Premiere Report: Sword Art Online Alicization: War of Underworld

by Kalai Chik,

The latest installment in the Sword Art Online franchise continues with Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld. As a follow-up to the nail-biting season finale to Sword Art Online: Alicization, War of Underworld didn't disappoint with the early premiere of its first episodes in front of Anime Fest attendees at NYCC 2019. Although the event took place in the late afternoon on the final day of the convention, SAO fans were ready for more action and an answer to Alicization's cliffhanger. Following news that the season will be a split-cour series, fans have much to look forward to as the latest installment of the SAO franchise continues into Winter 2020.

Much of the first episode is a recap of the final events from the first season of Alicization, which was welcome to a room of SAO fans who may not have caught up with the most recent season. The real meat of the premiere was the scene following Kirito's loss of consciousness in the season finale. He's now in a vegetative state and wears a target on his head as some of the Integrity Knights and others want Kirito executed for going against the Axiom Church. To protect him, Alice Synthesis Thirty escapes Centoria with him to Rulid Village, where they would be able to hide. Her plans are crushed as the village treats her as an outcast, and Kirito's condition remains the same.

Most of the action in the second episode concentrated on Alice as Kirito has fallen into a comatose state, unable to speak or act independently. Eugeo, now gone, remains as a lingering memory in the new season as the Blue Rose Sword that Kirito desperately clings onto. Despite the animation remaining top quality, there's very little action and much exposition to get the audience caught up on the drama on the Rath side in the real world. Unfortunately, the most action for sakuga fans is Alice cutting down a tree for Nigel's meager pay. She's taken a backseat from active duty to hide her identity as an Integrity Knight from her family to keep her and Kirito anonymous for the time being.

Yet, this becomes increasingly difficult as and the workers of Rulid Village become more hostile towards Alice and look upon her with disdain. Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-one suddenly appears one night by coincidence when he's scouting the area for orcs and goblins. After she dismisses Eldrie, and he bids her farewell, Kirito and Amayori's unrest notify Alice of an attack on the village by the orcs and goblins of Dark Territory. Originally paralyzed by doubts of her current strength, Alice heads towards the village once she sees how desperately Kirito tries to reach out for his swords on the wall. Once there, she's stunned the village folk haven't escaped when the entire southern side of town is free from the onslaught. Nigel, unwilling to relinquish his wealth, commands the villagers to defend the town rather than flee.

Frustrated, Alice reveals her identity as an Integrity Knight and invokes her authority to command them all to leave. Committing to her resolve, she tears the bandage over her right eye and uses Enhanced Armament to rain spikes on the incoming horde. As the town rebuilds from the attack in the following days, Alice takes Kirito away, but vows to return to the village when she's worthy of it. Meanwhile, the perspective switches back to the tension on the Ocean Turtle.

Anime-only fans who have not read the light novels will be pleased to see more of Asuna, as teased by the season's poster. Although she has not entered the Underworld just yet, she likely will enter as the situation between the real and virtual worlds become more desperate. Right now, it's still not clear who the armor-clad men who've stormed and attacked the Ocean Turtle are; however, it's heavily implied by the end of the second episode that Gabriel Miller will be joining the fray in the Underworld.

After the screening, Aniplex held a Q&A session with Bryce Papenbrook, the English voice of Kirito. He jokingly mentioned that he was happy to see that Kirito had at least “a couple of lines” in the first two episodes, as he expected none after seeing Kirito's state. Albeit the lines are mostly grunting, there's no doubt that the lead character will speak again once he regains his footing. Papenbrook shared his excitement to start recording for the new episodes and speculated with fans on how the rest of the Alicization series will unfold.

The first cour of the second half to Sword Art Online: Alicization will premiere in Japan and simulcast in the US on October 12.

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