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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The focus this week is tightly on Eugeo facing the leader of the integrity knights (and former village legend) alone. This is the first time we’ve seen Eugeo on his own without Kirito’s guidance, and he’s up against a tough opponent. it’s a fairly great character moment for the Eugeo as we see his choices this far up the tower.
Let’s get it out of the way, the fight is not as dynamic as some of the fights we’ve seen in Sword Art Online. As much as Kirito is the one who originally trained Eugeo in swordplay, Eugeo isn’t Kirito and for that I am glad. It means his style isn’t identical even though there are clear parallels. So where Kirito would go faster, harder, and straight into the fray, Eugeo is happier to leave some distance and take advantage of his sword’s abilities.
Which is where I will sing the praises of this fight sequence. Eugeo unleashing the sword and not just doing that and being done but then taking full advantage of sword, the environment he was in, and lastly, his own age to ensure his victory in the fight. It is pretty, it is well thought out, and with the exception of an interruption when we get a flash back to the cardinal to hit us with some exposition that was actually kind of unneeded at that point, the pace of this fight is very well done. It is an enjoyable visual spectacle in its own right and hearing Eugeo explain just why he dislikes the integrity knights clearly, in his own words, without interference from Kirito, is a great moment.
That actually leaves the interruption at the end of the fight leaving a slight sour taste because not only is the character who literally bounced into the room clearly not a character we can take in any way seriously, it seemed kind of cheap to take the decision of how this fight would end away from Eugeo. Not to mention this bouncing ball of annoyance seemed more like a character who would drop into a Hunter x Hunter fight rather than Sword Art Online.
In case we thought they’d forgotten Alice and Kirito though, the final moments of the episode have them chilling and sharing steamed buns on the ledge outside the tower. It is pretty reminiscent of Kirito and Asuna sharing bread with cream in Aincrad but otherwise doesn’t have much going on. I mean, Kirito reminds Alice about her sister but given they then end the scene before that goes anywhere I guess we’ll deal with that next week.
With a lot of shows very strongly into their mid-season and some of the shine coming off those that started strongly and some of the weaker shows rallying and finding their feet, I decided it was probably time to take a look at the shows on my watch list this season and see how they were going. Unlike some seasons during 2018, there’s nothing on my watch list I actually actively dislike, which means even the anime vying for the bottom rung of my watch list are actually relatively decent shows even if they aren’t to my personal tastes.
That isn’t to say I’ve got nothing but golden shows on my list. In as much as there’s not a lot I really dislike, there’s not a lot that is making me sit up and take notice. Most shows this season I could watch or not and while I’m having fun part of me feels that as a viewer I was spoiled for choice last season with so many really great anime.
Right now I am following 15 anime and I’m going to count them down from the weakest on my watch list to the anime that might make it to the top for the end of the season. For each anime I’m going to give a brief impression so far and then my prediction for the rest of the season. These are all just my opinions and some of these anime are only 4 or so episodes in, so I’d love to know your take on the Winter Anime so far.
If you don’t want to read the whole post I’m going to try linking to the individual titles so you can check out the ones you are interested in. Hopefully it works.
There’s not much to say about this one. It isn’t a particularly good anime and the narrative so far has been told out of order for no reason that I can figure out other than to be annoying. The characters are pretty shallow and so far the exploration of the premise has been woefully underdeveloped.
I know, I said that I wasn’t watching anything really bad. And Grimms Notes isn’t. Watching it is kind of just numbing really. What kept it in my line-up at all is the fact that there is a potentially interesting premise at the core of this anime and if they get around to exploring it and the characters develop a bit and their motives are made clear, this has the potential to be really interesting. At the moment it isn’t, but it also isn’t unwatchable, so for now it can sit at the bottom of my watch list.
Prediction: This probably won’t improve and I’ll ask at the end of the season why I didn’t drop it.
Images from: Grimms Notes. Dir. S Shizutaka. Brain’s Base. 2019.
Number 14: Endro
This one was recommended to me by Cactus Matt. I’d actually passed on the first episode based on the art work and the basic write up as it didn’t seem like it was something I’d enjoy. In honesty, it isn’t really my kind of thing, but there are enough interesting points that I don’t dislike watching it, and I actually feel like it is getting more interesting as it progresses.
The main cast here are actually reasonably fun to spend time with when they are doing something (I’ll pass on anymore pyjama parties though) and the quests they go on are amusing enough. The fantasy elements are kind of fun and the comedy isn’t too eye-roll worthy. All and all, this one is actually just kind of pleasant but for me fairly forgettable.
Prediction: Either this will continue to be pleasant enough but unremarkable or we may take a downward turn if they up the comedy and slice of life aspects but minimise the adventuring. I guess we’ll see.
Images from: Endro! Dir. Kaori. Studio Gokumi. 2019.
Number 13: Boogiepop wa Warawanai
Frankly, Boogiepop wa Warawanai is a mess of frustrating narrative and bland visuals. But from a core concept point of view this one is something I should enjoy. Which is probably what makes it so frustrating is you can actually see a really interesting story bubbling underneath dull conversations and forgettable characters.
I’d really like to like this one more but at the moment I’m watching more out of hope for improvement than any expectation of it. Then again, even if it doesn’t improve noticeably, it is an interesting idea and one that I’m not going to regret watching (at least I hope not).
Prediction: I’ll be an optimist and hope this one makes my top ten by the end of the season because it just got that little bit better and utilised its strengths.
Images from: Boogipop wa Warawanai (2019). Dir. S Natsume. Madhouse. 2019.
Number 12: Kaguya-Sama Love is War
This one, I’m not loving the concept of. It is a beautifully produced anime, visually impressive, with a great score, but I’m just not feeling it. It doesn’t help that I’m not a comedy fan in the first place and that I find the central conceit of this anime ridiculous, nor does it help that so far most of the schemes have either been predictable or ludicrous.
Still, this one is actually getting a little better as it goes (something readers of the source have been insisting would happen since the start) and there’s a possibility of continued improvement. My main hope would be that the two main characters actually start to feel like characters and not caricatures and that would increase my enjoyment of this a lot more or less instantly.
Prediction: Again, I’ll be optimistic and hope that this one continues slowly getting better and maybe it will end up in the top ten by the end of the season.
Images from: Kaguya Sama: Love Is War. Dir. S Omata. A-1 Pictures. 2019.
Number 11: Meiji Tokyo Renka
Meiji Tokyo Renka has actually been rather surprising so far. I honestly expected something like Sengoku Night Blood or Libra of Nil Admirari neither or which was particularly noteworthy but both were watchable. However, Meiji Tokyo Renka has so far managed to make Mei, the protagonist, relatively interesting for a harem protagonist and I’m liking that they seem to be doing something with the premise.
Certainly this anime has its share of generic harem tropes and it isn’t exactly jumping to the top of my list, but I’m certainly actually enjoying watching it so far and it has the potential to get better as the season progresses.
Prediction: I think this one will sit right about here on the list. Even if it uses all its narrative potential the central premise here isn’t as interesting as some others and the overall production isn’t amazing. That said, I think it will stay entertaining.
Images from: Meiji Tokyo Renka. Dir. A Daichi. TMS Entertainment. 2019.
Number 10: Sword Art Online Alicization
I’m a little disappointed that this one is placing so low but realistically after a lot of set up in the first arc, this second arc has been trying to bury us under exposition and honestly the plot doesn’t seem to be moving anywhere very quickly and I’m not entirely sure I like a Kirito who sermonises more than hits things with his sword. All and all, Alicization isn’t really working for me.
There are certainly still moments of cool to be found in this series and that is what has kept it in the top ten (even if it is scraping the bottom). However we’ve come a long way from the Aincrad Arc and at this point I’m really convinced Aincrad was where Sword Art Online should have begun and ended. I really enjoy that story and while I like these characters, they’ve been suffering from increasing diminished returns ever since. Except Asuna who shone in the Mother Rosaria arc but she’s all but vanished from sight at this point.
Prediction: Disappointment? I think this will slide further down the list before it gets better. I’ll happily be wrong though.
Images from: Sword Art Online Alicization. Dir. M Ono. A-1 Pictures. 2018.
Number 9: My Roommate is a Cat
I do not believe I went in to this one with any expectations but for a slice of life story about a socially awkward author adopting a cat because he’s inspired to write a story despite no knowing how to look after a cat, this one is pretty adorable. The central gimmick of the cat getting to narrate the events of the episode from its perspective at the end each week works well enough and while this one isn’t exactly amazing, I’ve kind of found my relaxation viewing each week.
Alright, a lot of the draw for me is actually the author, Subaru. For some people they just find him rude and off-putting in the first couple of episodes but I actually kind of related to him fairly quickly and kind of saw his point when he was annoyed at his editor for dragging him out to a noisy place to talk when there really wasn’t any need to do so.
Prediction: This one is cute and relaxing but that’s about all so I’m doubting this will move any higher up the list unless something else seriously falls apart. That said, I’m not expecting this to really move down the list either as it has been pretty consistent so far.
Images from: My Roommate is a Cat. Dir. K Suzuki. Zero-G. 2019.
Number 8: The Morose Mononokean
Season one of The Morose Mononokean was kind of happy nothingness. I like yokai stories so I enjoyed it well enough but it wasn’t overly remarkable. Still there were a lot of potential plot points left unexplored and it has been an absolute delight seeing them being explored and expanded upon so far in season two. It is everything I could have hoped for from a follow up to this series.
I also think it looks a bit better this season though that might just be the distance between season one and two talking. Either way, so far season two of this has done an excellent job at looking at the characters and the lore of the underworld and I’m really curious to learn more about how everything works. Plus, more fuzzy.
Prediction: I wouldn’t have picked this one as a potential season favourite prior to watching it – more casual nothingness. However, if things continue to develop the way they are… This one has a lot of potential to rise up this list.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime has been up and down for me since the beginning. I wasn’t a huge fan of it but it slowly won me over and built on its strengths. The mid-season point, so the start of Winter 2019, was actually really solid. But we’ve since had a lot of talking and meetings and its been awhile since anything really exciting has happened.
Realistically, this one isn’t going to be topping my must watches any time soon, but on balance it has remained pretty fun to watch and given the absolute lack of stakes or tension it is pretty relaxing to tune into each week. That said, it is also hard to really care about where it is going.
Prediction: This will hover around here for the remainder of the season and whether or not it manages another emotional highlight, like Shizu’s death or the defeat of the orc lord, may determine whether it goes up a few spots before the end.
Images from: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. Dir. Y Kikuchi. 8Bit. 2018.
Number 6: Domestic Girlfriend
Really wasn’t expecting this one to place so high on the list and yes it is full of teen melodrama, enough to rival any soap opera, and no it isn’t overly logical and it does rely heavily on coincidence. What it does right though is make me actually care about the central trio (or at least two out of three) and want them to find some way to be happy at the end of all of this.
It kind of helped this along that it was nowhere near as trashy as the title and promo images made it look which automatically made me more favourable toward it (low expectations always help a show along). That and some of the characters have actually made some good decisions in amongst the melodrama that have surprised me. All and all, hardly a perfect anime but one that I’m kind of hooked on this season.
Prediction: One of two things will happen. Either this show will manage a beautiful emotional ending or it will completely implode. I’d love the former but I suspect the latter.
Images from: Domestic Girlfriend. Dir. S Ibata. Diomedea. 2019.
Number 5: The Price of Smiles
Of all the anime titles this season, this is the one I’m probably the least sure about. The first episode was interesting enough but relatively unimpressive. Since then, it has managed to really make me care about the characters despite the limited screen time some have had, and I’m interested in the conflict, but the anime as a whole is still a little bit rocky.
I think this one has a lot of potential but it all depends on where they take the story and if they actually get around to doing anything with the questions they are raising. Also, whether or not these characters actually learn anything at all from their experiences. It’s really hard to tell at this point if this anime has the strength of writing to get this right or not.
Prediction: I’d like to be hopeful but I suspect we may just have a show that kills off its characters toward the end in order to make for a tragic ‘war is bad’ kind of message rather than any actual narrative depth.
Images from: Egao no Daika. Dir. T Suzuki. Tatsunoko Production. 2019.
Number 4: The Rising of the Shield Hero
Well, this one certainly made a contentious start to the season. For me The Rising of the Shield Hero has done exactly what I expected having read the light novels. It isn’t great but it isn’t bad and so far the adaptation has it all the notes it has needed to even if it isn’t exactly the same as the source – though given how many versions the story has gone through all ready it would next be the question of which one.
Where Shield Hero is succeeding for me and why it is so high on my list is that it seems to have made Naofumi’s character a little more tolerable even in the early stages of the story, while still making him flawed enough that a redemption story is needed. Plus, Raphtalia is just kind of awesome. I’m having a lot of fun watching this one and looking forward to more.
Prediction: Not sure how much material they will cover in 25 episodes or whether we’ll end on a good resting point, but I do know that the novels meander a bit so this one may very well sink a little on this list despite generally thinking I’ll enjoy it.
I suspect already that this one is not going to last in the top 5 by the end, however I’m leaving it here for now for the simple reason that I’m glad an anime that is deciding to put teenage girls through trauma is then actually interested in examining how trauma affects people. Some of the things anime characters go through and just kind of shrug off with no lingering impact is kind of insane so dealing with the real ongoing trauma as Asuka tries to integrate into a normal life, was actually kind of great.
Though a single concept within a story can’t keep it as a must watch unless it does something else. Visually, this one is a bit hit and miss but there are some beautiful sequences. The characters have so far been the strength of the show but the villains are a little weakly developed at this point. There’s a lot that might be amazing about this and a lot that could go wrong so we’ll see where it ends up at the end of the season.
Prediction: I don’t think this will stay in the top 5 but I do think I’ll be glad I gave it a watch this season.
Images from: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. Dir. H Yamamoto. LIDENFILMS. 2019.
Number 2: The Promised Neverland
Such a promising, suspenseful and beautifully directed start to the Promised Neverland. While I will admit we’ve gradually been winding back the praise on this one, it was still a first episode well worth watching because so few anime manage that much characterisation, world building and intrigue in twenty minutes. Plus, the directions of this series has so far been really interesting though even that aspect seems to be winding down.
I’m definitely with this one for the season and in terms of genre it is doing a great job of keeping my interest. Now that the anime is far enough ahead I’ve read the first volume of the manga and my interest is even more piqued by the potential for this plot. Still, there’s been some shaky characterisation in the last couple of episodes and that gorgeous direction seems to be giving way to more pedestrian approaches. It will be interesting to see if this one can hold its nerve to the end.
Prediction: This one may not stay quite so high on my list but it would have to make a serious downward turn to leave my top 5. Very much recommend trying this one.
Images from: The Promised Neverland. Dir. M Kanbe. CloverWorks. 2019.
Number 1: Run With The Wind
I do not think I ever believed that a sports anime (other than Yuri On Ice) would be topping my watch list and yet Run With The Wind has managed to build from strength to strength over its season. I doubt it is going to derail now and it has been exception at building up the cast of characters despite the large number of them. Add in great sound design and some interesting visual choices and we have a very solid anime.
I like that this anime doesn’t seem willing to bite off more than it can chew. It knows what it is and it isn’t trying to be anything more than that. But it is working hard to deliver the story of these boys coming together as a team in an interesting manner and so far it has largely succeeded (though Kakeru’s back story dragged on a little too long). I’m very much caught up in this story at this point and hopefully it will nail the ending.
Prediction: This may not finish number one but it will definitely be up the top of my list. Consistent delivery of quality character work and competent narrative makes this an easy recommend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kirito was warming up his ultimate move last week and this week starts with him unleashing it. I’m going to be honest, for the build up, and given how pretty Eugeo’s skill was, I’m kind of disappointed with black light reaching out across the distance and just kind of brute force overwhelming the opponent. Even more wondering why said opponent flew upward and hit the ceiling given the direction the two forces opposed to each other were pushing (just kind of seemed a little physics breaking). Still, the fight comes to a suitable end just in time for Kirito to sermonise.
You know, Kirito was a lot more fun when he was a solo player. Because he helped people but he didn’t bother to explain his reasoning or motives, he just kind of did things and offered very little in the way of justification. Kirito in Alicization is endlessly explaining himself to Eugeo and trying to justify his choices and while it makes sense from the point of view that Eugeo really hasn’t had a lot of exposure to other ideas so kind of needs it, it makes Kirito a really dull and preachy character. We get it, the knights are humans so even though they are enemies you don’t want them to die… blah, blah. Tell us again. Sure, why not.
We then move on to an elevator ride up to the eightieth floor to really hammer home the point that the 100 floor thing was an entirely pointless conceit given we’ve seen exactly 3 of these floors. And guess what, they found Alice.
I think this is when I realised that finding Alice had long since moved from being the central goal of this anime. The problem is, I have no attachment to any of their other goals of defeating the administrator and preparing for some upcoming war. For me, the only goal I’m attached to is Eugeo finding Alice and realistically, mission accomplished, you know except the part where she’s still trying to kill them and all.
Realistically, Kirito’s finishing move on the fiftieth floor didn’t impress but got the job done. The fight with Alice was visually a lot cooler and the cliff-hanger ending works at making me want the next episode now, but as has become usual when watching Alicization, I’m increasingly wondering if the payoff will ever be worth all the set up and I’m finding myself more and more not really caring whether they actually succeed or not. Still, pretty lights, clashing swords, and hyped up music so it works well enough.
In 2016 the wonderful Allen Walker from D Gray Man Hallow topped my list – and yeah that was an incredibly biased decision because I just love Allen. 2017 saw Rei from March Comes in Like a Lion take the list (well deserved). 2018 had a plethora of fantastic male characters, though if you read my list of favourite female characters from the year you probably have a fairly good idea of who is going to end up on my list here. As always, I’d love to know who your choices are for best male anime characters from 2018.
It kind of hurts but Kirito from Sword Art Online Alicization has only gotten an honourable mention. While he still has plenty of episodes, his showing in 2018 was okay but not his best work (poor guy). The other character I want to give an honourable mention to is Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. He was great fun but not quite memorable enough to land a spot on the top 5.
As much as Steins;Gate 0 didn’t quite click for me in 2018 one thing I did appreciate was seeing Okabe’s character after he had hit rock bottom and tried to rebuild his life. The Okabe who gave up on saving everyone and just tried to make the best of things. Seeing that Okabe finally find the motivation needed to fight back again despite the hardship it was going to cost was perhaps one of the most rewarding character arcs for the year.
Alright, if you’ve been following my collaboration with Arthifis on Dakaichi you will know I’ve been seriously loving Takato’s character since the beginning. While there’s a lot in Dakaichi that is easy to dismiss or would make you raise an eyebrow, Takato has been a highly entertaining main character. I love watching him when he is working as an actor and seeing him slowly get in touch with his emotions in his real life. For everything that doesn’t work in Dakaichi, Takato has been a shining character for the Autumn season (or at least one that I’ve really enjoyed watching).
Sakuta has been one of those characters who comes along who on the one hand I feel he’s pretty ordinary, on the other hand this is how you write an ordinary character and make him shine. Solid writing, great interactions with the support cast, and just enough personality and sass that he doesn’t just fit solidly into the nice guy forgettable role, and Sakuta is someone who has easily carried his show (admittedly with a bit of help from a fabulous supporting cast).
Number 2: Ash from Banana Fish
It was a hard toss up as to whether I was going to pick Ash or Eiji for the list, but Ash wins because I just love seeing him rise up time and time again. Ash may be incredibly overpowered given he’s ridiculously smart, strong, and shrugs off bullet wounds and being stabbed more or less instantly. He might be straight out of an 80’s power fantasy, but he is definitely fun to watch and when he’s with Eiji his soft and fluffy side comes out (as much as one exists). Really enjoyed spending time with Ash this year and while I might have wanted him to have more happy moments, I can’t deny that I was always entertained by his journey.
It’s the second year in a row but Rei Kiriyama remains my very favourite male anime character in 2018. His interactions with Hina, his match against Souya, his support of Shimada, and just his own growth as a character, returning to his foster home to face some of the past, all of these moments have seen Rei moving from strength to strength. For a character who still has a long way to travel in regards to dealing with his own mental health, Rei continues to be inspirational and relatable and someone I just want to see more of.
That’s the list for 2018 but I’d love to know who you would have picked for your top 5 male anime characters.
Episode 15 continues directly where the last episode of Alicization left us with Eugeo and Kirito encountering two girls in the tower. Now there girls, like so many people we’ve met in recent episodes, are a little bit messed up in the head due to a tragic and very short back story (yay for not another multi-episode exposition dump). Still, when they drop on the audience that 28 kids were slaughtered in the attempt to perfect resurrection and these two nut-jobs are the only survivors you kind of think that maybe this is an issue the story should actually expand upon.
But no, in the same episode with multiple other issues including a really weird and pointed comment about gender and feelings of inferiority that Sword Art Online does not have the narrative strength to carry off and feel like anything other than a patronising nod at gender politics. Seriously, if they want me to take SAO’s commentary on gender even vaguely seriously they should give Asuna a sword again and let her fight side by side with Kirito. Then I’ll start taking some of this messaging a little more seriously (a little bit, it’s SAO so I’m not exactly looking to it for gender politics).
However, neither of those points, both fairly big points, were what I walked away from the episode wanting to discuss. Instead, my focus is very much on the Eugeo and Kirito dynamic. It was something very early in the episode that shifted my attention to this and despite all these other distractions I never really got off of thinking about it.
At the beginning of the episode, when the two sweet girls on the stairs are introducing themselves, Kirito taps Eugeo on the shoulder, tells him he’s not good with kids and that he should handle it, and then places himself behind Eugeo. This seems like such a weird move for Kirito. You know, Kirito, the guy who picks up every cute girl and gets involved in their business until they are smiling and happy even though he acts like he doesn’t want to get involved. Not to mention, he adopted a program as his and Asuna’s kid. So not being good with kids is a major flag going up that something was going on. I actually replayed the scene to see if I could figure it out and I was really pleased later in the episode when I realised I had pin-pointed what had made Kirito act weirdly. There’s a line that girls say that warns Kirito not all is as it seems and he appropriately takes action (admittedly, he does seem to figure out not just that something is up but just what nature of attack he’s about to face which seems a bit far-fetched, but hey, Kirito).
And that really highlighted something for me between Eugeo and Kirito. During the last episode, Eugeo was the one who ended the fight after Kirito acted as the diversion. Kirito’s role was the more risky one because he had to be able to defend against a full attack while Eugeo prepared, but Kirito managed. However, in all of this, Eugeo has been seen as a fairly solid swordsman in his own right.
This episode splits the two characters very solidly not on their talent with the sword but on their experience in actual battle. We’ve seen more than once a situation where Eugeo has become emotional in the midst of conflict and we see it again in this fight. We also see that Eugeo isn’t on guard against the two girls even though they are in enemy territory and they are fighting their way to the top. It is here that Kirito’s past, his knowledge and experience, allow him to shine. Even though once the fight begins in earnest, Eugeo plays a critical role, again it is Kirito leading the pace and direction of the battle.
The dynamic between the two characters and Eugeo’s changeable nature as he is new to this environment make for some of the more interesting moments that Alicization has brought to the franchise. Must admit, I really ended up enjoying this episode even with the sheer amount they tried to cram into it and as a result ended up doing a pretty ordinary job of.