Anime Characters Should Not Review Their Own Episode

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

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
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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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Karandi James
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SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW REALIZATION [DELUXE EDITION]
SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW REALIZATION [DELUXE EDITION]

The Promise of Later

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There’s a definite trend for anime that start slowly or have a lull in the mid-section to be defended by staunch lovers of the source material using the phrase ‘it gets better’. Usually with a ‘trust me’ thrown in there as well. And often times that is actually quite correct in that the story does find its feet and pick itself up. However, does that actually make the story any better in the first place if the only way to defend it in the early days is to argue that something better is coming?

I guess we could point out that viewers these days are fairly impatient beings and with so many anime available to them each season it is easy enough to simply not want to play a waiting game. Why wait for one title to ‘get better’ when another title simply is ‘better’?

Endro Episode 8

Now, I know I am an impatient person. Given I’ve suggested things like skipping the first 100 pages when To Kill a Mockingbird as you won’t appreciably miss any of the plot by doing so, though you will lose a lot of character and world building. I guess it depends why you are reading the story in the first place and whether you really get immersed in all that set up or just keep turning pages to see when the ‘plot’ might appear. But yes, that book tried my patience to no end and even though the trial and the message in the second half of the book are actually pretty solid, I really felt like I wanted the time spent reading the opening act back.

However, I’m perfectly happy to wait a reasonable length into a series with an interesting premise for it to find its feet even if the opening act isn’t exactly blowing me away. Of course, that results in me watching quite a number of anime that just never find their feet and end as boringly as they started, or worse, they go in weird directions and just kind of implode. Caligula would probably fit into this category. I didn’t drop it even though there were plenty of poor episodes early on and plenty of warning that it was going to be a mess. However, I wanted to give it time to find its way and finish its set up. Too bad it never got any better.

Caligula Episode 11

Yet there comes a time during a season where you have to wonder if the time being sunk into watching is actually going to be worth a later payoff. In the case of Sakurada Reset, it turns out it really was. Now, I still don’t fully recommend Sakurada Reset to any but the most avid anime fan given there’s a lot of set-up time and I very nearly walked away from the anime mid-season. But…

See, there’s that ‘but’.

It gets better.

The ending of Sakurada Reset was one of the most satisfying narrative conclusions I’ve seen in anime and while it isn’t the best, by any means, I felt that all of the set up time, the weird stilted dialogue, the seemingly disjointed stories, and the general frustration felt while watching individual episodes of the story, were worth it for that ending. Everything came together in a way that so few shows manage and it just felt like reaching the summit of a mountain and getting the most gorgeous view imaginable.

Still, if someone else were to watch the first few episodes and tell me they dropped it, I would fully understand. I would try to argue that they should be more patient and give it more time because it is quite the slog to get through and I remember how tiresome some of those mid-season episodes were.

Run With The Wind Episode 4

There’s also Run With The Wind, that has built up to a second half that is truly unmissable. Yet would I blame anyone from walking away in the first half? When I hated one character entirely for a large chunk of the first cour, didn’t really connect with a lot of the others, and found the training sequences less than compelling and it was really only direction, visuals and sound design that really kept me hooked (and Prince as he has some of the coolest lines imaginable). I really can’t say that everyone is going to think that the ending is worth it (particularly as we aren’t yet at the end). What I will say is I am super glad I kept watching because wow that has been one of the best emotional payoffs in a long time from anime.

Run With The Wind Episode 7 Prince

But I’ll turn my attention to Sword Art Online Alicization. I was really looking forward to more SAO, and not a spin-off without Kirito, but genuine SAO. Alicization as an arc has been talked up by those who have read the source so much so even though I tried to go in with reasonable expectations, there was this sense that what was coming should be amazing.

First few episodes had their moments. They got me into the story and established characters. There were sufficient cool and nostalgic moments sprinkled in. Yep, this was SAO and I like SAO and Kirito was back doing his thing. It wasn’t like Aincrad which hooked me from episode one and dragged me into a story that I ended up loving, but it was certainly a promising beginning.

Sword Art Online Alicization - Episode 2 - Kirito

Then we just kind of meandered along. Stuff has happened to be sure but if the recap episode after episode 18 was anything to go by, not enough to justify 18 episodes worth of viewing. And as more and more chinks in the poorly paced and exposition heavy narrative become completely impossible to ignore, the defence that is being mounted is ‘it gets better’.

How much better and will it be worth the time commitment? Well only time and personal judgement will answer that.

Will I drop Sword Art Online Alicization? Probably not. I like Sword Art Online and much like Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card, nostalgia will get this show a lot of life-lines and keep me watching and hoping.

But if I was asked whether or not someone should start Alicization, would I actually recommend it?

Right now the answer is absolutely not, unless you happen to be a huge fan of SAO and just want more. There are significantly better written and better executed shows airing right now and while Sword Art Online Alicization remains a watchable experience there is very little I could point to that would be something I could recommend to anyone who isn’t a Kirito fan already.

The argument ‘it gets better’ just seems a little hollow here.

Ultimately, each viewer is going to make their own decision about how much time they are willing to give something. Whether they will stick with something for the long haul or whether they will cut their losses early. Each viewer will decide whether the promise of something better later is worth what they are watching right now. But I am interested to know from my readers how you feel about the ‘it gets better’ defence and whether you feel it has merit as a means of recommending someone continues to watch something or whether you are someone who drops things fast when they don’t deliver.

Leave us a comment below and lets get the conversation started.

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Karandi James
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MY HERO ACADEMIA PLUSH: JIRO
MY HERO ACADEMIA PLUSH: JIRO

The Friend Turned Foe

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 20 Review

Kirito and Alice are finally back inside the tower after far too many episodes hanging off the edge. Amazingly enough they didn’t even make us watch the final stretch we got to actually just be at the top with Alice realising that Kirito had carried her the rest of the way. But, no time to rest because they need to track down Eugeo.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 20

Through a bit of magic they track down the sword and find the leader of the knights but no Eugeo. I think the bit with the knight turning into stone was meant to be emotional but honestly we barely knew the guy and he didn’t leave much impact other than yet another obstacle so this was mostly just an on the way to the actual final act.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 20
Also we clearly have time for another flash back in here.

They then go to the senate and act all shocked by the horror of how people are treated by the administrator, bit late now really to be worried about that. Then Alice and Kirito find the clown guy, they all babble a bit, the clown explodes, only doesn’t, and runs away leading them to… Well, we found Eugeo.

Sword Art online Alicization Episode 20

I’m just going to point out, I really like Eugeo’s new look. It is definitely working for him. Now, do I think he has a chance of beating Kirito in this fight? Not really. Do I really get why Eugeo wants to fight Kirito other than generic brainwashing motivation? Nope. And why isn’t Alice getting involved if they really want to stop the Administrator because surely it would make more sense to dump Eugeo on his backside and go actually do the thing they need to do and then deal with it later, but hey, I’m pretty sure we’ve all wanted to see a serious Eugeo vs Kirito moment so logic be gone because we’re getting that fight. Also a tease about Kirito dual wielding again before that got snatched away from us.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 20

Honestly, this episode progresses things along. I’m not really sold on Alicization and how this story is rolling out or its pacing, but this episode was fairly competent and had enough interesting moments in it. Plus, did I mention they set up a fight between Eugeo and Kirito? That on its own might be worth the price of admission (watching twenty episodes to get here) if they don’t exposition us to death mid-fight, have some silly interruption before they get serious, or unless Kirito just beats Eugeo down in one swing. In which case it would all be a fairly pointless build up to nothing.

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SWORD ART ONLINE 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: ZEKKEN YUUKI MOTHER’S ROSARIO VER.
SWORD ART ONLINE 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: ZEKKEN YUUKI MOTHER'S ROSARIO VER.

The Story of Brainwashing and Exploding Eye-Balls

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

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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SWORD ART ONLINE 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: ASUNA HAREGI VER.
	SWORD ART ONLINE 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: ASUNA HAREGI VER.

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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Karandi James
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SWORD ART ONLINE THE MOVIE ORDINAL SCALE 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: YUNA
	SWORD ART ONLINE THE MOVIE ORDINAL SCALE 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: YUNA

A Frosty Reception After A Clash of Ideologies

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Review

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.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Eugeo

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.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Describing Kirito's Sword Style

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.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Eugeo Ice

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.

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Karandi James
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DESKTOP ARMY SWORD ART ONLINE (SET OF 3 PIECES)
DESKTOP ARMY SWORD ART ONLINE (SET OF 3 PIECES)