Harsh Comparison Of Experience and Naive Ignorance in Battle

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 15 Review

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.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 15
Wait did you just casually mention kids exploding and this is all the time you are giving this idea?

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.

Sword Art online Alicization Episode 15 Eugeo, Zel and Nel

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.

Sword Art online Alicization Episode 15 Kirito Fighting

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.

Sword Art Online Episode 15 Alicization Kirito
I wonder if we’ll actually see this attack or if they are just faking us out?

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.

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Karandi James
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SWORD ART ONLINE: LOST SONG
SWORD ART ONLINE: LOST SONG

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Fire Meets Ice Before The Tower Climb

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Review

A new opening, new outfits, same old story. Kirito and Eugeo recover their swords ridiculously easily but immediately find themselves locked in combat. It’s an improvement from the exposition dumps but still not sure this hit the mark.

The ease with which Kirito and Eugeo get to the armoury and recover their unguarded swords is absurd particularly when they are confronted by a solitary knight immediately on trying to leave the armoury. Seriously, he couldn’t have attacked them before they were armed? And why send just one knight? We learn later there’s a whole bunch of knights waiting on the 50th floor so why not send a couple of them down to take care of the problem before it becomes a problem? And just because Kirito and Eugeo are told there are knights waiting on the 50th floor, why aren’t they at least looking at the other floors to see if there’s anything useful. If we’re not going to even pause on these floors why do they exist?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14
Two things: One, if you are right outside the door why didn’t you stop them getting their swords in the first place? Two, have you never heard of overkill? What is with all those arrows?

This whole set up is so frustrating!

And taking a breath.

Outside of incredibly brainless plot developments resulting in characters acting in idiotic ways, this episode was actually better than the last two (not hard mind you). Still, the fight between Kirito, Eugeo and the Knight was actually pretty well handled and injected some much needed excitement back into the show, and the following conversation didn’t feel too much like yet another exposition dump.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Kirito and Eugeo
I’m glad you two are impressed, now do you plan to actually fight that thing?

We also had a fairly solid character moment from Eugeo. Since he’s been freed from the Taboo Index he hasn’t really been faced with too many moral choices and now he’s confronted by the knight who took Alice away all those years before. While it wasn’t the most nuanced scene ever, seeing Eugeo weighing up his options and make a decision was a fairly interesting moment (though probably would have been more interesting if Eugeo hadn’t chosen the goody-goody route that Kirito follows). So much potential exploration if Eugeo unleashed decided to take the knights out.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Eugeo strikes
I think literally everyone will have this screen cap, but so what. It was a great Eugeo moment.

One final nit-pick though before I let this episode rest; how is it that every time Eugeo and Kirito change outfits they managed to find a pair of perfectly colour coordinated outfits? Here they just raided the armoury and changed clothes and yet Eugeo still has his bright blue and Kirito his standard charcoal. It would be nice, just once, if they through Kirito into red and Eugeo into green or something just to shake things up.

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Karandi James
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ACCEL WORLD VS. SWORD ART ONLINE
ACCEL WORLD VS. SWORD ART ONLINE

The Best Way To Beat A Dungeon

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Eugeo strikes

We’ve seen the set up a million times (usually in fantasy). The protagonist has fought their way to the bad guy’s lair only to find an elaborate dungeon, maze, puzzle, or tower between them and the bad guy (who is conveniently just sitting in one spot waiting for the hero to arrive). However, it turns out even writers can get sick of this set-up and so then go about finding ways to break their own device by giving the team a bypass or a way to simply not play the established game. The question is, does this actually make for an enjoyable story to watch?

I first really encountered this set-up from a children’s story I read with my mother when I was really young (no idea when I heard it the first time because it was one of those kids books with a cassette that you could read along to). Anyway, the story was based around the myth of the Minotaur in a Labyrinth in Crete where Theseus had to kill it but then he wouldn’t be able to get out of the maze (clearly he’d never learned just to keep left). Anyway, some girl fell in love with him for reasons that weren’t ever made clear and she gave him some string (what an incredibly innovative idea) and so he left a path to follow to escape.

Bell fights the Minotaur.
Okay, this one is Bell fighting a Minotaur in DanMachi, but still, cool.

Even as a kid I kind of wondered why there was a maze, who stuck the Minotaur in it and why didn’t it just sit at the doorway and eat everyone who entered, and why they didn’t just collapse the roof on its head to defeat it. Okay, even as a kid I was really cynical and liked things to make sense and there was just too much about the story that didn’t. Admittedly, I never questioned whether or not a Minotaur could exist as that was just part and parcel of a story having fantastic creatures in it. I still haven’t given up on my dream of owning a miniature dragon so if you ever come across one, let me know.

A little bit after this I came into contact with the movie Labyrinth and there’s a particular scene with Sarah that drove me absolutely crazy even as a child. She’s frustrated because she can’t find any corners or openings in the labyrinth, has a bit of a hissy fit and slides down a wall, where a worm talks to her and points out there’s an opening just across from her. At first she denies this then she attempts to walk through it. The worm directs her not to go the direction she is going and she just says ‘okay’ and walks the other way. Now, immediately after that the worm points out if she’d kept going the way she had been she’d have gone straight to the castle, which is where she wanted to go. Why she didn’t ask why she shouldn’t go that direction is a question that will never be answered.

Sarah talks with the Worm

Except, maybe it was.

Early last year I watched the anime Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody and the main character finds himself facing a tower with dangers all the way as he goes to rescue a kidnapped companion. After a limited amount of time dealing with the levels he finds a passageway that leads to a dryad who, in exchange for a kiss, more or less jumps him half-way up the tower.

Death March To The Parallel World Rhapsody Episode 8 Dryad

Which is more or less what would have happened with Sarah if she’d just gone the first path.

However, then what is left to do?

Satou in Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody more or less just walks through the tower with little challenge, has a few fights at the top and saves the day. And that is kind of exemplary of every quest Satou ends up on. He’s either too over powered for there to be a challenge, or he goes around the challenge in the first place. While it might seem like a clever idea what it made for was a fairly boring viewing experience.

Almost like replaying a game where you can use your character after they’ve already beaten the game. They are now so over powered early levels seem ridiculously easy and without challenge. Worse when you use a glitch in the game. Baldur’s Gate 2 had one particularly glitch you could take real advantage of. If you saved your character at the end with all their cool equipment and levels and spells, and then started a new game with that character, but paused the game before the first screen came up, went into your inventory, you could drop all your existing equipment, and start the game. Once the intro sequence was over you could just pick it all up and play on. Trust me when I point out it was pretty boring and about the only thing it was good for was a speed run because why would you bother opening a single box or crate in the first level?

And I’m pretty sure that glitch doesn’t work on the Steam version and I know my old CD versions of the game are no longer compatible with my system so I guess that one is done.

So, does that mean the best way to beat a dungeon is to actually beat the dungeon?

Sword Art Online - Aincrad

Yes and no. It really depends on the variety of things for the characters to face in the dungeon and whether they grow or learn from the experience. Will crossing through the dungeon cost them anything or will anyone get hurt? Will relationships be tested? Will equipment be lost or found? There’s a lot of good narrative reasons to make your characters fight their way through the dungeon.

And if you aren’t going to use any of them, then the question would be, why bother writing a dungeon, maze or tower into your story in the first place? Just have your villain meet the hero and call it a day.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13

But the reason this came up at this point in time is because of Sword Art Online Alicization. Now we know they like their towers in SAO. The Aincrad Arc is essentially a tower climb that gets interrupted early because the villain is exposed before they reach the top. However, episode 13 sets up a story where Kirito and Eugeo are going to have to get to the Administrator’s room and wouldn’t you know it, it’s at the top of the tower which is probably 100 floors up. I’m hoping they either bypass the levels or they find something worth fighting on their way up otherwise this is an incredibly pointless plot conceit. And why couldn’t the tower be fifty levels instead of 100?

Anyway, I’ll turn this over to you. What anime or story do you think used a dungeon-tower-maze the best? Who had the best way getting through a dungeon?

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Karandi James
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Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu. Pouch
Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu. Pouch

SAO Now Presents: The Information Dump To Defeat All

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13 Review

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

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13

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

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

Sword Art Online Episode 13 Kirito the collaborator

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

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13

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

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

Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Heroes in 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

Tuesday’s Top 5 and this week we are counting down the Top 5 hero characters from 2018. There’s a few criteria as normal and to prevent this from becoming a My Hero Academia list, only one character from each show could take a spot on the official list. So, who would you have included on your list?

So what makes a hero? All kinds of things but I’ll be honest, my list this week focuses very much on heroes who fight for their version of justice and as such it ended up being a fairly action heavy list. There’s some great heroes out there who have saved others emotionally and deserve a spot but unfortunately I need to narrow down the list somehow.

Also, apparently this is my first top 5 hero list and I don’t know why I didn’t do one for 2017, but I guess that means we’ll have to see how we go from here.

Honourable Mentions:

Honourable mentions this week go to Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura who is awesome, and tragically the only female I ended up short listing because the shows I watched this year were fairly short on female heroes I could really get behind. I had high expectations for Release the Spyce but to be honest none of the cast there have really stuck with me. The other honourable mention goes to Diablo from How Not To Summon A Demon Lord. Seriously awesome character but hard to argue that he’s a good hero when he’s working at portraying a demon lord persona for most of the series. That, and he really doesn’t fight for justice so much as protecting those he’s decided are his friends.

Number 5: David Lassic from Record of Grancrest War

David was a great character in Record of Grancrest War. One of the many mysteries of the anime was why he was so subservient to Theo for most of the run time given he was a great leader in his own right and incredible on the battlefield. Thinking back through the majority of the battles, he played a pivotal role in so many of them and Theo should be really thankful that David was on-board. Outside of that, he took down a cyclops that apparently took a troop of mages to take down in the past and he did it with about four people. And, it wasn’t blind luck. He actually decided to take on the monster, asked the right questions about how to beat it, put a plan together and then executed it with the hindrance of weird animation. Still, fairly epic moment for the show and for David.

Number 4: Sousuke from Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory

There’s a lot of nostalgia at play in this choice, I will admit. I loved Sousuke as a hero from before this year and while Invisible Victory ultimately left me wanting a bit more than it was willing to offer, what it did do beautifully was showcase why Sousuke is amazing. No weapons, no back-up, no real clue where the enemy is? Not a problem. Sousuke makes and executes plans to equip himself as needed and find those responsible for taking Chidori. In the meantime he’s going to look great doing it and if you thin a few bullet wounds are going to stop him in his tracks you really haven’t paid attention to this franchise.

Number 3: Kirito from Sword Art Online Alicization

Another choice that is probably heavily nostalgia fuelled given I’m not entirely sure I am sold just yet on the Kirito we are seeing in Alicization. Certainly he’s had his shining moments. Defending Asuna in real life was fairly noble, if stupid (try running away first before you take on a murderer with an umbrella) and the fight against the goblins was just fantastic. However, since Kirito hasn’t really got a target to take down just yet the actual heroic aspects of his character aren’t really shining through. Still, there’s been enough promising signs that I still gave him the number 3 spot on the list. Hopefully the rest of Alicization next year brings him back to number 1.

Number 2: Goblin Slayer from Goblin Slayer

This one shouldn’t be a surprise. You want a faceless hero who fights against an evil even though he won’t get any real credit for his contribution to the safety of the villagers? Goblin Slayer is your guy. He doesn’t fight for glory or fame or even wealth. He just wants to kill goblins and ensure that others aren’t hurt by goblins. He’s kind of a pure force of nature in his single minded approach to goblin slaying and while that probably doesn’t make him the most mentally healthy character, it certainly makes him a strong hero.

Number 1: All Might from My Hero Academia Season 3

However, the number 1 place on this list was more or less determined months ago. Was any character going to have a moment as heroic or as epic as All Might giving the last of his power to hold back All For One while the students rescued Bakugou and the other heroes kept civilian casualties down. Even as his power broke and his weakness was exposed for all the world to see, All Might didn’t falter. He looked clearly at the camera and passed the torch to Midoriya who he has now dedicated himself to preparing for the future. All Might has worked to define what being a hero is and even without his quirk he’s working to prepare the next generation. All Might really is Plus Ultra!

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Why More Time Isn’t Helping This Story

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Review

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

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

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito and Eugeo

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

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

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito

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

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

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

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Knight

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

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

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

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

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SWORD ART ONLINE: LOST SONG
SWORD ART ONLINE: LOST SONG

Discover the Noble Spirit Hidden Inside a Would-Be Swordsman

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 9 Review

This week Kirito takes a back seat, and more or less puts his feet up, sips tea, eats sandwiches, and offers some advice that I’m feeling walks dangerously close to encouraging Eugeo and the two pages to start looking at ways to work around the Taboo Index. However, despite the protagonist of the story choosing to take a back seat, Eugeo as the apparent deuteragonist steps up and its really nice to see his character start to get fleshed out a bit more than guy-standing-beside-Kirito.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 9 Eugeo

Eugeo is very much a nice character and someone who really wants to do what is right, which under normal conditions would just make him standard protagonist or best friend fodder that would be swiftly forgotten. Where he becomes more interesting is because of the context we are in. Inside the game the Taboo Index controls these characters and we’ve already seen that in action when Eugeo stood and watched Alice getting taken away unable to act despite his own desire. This creates sufficient conflict to make even the nice-guy character really quite interesting because seeing Eugeo coming to terms with what he believes to be right vs what the law says is right and trying to find a path that ultimately he is okay with walking gives plenty of scope for exploration.

Or brooding, though so far we haven’t had a lot of that.

Where we also get tension in this story comes from the fact that Eugeo is very much working toward a goal and so far that has given him a new calling, taken him from his village, and now he’s standing side to side with nobles, who very much look down on him. Over the past few episodes we’ve seen that delicate balance and strain with both Kirito and Eugeo of showing respect to characters of higher social station, but not allowing themselves to get trampled underfoot by those who outside of their title just really don’t have much to recommend them by way of character.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 9 Eugeo accepts

This comes very much to the forefront at the beginning of this episode where Eugeo, taking some of Kirito’s advice and attempting to grow, accepts a challenge thrown his way and ends up fighting one of the bullies in a duel that ends in a draw. The bully, rather than targeting Eugeo directly, chooses to instead humiliate his page, who just happens to be room-mates with Eugeo’s page. It’s a round-a-bout attempt at revenge, it is juvenile, and a little pathetic, but it also stays within the limits of the rules and laws.

While the sword action remained strictly low key and at the beginning of this episode, the fight for moral high ground, for doing the right thing, and just for decency, ran throughout this episode and seeing the characters outside of Kirito respond and deal with the crisis, limited as they are by the rules and laws of the world, was interesting. It makes you wonder how far they can go without triggering the Taboo Index and it also makes you wonder what’s really at the heart of all of these rules.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 9 Picnic

SAO continues to be an entertaining affair and brings many questions to the table that you can contemplate about the real world or not. Either way, I’m curious to see where they go with this particular incident and just how Eugeo ends up reconciling things.

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Karandi James
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