You know that calm, contented feeling you get when you watch the new season of a show you used to love, but that kind of stumbled in the previous season, but the new season looks really promising? I’m talking about Sword Art Online: Alicization. I watched the first Alicization arc, and there were parts I liked. Other parts… Well, let’s just say I agree a lot with what Karandi had to say in her 100 Word Anime review of the series. So when I watched Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld’s first episode called In the Far North, I started to feel my hope rising.
The art was every bit as good as anything they’d given us previously. We had a few flashbacks that I thought were well-placed, especially the one where Alice recalled how Kirito had lost his cognitive abilities. I liked how the locals were trying to take advantage of Alice, but she played along, because she needed the money to take care of Kirito.
Alice chopped down trees to pay the rent — and for other necessities to keep Kirito alive. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I particular liked the scene where Alice chopped down the tree, only to turn around and see some complete jerks had taken Kirito’s sword. He was on the ground, making incoherent sounds, trying to follow the only instincts left to him. The jerks tried to justify it, saying “Look, we did ask that guy to lend us his sword!” (23:39) one of them said. “And he was generous enough to agree. going, ‘Ah, ah.’ You know?”
The smirk was infuriating.
I’ve seen that happen too often IRL. Um, I’m not saying this is based on my personal experience. Let’s say it’s a friend’s. But let’s also say that friend felt a primal rage stir from its slumber. It tried to ask the strategic weapons array to grant it temporary access for “testing” purposes. Let’s say that primal rage has seen jerks like that taunt disabled individuals one too many times.
My friend’s primal rage, that is.
Honestly, I should have stopped watching there. The evidence was now complete: the writers knew what they were doing. They knew how to tug on the heart strings, and they were ramping up for the final blow.
In the quiet of the night, when there’s nothing left to keep your mind occupied, that’s when despair can silently break your spirit. All that’s left is a feeling that whatever you’ve done, it’s not enough; and you have no idea what else to do. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
It was with this scene in mind that we crashed into the show’s final moments. If you have a friend who has cared for someone who’s disabled, there comes a moment at the end of the day. A moment when you’ve discharged all of your responsibilities. When there are no more distractions. When there’s nothing else to occupy your mind. When there’s nothing left to hold back the quiet despair. The writers for this episode know about that moment.
They had prepared for a nuclear strike.
I was particularly worried for my friend, who might be susceptible to this sort of thing.
In this episode, Alice lay down beside Kirito. She looked at him sleeping peacefully. Putting her arm across his chest, she nuzzled up next to him, and she said, “Tell me, Kirito.”
The camera switched angles, and we see the tears that she’d restrained all day start to fall (22:42). “What should I do?”
Alice didn’t know what to do. But she didn’t give up. She stayed by his side, despair and all. Her courage blew me away. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
All she could do was close her eyes as she wept.
That acceptance of despair and the inability to act against it might have been the most powerful moment I’ve witnessed in anime. It was, honestly, too true. It didn’t hit close to home. It hit home.
For my friend, of course.