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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 21 July 2020: I don't know what I expected from DECA-DENCE, but it wasn't this

Natsume
I sort of get the feeling this job would benefit from additional PPE.

The first episode of DECA-DENCE makes it look like a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age tale about a girl who refuses to give up her dreams. Based on the second episode, it still seems to be all that, but we learn there is a lot more to this world than previously revealed. (And we also learn one of the characters is tired of living.)

Natsume
Still looks more comfortable than many anime beds.

I'm not sure what to make of DECA-DENCE yet. The show looks fantastic, and the animation is great. I enjoy the two apparent main leads (recent graduate Natsume and Kaburagi, her supervisor at work) so far, but I'm glad that green-haired douche from the first episode took a week off. It's also not clear yet whether Deca-dence—the name of the giant mobile fortress—has anything to do with "decadence." Maybe it's meant to be ironic; life as a tanker looks austere.

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 14 April 2020: At least I'm not buying three copies of each disc—well, not deliberately, anyway

< Evirus> I remember hardsubbed signs on Nadesico DVDs which I still own.
< Evirus> Actually, still the last way I ever watched Nadesico. I've still never opened my Blu-rays.
<@Divine> It sounds like you have more unopened blurays than ones you've actually watched
< Evirus> This may, in fact, be the case.

With things the way they are now, you would think I'd be making some progress through my stack of unopened Blu-rays and DVDs, or my backlog of unwatched shows and planned re-watches. However, it turns out I already watch so much anime on a weekly basis that any additional free time get quickly consumed by all the other things that get displaced by anime watching and the pursuit of anime accessories.

Ayame and Yukina
Why are you wearing such a heavy jacket, Yukina?
Is it so you can dramatically strip it off later?

I do still see value in purchasing physical media, though. I think most people recognize that the oh-so-convenient streaming-based environment that we have presently is also somewhat capricious and occasionally prone to confounding moments of unavailability. The landscape itself is also less than ideal. For example, I was able to watch the Koutetsujou no Kabaneri compilation movies on the Crunchyroll, but I had to switch to the Netflix to watch the third movie.

Hopefully, all of these Blu-rays and DVDs will still be playable when I finally do get around to watching them. I have had CD-Rs die on me, but I haven't yet had an actual CD, DVD, or Blu-ray fail on me yet providing they've been properly handled and stored. (And not counting Manga Entertainment's End of Evangelion fiasco.)

Mumei
You know things are serious when bayonets are involved.

I plan to continue buying Blu-rays of shows I like, even if the odds I'll ever actually watch them seem sort of low. I guess I am at least less likely to buy Blu-rays on release now, unless I really like the show. Since there's a good chance I won't watch them for years, it makes more financial sense to wait until the price drops later. The exception to this, however, are my occasional imports of Japanese releases, since they typically pack in a bunch of cool extras—something I wish U.S. releases would include more often, even if the prices increase.

Dated 31 March 2020: I watched GeGeGe no Kitarou for two years

Kitarou
I liked the way Sawashiro Miyuki voiced Kitarou.

I knew basically nothing about GeGeGe no Kitarou before I started watching it two years ago. From the promotional material and initial surge of fan art, I at least determined that it was originally a manga from the 1960s that had five previous anime adaptions. It already had hundreds of episodes and numerous updates to its character designs. I decided to give it a chance based solely on this information, even though the NekoMusume character now had legs that went up to her neck. What I found was a modern family show with traditional ties in an anime that frequently featured thoughtful—yet entertaining—episodes.

Monroe, Pii, and NekoMusume
You would not believe how sick NekoMusume is of your shit.

I can't claim the show taught me a lot about yokai and their associated myths, but I'm at least a lot more familiar with them now. This is a sharp contrast to my first encounter with yokai, in Azumanga Daioh. They seemed perplexing and bizarre back then. I suspect this sort of familiarization was also intended for the younger viewers of GeGeGe no Kitarou. I don't know how often yokai feature in children's stories told to contemporary Japanese kids, but watching cartoons about them probably at least reinforces their understanding about old-timey lore. For little kids, it was sort of a violent and grisly show by American standards, though—about on par with what they'd see in Detective Conan.

Agnes
At least the first Backbeard arc gave us Agnes.
P.S. EINS, ZWEI, GUTEN MORGEN.

Ultimately, was it really worth watching 97 episodes of GeGeGe no Kitarou just to say I've seen it? It's not the sort of show I'd recommend for people to plow through if it doesn't immediately capture their attention (to say nothing of the hundreds of episodes that ran prior to the latest iteration), but watching it week-to-week was all right. There wasn't much of a cohesive narrative, discounting some of the longer arcs. Thankfully, the second "Backbeard" arc turned out to be much shorter than the first one, as Backbeard was not much of an antagonist. It turns out the true villains are the evils we bring forth from within ourselves. P.S. Spoilers.

Dated 24 March 2020: Four thoughts about Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia; the third one will shock you

Ana
Ana is a good girl.

Firstly, I fully expected to find Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia (Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia) mostly incomprehensible, since I was basically ignorant about its lore aside from what I managed to glean via the Twitter and from the copious amounts of fan art devoted to the franchise. This did, indeed, turn out to be the case. It certainly does not help that Fate/Baby was episode seven within its underlying Fate GO game's narrative.

Leonardo and Romani
Leonardo never pulled up a chair of her own.

Secondly, none of that mattered, since the animation in Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia was frickin' amazing. It was literally so good that the story was inconsequential. It's worth watching just because it looks so good. I know in a post-Shirobako world we're not supposed to mention the B-word, but the anime adaptation of a franchise that prints money clearly had resources available to it, that, say, Cop Craft did not. The animation in Cop Craft gave me the impression people were doing the best they could in the face of adversity they did not control. The animation in Babylonia made me think animators were showing off and trying to outdo each other week after week.

Ishtar
Believe it, baby.

Thirdly, these conditions serendipitously produced the best variant of Tohsaka Rin (Toosaka, whatever) of all time. Even better than Kaleido Ruby. I don't actually know why Ishtar looks like Rin from Fate/stay night. I literally could not break it down for you even though the show explicitly addressed it, and I've read the various summaries found in wikis for the game and whatnot. I find these explanations unsatisfactory. In any event, it doesn't matter. All you need to know is that Ishtar is a game-breaking home run. Oh, and Ereshkigal is okay, too.

Gilgamesh
It turns out Gilgamesh was a lot more chill back in the day.

Finally, Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia was a really loud show. I don't think the show streamed with a discrete LFE channel (I didn't check), but it was at least mixed in such a way that every episode got considerable use out of my subwoofer. Planet With was sort of like this too, but it was sort of unpleasant during Planet With. On the other hand the deep impacts and 'splosions in Fate/Baby were really satisfying. I keep telling people not to skimp on the audio portion when setting up their preferred viewing space, whether it be a television or a computer. Hopefully, fans of Babylonia followed this practice as well. Totally worth it.

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.