Despite the defeat of Quinella—the pontifex of the Axiom Church—things have not seemed to calm down yet. Upon contacting the real world, Kazuto "Kirito" Kirigaya finds out that the Ocean Turtle—a mega-float controlled by Rath—was raided. Due to a sudden short-circuit caused by the raiders, Kirito's fluctlight is damaged, leaving him comatose. Feeling insecure about the people at the Axiom Church, Alice brings the unconscious Kirito back to their hometown—Rulid Village, disregarding her banishment due to an unabsolved crime. Now, Alice is living an ordinary and peaceful life close by the village, wishing for Kirito to wake up.
However, tragedy strikes when Alice notices that the Dark Territory has already started to invade the Human Empire. Reassuming her previous alias, Alice Synthesis Thirty, she promises to defeat the Dark Territory in order to defend the world that Kirito and Eugeo worked so hard to protect.
SAO is a series that for some reason, a loud minority of westerners love to hate on despite it being one of the most successful media franchises in Japan(where it matters). Alicization as an arc, particularly the second half (war of underworld) fixes a lot of the issues that loud minority have with the series and with the story.
Alicization War of Underworld is by far the best installation of SAO to date. There was never any doubt in my mind that it would be, having read the LN. After the events of the end of Alicization, Kirito is left incapacitated and in the care of
Best Waifu, Alice. Alice is conflicted with her duty as a knight to protect the kingdom and fight against the dark empire and between her feelings as a woman to stay with Kirito.
This installation gives us Alice as the protagonist and my God is it amazing to see her personal development and character growth from when she first appeared. A-1 have truly done an amazing job of adapting the story and in my opinion, it may be the best LN adaption of all time in terms of faithfulness, right now at least. The art is gorgeous, I'm talking Unlimited Budget Works gorgeous, the music, fights, OP/ED etc are all top tier. I can not recommend watching this enough, even if you hate SAO. Please, just go in with an open mind and try it out.
Won't go too into detail so that I won't spoil the garbage. That being said, so far, the story is a disgrace to anime viewers. If the stories of the previous SAO seasons felt as if an edgy teen made it up, this one is way worse. It's as if the edgy teen lost their sanity and wrote whatever bs they could think of. A lot of wasted potential because of the story.
Same as story, absolute garbage. I was hoping for some better character development, but the character backstories for this arc so far is so demented and unimaginable that its disgusting. As
usual, the villains were written very poorly, and the protagonists' backstories not being very clear either.
Art and Sound: 9
That being said, the redeeming factors of this show lie with the art, animation, and sound. The visuals are stunning, but doesn't distract you from how bad the plot is. The soundtrack is still great, helping to hype up meaningless battles that are irrelevant to the plot. The OP and ED were great, but again, it doesn't make up for how bad the plot is.
I enjoyed listening to the OP and ED. That's about it. The rest of the time, I was either questioning why i bothered to watch this show in the first place, or cringing over the plot.
So far, episode 1 seemed like there was room for development, but all that potential went down the drain in the next few episodes. It doesn't seem like it will be worth watching the show to the end.
Disclaimer: I don't hate SAO, but I am not a fan of this adaptation.
Have you ever watched an anime in which, before they play the opening, they show a short clip before the episode? Whether they were supposed to recap or to set the mood, I never really liked these. This new season's episodes remind me of these shorts.
Without a doubt, one of the major flaws of this season is the pacing. What could have been covered in one episode is stretched out into two. What the studio doesn't seem to understand is that an episode is supposed to advance the plot
or build upon a character, but the bulk of the episode is meaningless exposition. Gabriel should know who Vassago is without asking; they literally spawned next to each other and look identical to their real-world counterparts. In fact, they even do a cliche "evil guy" pose together.
The order in which the episode plays out is also very awkward. For example, Gabriel breaks in, then shows how he got in, then discusses possible options to achieve his goal, then explains what his goal is. Similarly, Vixur decides to propose to Lipia while in the middle of a discussion about war, and a short clip of Yui attempts to foreshadow the ALO players' participation in the final battle. It's random, out of place, and doesn't work.
With its new characters, SAO clearly hasn't learned from its past mistakes. Gabriel is basically a fanfiction version of Sugou (a fucking psycho) who makes typical rapey expressions and gets high off of murder. He's an asshole for basically no reason, which really irks me as it's implied that he was basically born evil. After Gabriel, they introduce a dozen new named characters (none of whom are even remotely memorable) and kill off two of them. While Vixur's scene was a lot more badass than it was in the novel, it didn't really mean anything as the death of Gabriel and a few other heads would have done nothing to soothe the rage of the thousands of other bloodthirsty, battle-ready monsters. There are more effective ways to stop war than mindlessly throwing yourself at a literal god; then again, SAO's characters have never been known for their intellect. The light novel never really focuses on these things, and is less flawed in general.
My problem with the characters isn't even that they are bland and dull, but that the anime has no idea what it's trying to do with them. We focus on Alice taking care of Kirito for a couple of episodes, then switch over to Rath's situation, then take a detour to the Dark Territory. In the previous arcs, the focus was on Kirito, and people liked seeing him in action. Now, we aren't getting anything substantial. This feels more like a 12-episode extra rather than an actual season. Who is supposed to be getting development? Who does the story revolve around? When you take the main character out of the equation, it's difficult to hold everything together, and the anime doesn't do a great job at it.
What pisses me off the most about this season is that they never "show," and love to "tell." There are distinct concepts behind each character, but for every character except Alice, they are merely stated instead of animated. Clearly, the director has no idea how to do light novel adaptations - it's not a fucking audiobook, it's an anime. There is no need for Fanatio to give such a long-winded explanation of "well, I learned to love myself for who I am." There is no need for Alice to fucking change clothes in order to tell Ronie and Tiese that it wasn't their fault. Everything that the novel could improve on is kept exactly the same, but a lot of things that are done right are also ruined.
The art looks exactly the same as in Alicization. It's still stunning and the fight scenes are fluid. The length of the fights themselves seems to have suffered, but to take off points for that would be unfair.
The opening song and ending are just as good as always, The soundtrack is good enough to set the mood, which is good enough for me.
So far, this new installment of SAO has seen a drastic quality drop in almost every area. Fans of SAO who expect an improved story and better characters will be sorely disappointed, and fans of SAO who come for the hyped up fights and Kirito's general overpoweredness will also find nothing of use. Those of us who are waiting for certain events from the light novels to be animated will also have to wait for the plot to actually start progressing. Maybe it would be better to just watch a recap video once this season ends and skip right over to the next one.
Four episodes in and the story is already not making any sense, and yes, I have watched Alicization and even that is better compared to what we've gotten in the past 4 episodes of this, this is slated to be 12 episodes? Well that's a surprise, but a good one because it's not faring well so far.
The story is summarized by bad guy tries to take Alice cause she's the building blocks of the entire VR world they are in apparently. Though it all falls apart now that we know that the bad guy is absolutely insane. Think of all previous SAO baddies up till
now. This current one is about 5x that and it's just the same sex fiend bad guy that the previous ones where. Only he wants to kill you at the same time for his high.
So, that's the story and characters so far, as Kirito and Alice haven't had much of an roll so far, and Asuna remains on the sidelines. It amazes me to think SAO has gone on for this long with the same generic bad guy at the end of each season. And when so many plot holes and deus ex moments fill it.
Art is probably the best thing about this anime, and sound a close second, it can still get me pumped at the right moments, but those moments are tiresome when the rest isn't all that good to watch which is why I'm questioning myself watching it.
Overall enjoyment is null. There is none, but it passes the time and there are still worse things to watch that wouldn't get me as frustrated as something that could be good would. I do not suggest watching this.