「ニューワールド」 (Nyuu Waarudo)
“New World”

I didn’t expect Alicization to wrap up here. But there was definitely a lot to unpack – including a fittingly open ending which lends itself to the possibility of a continuation.

Alice: Become Human

When Alice ominously whispered that she was withering, it’s now become clear that she was grappling with an existential crisis. All her life she’d been taught that her meaning revolved around serving Quinella and wielding a sword. But after breaking free of the Taboo Index thanks to Kirito’s help, and discovering meaning in fighting for his comatose sake, coming to the real world – which is mostly peaceful despite the underlying darkness, has robbed her of the meaning she had found. To that end, she runs away from the scientific conferences that were being held to flout her as the very first AI human, and arrives at Kirito’s house. Which is why Kirito received a call from Rinko at the end of last episode. And yet again, it is Kirito who rationalises her meaning. That she is the representative of all citizens of the Underworld, when it comes to fighting for and establishing their rights within real world contexts. And that she carries the hopes of many who died upon her shoulders – such as Eugeo and Bercoulli.

Now assured of her existence, Alice receives a mysterious message in the middle of the night, which turns out to be a secret yet public IP address for accessing the Underworld. This has huge implications where public access to the Underworld is concerned. It can probably be merged with the World Seed, meaning these artificial fluctlights will be able to travel between Aincrad, Alfheim, Gun Gale, etc to interact with real humans. Which is absolutely massive in helping the cause seeking to establish human rights for artificial fluctlights. And there is a distinct possibility I can envision here – fluctlight Kayaba has somehow survived at the bottom of the sea and secretly orchestrated this entire thing, and maybe even established contact with fluctlight 200+ year old Kirito to strike up a truce in forming a collaboration to protect the Underworld. I’ve heard there will be a subsequent arc – Unital Ring – and I look forwards to seeing it receive an adaptation, since my burning questions will probably be answered once and for all. With Sword Art Online: Progressive on the way, I’m confident that we will eventually see this continuation.

A Long Love Song to Alicization

Alicization has easily been my favourite arc of the Sword Art Online franchise so far. Reki Kawahara had some serious foresight when it came to exploring ontological issues – specifically the questions surrounding AI pertaining to how souls can be defined and whether AI can be classified as human, which are increasingly pertinent within modern society given the rapid progression that science is making in that sector. Most importantly, we finally saw some significant character progression for Kirito. And just as how Yuuki brought out the best for Asuna, Eugeo was the perfect foil to the Black Swordsman – the best friend he never had. Their bromance and camaraderie, from chopping down the Gigas Cedar to attending Sword Academy to fighting against the injustice of the Taboo Index to scaling the Central Cathedral in hopes of saving Alice Zuberg.

Despite only being acquainted for three years, Eugeo and Kirito truly shared in journeys of a lifetime. Only for Kirito to realise that re-instating the original Alice Zuberg would not be fair to the Synthesis Knight 30 consciousness that had inhabited her body for the past decade, causing these two best friends to point their blades at one another. Although sticking up for Alice the Synthesis Knight was the correct thing, it partially culminated in Eugeo’s death – a crucial flash point for Kirito’s development. Through the exploration of his fluctlight, we are exposed to his unseen PTSD and guilt which has been actively consuming him since his time in Aincrad. Despite being the Black Swordsman, who saved thousands from Kayaba’s cruel death game, and even though he had good cause and reason for killing some villainous curs who would directly hurt him or his loved ones, their deaths haunt him. And combined with the weight of Eugeo’s death, Kirito is brought to the brink of suicide where he prepares to crush his own soul.

However, it is a fragment of Eugeo’s fluctlight that appears to save him. To forgive him, and remind him that still had loved ones to fight for. So it makes sense that once Kirito had finished saving his loved ones, finished saving the Underworld from the threats of Vassago and Subtilizer, that he would go back to mulling over Eugeo’s death. Here, we don’t see a perfect Gary Stu who is exceptionally better than others and somehow always saves the day. We see an emotionally vulnerable and dorky kid, who only wanted to play video games. But ends up frequently having to do what’s right, because he had considerable talent in these games, and subsequently possessed the power to save the day.

But I suppose like Shinji from Evangelion, he never asked for these powers. And never wanted to be a factor behind Eugeo’s death. Not to mention Subtilizer’s powers far surpassed his own, if not for the collective prayers of the Underworldians. He came through life and death, was faced with insane trials and tribulations, and comes out at the end as a much better character. While memories of Eugeo bring him intense suffering, he’s the only person who can remember Eugeo’s sacrifice and give meaning to Eugeo’s existence. So despite how much it hurts, he remembers Eugeo to honour his best friend’s life. And for me, their relationship is the true beauty behind Alicization. For all its flaws, the series is anything but hollow or superficial. From Sachi, to Yuuki, to Eugeo, it has always possessed layers upon layers of meaning that haters have refused to see or accept. To surmise, I truly love Alicization from the bottom of my heart.

Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. As always, thanks for reading these posts. It really has been one heck of a journey. And I hope to see you all next time when Progressive comes out.

Epilogue:

28 Comments

  1. Without spoiling anything, they laid the foundation for the Unital Ring arc with the Fluctlight Kirito and Higa conversation. This is a big part of whats to come. See it from Fluctlight Kiritos point of view, he has spent 200 years with Asuna and now shes gone. He knows hes not the real Kirito but has spent so long in Underworld that for it to be under threat is like you know, hed do anything to stop that percieved threat. He really has nothing to lose at this point.

    Lyfe
    1. I’ve got so many burning questions. And I can really imagine that a King would work behind the scenes and use all of his resources/advantages to try and protect his kingdom. I suppose it will be quite some time until Unital Ring – I reckon another 2-3 years minimum. But when it comes out, I will be really excited to see if we’ll see these questions answered. And for bonus points, how the SAO universe ties into Accel World.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the writing. I gave it a shot, I’m sure I could have done better, but the main thing was getting it out within a reasonable timeframe from the final episode airing. And I’m pretty chuffed with my attempt.

    1. I’m honestly surprised that they didn’t announce a Moon Cradle movie which offers a small slice of what happened in Underworld during Kirito & Asunas stay. Its nothing amazing but it would have bookended the Alicization Arc nicely allowing them to then move onward to Unital Ring cleanly.

      But SAO Progressive is a semi soft reboot at least in my opinion. Kirito spent more time as Solo player than he did with Asuna. Sure they spent a bunch of time together when their relationship became close, but Progressive seems to push a narrative that they spent far more time than previously established.

      Lyfe
  2. Rule 34 artists are rubbing their hands after seeing Alice sneak into Kirito’s bedroom.
    Some people really do have a fetish for human and robot intimacy. I can’t say I blame them.

    Gabi
  3. … yeah that opening isn’t going to raise a few eyebrows to anyone who hasn’t seen Chobits. 😛 … she can walk and make her own decisions if I do understand correctly? Then why the hell pack her into a shipping box?! Couldn’t she ride over to his house?

    I saw all three seasons and I still do not fully understand how all this works.

    starss
    1. She wouldnt want to draw unwanted attention to Kirito and his family. Remember that she was paraded on national television as a new form of life. You’ll of course find that crazies out there may try and do something.

      Lyfe
    1. Is it really surprising that a nerdy guy like Kirito spending 200 years in a society like Underworld helped them technologically? You only have to see what he’s done in the real world, though on a smaller scale. Now imagine having a lot of free time with the person you love, time you’d likely spend building stuff if thats your thing.

      Lyfe
  4. Want some chills? Enter that IP address into a web browser.

    So that’s it huh? Surprised we didn’t get to see Alice reunite with her sister. That whole space monster thing sure was out of the blue. It would make sense that they would advance technologically like that with what i’m assuming is mostly world peace. Looking forward to watching the continuation however long that takes.

    sealouse
  5. Now that the dust has finally settled, I’ll be honest and blunt, I didn’t like most of this season of Sword Art Online in a serious manner. I let slide some bad stuff from before because it wasn’t consistently bad and the story was still giving me a lot of good things in the meanwhile, but this time, the bad was consistent for me. The only reason I’ve kept my mouth shut this whole time was because I didn’t want to sound like a broken record and possibly ruin everyone else’s fun with the season, but now I feel like I can finally get it off of my chest.

    A lot of stuff didn’t make sense, like how Vassago and Subtilizer were OP with no proper setup for how they got OP. Kirito was the same with his weapon authority level because technically speaking, when it’s true that you need to kill some strong enemies to level up your weapon authority, Kirito did NOT kill Quinella (it was Chudelkin that dealt the death blow before he died), so I didn’t buy it when she said “I wanna see what you do with the power you inherited from me.”

    Vassago got a freakin gaping hole in his torso courtesy of Asuna and yet he didn’t die, and the anime left his survival unexplained. It was as if they just needed to add more powerful enemies for the OP, newly-awakened Kirito to take down.

    IRL, how did Gabriel die after being killed in UW when if you just die with your super game account in UW, you technically will remain alive IRL but will only possibly lose your super account? This was also set up when Vassago told Kirito that even if the latter kills him here, he’ll still come after him IRL, which is why Kirito cursed him by turning him into a tree in UW. Logical inconsistency right there that was left unexplained. And then Gabriel’s childhood friend emerging then dragging him down to river Styx…. really?! Was that necessary?!

    Kayaba’s consciousness inhabiting a robot… mixed feelings at best, mainly because it came out of nowhere. Him waking up his robot body even after its battery ran out? Yeah, just no. Hell no. Nothing but a deus ex machina (it’s actually disturbing how literal that term is in this case).

    The only thing I could buy out all of it was the release recollection of the Night Sky Blade, because THAT was actually well set up with how the cider tree absorbed everything around it, but unfortunately that’s not saying much in the grand scheme of things.

    Now I did say that I didn’t like most of this season in a serious manner, because at the end of day, call me selfish, I have a personal philosophy when it comes to bad story telling (in my eyes anyway): If a story about a fighting protagonist with a clear goal whom we root for will not make sense, make that protagonist victorious by the end of it. Because when a story doesn’t make sense, it will disconnect from me, and that’s if I’m supposed to take it seriously. Then if the non-sensical story ends up making the enemy win, or no one walks away happy, that’s just a story designed to make the audience mad on purpose, and that’s never a good thing (I’m looking at you, certain PS4 exclusive released this year that shall not be named here). Thankfully, I can sense Kawahara not being intentional about the story being bad (and if what another comment on this site said was true, he himself admits he didn’t write his story well, so he’s humble), and that’s not even taking into account all the inevitable details the anime must’ve omitted. Also thankfully, our protagonist won in the end and everyone walked away happy, so I could just enjoy this season like it’s The Room of SAO instead of staying mad at it because that’s not healthy to me and because I still love SAO despite the nonsense of War of Underworld.

    Then the IRL stuff happened and that was frankly good, mainly because it finally gave Alice her much deserved spotlight in the season when she was unfortunately relegated to a run-away living macguffin (which I’m not mad about, just a bit disappointed). It also set up star king Kirito and Kayaba’s collab which I’m all for.

    All in all, definitely not my favorite SAO season. Since Progressive is set in the Aincrad incident between episode 2 and 3 of the 1st season, here’s hoping SAO goes back to some simpler times before Unital Ring.

    1. Re Vassago: Vassago’s power was to consume suffering/hatred. He was really powerful when Asuna blew a hole in his chest because the hoards of Chinese/Korean players alongside their suffering/hatred gave him pretty much limitless amounts of energy. Kirito froze all the Chinese/Korean players and logged them out – removing the source of Vassago’s power. And in the process of logging them out, he converted their avatars into life energy for his Night Sky Blade to absorb. Since the Gigas Cedar it was made from grew so large from absorbing life energy. PoH was forced to become a sentient, immovable tree and when time acceleration happened, he spent 200 years in oblivion – which either killed him or at least turned him into a mindbroken zombie.

      Re Subtilizer – Incarnation = Willpower/Imagination. Gabe truly believed the god account’s powers were just his own, and didn’t realise it was a god account only thing, so he was able to replicate them on his real account through subconsciously applying Incarnation. His ability was to continuously steal what is essentially data. He consumed 200 years of Gigas Cedar, the lights from the stars in the Underworld, and everyone’s collectives hopes and prayers from the Night Sky Blade and it overloaded his fluctlight – which caused his fluctlight to breakdown and resulted in his death.

      Re What Were people even fighting for what was their goal – Ultimately an ontological fight to recognise the rights and humanity of fluctlights through the examination of how souls can be defined. Are they just programmed intelligence? Or are they something more than that? eg Kirito believed in the right for Synthesis Alice to exist over returning the original Alice Zuberg. And people like Asuna realised just how indistinguishable fluctlights were from humans and grieved at their suffering/death – to the point she breaks down and almost gives up when Vassago brutally kills some of the Underworld people. The bad guys don’t care about fluctlight rights. They want to steal Alice and work her into an advanced AI for military purposes. Even the good guys are in a grey zone – with the original purpose of Alice’s development being military uses. However, fluctlight rights prevail in the end – because Alice is able to publicly demonstrate her humanity to the world, representing/saving the Underworldians from a grim fate of lifetime servitude/suffering as slaves. Or at the very least buys time for Fluctlight Kayaba/Fluctlight Kirito to work on a master plan to save the Underworld.

      1. What truly irritates me about Vassago and Subtilizer’s powers is that the 2 of them attained them without any hint of having worked for them, not like with Kirito and his power (sans everything he “received” from Quinella). Those powers were just there from the beginning when we didn’t even get to know the villains on the same level as we did Kirito. The story is asking a lot (I’d even argue too much) out of the audience to believe those powers, especially since those 2 haven’t spent as much time in UW as Kirito did with his 2 years. It just didn’t work for me. Kudos for it working for other people.

  6. You see those two girls standing beside Kirito in space? That’s the future standing there – one of them is his love and the other is his hope. Both can’t be separated from him hence the growing friction between them XD

    Hands down this and the Aincrad arc are the best arcs of SAO and I can’t wait to see where Unital Ring brings our beloved trio to. Gonna miss waiting for the next episode though after 47 episodes and 2 years of Alicization.

    seancorr
    1. 100% agree. I get that a lot of people had issues with Alicization, especially regarding Incarnation and the way Kirito becomes Gary Stu beyond belief upon waking up from his coma. But I truly believe Incarnation remained logically consistent throughout the course of the show, and that while it’s convenient that Kirito was insanely well-versed, it isn’t too far-fetched seeing how he lived in the Underworld for three years.

      Plus as an exploration into psychology, I can buy into the idea that if Incarnation is a combination of willpower/imagination, psychopaths/sociopaths with incredible imagination/lack of self-doubt like Vassago and Subtilizer could exhibit the insane mastery that they demonstrated. And they didn’t have Kirito’s three year head start either.

      Anyway, fingers crossed that a successful Progressive is followed by a satisfactory Unital Ring!

      1. “Plus as an exploration into psychology, I can buy into the idea that if Incarnation is a combination of willpower/imagination, psychopaths/sociopaths with incredible imagination/lack of self-doubt like Vassago and Subtilizer could exhibit the insane mastery that they demonstrated. And they didn’t have Kirito’s three year head start either.”

        Now see, that’s where the story loses me. Have the villains earn that power up with sufficient time and training within UW instead of having them be OP. How would they even be aware of such a mechanic in UW for them to exploit it? Was it explained to them before? Are they even aware that they’re more powerful for it? Because I’m sensing a lack of awareness on their part, and if so, I don’t buy it. But that’s just me.

  7. The whole Alicialization arc was largely a miss, for me, but I’ll chalk it up to the degree of difficulty in transcribing the LN to anime, if the few youtube vids discussing the cut content is any indication. Don’t wanna be a Danny Downer, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    Gotta admit, though, that I’m slightly miffed Alice acquired a body before Yui.

    I hope the rest of the SAO/Alfheim cast returns in the next arc and not just be relegated to jobber status.

    Beedle

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