or take his side. And that’s the strength of this volume. Bell is in a position where he has to gain back some of the trust that has been lost or it is more or less the end for his familia, but at the same time he can’t turn his back on the xenos. This conundrum nearly paralyses him and makes any action seem more or less impossible. Harder still when even those in his familia are starting to wonder if the cost of helping the xenos was too high.
That said, Bell has drawn the attention of quite a number of gods through his meteoric rise and they aren’t happy to leave things as they stand either. The question is, will their meddling make things better or worse and will Bell be happy with the outcome?
While earlier books in this series were fun and exuberant as Bell launched into new adventures and took on new foes, volume 11 brings a much more serious tone to the entire story. It is no longer a simple matter of monsters bad, kill the monsters, and Bell as a character is forced to grow beyond the naive youth he’s represented previously.
The situation also strains a lot of the pre-existing relationships and forces characters to question the basis of those relationships and whether or not they can continue. Particularly strained is the relationship between Ais and Bell as Bell put himself directly in Loki familia’s way during the previous volume and the conflict between them isn’t over as Loki familia works to restore the status quo.
On the one hand, I kind of preferred the light and energetic tone in earlier volumes but on the other, I really enjoy watching Bell grow up. This volume gives him a lot of time to really question his goals and what he wants and I feel in terms of the greater narrative it does an excellent job even if it wasn’t quite as fun individually to read.
Despite the more contemplative tone, volume 11 does deliver a thrilling climatic battle on par with any that we’ve seen so far. Bell is going to get pushed to the limit physically and emotionally before this book is done and while this volume does bring a nice conclusion to the current arc, it also leaves you wanting the next book.
Clearly I enjoyed reading volume 11 of Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon and I’m looking forward to seeing Bell after this book to see what lasting impact these events have had.
In episode 3, Fairy Gone seems to focus on the black fairy
tome. After giving us a few scenes tying up loose ends from their last mission,
Free and Marlya meet a Vice-Minister who explains what the fairy tomes are and
why people are searching for the black one. Or kind of. Despite the amount of
screen time the explanation takes up we still don’t really know why people want
it other than it was torn out of the original tome.
From there it should be a simple matter of meet the scholar
and collect a piece of the tome but you know why make things easy?
Free encounters yet another face from his past (again, is it
really that hard for them to meet new people, does every encounter have to come
with back-story and complications) in the form of Bitter Sweet – what a name?
There’s some wine drinking and some really unsubtle dialogue and then a chirpy
yellow fairy starts creating a raucous.
Because, you know, two groups after the tome wasn’t enough,
let’s also throw in the mafia. We then have a three way chase sequence that
ends in a bit of a fight and stand-off.
I actually enjoyed most of this, though again it will only
work if ultimately these threads they are spinning come together in a
satisfying manner. However, it felt like everything took longer than it should
and more than once in a scene I found my eyes flicking to the clock to see just
how long it had gone.
The other issue with the story being that despite the whole
fairy soldiers being more or less wiped out in the war and the creation of them
being illegal, it seems like every other person we meet is possessed. Much like
continually running into people our protagonists have back-stories
inter-connected with, they really are pushing coincidences a little too far.
While it might be well and good to say that working in the job they do, Marlya
and Free and more likely to encounter fairy possessed people, occasionally you
think they would run into someone a little more ordinary.
Something novel happened; we didn’t begin with a flashback.
That said, immediately after completing the fight from last episode we had a
flashback but it seems like there’s some progress here.
I don’t mind the fights between humans and fairies. They
took a bit to get used to in this series but watching Free fighting Sweet and
Marlya jumping into the fray was pretty cool and the fight in the tomb later
was also kind of interesting to watch. Knowing a bit more about the parameters and
limitations of the fairies would probably help add weight to some of the
fighting, but mostly it works.
I am starting to get the impression that the ministry is
pretty useless. I mean, they recovered the tome only to have it stolen almost
the next day and it seems they are always a step behind or on the back foot.
Meanwhile, we meet some other characters who clearly work
for Dorothea who are searching some other guy’s house though the why is not
really clear or who he is, other than a name. It is a little disjointed when
you jump from character to character but you don’t know who some of the
characters are and others just haven’t been given any time to develop.
Still, the partnership between Free and Marlya has finally
worked itself out and we have a bit of flow between the two of them. That’s what
I making the majority of this episode pleasant enough to watch. Hopefully these
two continue to build some chemistry as the series continues.
I remember back when Sword Art Online had just begun. I remember the first episode of the Aincrad arc and just how quickly it seemed to pass by and how heavily the bombshell at the end of that episode fell. I remember rapidly skipping to the next episode (it came out before I could stream things as they aired but that meant I could binge) and I remember just how absorbed I became with the characters and the story and just how much fun the whole viewing experience was.
Admittedly, the entertainment of the very first series from 2012 shouldn’t really have all that much to do with whether or not this story arc from 2018-2019 is actually any good, nor should I compare them and expect that to be the same. Kirito has grown as a character since then, the technology has moved on, and almost all the other characters we spend any length of time with in Alicization are completely new. It is its own experience but not stand-alone. The events in the real world do require pre-existing knowledge of the franchise to make sense so even if I wanted to give Alicization a clean break from the seasons of SAO past, it wouldn’t really be doable.
Could someone totally new to the franchise start with Alicization?
Sure. They’d miss some context for things but mostly I doubt that would change the overall viewing experience. Except perhaps that a new viewer would go in without any expectations of Sword Art Online and so some of the disappointment I faced while watching Aliciation wouldn’t have played a factor. Maybe a new audience member could just enjoy a romp in the new world with the new cast and not wonder what happened to the cool and reckless Kirito before he ‘grew up’ and became the boring, moralising and largely passive protagonist we encounter here.
I know. I just called Kirito boring. I didn’t think I’d ever do that. Lots of other people did even back in Aincrad but I always really liked Kirito as a character. Alicization was the killing blow though.
Part of this is because Kirito spends a large part of Alicization seemingly mentoring Eugeo. Being pushed into a mentor or teacher role means that he does need to explain and sermonise and take the high ground in order to lead by example. It also means standing back at times and taking the background role to let the student grow. And honestly, given the context of Alicization, which I’ll get to in a bit, Kirito moving into that role makes perfect sense, but it isn’t interesting.
The sacrifice of Kirito’s spirit and character, though a significant blow to my enjoyment of the franchise, possibly could have been rationalised as Eugeo is actually an interesting character to watch grow. While never as interesting or dynamic as Aincrad’s Kirito, he wasn’t a bad substitute. However, Eugeo’s character arc comes to an abrupt and fairly pointless and ridiculous end by the end of this half of Alicization. So ultimately I watched Kirito help another character grow at the expense of being entertaining in his own right and then that character isn’t going to do anything because they are already finished. Or at least, finished enough as I don’t doubt SAO’s ability to come up with rubbish reasons for this not to be the end.
This isn’t the first time Kirito has had someone he’s mentored and helped has died. The Moonlit Black Cats, particularly Sachi, were a large part of his character growth in Aincrad and Sachi’s death left emotional scars that Kirito had to work really hard to overcome.
The problem is that Eugeo’s character had pretty much 20 something episodes of mentoring and then before he surpassed his master he died and his death hasn’t seemed to amount to anything, though perhaps they’ll capitalise on it in the next half. All I know is that it left an incredible taste of dissatisfaction in my mouth.
For all that I’ve just attacked the characters, I’m now going to back up a bit and actually look at the fundamental problems in Alicization as a series. Keep in mind, there are some really great moments throughout the 24 episodes. Sequences where one character or another really rises up and does something cool and dramatic and for a moment you can just get swept away. So I am not saying there’s nothing good about Alicization.
However, what really hurts Alicization, other than the time difference between events in the real world and the events in underworld which results in Asuna and the others getting bare minimum screen time and an absolute lack of audience buy in to the event in the real world…
Okay, the time thing probably needs its own section because it was a really unnecessary contrivance that really hurt the pacing of the real world events. With the large gaps of time between when we even saw characters in the real world and how little progress that plot made over the course of a whole season, because events in Underworld move fast, it just isn’t a very effective way to tell a story, particularly in a season spread over more than six months. Perhaps binge watching would alleviate some of this issue but honestly, at times I all but forgot what Asuna and the others were even doing so the dramatic final for them really had next to no impact.
Right, so what really hurts Alicization, other than all that stuff, is the way they execute the story. The idea behind Alicization is actually really interesting with souls being digitalised and raised within a virtual world. The pseudo-science techno-babble explanations of the how and the why don’t really help here but the concept is cool. The problems within that world where those in control of the command codes are corrupt and others are forced through the Taboo Index to essentially obey those of higher standing within the world.
I mean, it isn’t terrible original if we put it in the context of a dystopian kind of story, but it works and there’s a lot of potential ideas for exploration and so many potential paths for the story to take.
And while Alicization does take some interesting paths and does explore some of the concepts, it does it in an incredibly poorly conceived manner. Where large chunks of information are given to us through forced exposition in the form of incredibly long and artificial sounding dialogue exchanges between characters, and a lot of that information is either repetitive of previous bits of information, or just so abstract that it will make no difference whether the audience has it explained or not, it just doesn’t make for interesting viewing.
Imagine you were watching some kind of fast paced sporting tournament and every now and then the competitors stopped, poured out some cups of teas, and sat around discussing their motives, training methods, and the history of their coach. Then they just get up and start competing again.
Alright, Alicization wasn’t that bad, but the analogy is kind of apt in terms of the enjoyment in viewing.
When you throw in the fact that Kirito and Eugeo set out from Eugeo’s home town to find Alice and end up enrolling in a school and just happily training for a few years (happily may be an exaggeration) and it doesn’t seem like they are in any kind of hurry to achieve their goal, the pace of this story seems all over the shop and goals that drive characters seem to do so selectively. Even once they get to the tower and begin facing off against Integrity Knights, it is very hard to care about these characters as antagonists and their motives for fighting, or not fighting, are really hard to swallow sometimes. As is Alice’s rapid decision to work with Kirito when they were hanging outside of the tower.
What it comes down to is you’d get a moment of excitement or interesting interaction and then Alicization would hit the breaks to explain something to you and just when things got going again it would do the same. With the narrative pacing off the characters really needed to step up to sell some of these exchanges only they didn’t. Outside of Kirito and Eugeo, barely anyone got any screen time and the few who did didn’t really draw me into the story so much as just existed within it.
The music is workable but doesn’t give anywhere near the sense of excitement that I found in the score in the original series. Visuals work fine and the various attacks are pretty cool to watch. Eugeo really wins out here with his sword being exceptionally beautiful and its attack leads to some really interesting effects. Kirito is less lucky and because he gets limited time to go crazy with his sword there are far less moments where he just looks super cool on screen in Alicization. However, overall, Alicization is kind of average to look at. Character designs work as do settings but very little of it is stand out or amazing.
I really did want to like this latest Sword Art Online. I was excited about the return of the franchise and to be honest, my love of the original has meant that subsequent iterations get a lot of leeway. However, Sword Art Online Alicization is not just not good, it is openly obnoxious at times as it drags the audience along and through unnecessarily long sequences and seems to care little about making any character actually more than just another plot point to be resolved. The end results is I didn’t have much fun watching it and realistically, if it hadn’t had the SAO connection, I’d have dropped it after the first cour rather than persevering through all 24 episodes. What’s worse than holding on 24 episodes? Watching 24 episodes for the thing to end on a cliff-hanger.
Honestly, I can’t recommend this. For those newer anime fans, I still think trying the original SAO is worth it despite the online hate factory for it, but Alicization is a lesser show in almost every way imaginable and while there were many readers of the light novels proclaiming that Alicization would fix the narrative issues with SAO, I think Alicization the anime just found new and improved ways to annoy an audience.
After seemingly rushing to show us a demonised human, this
episode just kind of sets a few things in motion and continues the
Shin-is-awesome propaganda campaign. Still, dopey first love, magic lessons,
designing new swords, and caring grandparents are more than enough to fill in
this episode without it feeling like things are getting dull.
That said, it is very much determined not to break new
ground within its genre. Shin offers the girl he kind of likes an accessory and
then it turns out it is for defensive magic purposes causing her to be all
embarrassed and angry and then Shin realises how it sounded when he asked the
question and he’s all discombobulated in a way that I’m sure is supposed to be endearing
but the entire sequence was just a tad too trite even for the this anime.
The set up for the war was very abrupt. Like literally a guy
just walks up to this other guy and gives him one bit of intel and the other
guy decides he’s going to war. After that we don’t see either of those two
again, but because this anime also doesn’t do subtlety or delayed reveals, we
soon find out that the guy giving the information is actually connected to the
escaped Demonoid Schrom from last week.
Which could be kind of cool except that they reveal this
while he’s laughing maniacally in bed. There’s something about bad guys just
sitting around cackling to themselves that just makes them hard to take
In case it seems like I’m getting down on this anime, I’m really not. It has been pretty fun to watch. While it is hitting all the usual tropes and standards, that’s probably what makes it so relaxing and just kind of casually fun to watch each week. Certainly it is at best average, and scenes like the early on in this episode where nobody has a face don’t help make it feel anything but average, but sometimes average is enough.
Messy beginning but potentially intriguing premise.
Well, having read many first impressions and early episode
reviews of Fairy Gone I’d definitely revised my expectations downwards and that
kind of paid off. While I can see why the first episode at least hasn’t exactly
wowed viewers, I actually found it worked well enough. Sure, I doubt we needed
to start the episode with a history lesson of places we don’t know or care
about and I am almost positive we could have gained most that information more
organically later, and I know the designs of the fairies are pretty much beyond
ugly, but otherwise this did its job of kind of making me interested it intends
One thing that does concern me is the absolute lack of
chemistry between Marlya and Free. The two of them have many scenes together
and exchanges in this first episode and while it kind of seems like they are
trying to set up some kind of banter between the two, mostly the dialogue is
coming off as stilted and the two are absolutely making no connection. I really
hope they don’t intend for this to ever develop into any kind of romance
because that would be as realistic and entertaining as watching a broom stick
fall in love with a mop.
There’s also a lot of information dumping going on in this
episode outside of the history lesson. Free explains a lot of stuff to Marlya
in a storage room that kind of seems like she should already know it given
where she is and it is difficult for me to figure out how much of that
information is relevant or that I need to care about.
Then there are the fairies that Veronica, Free and Marlya
all use in this first episode. The connection and relationship between the
human and the fairy is ill-defined. Veronica’s seems to have physical form and
deflects bullets and things away from but also seems to turn into smoke and
attack those she’s cut with her dagger, but the connection between the two is
not really clear. Also, the fairy seems to disappear and then is called back
but whether it can do this indefinitely or not is also pretty vague.
Still, considering I went into this with substantially
lowered expectations after reading some reviews, I was pleased to find the
first episode at least was watchable and given the genre and subject matter,
I’m going to give it a little bit to find its feet because I’d like to see what
it might do.
This anime has already established a really weird pattern of
putting seemingly irrelevant flashbacks at the beginning of the episode. I don’t
know if Fairy Gone was trying to establish character backstory or what but the
disconnected scenes we got at the start of this episode didn’t elicit any
emotion other than some kind of desire for them to get to a point. We don’t
care enough about the characters to care about random deaths in their background,
particularly when none of the characters or events seem connected to what
follows in this episode.
That said, once the episode proper began with Free making
his report on the events of last week and then Free and Marlya joining up with
two other members of Free’s team to spy on a possible arms deal, the rest of
the episode proceeded relatively logically and entertainingly enough.
Considering how much the characters seem to like explaining things it would be
nice if we actually knew the limitations of the fairies but that seems like we’re
just asking for too much and so we see Marlya unable to summon her fairy again
after it was injured but that seems kind of random. How much do you have to
injure the fairy to prevent its summoning given Veronica’s was injured last
week but managed to still be summoned?
It also seems overly convenient that this week’s antagonist
is summon from Free’s past given Veronica, last week, was from Marlya’s past.
Given the whole unification war and that they are all travelling about, could
they possibly just deal with someone not intricately tied into their past?
Would these stories not have more impact if they came later after establishing
the main characters a bit more so we were actually more caring about their
There’s also some questionable design choices going on here
with the transports just looking outright ludicrous as they scurry about and
tip over seemingly far too easily.
But, despite the complaints, I am kind of curious and Free
and Marlya seem a little more in sync this week. Wolf also seems like he might
be an interesting antagonist if they actually bother to develop him. There’s
plenty of potential plot fodder bubbling along here with different factions and
levels of command and so I think I’ll kind of stay hopeful that maybe this one
actually does eventually do something with all that potential. Those hopes
might be dashed later, but for now I’ll keep watching.
Yep, bully boy was being set up as a future threat only one
they pulled out in episode three for the sake of a cool battle and to introduce
another character who might actually be a more serious threat. However, if we
wanted to see what happens when humans become demons this gave us a small taste
test of potential danger later without lengthy exposition so it all kind of
works. Plus, it moves the main character straight to hero status rather than
Again, there’s nothing really new here as the characters go
about establishing a class dynamic within the magic school and we learn about
magic study clubs. The continuation of Kurt’s insanity followed by his losing
his mind after an encounter with an old teacher just adds a little bit of
energy to the otherwise pretty standard establishing episode. But, it is
undeniably fun while it goes through the same old steps so I’m really not going
Shin’s reactions remain fairly entertaining as he never
really knows what others will find astonishing and he tends to get super embarrassed
about things the other characters are really enthusiastic about. While I’m
still not entirely convinced we needed a reincarnation to end up with this
personality, it works well enough as a throw back to his previous life to
remind us that this is a reincarnation story without them having to mention it
every other minute.
If I did have anything I was actually disappointed about it
would be how ordinary the fight between Shin and Kurt ended up being. Shin has
produced some amazing magical devices and effects and the fight just seemed too
standard with throw the glowing thing at the other guy and when that doesn’t
work hit him with a glow stick (okay, magic sword, have it your way). I think
there could have been a few more twists and turns in the magical fight but
again, it isn’t as though what we got didn’t work.
I’m still pleasantly surprised by this one and am beginning
to allow myself to actually be hopeful about this one.
That was quick.
I think that was my main reaction when I realised that this
episode of Kenja no Mago was going to reveal that the middle school teacher was
in fact the one behind Kurt’s demonization. I really thought they were going to
drag this on a lot longer with more people or students being turned before they
closed in on him. Not that I’m upset it doesn’t turn out to be that kind of
story, just kind of surprised because it really seemed like that was where they
The downside of this episode being about that reveal is that
Shin and his classmates are more or less the fluff content of the episode. They
mess around at the school club having two new members introduced after the
teacher vetted the influx of applicants. Then on their way to one of the new members
houses there’s an explosion which is where the story of the investigation into
the demonization incident and the school kid’s crosses paths. Then it is just a
straight Shin-saves-the-day fight sequence.
The magic fight this week was much better than episode 3’s
glow stick saga. The fight was quick but suitably interesting. It is all over
the top light and colour effects but you know what, it is supposed to be a
magic battle. Let it be over the top.
Meanwhile, like they don’t let the mystery of who is
responsible for Kurt linger, the after credits sequence takes out any suspense
about whether or not they killed the middle-school teacher. So episode four has
clearly taught me that this anime is not about mysteries or suspense. It is
simply about the over-powered magic fights and again, if that’s all I’m looking
for it works well enough. Certainly this one isn’t going to be setting the
world on fire with its narrative nuances or the like, but it is pretty easy
viewing so far.