Tag: Sword Art Online

SAO: Alicization Episode 10

SAO: Alicization Episode 10

Taboo Index

This week we actually got a good episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization, which is surprising, I know. However, there still some issues I had with the episode, and there’s a lot I want to discuss about it. So, this week there won’t be a summary of the episode, but instead a full-length discussion.

The main two topics of discussion for today are dark themes such as sexual assault and violence, and the artificial intelligence found within the Underworld program.

Goblin Slayer, Is That You?

Remember that time Goblin Slayer got thrown under the bus by the vocal minority after it was revealed to include scenes of rape? Well guess what series is able to do the same thing without any similar repercussions? If you guessed SAO, then you get a point.

This isn’t the first time SAO has included sexual violence such as rape, and it’s unlikely to be the last. The key difference here is that SAO fans don’t seem to see it as rape when it’s in this series, but when it’s in another, such as Goblin Slayer, suddenly it’s abhorrent.

But do you know what the real difference between rape in Goblin Slayer and SAO is? In Goblin Slayer it’s a major part of the world building and background for many of the characters while in SAO it serves to make the protagonist of the story seem like a hero.

These are two very different ways to use explicit content such as sexual violence, and it’s a shame to see that people think Goblin Slayer adds this content in for shock value while SAO doesn’t. In fact, neither series includes rape for shock value, although Goblin Slayer uses it in a way which could be misinterpreted as such.

So, let’s take a look at how these two series use this same taboo content in different ways.

As I mentioned, Goblin Slayer uses sexual violence as a part of its world building and character backgrounds. This means that it’s not merely there for shock value, but actually serves an important role for both the plot and characters. The series isn’t about sexual violence, it’s about the lasting damage done by it and the long road to recovery for survivors.

On the other hand, SAO uses sexual violence in a much simpler way, which is easily understood and therefore digestible for the casual viewer. The sexual assault in SAO doesn’t have to do with the plot, or even the motivations for certain characters, instead the only reason it’s there is to distinguish the “good guys” from the “bad guys.”

Goblin Slayer does this as well to an extent, but that’s more of a lesser way it uses these themes.

In this episode of SAO: Alicization specifically, we see that Raios and Humbert are the bad guys because they’re engaging in sexual assault (as if we didn’t already know they were the bad guys), and our heroes, Eugeo and Kirito, are the good guys because they see that rape is wrong.

The problem here is that we already know who the good and bad guys are, so since that’s really all this rape scene tells us, it’s simply not necessary. However, what I believe to be a bigger issue is that this sends mixed messages about views on rape.

On one hand, if the heroes are against rape, then rape must be bad. But, on the other hand, if the majority of people don’t see rape as a crime, then rape must be okay. I’m sure Reki Kawahara meant for the former interpretation to be used, but the way he writes these kinds of scenes is a bit messy.

Again, if we compare this to Goblin Slayer, we see that Goblin Slayer isn’t trying to make a point about whether or not rape is bad. Goblin Slayer already assumes we know rape is bad. Instead, it shows us the damage sexual violence causes to victims, and that’s a much better way to handle these sorts of topics.

Viewer Discretion Is Advised

Now, some of you may be thinking, “the reason there was such an outcry over Goblin Slayer is because it didn’t have an explicit content warning at the beginning, while SAO did.” And you know what? You’re right, it didn’t, although it does now.

But, the fact that this episode of SAO did have an explicit content warning is likely only due to the outcry Goblin Slayer received for not having one. If Goblin Slayer had aired next season instead of this season, it’s unlikely that this episode of SAO would have had that warning.

But, there are a few other things to take into consideration regarding explicit content and this episode of SAO. The first is that the warning at the beginning of the episode was only in regards to the sexual violence, not the physical violence, despite how graphic it was.

I’ve also seen complaints about the physical violence in the episode being censored, but I don’t believe this is the doing of any Western streaming service such as Crunchyroll. From what I saw, the only parts that were really censored were the bleeding stubs left after arms were cut off, and even these were barely censored.

As far as I can tell, this censoring was present in the original Japanese broadcast as well, and was likely because it would otherwise have been too graphic to show on TV. That said, if you’re looking for a completely uncensored version, you’ll have to wait until the Blu-ray release, and even that may be censored in the same way.

Finally, should series like SAO and Goblin Slayer even need explicit content warnings in the first place? The series air at 12am and 12:30am respectively in Japan, which are timeslots generally reserved for more adult content, so isn’t that enough of a warning for potential viewers?

Goblin Slayer is rated R-17+, so that should be enough of a warning on its own (although when the series premiered it was mistakenly labeled as PG-13). As for SAO, it’s actually rated PG-13, and so I do believe a warning like this should be included when necessary.

Artificial Intelligence

And, now, onto a different topic: artificial intelligence in SAO: Alicization. Specifically, what we learn about artificial intelligence in this week’s episode. The three main subtopics in this section will be Eugeo, the Taboo Index, and death.

Last week I discussed the social hierarchy found within the Underworld civilization and suggested that if a higher-ranked person were to tell a lower-ranked person something, they would have no choice but to take it as truth. In this episode we see this play out to one extreme with Raios and Eugeo.

Raios is a third-rank noble, and Eugeo is a commoner, so when Raios ordered Eugeo not to take another step and interfere with his “dealing out punishment” to the two girls, Eugeo had no choice but to obey, literally. Due to being commanded not to take another step, Eugeo found himself unable to move his legs.

However, we then see the effects of Kirito’s influence on Eugeo when he’s able to overcome and break free from this absolute order. When this happens, we see that Eugeo’s eye begins to act up just as it did at the beginning of the series. This seems to be some kind of seal which is what’s stopping the AI from breaking the taboo index willingly.

But, break the Taboo Index he does, and this seal along with it. Eugeo’s eye bursts and he’s suddenly free from the invisible shackles holding his body in place. Later on in the episode, Kirito and Eugeo’s teacher also mentions that Eugeo was able to shake off a bond she was unable to.

So is this seal inside an eye of all the AI? And if so, is this seal what forces them to follow the teachings of the Taboo Index absolutely?

The Taboo Index from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
The Taboo Index

Speaking of the Taboo Index, when it appears we learn something interesting about how it works, or at least potentially works. Before the being which appears in front of Kirito, Eugeo, and their disciples begins to speak, Kirito and Eugeo cover the ears of Ronie and Tiese so they won’t hear it.

I’m not sure exactly why whether someone hears the voice of the Taboo index or not would matter, but Kirito and Eugeo clearly seem to believe it does. Does this mean it works in the same way that verbal commands from nobles to commoners do? If you don’t hear the command or the Taboo Index, does that mean it doesn’t exist?

Finally, what summoned the Taboo Index this time around? It didn’t appear when Eugeo cut off Humbert’s arm, and it didn’t appear when Kirito cut off both of Raios’ arms. Instead, it only appeared after Raios died from blood loss. So does that mean it saw everything prior to that as legal?

Or, was it simply “called” to that location upon the death of Raios? We saw that when he died, it appeared as if he was glitching out. Could this be the reason the Taboo Index was summoned? Perhaps there was something else wrong with Raios’ death other than the fact that he was murdered.

Also, I’d just like to point out that for someone who has dedicated his life to preventing another tragedy in which people get stuck in a game and then die in real life when they’re killed, Kirito is surprisingly okay with killing other people within such a game. He doesn’t even seem to consider that Raios was actually another person.


So what are your thoughts on this week’s episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization? Do you think it deserves the same outrage Goblin Slayer got for depicting sexual violence? Do you think series like this need an explicit content warning? And, what are your thoughts on the Taboo Index? Let me know in the comments.

If you enjoyed this discussion or found it helpful in any way, click the like button ❤ down below to let me know. Also be sure to follow me on Twitter @DoubleSama so you don’t miss out on upcoming content, and come join the Discord server to discuss anime with other community members.

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My review of the next episode is available here.

SAO: Alicization Episode 9

SAO: Alicization Episode 9

Nobleman’s Responsibilities

Not much actually happened in this week’s episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization, and yet we were given a lot of information. So, I hope you’re ready for another episode of “DoubleSama unnecessarily breaks down the social structure of an anime civilization.”

But, before I actually get into the ins, outs, and theories of the Central City social structure, I think we first need to take a look at how Kirito has begun to affect those around him. Remember, the reason he’s in the Underworld to begin with is to influence and corrupt AI so that they learn to break rules.

It was previously stated that his influence on Alice is what caused her to go against the Taboo Index, but as I’ve already explained in a previous episode review, there’s no proof of this. As far as we saw, Kirito had no influence on Alice’s choices, and her crossing into the forbidden territory was an accident.

However, we’re now seeing some instances in which Kirito actually is having an influence on AI and potentially corrupting them in the way which the Underworld creators want.

Kirito goes on a rant about how sometimes there are unwritten rules which must be followed, and other times there are written rules which must be broken. To the people of the Underworld, this should sound like heresy against the Taboo Index, because that’s exactly what it is.

But, although Eugeo and his valet, Tiese Shtolienen, seem to be concerned about Kirito’s assertion, neither of them actually disagrees with him. Further, Kirito’s own valet, Ronie Arabel, verbally agrees with what he’s saying, showing that she’s likely been influenced by her time with him.

I think it’s fairly obvious that Alice is going to end up being the AI chosen by the Underworld creators as their “end result,” but from what we’ve seen in this episode, Ronie appears to be an even better candidate. Or at least she would be if the Underworld creators actually knew what they were talking about.

I don’t want to get into the issues with the Underworld AI farm again, so if you missed my discussion of that, then check out my review of SAO: Alicization Episode 6.

Stay Cool

Every week it seems we learn something new about the power system in the Underworld, and every week it makes less and less sense. Needless to say, this week was no exception.

In episode 8 we learned that unique skills and the sacred arts are directly linked to the power of imagination, and this week’s episode implies that weapon skills are no different. Through the power of imagination, one can apply a skill to their weapon, or theoretically any other gear item they have.

However, while these weapon skills are connected to the unique skills of their wielders, they aren’t exactly the same.

Let’s use Volo Levanteinn as an example. His unique skill allowed him to become more powerful by drawing blood from powerful opponents. This is skill is passed down through generations of his family, and stems from a belief that the skill is real.

His weapon skill, on the other hand, like all weapon skills we’ve been introduced to so far, simply makes his weapon “stronger.” It’s unclear in what way these weapons are “stronger,” but don’t worry about that, because we’ll never get a real explanation from Reki Kawahara anyway.

Like his unique skill, Volo’s weapon skill also comes from a particular family belief, in his case, the idea that he comes from a line of powerful swordsmen.

While Kirito’s unique skill comes from him believing himself to be the protagonist of the series, Eugeo doesn’t have a unique skill. Because of this, he becomes interested in weapon skills, but doesn’t know exactly what type of concept or belief to imbue his sword with.

In order to get an idea of how these weapon skills work, he challenges the number two seat, Humbert Zizek, to a duel with practice swords. Humbert’s weapon skill comes from the belief that he’s special due to his aristocratic upbringing and the idea that this puts him above everyone else.

Their match ends in a draw, which infuriates Humbert, who then takes his frustration out on his valet.

Sacred Arts Plot Hole

This point would have been more relevant as part of last week’s review, but I’ve only now actually noticed it.

As I mentioned earlier, we learned that the Sacred Arts are actually something anyone can use as long as they believe in themselves. However, in the first episode or so we learned that the Sacred Arts are really just uses of the command prompt.

Does this mean that any of the AI can access the command prompt simply by believing they can? If so, then that means there’s no restriction on the use of the command prompt whatsoever. Theoretically, any individual AI could “nuke” the Underworld by restoring the system to factory settings.

Deviant Orders

The latter half of the episode focuses on the aftermath from Eugeo’s duel with Humbert. As previously stated, Humbert begins to take his frustration out on his valet, a girl who happens to be the roommate of Eugeo’s valet, Tiese.

Humbert had forced the girl to strip and give him a massage while he took a bath each day. Although this technically doesn’t violate either the Taboo Index nor the academy rules, it’s clearly a form of sexual harassment and is therefore morally deviant.

Other than the fact that his actions are immoral, at first glance this doesn’t seem to be too big of a deal. But, as it’s pointed out, the fact that people like Humbert can even consider actions such as these suggest that they’re thinking of ways to get around the rules of the Taboo Index.

Humbert knows he can’t physically exact revenge on Eugeo, and so he devises a roundabout way to do it which doesn’t technically violate any rules.

Now, to us it may seem logical that if you’re forbidden from doing something, you simply find a way to do it that isn’t forbidden. However, as Eugeo points out, the Taboo Index not only polices actions, but thoughts as well. This means that the act of thinking up a way around the Taboo Index should be in itself a violation of the Taboo Index.

From this realization there are two primary conclusions. The first is that the Taboo Index doesn’t police the thoughts of the Underworld citizens, and therefore anyone can freely think, and the second is that the Taboo Index takes social status into consideration.

In reality, I believe a combination of these two conclusions is what’s in place. Kirito is considered a commoner in the Underworld, and yet he’s able to freely think, which implies the latter conclusion must be, in part, false. However, that doesn’t mean social status doesn’t play any role.

Underworld Social Stratification

As far as we know, there are eight different strata within the Underworld social hierarchy. At the bottom there are the commoners like Kirito and Eugeo, the middle six strata consist of the nobles classes, and the top is a governing body of some sort.

For now, we know little about this governing body other than the fact this seems to be where the Taboo Index originates from. The Taboo Index could itself make up this top strata, or it could consist of an individual ruler, or group of rulers, who first created the Taboo Index.

It also seems highly probable that the concept of Callings only applies to the commoner class. It’s supposedly nearly impossible for someone to complete their Calling, and so if nobles partook in them as well, it’s unlikely there would be so many attending Swordcraft Academy. Unless their Calling is that of a swordsman, of course.

The fact that Raios Antinous uses the concept of a Calling to insult Eugeo also implies that Callings are something specifically for commoners.

The six noble classes are themselves broken into two sections. Classes one through four are able to hold high positions such as governorships, while those in classes five and six are essentially just extremely wealthy commoners who work below the other nobles.

Humbert and Raios are both members of noble classes one through four (I forget if their specific class was stated), while Tiese, Ronie, and assumedly their classmate, belong to class six.

Tiese Shtolienen from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
Tiese Shtolienen

As I pointed out previously, Kirito, despite being a commoner, is able to have “deviant” thoughts when it comes to the Taboo Index and how it governs the lives of the Underworld citizens. This alone hints that the Taboo Index doesn’t actually police the thoughts of the people.

And, while this means social status doesn’t necessarily play a role in if or how judgement is passed down, it might imply that the upper classes have more knowledge of how the Taboo Index works. As Sir Francis Bacon once wrote, “Knowledge itself is power.”

The lower strata, specifically the commoners, believe that even thinking contrary to the teachings of the Taboo Index is illegal, and since they’re AI who follow the rules absolutely, they never question this belief. But, the nobles, specifically those higher up, seem to understand that thinking and doing are two separate things.

I wouldn’t say that the nobles are taught this concept, but the difference between them and the commoners probably stems from the commoners explicitly being given misinformation about the Taboo Index at the time of its inception. And, like I said, since they follow the rules absolutely, they’ve never questioned it since.

We can also assume that the rise of the Taboo Index and the rise of the social strata happened at roughly the same time. Because of this, the belief that the two are tied together is likely rooted within the minds of all the citizens below the uppermost, ruling class.

This means that commoners stay in their place because they believe they have no choice, and nobles look down on those beneath them because they believe they have some sort of divine right. From a psychological standpoint, this is exactly how social strata in our own world work and have worked.

Of course in the real world there are many other forces working to keep social strata together besides social belief, including but not limited to wealth, knowledge, and religion.

So, what does this all mean for the social structure of the Underworld? Those at the very top have the most information on the Taboo Index, and it therefore applies to them to a lesser degree. As you move down the social strata, the Taboo Index becomes more overbearing, but only because they believe that to be the case.

I’m sure we’ll learn more about the Taboo Index as the season progresses, but for now all I can say is that the entire social structure of the Underworld appears to be based on the belief in it, whether that belief is right or wrong.


I would continue on with the discussion of the Taboo Index, but I feel like I could write a whole post or series of posts just breaking it down and comparing it to our own world, so look forward to that in the future after we learn more about its origin.

For now, if you enjoyed this post or found it helpful in any way, click the like button down below and be sure to follow me on Twitter @DoubleSama so you don’t miss out on any upcoming content. And, if you’d like to discuss anime with our community, then come join the Discord server.

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My review of the next episode is available here.

SAO: Alicization Episode 8

SAO: Alicization Episode 8

Swordsman’s Pride

The main focus of this week’s Sword Art Online: Alicization episode was on the duel between Volo Levanteinn and Kirito. Last week, Kirito was challenged to this duel using real swords for getting mud on the elite disciple’s shirt. Because how else can you fix that?

After the duel is over, we then learn about the sacred arts via some flowers, and the episode ends with a look into the future, in which Kirito and Eugeo are now elite disciples themselves. This episode covers a lot, but the main thing I’ll be covering in this post is the power of imagination.

The Power of Imagination

I believe it was last week that we were introduced to the power of imagination, when it was explained that someone can become stronger simply by believing they are stronger. At the time, I mentioned how this was just a way to justify the poor writing of Kirito’s character, but it seems it goes beyond that.

Instead, I now see it as a way to justify the poor writing of the series as a whole, because this power of imagination affects everything there is in the Underworld. In this episode in particular, we see it used in two more unique ways, which are both interesting and stupid at the same time.

The first comes from the duel between Volo and Kirito. Volo’s family, the Levanteinns, pass down a belief that they have the ability to become stronger through having their swords absorb the blood of the strong. Because of this, Volo has been participating in one-point duels for his whole life.

What this means is that every time Volo draws blood from an opponent, he becomes stronger. However, this isn’t actually due to some special ability his family has. Instead, it’s all due to him believing that this is the case, hence the power of imagination.

Last time I discussed how believing oneself to be strong will make one strong, but this Levanteinn family ability shows that self-belief can be even more specialized than that. In theory, if you believe you can fly, you will be able to fly, or if you believe that eating cake will give you super strength, eating cake will give you super strength.

The limit of the power of imagination is imagination. This will become more important for the next way in which imagination is used.

But, while Volo’s sword skill is due to his self-belief, Kirito showcases a new skill in this fight which doesn’t appear to be related to something he believes in. During the duel, his sword magically grows longer and becomes a two-handed weapon. Why this happens isn’t clear, and there probably isn’t an actual reason, it’s just plot armor.

Volo Levanteinn vs. Kirito from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
Volo Levanteinn vs. Kirito

Sacred Arts

After the duel ends in a tie, some of the nobles who are Kirito’s classmates decide to take out their anger towards him by killing his friends, and by friends I mean flowers. Those flowers were the only friends Kirito has ever known, and now they’re gone.

Or are they?

At this point, we learn that the power of imagination isn’t restricted to one’s own physical attributes, but can also be directed at other people or objects. We’ve actually already seen this in the series before, it’s known as the sacred arts.

By believing and wishing for his beloved flowers to come back to life, Kirito is able to, with the help of the other flowers in the garden, resurrect his own flowers by using a powerful sacred art. So, this means that everyone can use sacred arts, but they just don’t know it.

But this brings up the question, what would a sacred art fight look like? Let’s say I wanted to use fire magic on Kirito; I would have to believe that Kirito is on fire. Meanwhile, to protect himself, Kirito would have to believe he’s not on fire. In the end, whoever believes hard enough wins.

Whether it’s using the sacred arts or simply building up physical abilities, the power of imagination is a force to be reckoned with. And, no matter which way imagination is used, I still stand by the fact that to be the most powerful person in the Underworld, you simply have to be the craziest.

If you have a god complex, you are a god.

But, there’s one more thing I want to bring up about the power of imagination before moving on. When Kirito revives his flowers, he uses the power of the other flowers around him to do so. This means that plants are able to use the power of imagination as well.

So, with this in mind, doesn’t that mean the Gigas Cedar was simply a tree that believed it was the biggest and strongest tree in the world? Too bad it didn’t use sacred arts to fight off Kirito and save itself from being cut down.

Elite Disciples

The school year at Hogwarts, or Swordcraft Academy, or whatever it’s called, finally comes to a close. Kirito gives his newly revived flowers to his mentor as a graduation present, and the next year rolls in, with him in the position of mentor this time around.

Both Kirito and Eugeo are now elite disciples, seats five and six to be exact. I can understand Eugeo not being in the top two, but how is Kirito not the number one seat? He fought the previous first seat and tied, and that was before he fully understood that all he has to do is believe in himself.

I’m kind of interested to see who seats one through four are, but at the same time I know I’ll just be disappointed when they’re revealed to be people whom Kirito could easily beat. At least Eugeo might get some character growth out of having to work his way up to the top.

As elite disciples, Kirito and Eugeo also have lower-classmen under them who basically just do chores it seems. They’re both girls, and I don’t remember their names because they were only around for the final couple minutes of the episode. Next time I’ll be sure to catch their names.

I was hoping that this year of the academy would fly by like the first, but now that I see exactly where the academy is located, I’m not so sure this will be the case. What I didn’t realize earlier was that Swordcraft Academy is actually located within Central City, Kirito and Eugeo’s final destination.

In fact, from their new dorms they can see the tower in which Alice is allegedly being held, which means that even once they graduate, there isn’t really any need for an adventure. There go all my hopes of a good adventure anime this season.

Goblin Slayer and JoJo’s Part 5 are both adventure anime, but I don’t really feel like the adventures are the main parts of those series, which I understand is strange to say about Goblin Slayer especially. I want something more like Made in Abyss in which the adventure is the focus.


What did you think of this week’s episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization? Do you think the power of imagination system is a good mechanic, or do you think it’s lazy and poor writing as I do? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to click the like button ❤ down below and follow me on Twitter @DoubleSama so you don’t miss out on any upcoming content. Also, join our Discord server if you’d like to discuss both new and old anime with myself and other community members.

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My review of the next episode is available here.

SAO: Alicization Episode 7

SAO: Alicization Episode 7

Swordcraft Academy

From the start I was hoping that Sword Art Online: Alicization was going to be an adventure story, but after this week’s episode I no longer believe that will be the case. An adventure would have really set this season of SAO apart from the rest, and would have been a great way to explore the world which has been built so far.

Unfortunately, it seems that we’ll instead be getting the same, standard SAO that we’ve always had. Kirito will have to get somewhere to beat someone and save the day without much going on in between. It also appears that the Underworld is set up to match Reki Kawahara’s writing style. What a coincidence.

Last week I found entertainment in the fact that we were explicitly told that Kirito would wake up from his coma simply because he’s the protagonist. This week we got another classic trope thrown at us as well, but it’s a bit more specific to SAO.

So, I mentioned that the Underworld is set up to match Reki Kawahara’s writing style, and by that I mean that he wrote the mechanics of this world to “make up for” his lack of actual storytelling ability. If you’ve watched any season of SAO before, you should know that he’s not the best at writing characters or plot to develop said characters.

For example, what does Kirito always do when he’s outmatched? He simply believes in himself even harder and wins. This is where the mechanics of the Underworld come into play. In this episode, Kirito explicitly explains that your strength in the Underworld is directly correlated to your belief in yourself.

Essentially, this gives Reki Kawahara an out for his bad writing. He can now write Kirito as a character who continuously gets stronger out of nowhere, like he always has, and then point to this mechanic and say, “see? It’s right there in the lore of the world.”

If anything, I’m impressed that he doesn’t even try to hide his poor writing anymore, he just accepts it as part of his series.

Kirito Goes to School

Enough about the poor writing in SAO, let’s move on to what happened in this week’s episode. We’ve suddenly jumped two years into the future, skipping any adventure Kirito and Eugeo might have had, and bypassing their entire first year at the Swordcraft Academy.

We catch up to our heroes with only a few days left in their first year, and it would seem that they’re already at the top of their class. Along with skipping over their adventure, we also skipped over a tournament arc in which they beat all of their classmates.

The academy which they’re now attending is specifically for training future Integrity Knights, and this seems to be something mainly reserved for the upper classes of society. As commoners, Kirito and Eugeo are looked down on by many of their peers, though their skills are acknowledged by some upperclassmen.

Both boys have been taken in by upperclassmen as their disciples, but since I don’t believe Eugeo’s mentor is of any importance, I’ll be skipping over him. As for Kirito, his mentor is Sortiliena Serlut, the second-ranked student of the graduating class.

Along with her sword, Sortiliena, or Liena for short, uses a whip. For some reason I feel like one of the Integrity Knights we saw earlier in the season used a whip as well, so perhaps her whip isn’t due to pure personal preference. She also wears all purple, because character color-coding is a thing.

Sortiliena Serlut from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
Sortiliena Serlut

Despite how powerful she apparently is, Liena has never defeated the top-ranked student of the graduating class, Uolo Levanteinn. However, as I already mentioned, the power system in the Underworld is completely based on how much you believe in yourself, so if she simply believes she can beat him, she probably will.

On the other hand, this means that if someone is a complete narcissist and doesn’t even recognize the possibility of their own defeat, like Kirito, they’re essentially immortal. Uolo Levanteinn is probably one such person considering he appears to be a minor antagonist.

Much like how Liena has never defeated Uolo Levanteinn, Kirito has never managed to defeat Liena over the entire year the two of them have been sparring together. At first glance, this would seem to imply that Kirito has more training to do before he’s able to be the strongest swordsman, but who are we kidding? This is SAO.

It turns out that Kirito could actually defeat Liena any time he wanted if they stopped using wooden sparring swords and actually used real swords. In fact, Kirito is so strong that even the legendary Blue Rose Sword isn’t strong enough to keep up with his skill.

Gigas Cedar Sword

Speaking of swords not being strong enough to keep up with Kirito’s skill, he commissioned a special sword forged from the tip of the Gigas Cedar. This piece of the Gigas Cedar is what Kirito was carrying on his back at the end of the previous episode.

One thing I don’t understand, however, is how this new sword can be more powerful than the Blue Rose Sword which was used to cut down the Gigas Cedar. I guess the Gigas Cedar would could be hardened slightly, but it’s not a metal so how much can it’s hardness really be increased?

After receiving his new sword for free from the weaponsmith, Kirito then needs to test it out right that second even though it’s forbidden to do any sort of training on the mandatory day of rest. During his practice, he accidentally gets mud on the shirt of Uolo Levanteinn, who then challenges him to a duel.

This duel will be using real swords, and won’t be following the standard duel rules of stopping short. Instead, the first opponent to draw blood wins, which obviously Kirito agrees to because he knows he can’t be defeated due to his special ability: Protagonist.

In the next episode, we’ll be getting the fight between Kirito and Uolo Levanteinn, but I’d caution against getting your expectations up for it. It will likely be a fairly short fight and the animation won’t be anything especially special compared to the rest of the series.


I know this post is shorter than most of my other recent ones, but I don’t feel like there’s anything else about this episode that I need to mention. It was a pretty standard episode overall and not much actually happened. Instead, it basically summarized everything we missed during the two-year time skip.

If you enjoyed this slightly shorter post, then remember to click the like button ❤ down below. Also follow me on Twitter @DoubleSama to stay up to date with all of my future posts, including those not found here on DoubleSama.com (one of which is coming soon).

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My review of the next episode is available here.

SAO: Alicization Episode 6

SAO: Alicization Episode 6


Before I get into this week’s episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization, I first want to make it clear that an anime can be enjoyable despite being terribly written. SAO: Alicization is one such anime. I’ll admit that I’m enjoying it, but the plot is a mess and I actually found myself laughing at how bad some of the writing was this week.

So, with that in mind, I’ll accept that some people like SAO, I’ll even accept that they like That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, but what I won’t accept is someone telling me SAO is written well unless they have some substantial evidence.

If you’ve read any of my recent weekly episode reviews, you should be aware of the format I typically take. However, today I’m going to be changing it slightly. The first part will be the same standard summary with my comments spread throughout.

The second section though, will be a breakdown of all (most) of the parts in this episode which made absolutely no sense. There are a lot of them, so I’ll probably forget to include some. You can play along in the comments and either add plot holes I left out, or try to argue in defense of some of them.

Project Alicization

Remember how I set up a couple possible scenarios for how this episode would play out last week? Well, none of them were correct. Instead, we’re taken down a route in which everyone works together because the world is a great place. Or is it?

The former JSDF officer-turned mad scientist (I don’t remember his name and it’s not listed on MAL) decides to neither imprison nor turn away Asuna. Likewise, Asuna decides to stay on the Ocean Turtle rather than getting the authorities involved.

Maybe I should have assumed something like this would happen. This is SAO after all, and for some reason I insisted that a logical route would be taken after Asuna blew her cover just seconds after infiltrating the villain’s secret lair.

We then learn that the mad scientist isn’t actually making a game at all. Instead, he’s simply using a game to create a new kind of AI which can be used in war. There are multiple issues with this plan, but I’ll get to all of those in the next part of the post.

So, now that he’s created the most realistic civilization simulation game ever, instead of doing something worthwhile with it, he decides to go the Black Mirror route and implant human consciences into the matrix. Because when has that ever failed?

Let’s back up a bit though and set the stage for adding Kirito’s conscience into the Underworld. Originally the mad scientist wanted to use human consciences for his AI, but they all crashed after not being able to accept that they were just copies (again, Black Mirror).

A Fluctlight simulation from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
A Fluctlight Simulation

He then decides to copy the consciences of babies, and then have them raised from the ground up so they don’t ever know the difference between the virtual world and the real one. This brings all new issues to the table which I’ll get into later as well.

However, these AI babies are all absolute followers of an AI government/cult which forbids them from breaking rules. Normally this would be a good thing, but the mad scientist wants these AI to be used as machines of war, so in his mind they should be allowed to break the rules.

If you see the contradiction there, you’re not alone. As I said, there are a lot of problems with this episode, and I’ll be addressing as many of them as I can in the second part of the post.

So, how does one corrupt absolute rule-following AI? Add an element of randomness to the mix, of course. And, what better element of randomness is there than a real human conscience? This is why Kirito was thrown into the Underworld; he’s there to corrupt the perfect AI.

And, apparently it works, because Alice then breaks the Taboo Index. But, I’m not convinced Alice’s breaking of the taboo index actually had anything to do with being corrupted by Kirito. I’m sure it did from the plot’s perspective, but from a logical perspective it doesn’t add up.

Now that we know what the true purpose of the Underworld is, we change scenes to see Asuna and the gang hanging out in their favorite game, ALO (the literal worst part of the entire SAO series). I feel like there was something important about this scene, but I can’t remember what, so instead let’s talk about something unimportant.

When Asuna tells the rest of the girls about how Kirito has two childhood friends in the virtual world, and that one of them is a girl named Alice, we could see the expressions of disgust and distress on the faces of the girls. It’s clear that they really are Kirito’s harem.

Moving on, we then learn more of the backstory of the woman who was dating the creator of SAO (I don’t know her name either and she’s not worth me figuring it out). Apparently she had a bomb implanted in her chest (because anime) so she would have an out after the SAO incident.

She knew the bomb wouldn’t go off, but its purpose was to give a reasonable explanation to police why she didn’t do anything to stop her lover’s diabolical plan. Was a real bomb necessary, or would a fake have still done the trick if she claimed she was convinced it was real?

Also, would that have actually stopped her from being charged in some way? I don’t know exactly how the laws work, but claiming you were saving your own life by allowing hundreds or thousands of others to die hasn’t been a viable defense in the past (World War II).

There are other issues with this defense, but I’m not going to get into them because that’s a tangent I don’t feel is necessary to travel down.

After this backstory, we also get a weird defense of the SAO creator from Asuna. It really seems like she doesn’t care about the hundreds or thousands of people he killed, and believes that he was just “misunderstood.” Be careful, Asuna, some people might think you’re an SAO Incident-denier if you keep saying things like that.

Plot: 0, Hole: A Lot

And now for the part of the post we’ve all been waiting for, the plot hole analysis. I’ll just go through each of the issues one by one in the order which makes the most logical sense to me.

  • The mad scientist thought that he could import the human consciences into the virtual space without any issues.

While this doesn’t seem much like an inconsistency at first glance, we have to remember two things. The first is that SAO takes place in the not-too-distant future, and the second is that human consciences imported into the virtual space and then corrupting is a common sci-fi trope.

Individually these two things don’t really matter, but when they’re put together you may be able to see why I consider this a problem. Anyone living in the world of SAO should be just as familiar with this trope as anyone from our world. This means the outcome should have been obvious to the scientist, and yet he tries it at least 10 times.

  • He wants to create a “new” kind of AI from the ground up.

In case you haven’t noticed, every single game which has appeared in the SAO anime is either built on top of or based on the original SAO game and the NerveGear used to play it. Because of this, you would think that they would know more about SAO and the NerveGear than they actually do.

The scientist claims that he wants to create a “new” AI which can learn and act like a real person, imperfections and all, but this has kind of already happened twice. The first instance is Yuki, the AI which Kirito and Asuna adopted. The second instance was Yuuna from Ordinal Scale.

Neither of these AI are built from the ground up as he’s proposing, but they’re arguably the same end results and were easier to create. The Underworld does the work of creating the AI for the scientist, but he still had to create the Underworld, and then it’s only by random chance that the AI he’s looking for might be created within it.

Let me use an analogy to explain this more clearly. What if we want there to be life on another planet? There are two ways of accomplishing this (there are far more, but for this analogy these two are all we need).

The first is to mold a planet so that it could support life, and then we sit and wait for life to maybe develop on it one day in the distant future. This is essentially what the scientist in Alicization is doing to create his AI. He’s creating an environment, then waiting for random encounters to spawn what he desires.

The second method is to instead find a habitable planet, and then introduce life to it from our own. This is the concept behind other fully functional AI like Yuki and Yuuna. We take something that we want and import it to the other place that we want it to be, thus cutting out the randomness.

Hopefully this illustrates the unnecessarily complicated route the scientist in Alicization is taking to create an AI similar to those which have already been created by using the technology he was inspired by in the first place.

  • The AI he creates should be capable of breaking rules.

Does the scientist want Terminators? Because this is how you get Terminators.

Seriously though, does he not understand that he can just create an AI that follows his orders? He could simply create an AI and then tell it to kill people, he doesn’t need to create and AI from the ground up with only the capability to potentially kill someone if it so chooses.

If you build an AI with the express purpose of using it for war, then it won’t have any objections to orders and will be both stable and predictable, which is exactly what you would want. However, by introducing this “human” element, the AI will become unstable and less predictable.

What if the “rule” his AI decides to break isn’t that killing is bad, but instead is that the military’s orders should be followed? What if the AI decides on its own that killing is wrong? There are so many flaws with this line of reasoning that I don’t have the time to go into all of them.

Really, the fact that the AI all listen to the Taboo Index without question should be a good thing from the point of view of the military. It shows that they won’t have a problem controlling them, but again, the scientist doesn’t seem to get that.

I wish I could say that this scientist is just an idiot, but let’s be honest, his character was written by Reki Kawahara, so what does that say about the author? Bad character writing is just par for the course when it comes to Reki Kawahara though, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • The AI originate from copies of the consciences of babies.

This seems to have been more thought out than the previous issue I had with the episode, but it’s an issue nonetheless. First, it makes sense because it adds the necessary human element into the mix while also bypassing the AI becoming corrupted.

However, the real issue here isn’t that the consciences of babies are being used, but rather how they’re being developed. The whole point of using these baby consciences is so they will learn and develop in their environment, but that environment is fake.

It would be one thing if the Underworld perfectly represented the real world, but it doesn’t. All these AI will know is the world in which they grew up in and not the real world in which they’ll be “working” as military killing machines.

Aside from the initial shock of being transferred from the Underworld to the real world, there’s also the issue of their pre-existing beliefs about the very nature of the world. These AI can learn and adapt, so they would be able to quickly understand their new environment, but not completely.

The concept of things like cars and airplanes would be simple enough for them to understand, but what about when they learn that dragons and magic don’t, and never did, exist? Those are things they would have known their whole lives, and now they’re being told those things are imaginary.

For starters, this may be enough to call the AI’s own conscience into question much like the human conscience when it learns it’s a copy. If it doesn’t have a mental breakdown though, it may simply go into a state of denial; these AI are built upon human conscience after all.

Maybe in the end Japan will just have an army of conspiracy theorist AI who all refuse to believe that dragons aren’t real and think that the government is hiding their existence. Conspiracy theories often lead to the mistrust of the government, and that’s not something a state military wants from its soldiers.

  • The magic system is actually the command prompt.

Speaking of how magic isn’t real, it was revealed to us that the magic system in the Underworld is actually just access to the command prompt. So, this begs the question, why would anyone give the AI access to the command prompt which controls their world?

It would be one thing if these AI were all predictable, but as I’ve just explained, they’re based on actual human consciences, the most unpredictable thing imaginable. It’s obvious that at some point one of these AI is eventually going to exploit this feature, and in fact, one did.

We learned that the Taboo Index is actually the result of one or more AI tampering with the command prompt. And, if you recall, the Taboo Index is the one thing preventing these AI from becoming anarchists as the scientist wants, so why would he give them the tools needed to create it?

It’s time for another analogy. Let’s say there’s a mouse in a maze which has two exits: A and B. You really want the mouse to go to exit A, which represents anarchy, but you don’t tell the mouse that or give it any push in that direction.

You then leave a trail of food through the maze ending at exit B, which represents civil government. Again, you haven’t told the mouse to go to exit B, but you’ve set up a scenario in which it’s inevitable that the mouse does go to exit B, instead of the exit A you hoped for.

That’s essentially what the scientist has done with the Underworld. He wanted to create anarchist AI, but then gave them all the tools necessary for them to create a civil form of government instead of anarchy. None of his actions make any sense.

He probably also gave the AI admin privileges on his home PC as well.

  • Kirito’s presence in the Underworld corrupted Alice.

We’re told that since all of the AI follow the Taboo Index absolutely, they’ll never develop into the anarchist AI the scientist wants. To remedy this, instead of removing the Taboo Index or “magic system” it was created with, he decides to put an actual human into the Underworld to corrupt the AI.

He believes that the human, in this case Kirito, will influence the AI with his human-unpredictability, thus causing the AI to also veer away from the teachings of the Taboo Index. But, as I mentioned in the first part of this post, I don’t believe that would actually happen based on the setup we’re told.

When Kirito was introduced into the Underworld, he had all of his memories of the real world suppressed, which essentially makes him a blank slate, no different from the baby consciences the AI were created with. This means he would be just as influenced by the Taboo Index as any of the AI.

And, in fact, we see this to be the case until Alice is taken by the Integrity Knight. Alice’s kidnapping is what triggers Kirito’s human-unpredictability to manifest. As we see before that point, he’s just as much a devout follower of the Taboo Index as Alice and Eugeo are.

Because of this, it’s unreasonable to assume that it was Kirito’s presence which caused Alice to choose empathy over the Taboo Index for the split-second she did. We have no evidence that this empathy was a result of her interactions with Kirito, and in fact it seems just as likely that Kirito learned the empathy he showed when she was kidnapped from her instead.

This is a simple case of “correlation does not equal causation.” Just because Kirito was present when Alice developed empathy doesn’t mean his presence had anything to do with it, especially since there is no other supporting evidence pointing toward that hypothesis being correct.

  • Kirito will make a full recovery because he’s the hero of SAO.

This isn’t really a plot hole, but I couldn’t help myself from laughing when I heard this due to both the absurdity and irony of the statement. First, the fact that Kirito is the “hero” of SAO (the game) has nothing to do with whether or not he’ll make a full recovery from his brain damage.

I think the point the nurse was trying to make was that he’s a “fighter,” but it came across as, “he beat SAO, so he can’t be killed by something like brain damage.” If that’s the case, then I should be immortal, because I’ve beaten quite a few games in my day.

Next is the dramatic irony. Not only is Kirito the “hero” of the SAO game incident, but he’s also the hero of the SAO series. And, since he’s the hero of the series (and the series is SAO specifically), we, the viewers, know that he’s going to make a full recovery.

So, not only could the nurse’s comment be read to mean that he can survive anything because he beat SAO, but it can also be interpreted as Kirito making a full recovery specifically because he’s the protagonist, which is obviously what’s going to end up happening.

That may have been the best line in all of SAO. I like to think Reki Kawahara added that line in for that express purpose, but that may be giving him too much credit.


So, what did you think about today’s extra long Sword Art Online: Alicization episode review? I didn’t think it would end up being this long, but I had a lot to say so I figured I’d just put it all out there. I’d like to read your comments on some of the points I brought up, so leave them below.

If you enjoyed this extra long post, let me know by clicking the like button ❤ down below as well (I just learned I can add emoji to these posts). You should also follow me on Twitter @DoubleSama.com to keep up to date with all of my various posts.

Speaking of my various posts, I have my next non-anime related post planned out, so if you’re interested in that, stay tuned for upcoming details in this week’s Weekly Update over at Patreon.com/DoubleSama.

There’s also a community Discord server for those who would like to get in on the discussion in real-time. The Discord server is open to everyone, but there are tier-specific roles for patrons, which is just one of the multiple benefits to becoming a patron.

My much shorter review of the next episode is available here.