Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 01 – The Price

When we last saw Kirito and Alice, Eugeo had just died, Administrator was defeated but not killed, and Kirito had lost his right arm and his fluctlight fried by some kind of power surge. This exemplary episode is all about the aftermath of those events, both immediately following them and some months later.

Aside from Rintarou Okabe or Natsuki Subaru, I can’t think of a protagonist in recent anime memory who has suffered as much or fallen quite as low as Kirigaya Kazuto. He was being kept alive in Underworld, devoid of memories, but after saving that world from a tyrant, he lost even more. In the present, autumn is falling on Underworld, and Kirito is a mute, emotionless husk under Alice’s care—with frequent visits from her sister Selka.

Alice is no slouch in the loss department either. She may have regained a sister and, incidentally, her freedom from the Axiom Church and Order of Integrity Knights, but she lost Eugeo, one of the best friends whom she’d forgotten, while the other of those friends in Kirito is the aforementioned husk. It’s ultimately Alice’s episode, and it’s an unyielding portrait of anguish.

Alice scratches out a meager wage felling trees with her sword skills, incomparable to anyone else in the village. The villagers need her help to make progress, but suck their teeth behind her back and even mess with the minimally-responsive Kirito and the Blue Rose Sword he inherited from Eugeo. It doesn’t matter that Alice, Kirito, and Eugeo saved them from Administrator’s evil plans; they just don’t like them.

Knowing Kirito wouldn’t be safe anywhere near the Cathedral, she tried to return to Rulid Village, but her own father shunned her, so she settled in a cabin on the town’s outskirts with Kirito and her loyal (and adorable) dragon Amayori. It would be a happy life—were it not for Kirito’s condition and the still-looming Dark Territory situation.

The tranquil, picturesque surroundings call to mind Kirito and Asuna’s cabin, once the site of so much joy. But while Alice and Selka try to make the best of things, there’s no escaping the fact this is an extremely dismal situation, with no immediate sign that things will get any better.

Quite the contrary: with Administrator off in some other dimension, the world of men has never been more vulnerable to incursions of orcs and goblins from the Dark Territory. Bercouli musters his fellow Integrity Knights and starts re-training lower-ranked forces Admin had banished, but the time of the titular War of Underworld is just over the silver mountain horizons in the background of those gorgeous vistas.

Eldrie is on a mission to confirm the various tunnels into their lands have been blasted to slow the enemy’s advance, but his dragon senses his younger sibling Amayori and thus Alice. Eldrie begs her to rejoin the knights and join the fight. Alice doesn’t tell him she won’t, but that she can’t. Even if she didn’t have to care for Kirito, she can no longer wield her sword. Eldrie reluctantly accepts this and the two part ways cordially.

As Alice turns in with Kirito, sharing his bed to keep him warm or just so she can have human contact, her remaining eye fills with tears as she asks Kirito just what the hell she should do. After all these months with no progress, I imagine she’s starting to lose hope he’ll ever recover, and in the meantime has been coping, enduring, and operating on inertia.

When Kirito suddenly moves as if reacting to something, there’s a sudden glimmer of hope that’s just as quickly snatched away—he’s only reacting reflexively, as Amayori does. You see, fires are blazing in the direction of the town and there are sounds of fighting—no doubt a Dark Territory raid. So yeah, no hope, just more awful shit to deal with.

As all this is happening in Underworld, we have no idea what is transpiring in the real world with Asuna on the Ocean Turtle. While I’m no sucker for punishment, I do appreciate the bleak depths to which our heroes have fallen, because it will make it that much more compelling if and when they manage to claw themselves out. That’s why we must watch.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 08 – IT BURNS US, PRECIOUS!!!

In hindsight, the camping trip seemed doomed to failure. You had multiple parties involved who liked someone who didn’t like them back, whom I listed last week. You had the central couple just having forged their latest peace treaty after yet another misunderstanding. It all felt like so much tinder ready to ignite from the tiniest spark. Besides, we all know what camping leads to…FIRE.

Still, while things were all but certain to blow up before the episode concluded, it featured lots of good character pairings beyond the usual Hikari-and-Iroha. Ishino goes for it with Takanashi only to be turned down in sensational fashion (she asked what he didn’t like about her and he answered, holding nothing back).

While you could say Takanashi’s general feeling of being put out by being invited in the first place is a measure of comeuppance, he is also forced to endure as thorough a dressing-down from Iroha as he exacted upon Ishino. It’s not just that Iroha hates him for what he did to Hikari; she hates how he tries so hard to defend himself to the end.

Itou mostly keeps a respectful distance from his new crush Ayado, but when she calls him “cat-ears-senpai” one too many times he starts to suspect she doesn’t even see him as a potential mate. When she, convinced she’s a “below-average nothing of a girl” thinks no one is looking, she steals a gaze at Hikari talking and laughing with Iroha. But Itou is watching, and he can see—as could anyone with eyes—that Ayado is neither ‘below-average’ nor ‘nothing’.

Despite all this magma simmering just below the surface, it must be said that pretty much everyone is having fun on this trip, even if that fun is being somewhat marred by varying levels of heartache. Iroha even makes a point to tell Ishino how glad she is everyone is having fun. And then Ayado drops a teapot and burns her hand, and Hikari (who was in the kitchen with her) takes her to the sink and tenderly holds her hand under running water.

Seeing Ayado in Hikari’s hands—and seeing how she reacts to being in them—is too much to bear for Itou, who goes outside for some air. When Ayado goes so far as to make guilty eye contact with Iroha, it’s too much for her too, and before you know it, Iroha and Itou are outside for the exact same reason: Ayado and Hikari.

I don’t know if she’s on new medication to make her more sensitive and perceptive or if she was always like this beneath her rough exterior, but Ishino goes out and diagnoses Iroha’s mood with frightening accuracy, in addition to offer some worthwhile advice: if you don’t want things to keep getting weird, don’t be afraid to speak up on the spot.

The group reunites for cardplaying, but only Hikari and Takanashi actually seem interested in playing, while Ayado, who was accidentally pushed into the drink by Ishino, comes down with a fever. Tending to her falls to Iroha, which we later learn was Hikari’s idea, in yet another case of not knowing what he doeth.

Ayado’s pent-up feelings combined with her fever compel her to confess that she’s in love with Hikari, which is really the last thing Iroha needs to hear right there and then. The next time she sees Hikari, he pleads ignorance once more, and she blows her stack and runs off into the chilly woods. “Too dense. I’ve had enough of it.”


Hikari and Ayado are in trouble for the same thing: failing to properly gauge how their words and actions will be construed by the people they care about. Ayado’s poor timing and lack of tact set Iroha off, though she doesn’t deserve the reaming she gets from Takanashi.

Itou is there to put a stop it. Itou may never find himself being watched by Ayado the way Hikari has, but he won’t stand for Takanashi being overly cruel, not to mention hypocritical.

Meanwhile, Ishino accompanies Hikari to look for Iroha, who remains hidden (and cold) to the end of the episode. That’s one damn dark way to end! Honestly, I don’t know where Hikari and Iroha go from here. Hikari’s continued inability to understand anything is wearing thin, while Iroha knows that it’s not entirely his fault—his kindness for those deserving of it simply has no filter.

Sometimes it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes things just burn down, and all you can do is properly dispose of the ashes. Or will new growth (in their relationship) sprout from those ashes, like a Phoenix rising over Arizona?