Genre: Action, Adventure, Romance, Fantasy
Season: Fall 2019 – Summer 2020
Finishing Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld, I figured that I should write a review on the series since I thought it was arguably one of the best Sword Art Online arc. So here we go. I hope you all enjoy this Alicization – War of Underworld Review!
After defeating Quinella, the pontifex of the Axiom Church, Kirito has fallen into a coma state. As a result, Alice Zuberg, an Integrity Knight and Kirito’s companion, must now take care of him. However, things soon become chaotic as Ocean Turtle is abruptly raided by a foreign military group. With the goal of Alice’s fluctlight, these ruthless soldiers started a brutal war within the Underworld. Now, in order attain victory for this one sided war, Kirito and his friends must once again join hands in order to defeat the all-evil Emperor Vector.
The plot to Sword Art Online – Alicization – War of Underworld is rather straightforward. Following the defeat of Quinella, the pontifex of the Axiom Church, Kirito has entered a coma while Alice’s fluctlight is in a massive threat of getting stolen. In order to save Kirito and herself, Alice retreated to her hometown, Rulid Village, where she hoped a peaceful life would somehow allow Kirito to regain his consciousness.
Despite the mediocre plot that is similar to other story arcs of Sword Art Online, where Kirito continues to be an overpowered and cliche main character, I think there is much to be discussed within the Alicization arc. For once, I think that Sword Art Online’s author, Reki Kawahara, has massively improved. It shows. What was once a highly cliche and childish series featuring an overpowered character has gradually transitioned into a more serious, darker themed and overall, written with some great character’s depths.
Arguably, Sword Art Online – Alicization – War of Underworld contains some of the most brutal fight scenes I have ever witness from the series. Arms and heads were flying, and there was an overall lack of sugarcoating from the series itself.
Alice Synthesis Thirty:
Alice Zuberg, also known as Alice Synthesis Thirty, was the major heroine of the War of Underworld arc. Following Alicization’s previous events where Kirito and Eugen has defeated the Pontifex, she was faced with a dire situation when Kirito fell into a deep coma. Despite being one of the main protagonist of the series, I felt her character was already completed by the time of Sword Art Online – War of Underworld. Yes, I am talking about her massive transformation as an Integrity Knight in breaking her Seal of the Right Eye and learning the truth about the pontifex.
The one thing I found slightly annoying or burdensome is that, despite taking care of Kirito during his vegetable state, Alice rely too much on Kirito. In a way, this is true for all the girls within Kirito’s friend group. However, I felt that Reki Kawahara would have been able to do better with a Tsundere character, or more “hard to get” than the previous heroine characters. That way, I wouldn’t have to actually roll my eyes when seeing the same cliche scenes of Alice calling Kirito’s name over and over again.
As an Integrity Knight, Alice is incredibly righteous yet surprisingly naive, and often take her Integrity Knight’s duty a tad bit too serious. She held utmost respect for Bercouli Synthesis One almost like he was a father to her. The aftermath of the battle between Bercouli and Gabriel really showed this. I admit I was on the verge of crying during the shocking scene.
But, despite her serious and innocent personality, Alice was quite the witty AI once she was in the real world. I mean she did go as far as to run away from Rath to her beloved Kirito-kun.
Speaking of Kirito, I was on the verge of my seats counting every single episode until he wakes up from his coma. Despite such painstaking process, having Kirito in his coma state was actually a great move by Reki Kawahara himself. It leaves enough room to showcase other minor characters, particularly the Integrity Knights and the Dark Knights. And let’s also be real. With Kirito still alive and kicking, the War of Underworld arc would have been finished within 12 episodes.
However, the overall vibe I get from Kirito in Alicization is that he was not as overpowered as he was depicted in previous seasons. Don’t get me wrong, Kirito could probably still dual-wield his way out of 10,000 imported MMORPG players sent from Korea.
What I meant here is that instead of always depicting Kirito as an all-powerful character where no one can stop him, Reki Kawahara actually portrayed him as vulnerable and pathetic. Take when Higa Takeru from Rath tried to restore Kirito’s fluctlight using the memories of those around him. That was an incredibly memorable scene for me since I have never seen Kirito been put down to such a pathetic level as that. I totally get that Eugeo was an important part of his consciousness at the time, but damn. That level of mental breakdown was just unthinkable coming from Kirito himself.
But when Kirito actually wakes up, he transformed back into the overpowered main protagonist that I remembered him as. In fact, when he blocked Vassago’s strikes to protect Asuna actually managed to give me goosebumps. And then there’s the whole thing about him turning Vassago into a tree, which I quite didn’t get how he did it but nevertheless, still epic!
But Vassago aside, I think we ought to talk about the highlight of the series, which is the final fight between Kirito and Gabriel. I love how unlike other fights within previous SAO seasons, Kirito actually seemed scared and that there is a possibility that he might actually lose (let’s just pretend Yuuki is an exception in this case). Even I thought that Gabriel was wielding a totally cheat ability of being able to absorb the souls within the Underworld and increase his powers.
However, Kirito, with the aid of his lifelong partner Eugeo as well as the hopes of those within the Underworld, was able to activate his ultimate move, Starbust Stream. And oh my god, that was an incredibly powerful scene able to convey so much emotions.
Sure, Kirito did not solo Gabriel like he did to final bosses in previous SAO seasons, but this final fight simply hit different. It perfectly recap Kirito’s entire MMO journey from making memories with his precious friends in SAO, ALO, GGO. Most important, this scene represent the memories he made with Eugeo and the residents of the Underworld. Putting in all those emotions, to me, that single chant of Starbust Stream was the only and final closure I needed.
Cliche In War of Underworld:
Compared to other SAO seasons, Alicization – War of Underworld contains much less cliches moments. I’m not saying cliché are bad because let’s face it, everyone likes cliché. However, when cliché is overused to an annoying point, viewers are simply left with a desirable urge to roll their eyes.
Reki Kawahara’s writing often involves a last-minute clutch of some sort. Just listing out some examples, Kirito awakens right at the last minute when Vassago was about to defeat Asuna. Or that moment where the Integrity Knights was getting absolutely destroyed by the MMORPG players, only to have Kirito’s friends show up to save their arse.
You see, this writing style is very common in the Sword Art Online franchise as a whole. Now, it’s fine when cliché is used sporadically. However, Reki Kawahara just seems to LOVE cliché, resulting a show that largely overuses cliché, therefore causing much controversies within the anime community. Nevertheless, I still think that War of Underworld managed cliché quite well. And despite having moments that admittedly do not make sense, I could still take the series as a more serious and mature version of Reki Kawahara’s writing.
Soundtrack wise, A-1 Pictures never leave anyone disappointed with their massive budget. The soundtrack were perfect, whether it be intense fight scenes or emotional moments. Nothing much is to be said here.
Also, just a tiny shout-out for one of my favorite Sword Art Online track in a while. I especially love the Opening ANIMA by ReoNa. Definitely one of my personal best anime song of the 2020 season. Will definitely be looping that for a while.
Art & Animation:
Ok, I must say that the art and animation of SAO – Alicization – War of Underworld is simply superb compared to other. The characters’ drawings are much more detailed, especially during intense fight scenes. I mean it’s at the level where I can catch the tiny details of every sword sparks.
Speaking of fight scenes, didn’t I mention the amazing animation quality within War of Underworld? Heads are frantically flying everywhere, and blood are splattered endlessly, depicting the raw chaos that could only be seen in any war. Overall, A-1 Picture really nailed it with this one.
So, to recap, Sword Art Online – Aicization – War of Underworld was arguably one of the best arcs within the Sword Art Online series. Unlike its previous season, War of Underworld gives off a more serious vibe. Meaning, there is less sugarcoating in terms of fight scenes, animation, as well as some of its more serious underlying themes. No more was Kirito the young and naïve teenager boy from before who recklessly soloed dungeon bosses. He was now a man determined to save the Underworld from its imminent doom.