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In This for the Long Haul

Sword Art Online: Alicization, Episode 2 Review/Recap

When I said that I would be doing every single episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization last week, I meant it. Someone who saw my post on LinkedIn said that I was a mad man for doing something like this. Well, maybe I am crazy. But some of the most important people in history did things that were crazy, so I see no reason why I can’t. Now: Link, START!

I never talked about this in my first post, and I regret that. One major yet potentially overlooked quality to a good anime is the opening song. Often sung by J-Pop idols or bands, the opening song’s job is to get people ready for what’s to come. Some of the greatest anime of all time can even be associated with an iconic opening song. For Dragon Ball, it’s “Cha-La-Head-Cha-La”. One Piece, it’s probably “We Are”. For Sword Art Online, it’s “Crossing Field”. That said, I think the new opening, “Adamas” by LiSA is my second place.

Recap

After the horrific events of the first episode, Kirito wakes up in a field in a forest with no memory of how he got there or even where he is. His memory of what Johnny Black to him will take some time to come back, but he’s quick to realize that he’s now in Underworld.

He also realizes that unlike the last time, he remembers everything about the real world. After some walking around, he then comes across the Gigas Cedar shown in episode 1, and a certain young man continuing to chop away at it, Eugeo

Over the course of the episode, certain key plot points are gradually revealed.

  • First: despite having met during Kirito’s first dive into Underworld, Kirito has no memory of Eugeo. Likewise, Eugeo has no memory of Kirito.
  • Second: Despite this, Eugeo remembers what happened to Alice and how she was unjustly taken by the Integrity Knight. Which means all that happened.
  • Kirito has the vague feeling that he’s heard Alice’s name before.

After confirming that Eugeo’s not an NPC, Kirito keeps the fact that he’s from the outside world a secret. He goes along with Eugeo’s idea that he’s an amnesiac with no idea where he is, and takes Eugeo up on his offer to come back with him to Rulid Village.

There, they run into the village bully and chief guard, Jink.

Kirito takes an immediate dislike to Jink and his snobbish attitude (and so do I). So he decides to tell the two that he’s a swordsman, and demonstrates his skill.

This leads Kirito to discover the one advantage he has over everyone else in Underworld: he has all his skills from the VRMMO’s he’s played over the years. So cool.

Thanks to Eugeo, Kirito gets set up to stay at the local church, and as the sun sets, he decides that he needs to learn more about Underworld, how he got there, and how to get home, bringing his first day in Underworld to a close.

Review

Let me make something clear: from the moment I saw this episode, I had a realization about this season. This is going to be one of those seasons that’s a slow burn. That is, not as much action’s going to happen in the episodes as some would like, thus leading to problems with the pacing.

I would like to point out, though, that this is adapting the longest arc in Sword Art Online‘s history. It runs a total of nine volumes, and it’s gonna be broken up into 50 episodes. That’s about the number of episodes as the first two seasons combined. So, we should be in this for the long haul. I know I am!

Despite the slow pace of this episode, I ended up liking it, but not for the reasons you may think. I have played a lot of RPG’s and JRPG’s in my time, and I felt the opening to this was similar to a classic setup found in some of them: a mysterious young person wakes up in the middle of nowhere, has no idea who they are aside from their name, and discovers they inexplicably have skills that set them apart from everyone else.

It’s slightly subverted, though, as Kirito remembers who he is, but has no clue why he’s back in Underworld. Since he can’t find a way to leave, he decides to just roll with it and see what happens. He’s going to have to do a lot of that this season.

If I had to best describe it, I’d say this episode is like the prologue to a JRPG, meant to serve as exposition and ending at the point where the player would save their game for the first time. It’s a weird analogy but roll with it. I’m looking forward to seeing where this will go next week.

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