SAO: Alicization Episode 1

SAO: Alicization Episode 1

Introduction

I don’t try to hide the fact that I’m not a Sword Art Online fan, but when an anime adaptation of the next part of the series was announced, there was no question as to whether or not I’d be watching it. At this point, like it or hate it, SAO has become an important part of anime culture.

Now, just because I don’t like SAO doesn’t mean I hate it either. I don’t think it’s good, but I enjoyed it (for the most part) the very first time I watched it. Since then, as I’ve had time to think about it and add a lot more anime to my repertoire, I’ve come to see SAO as mediocre at best.

But, despite what you might think, I’m not here to tear down this new season of SAO simply out of spite. Since this is a four-cour season (that means it will run for an entire year), these weekly posts may eventually devolve to that, but for now I actually plan to attempt to enjoy this season for what it is.

It should come as no surprise by now that Reki Kawahara, the author of SAO, isn’t considered to be a very good writer by many. That said, those who have stuck through the series’ light novels swear that this arc, Alicization, is his best work to date.

Other than that, I’m going into this season with no knowledge of what’s to come, and all I can say is that I hope Alicization is as good as all the light novel readers claim it is, otherwise this is going to be a very long year.

Underworld Part 1

The first episode was double-length and was really more like two episodes glued together than one long episode. The first part of the episode has almost nothing to do with the rest of the series up to this point, other than the fact that Kirito is the protagonist.

However, instead of being roughly 20 now, Kirito appears to be around the age of 11.

He lives in a small village with his two friends, Eugeo and Alice. Along with Eugeo, Kirito’s job is to cut down a tree known as the Giga Cedar. It’s unknown what the purpose of cutting down the Giga Cedar is, but what is known is that it won’t happen within Kirito’s lifetime.

Generations of Giga Cedar cutters have been working to chop down the tree, and it’s estimated that many generations more will work on the tree before it eventually topples. But, this is SAO, so Kirito will probably just believe in himself harder and chop it down in one hit later on in the season.

Alice, on the other hand, is the daughter of the village elder and appears to be in a higher social class than the two boys since she actually attends classes instead of doing manual labor all day. Despite this, the three of them are close friends, much like the Attack on Titan trio.

Eugeo, Alice, and Kirito from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
Eugeo, Alice, and Kirito

I won’t say that Alice is anything like Mikasa from AoT, but Kirito and Eugeo gave off some serious Eren and Armin vibes. We already know from the previous seasons that Kirito is loud and stubborn just like Eren, and just from this first episode we saw that Eugeo was a weak loser, just like Armin.

I’m hoping that in the future Eugeo becomes a competent character, and the OP seems to confirm this. Despite this being SAO, I’m expecting good things to come from Kirito and Eugeo’s bromance. Maybe they’ll even become the next Naruto and Sasuke, though I doubt it.

So other than Kirito and Eugeo failing to chop down the Giga Cedar, what else happens in this first part of the episode? Alice brings the boys some lunch after her classes, and the trio contemplate why hot food spoils faster than cold food. Riveting, I know.

This conversation reminds them of a legend about a knight who went to steal a sword from a dragon in a cave, only to fail. This story isn’t important in any way yet, but it likely will be in the future. For now, the important thing is that the legend mentions that the cave was full of icicles.

Because they’re kids in an anime, they decide that going to this cave that’s supposedly home to a dragon simply in order to gather ice to keep their food fresh for longer is a good idea. Surprisingly, however, it was a much easier journey than I expected, and they find the ice without a problem.

However, inside the cave they also find the skeleton of the dragon from the myth, along with a pile of treasure which included the sacred sword the knight had tried to steal. Again, this isn’t important for the time being, but will likely become very important later on, unless Reki Kawahara forgets to tie it back in.

When they attempt to leave the cave, they get lost and end up exiting on the opposite side of the mountain range. While getting lost so far from home is an issue in itself, the villagers are forbidden from crossing the mountains.

Conveniently enough, there’s a line on the ground which marks the point which the children are forbidden to cross, and so they’re safe for now. From the safety of the cave, they watch two knights fighting on dragons, and when one of them is defeated, he looks towards the children.

Alice, for whatever reason, is drawn to the dying knight and accidentally trips. When she falls, her fingertips cross the line and a portal opens up with a face that says something about reporting the incident. The three children then hurry home, hoping that nobody will know what happened.

The next day, the knight who won the battle shows up in the village and orders Alice to be given to him for her crime of crossing the mountains. He says that the punishment for her crime is death, and none of the villagers other than Kirito even try to argue for Alice’s sake.

Alice is taken away by the knight, and this is where the first part of the episode ends.

Underworld Part 2

In the second part of the episode we learn that the entire first part took place within a new virtual reality game which Kirito was play-testing as part of his new job. The fact that play-testing games is Kirito’s full-time job is just another way in which SAO panders to its target audience.

From here, the whole SAO gang gets back together, because what brings people together more than shared traumatic events? That’s right, Asuna and Klein are back from part one, that weird girl who had a dragon as a pet is back from part two, and even Sinon from SAO II is back. Oh, and one other girl who I think is Kirito’s cousin, but I’m not quite sure.

If Ordinal Scale was a sequel to season one, then Alicization appears to be a sequel to season two. Sinon has the rest of the gang help her try to defeat a professional GGO team, and while they don’t end up winning, they don’t end up losing either.

It’s then revealed that one of the main antagonists from SAO II is still on the run and will likely be a major antagonist in this season as well. I thought SAO II’s arc wrapped up, but I don’t really remember how it ended, so I’ll just go along with it.

Oh, Asuna uses a light saber in GGO too now. Hers is red though, so I guess she’s roleplaying as a Sith lord while Kirito is roleplaying as Mace Windu.

Towards the end of the episode Kirito decides that he’s going to move to the US because that’s where the best virtual reality technology is located. When he asks Asuna to join him, of course she agrees, but I have my doubts that they’ll actually get there.

More than likely, just before they’re about to leave, some big event takes place and forces them to stay in Japan so that they can either save their friends or get to the bottom of some mystery. If something were to go wrong with the technology Kirito is play-testing, there’s no way he could leave the country.

It really amazes me how drawn to virtual reality games Kirito is, considering that his or Asuna’s life was in danger in literally every single one he’s played. In SAO he was fighting for his life, in ALO he was fighting for Asuna’s life, in GGO he was fighting for his life again, and in OS he was again fighting for Asuna’s life.

I’m sure a lot of other things happened in this second half of the episode, but it was so uneventful that I don’t really remember what they were, and it’s only been a couple of days since I watched it.

Conclusion

Before ending, can I just point out how stupid the subtitle “Alicization” is? You can’t just take the name of a character and turn it into a non-proper noun like that. Does this mean that someone can be Alicized as well? Is Alice a verb now too?

If you enjoyed this post or are looking forward to future posts about Sword Art Online: Alicization, then let me know by clicking the like button below this post. While you’re down there you can also leave a comment to let me know your thoughts on the first episode of this season.

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My review of the next episode is available here.

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