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Dated 5 November 2018: I'm not sure I want to watch a full year of Sword Art Online: Alicization

Kazuto
Relax, he's fine.

I don't regard myself as part of the Sword Art Online fandom, a demographic I associate with "newer" anime fans (newer than me, okay), but at the same time I think I'm much less critical of the franchise than most "old ass" anime fans. Pretty much all of the major criticisms of the anime and its source material are accurate, but I also take the position—somewhat—that it doesn't really matter. Not exactly high praise, indeed, but perhaps sufficient to establish that I am happy to watch Sword Art Online: Alicization, yet not particularly enthused that it is reportedly going to be about 50 episodes long.

Asuna, Midori, and Suguha
Asuna is the best-dressed guest at this hosptial.

I think I've already been spoiled on most of the major Alicization plot developments. At least nothing in first five scene-setting episodes seemed unexpected. This does make me wonder what it is about the show that I'm even anticipating, though. Potentially, I'm only watching because Sword Art Online is a big property and I'm motivated to stay up to date since I've seen all of the anime thus far already. That could be it, but there are plenty of big shows that I've simply abandoned or ignored completely.

Yui, Suguha, and Asuna
If you didn't watch the SAO: Ordinal Scale movie, you may be confused why Yui is here.

I can't even claim to be watching it for the characters, since I'm only modestly fond of Asuna and Yui and basically ambivalent about everyone else, at best. All those jokes about MORE DEBAN? Yeah, I don't really care if y'all get more deban or not. Oh, I also like the character who died of AIDS, but I'm not expecting her to make an appearance in SAO: Alicization. You know, because she already died of AIDS. At least I think Kajiura Yuki is still doing the music, so there you go; that'll be my motivation for dragging myself through this show for the next year.

Dated 11 February 2019: I'm still watching Sword Art Online: Alicization

Cardinal, Kirito, and Eugeo
A mid-fight flashback so Cardinal can explain Eugeo's attack.

Claims that the Alicization arc of Sword Art Online is the "good one" may have been exaggerated. It's different enough from the previous SAO arc that it at least seems to be the result of writing styles and priorities changing, but whether it's necessarily better is debatable. From an SAO-tolerant non-fan's perspective, its biggest problem to me is that it's not very engaging. I'm basically only watching the show now out of general principle, and not because I care about the outcomes or the characters.

Asuna
Fuck your deban, Asuna.

Frankly, the show sort of drags. That's probably my biggest problem with it. I suppose other viewers might argue that the sexual assaults are a much bigger problem, but those aren't unique to Sword Art Online: Alicization. They're about par for the course when you consider the previous times the subject has appeared in the franchise. (For what it's worth, Kawahara claims he's moving beyond this sort of thing henceforth, but I presume that won't impact future episodes of Alicization, which I believe is based on already completed light novels.)

Alice and Kirito
This ledge keeps changing size.

Alicization strikes me as a series that contains too many elements that might work as text, but bogs down the viewing experience in anime form. Not having read the books, I can't authoritatively claim that's really the case, but it at least seems all the explanations and details that constantly interrupt the anime's narrative must originate from the light novels. I'm starting to see indications there may be a break before Alicization's final two cours. I can't see that being good for the show's pacing, but I guess I'll find out once that third cours starts, whenever that is.

Dated 22 October 2019: I am legit stoked about Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld

Alice
The most powerful swords are the ones without blades.

I am counting on reports from the Twitter that the War of Underworld arc of Sword Art Online: Alicization will be mostly Kirito-free for all of the next cours and a third of the final one. Based on how the AIDS "Mother's Rosario" arc and the Gun Gale Online spin-off panned out, I'm expecting to enjoy this quite a bit. For one thing, I already view Alice Synthesis Thirty pretty favorably, even though it's mostly because she sounds like an old sourpuss instead of a teenage girl when she talks, and because I think her armor's yellow and blue color scheme works really well—never mind that I sort of dislike UCLA.

Alice
I wanted to see unattended Coma Kirito fall off Alice's dragon.

After a perfunctory recap episode and two proper episodes of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld, the anime seems to be off to a good start. True to SAO form, there sure are a lot of sneering assholes among the various unimportant characters. I'm okay with it, because Lalatina is entirely too resilient for any of these scrubs to fuck with, and I don't really care if random schmucks are dicks to Kirito for no reason. Honestly, I don't even know what War on Underpants War of Underworld is even about (so far it is about playing a Goblin Slayer simulator on easy mode), but it sort of doesn't matter as long as it's at least indirectly about Alice being very yellow. She sure ditched that eye patch rather fast, though.

Dated 17 December 2019: The war in Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld is not much of a war

Alice
This break in the battle has lasted so long that Alice changed into her pajamas.

It's not particularly sensible to demand accurate war-type stuff in an anime, especially something like Sword Art Online, but they did put War in the title, and they have been building up to this particular conflict for some time. What we've gotten instead is tens of thousands of random schmucks directly facing each other in a narrow canyon making no effort to do anything other than having head-to-head fights. Some people might claim that the battles at least look pretty cool, but that's a concession I'm not willing to make this season, what with Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia raising the bar to ridiculous new levels every week now.

<Divine> Maybe that's just what happens when two sides who don't know what war is given it a try

That's basically it. Now, I'm not unreasonable enough to demand "actually realistic" war in my SAO ~ War Is All Hell ~ anime, but I would have given it a pass without commenting on it had it at least aspired to, say, Strike Witches: War on Underpants levels of realism.

Asuna and Alice
This show is called Alicization, not Asunization, toots.

Now that I've got this bitching out of the way, I guess I can get around to the main point of this post: Spoiling the most recent episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld. So, Asuna finally logs into the AI world and is immediately beset upon by an extremely yellow blur. Everyone eventually calms the fuck down, though. They even listen to the batshit crazy things Asuna tells them. Frankly, I'm impressed they don't even seem irked that she's referring to her own world as the "real world." Yeah, these AIs are living in a computer, but it probably feels pretty real to them. I would be at least a little insulted. On the plus side, at least she isn't being racist about it.

Kirito
Have you tried rebooting the Kirito in the "real world"?

I'm generally pro-Asuna, even though she hasn't fared particularly well as an actual character in Sword Art Online as a franchise. It was also not encouraging to see all the latest members of Kirito's ever-expanding harem butt in for additional deban and to boast about how great their times with him have been. Hopefully, they're getting all of this out of the way now, and maybe the show can go back to leaving him in a wagon somewhere while Alice is off doing very yellow very important things. I'm okay with Asuna coming along too, providing she doesn't spend all her time talking about Kirito.

Dated 24 December 2019: I didn't plan to write back-to-back Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld entries

Yui
Go on, Yui, curse the bitches out.

Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld has a mind of its own. Or at least, Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld is about AIs having minds of their own. Specifically, Alice Synthesis Thirty MacGuffin is the prize AI the bad men are trying to seize because she is a real girl. Never mind that Sword Art Online has had a Real Girl AI almost from the start in the form of Yui, Kirito's and Asuna's adopted daughter. Yui isn't even a secret!

Pope
It's not easy being pope.

For that matter, I'm not sure there's any meaningful distinction between the Underworld AI yahoos and the "real world" regular-ass people. I certainly regard Alice as being every bit as much as a real character as I do, say, Asuna, even though Alice is very yellow. I definitely regarded the pope as being more of a real person than nearly every other Sword Art Online villain (including the current ones). Ultimately, this has a lot less to do with Alice and the pope being AIs than it does with Sword Art Online having lots of terribly written characters—especially when it comes to its villains.

Alice
This reminds me I need to get a new video card.

I'm inclined to believe Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld theoretically could actually have something intelligent to say about artificial intelligence and what makes someone a real person, but any chance it had got undermined by the really awful writing that has plagued the franchise from the beginning. I still find it entertaining, even though Alice is very yellow, but I do wish the franchise would move past its more egregious tropes. The Ordinal Scale movie accomplished this with some success, but it seems to be the exception, not the norm.