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Sword Art Online: Alicization, Episode 1 Review/Recap

Their greatest adventure is about to begin.

As I established last blog, I like Sword Art Online. If you don’t agree with me, you’re welcome to say so. Free Speech is a two-way street. That said, I am moving forward with my plan to review each and every episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization as the dub becomes available. I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum for those who haven’t watched it. Also, I know the entire plot from the light novels, so I may know things that the anime-only fans may not.

Part 1 Recap

The first half of the one-hour premiere starts off with a younger looking Kirito inexplicably in a medieval fantasy world, Underworld, with not mention how he got there or the outside world. He spends his days hanging out with his two best friends in this world, Eugeo and Alice. One day after they finish working, they decide to go on an adventure that ends up taking them close to the edge of Human Territory, and Alice accidentally, barely, touches the soil of the Dark Territory, where humans are forbidden to go.

This is the kind of rule that I hate with every fiber of my being

The next day, one of the holy knights, called Integrity Knight, comes and tells their village that since she broke the rule, she is to be arrested and then probably executed. For breaking a dumb rule. Kirito tries to stop the knight from taking Alice away, but no one else helps him.

Okay, confession time: I didn’t watch this through because A.) I knew what happened beforehand, and B.) the whole angers me beyond belief. Sounds dumb, I know, but I want to explain.

The “no touching Dark Territory” rule is part of a larger set of rules called the Taboo Index that everyone has to follow. Not because they want to or choose to, but because they have literally no other choice. If they even think of defying the Taboo Index, their eye will turn red, and the Taboo Index will try to stop them from breaking the rules. Like with Eugeo:

Look at him. He’s got that “deer in headlights” thing going on, and he can’t do anything about it even if he knows its wrong. Anyone who breaks the Index anyway will meet Alice’s fate.

Maybe it’s from years of reading up on history or watching too many films about fighting against oppressive groups, but the Taboo Index is a concept that I hate with every fiber of my being. It’s basically saying “follow these rules, or die”. Do you know how many people were unfairly treated throughout history because of that mindset? Too many to count! Thus, it offends me on every level possible.

Okay, rant over. Back to the show. Kirito then wakes up in a machine somewhere in a cold sweat, with no memory of what has happened. Which leads us into Part 2

Part 2

This is more like it.

The setting shifts to GGO, where Kirito and his friends are fighting against a mysterious group of players that have been appearing recently and only seek to hunt other players. They get their butts kicked by the group, so the mystery guys retreat at their orders of their commander, who says this is “practice” for some big mission they have coming up.

Like I said before, I know the Light Novels so I know what happens, and who these guys are. Not telling, though, since that would ruin the fun. I will say this, though: this was a nice way for them to make an early-bird cameo. Good job, animation people.

At the Dicey Cafe, Sinon, Kirito, and Asuna hang out and they agree to enter the next BoB tournament. Kirito also explains how he’s working for this company called RATH, and how what we saw in Part 1 was part of his work. He was diving into a new virtual world, the most advanced ever created, to help them develop their new tech. It’s all about learning about the secrets behind the human soul; it’ll make more sense as time goes on.

Kirito and Asuna walk home and start talking about their future plans. Kirito has decided to go to America see the advances in immersion technology, and Asuna decides she’ll go with him. Her exact words were “it doesn’t matter you (Kirito) go. As long as it’s with you, then I’ll be okay”.

This is why I like Kirito and Asuna so much as a couple, despite the flaws in the show at times. Their relationship is built on years of mutual trust and respect in each other; they’re partners and equals, both in-game and in real life. That’s the kind of relationship I’d want to have with people, especially someone I love.

They’re a great couple. Bite me.

Their romantic moment is ruined, though, when an old enemy from SAO/GGO shows up: Johnny Black, the last member of the murder guild, Laughing Coffin. He’s been on the run ever since the “Death Gun” Incident, but now he’s back for revenge against Kirito.

What a creep.

Before Kirito can do anything or Asuna can help, Black injects him with the drug Death Gun used to stop people’s hearts! The final scene of the episode is of Kirito lying on the ground as the drug begins to take affect.

Review

This is going to be the biggest arc in the franchise’s history. That’s not just because it’s important, either: at 9 light novels, it’s the longest arc in the series. Ergo, they had to start it off with a bang. For all intents and purposes, they managed to do that. The hour-long special manages to set up the premise and plot of the season fairly well and even throws in some foreshadowing for fans who know what to look for.

That said, I think the pacing could have gone better, especially in the first half. That’s one of the reasons why I blew through it: it was going too slow for me, and since I have made my hatred for the rules of the Underworld clear, I didn’t want to linger. I’m weird like that.

What I did like, though, was getting to hear all the voice actors again. I have made it no secret that I think Bryce Papenbrook and Cherami Leigh do a great job as the leads. It’s why I chose to wait to watch this season even though the subs are close to the halfway point of the arc. I wanted to hear their voices.

If this is any indication, then Sword Art Online: Alicization is going to meet my expectations, and I have some high expectations. I want to see the show improve on the source material and give fans the epic they deserve. The second half of the arc is going to be on a scale that you would see in Game of Thrones or Hollywood, so I want it to be good.

I give the first episode a 4 out of 5 stars.

Pros

  • Good voice acting
  • Nice animation
  • Nice foreshadowing of future plot points
  • The new opening song is the best since the original

Cons

  • Pacing’s a little off
  • I hate the Taboo Index and everything about it

Side Observations

  • Did anyone else think the app Asuna has to monitor Kirito’s health was a little creepy? Like Yandere creepy?
  • There are references to “Alice in Wonderland” than I thought.
  • Did you guys catch the remix of “Swordland” when Kirito and Asuna were fighting the PKers? That was awesome!

Check back next week for my review of episode 2!

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