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Dated 6 October 2020: Autumn 2020 first impressions

Setsuna
2D & 3DCG integration during the all-signing, all-dancing parts finally look right.

A new anime season is upon us again. Every quarter, I assess which shows I expect to watch during the upcoming season and add them to my animetrics table. However what actually seems to happen is that I just watch whatever comes out first, providing it's not shounen jive or something that looks super bad. In the past, I would write up a comprehensive post that summarizes every show that I sampled, but those days are long gone now.

Kasumi
Are you Best Girl? You sort of seem like you might be Best Girl.

What I can do, though, is draw your attention to a few of the bright spots from this first batch. Unexpectedly, the launch of a new Love Live installment caught me by surprise. I knew one was in the works, but somehow missed that it was starting in October. I don't actually regard myself as a Love Live fan, but I have seen all of it and I guess I'm going to watch Love Live! Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Doukoukai (Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club) too. The first episode was about what I would have expected from a new Love Live spinoff, but I can at least identify three highlights: (1) The somen joke was genuinely amusing. (2) The character who I expected to suffer from debilitating shyness seems to merely be kuudere. (3) The aggravated red-eyed girl at the end made faces I enjoyed.

Elaina
Flan has a better hat, but she's been a witch longer than Elaina.

Majo no Tabitabi (Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina) had the best first episode of the shows I sampled. [Update: I wrote this before I watched Munou na Nana (Talentless Nana), the new champ. It's worth checking out, but I suggest going in blind to avoid spoilers.] The visuals look fantastic, and the episode itself did not go the way I expected, so I'm hopeful that the rest of the show will continue to remain interesting. I also like witches and big hats, and this show had witches AND big hats, so that's a bonus.

Claudia
I don't think it's actually Claudia's fault everyone keeps dying.

Finally (for now), I'm going to mention that Senyoku no Sigrdrifa (Warlords of Sigrdrifa) has airplanes and tolerable lore. The dogfights are nice (albeit with handwaved physics), but they are not as spectacular as in The Magnificient KOTOBUKI. (Admittedly, that's a really high bar.) One serious potential problem is they're basically fighting the Neuroi from Strike Witches. Those types of adversaries are basically never interesting, so this could be a liability for Sigrdrifa too. One thing I am curious about, though, is why the anime appeared to cast Kayano Ai and Horie Yui in what seemed like unimportant bit parts. I can't tell if there's no meaning to it, or if it reveals these characters will actually take on much greater importance as the show develops. I guess I'm going to have to stick around to find out.

Dated 18 August 2020: Sure not a lot of Alice in this season of Sword Art Online: Alicization

Asuna
How's it going, Asuna? Good?

I enjoyed the first half of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld because it focused mainly on Alice Synthesis Thirty. Sword Art Online is still Kirito's show, but he spent most of those episodes sort of mentally checked out while ol' 30 wheeled him around the war. Well, Kirito hasn't been doing a whole lot during the current cours either. His mind is still locked in the nightmare prison of his psyche, but XXX hasn't been dragging him around because Alice herself hasn't been around much. Mostly it's just Asuna and various other characters from previous seasons having a bad time.

Eugeo and Kirito
Kirito is really busy right now, Eugeo.

About those various other characters.... Well, there is no way to talk about the following without spoiling Sword Art Online II and Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale as well as episode 18 of War of Underworld, so avert your eyes if you care about that sort of thing.

Asuna and Yuuki
Fortuitously, meeting Yuuki was not an SAO memory for Asuna.

I like watching Sword Art Online despite being dissatisfied with the vast majority of it. A notable exception is the "Mother's Rosario" arc (i.e., the AIDS arc) which I regard as legitimately good, or at least as good as SAO ever gets. Consequently, the very brief callback in the Ordinal Scale movie to Yuuki's gift genuinely resonated with me, and I still enjoy the scene now as much as I did the first time.

Yuuki and Asuna
This was probably better in the books or if you hadn't already seen the Ordinal Scale version.

Episode 18 of War of Underworld also invokes Yuuki, but in a much less satisfying manner. I'm pretty sure this scene was originally written before the Ordinal Scale one, so you could argue the movie stole its thunder. In any case, Asuna drawing strength from Yuuki simply did not work for me in this instance. What did work was the appearance of Eiji and Yuna in the previous week's episode. I was legitimately surprised (largely because I failed to recognize them at all in their earlier cameo). I don't have strong opinions about Eiji or Yuna one way or another, but I enjoyed their surprise appearance.

Yuna
LISTEN TO MY SONG!

There is something that I'm unsure about, though. As I understand it, anyone converting their ALfheim Online or whatever characters to enter the Underworld server risks permanent character death, which is why Lisbeth had such a hard time gathering support when she pleaded for help. So what character did Eiji use? Yuna, I imagine, just sort camps out on the old SAO server (which nobody has scrapped, luckily for her) and doesn't need to abide by any real rules, but Eiji was using an ALO character, right? Does it matter? Is he bummed that it's (presumably) gone now unless the dudes on the Ocean Turtle can get around to restoring it? Is there anything stopping Eiji from simply rejoining the way American, Korean, and Chinese griefers joined? For that matter, are any of them generating new characters and rejoining over and over? I get the feeling we're just not supposed to think about any of this.

Dated 14 July 2020: Sword Art Online is back and it's the SAO we know

Alice
I still don't actually know what "Alicization" means, unless it involves energy beams to the face.

The final cours of Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld began on Saturday, picking up where it left off six months ago. First, a quick overview: Sword Art Online is the franchise. Alicization is its third major season (and once complete, will be four cours long—as long as the first two seasons combined). War of Underworld is the double-cours second half of Alicization.

Alice
I bet that sleep spell wouldn't have worked if Alice S. 30 had an N95 mask.

The original SAO cast was absent from most of the previous 12 episodes, which focused instead on Alice Sythesis Thirty, a UCLA Bruin introduced for the third season. Kirito has been present during War of Underworld, sort of, but relegated to mostly convalescing in a wheelchair while Alice S. Thirty pushed him around so he could be nearer to people who want him dead.

Kirito and Sinon
He's probably trying to figure out what's going on with your outfit.

Kirito has been showing signs that he's still awake somewhere behind his dead-fish eyes, so it's a cinch he's going to make his grand return at some point. Kirito's, uh, new best friend Eugeo also features prominently during the opening and closing credits of the new season, so maybe he's going to be back, too.

Asuna and Sinon
Somehow Asuna is the only one to recognize flying is a big deal.

Asuna and Sinon both joined the titular war at the end of the previous cours. Leafa and Klein logged in during the first episode of the current cours. So yeah, they're getting the old crew back together for the season's big finish. Fans of the original cast who have been dying for more Silica and Lisbeth deban presumably won't have to wait much longer. First-season characters are not the only thing that has returned, though. Sexual assault is also back.

Quinella
I'm including the time the pope Jedi mind fucked Eugeo.

Actually, sexual assault has never really left. Attempted rape, etc., is such a common occurrence in the Sword Art Online franchise that I'm not sure I could name all the times it appears without accidentally forgetting a scene or two. I don't even object to its inclusion on principle, necessarily—it's just always contrived and presented so poorly and obnoxiously, though.

Leafa
I can't rule out the possibility Suguha just enjoys suffering.

In the instant case, Leafa logs in, makes a new friend, and is instantly tentacle raped by an exaggerated over-the-top villain (the most common sort of villain in SAO). It goes beyond even the infamous first-season example involving Asuna. (That's specific enough to identify which one I mean, right?) Leafa suffers through it for entirely unconvincing reasons.

Gabriel Miller
You can identify SAO villains because they all make this face.

Maybe Sword Art Online includes these scenes and presents them in this way because possibly a significant majority of SAO fans enjoy and appreciate them, but I'm optimistic enough to hope it's done out of deference to Kawahara Reki's light novels. I don't know how much the SAO anime deviates from the source material, but I sort of get the feeling that it's not doing it enough.

Alice
I don't remember Alice S. XXX wearing this outfit before.

If you listen to the commentary track for Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, it's quite obvious the production team changed or rejected a significant number of Kawahara's ideas and scenes. I can only guess at what the movie's original script might have looked like, but I think all but the most puerile viewers can identify with certainty which elements of the television show desperately needed re-working.

Dated 10 March 2020: AmiAmi sells swords online

Alice's sword
I don't remember Alice Synthesis Thirty's sword having any special backstory.
Maybe the pope simply pulled it out of a parts bin when she gave it to her.

I'm not sure what use a 15-centimeter die-cast anime sword made out of zinc is, but if you ever wanted a scale model anime sword, I guess this is your chance. Maybe use it as a letter opener? Those of you who still get letters, at least. Anyway, this is not an endorsement of AmiAmi in particular, although I do order from it on occasion. It's pretty likely you can get these from other vendors. Besides, the available selection is not particularly deep.

Excalibur
Make sure you holler its name the same way Saber do.

I can't deny that I could potentially be interested in gimmick merchandise of this sort if it turned out the quality is reasonably good. As anime swords go, I expect that would require making them out of steel instead of zinc, but I imagine that would probably raise the price considerably. As it is, fifty bucks for a six-inch zinc "sword" is pretty steep, especially since I don't see any indication they come with display stands or whatnot. I am, however, quite amused that Sakura's key qualifies as a sword in this context. I have to admit that's pretty sweet.

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.

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 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 10 June 2019: I wonder if Miru Tights is part of a fetish-anime cinematic universe

Yua
There's also a Saekano connection.

When I first saw the announcement for a Miru Tights anime, I assumed it was only going to be an OVA. It turns out it's a series on the YouTube. There are five episodes so far, with about as much continuity as you might reasonably expect from a collection of anime shorts that exist pretty much solely for ogling-type purposes. It's loosely based on the work of this artist (Yom). Surprising no one, I'm sure, hosiery features prominently throughout each four-minute episode.

Homi
This is some combination.

With regard to other fetish anime, I suppose Miru Tights shares most in common with Aiura (which arguably is not a fetish anime at all). I'm not sure I've seen very many other fetish shows, for that matter, although I guess Anitore! EX and Anitore! XX count. Miru Tights is also doing that thing where various popular artists provide stylized end cards for the show, although they don't appear with the episodes hosted on the YouTube. You can find them at the usual places and (partially) via the Twitter. I don't have any idea how many episodes Miru Tights is expected to run, but it started late, so probably less than 10? Or maybe they'll just keep making episodes forever, like One Piece. That could happen, right?