A VERY Mixed Bag
After watching Ordinal Scale in the theater, I was pretty hype for the upcoming third season. Later, when I heard that this season would have a boat load of episodes, basically enough to run for an ENTIRE YEAR, that hype only grew. Then it came out… From my tone you are probably thinking I hated it, but I didn’t. However, the show was all over the place and something was clearly missing from previous installments in the franchise.
It should be pretty apparent by the way I opened this article that I’m a fan of the Sword Art Online anime franchise. Yes, it has its share of flaws, but I’ve generally enjoyed a good portion of the show. With great highs such as the “Mother’s Rosario” arc and lows such as the “Excalibur” filler episode. Something that I’ve noticed though, is that over time each installment has improved upon what was previously built with room for continued growth moving forward.
Reki Kawahara, author of the series, has always struggled with pacing and how to properly balance which characters get screen time. However, by the end of Ordinal Scale, it felt like he was finally hitting his stride. Having had more experience and taking influence from others, see Gun Gale Online, you can see this gradual improvement in these areas.
When it comes to this latest season with Alicization, it feels like all that got thrown out the window. I’ve noted in my “What I’m Watching – Fall 2018 Anime” article that things open with problems. It is true that I still enjoyed the show, but signs of issues were present from the very start.
Everything in this 24 episode installment, just takes way too long to happen. Really, I don’t mind that so much, but not a lot of interesting things occur as we go from point A to B. Of course there were some pretty great episodes or moments, but I couldn’t help but feel that they were farther and fewer between than any previous season.
You know the pacing is bad when you have a dedicated recap episode that is immediately followed up by yet ANOTHER recap episode. Not even joking, Alicization brazenly did that. They didn’t even try to make those interesting either, which isn’t surprising, but just extra salt in the wound.
There was a lack of hype. Asuna and Kirito don’t get to interact at all really, the rest of the cast basically doesn’t exist, and while some of the new characters, namely Eugeo are cool, not enough of them leave a lasting impact.
All said, there were still things I liked quite a bit. For starters, the series has received a notable visual upgrade to bring it inline more with the film. Despite the controversy, I enjoyed episode 10 which was proper payoff for an arc (even with the gross censorship). Even the villain, Quinella, who seems rather shallow at first, has enough going on that I could write an entire article about her and thematic elements involved with her character.
Additionally, some stuff in this show was legitimately uncomfortable. Maybe that sounds like a bad thing to you, but this is actually a point of high praise from me. Personally, I think media should challenge folks and this does achieve that a few times. That, and anime struggles to convey real horror in any capacity and season 3 here managed it more than once!
My final point of praise is in the ending of the series. Even with the Eugeo deciding his purpose in life was to become a giant flying sword powered by love and friendship (yes, that actually happened), they managed to recover from that and have an emotional conclusion. It didn’t feel cheap or unnecessary either. Kirito has a real reaction and it felt very good.
Then, they go and leave off on a crazy cliffhanger. Now, I expected something to go wrong for this last episode but I didn’t quite think things would escalate to the point it actually went to. Don’t want to spoil it, but I am actually excited for this to return in October. I just hope they really narrow in on the pacing and keep a tight ship, because if they manage that, we should be in for a pretty good ride!
Love it or hate it, I want to hear your thoughts on Sword Art Online both as a franchise and regarding this series, of course! Was something missing for you or did this keep you hyped for its whole run? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments. If you feel like supporting my writing, you can do so by utilizing my Ko-fi button below. Finally, thank you so much for reading and have yourself an excellent day!