On September 15, 2018, some fans across the globe got the limited treat to preview episode 1 of Sword Art Online -Alicization-. Aniplex of America hosted a special premiere at The Montalbán in Los Angeles. Four years after the conclusion of Sword Art Online II and over a year since Ordinal Scale, fans and viewers were eager for the return of the smash hit anime series that took the anime community by storm when it debuted in the summer of 2012.
Before any special premiere, a window of opportunity opened for fans to cash in on limited Sword Art Online merchandise, including myself. With only the dazzling previews and key visuals providing a glimpse of the new season, fans were already snagging merchandise left and right, leaving only a handful available by the time the screening began.
Without any delay, Aniplex of America dived straight into episode 1, announcing it as a one-hour special. A necessary yet welcome treat. Fans who haven’t read the light novel may be confused as the anime series dives straight into world building and the environment that Kirito and our two new characters, Eugeo and Alice, inhabit.
However, it is safe to say the creative staff behind episode 1 knew what to do. It gave an episode that fans have long been craving for, yet was able to continue moving the story along without a dull moment to spare. From the cameos to moments of thrilling and exciting battle sequences, there was something to cheer about in the theater. Of course, light-hearted moments were sprinkled in that brought fans back to their beloved characters. Yet, the staff and episode eventually pulled viewers back to the dark reality of VR, concluding the episode on an cliffhanger note.
The animation and art style are very similar to Ordinal Scale, which has been championed as elegant and beautiful. However, with four cours announced for the new season, it will be impressive to see the creative style transform with each episode.
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Kirito, Ai Kayano as Alice, and Nobunaga Shimazaki as Eugeo deserve major applauses for being able to maintain child-like voices and mannerisms while acting their younger character counterpart. The contrast and demeanor behind Kirito’s voice is an added touch as he interacts between VR and reality.
Overall, the conclusion of the special premiere signaled hype and left energetic fans wanting more. In a jam-packed fall season with many highly-anticipated shows such as Fairy Tail and That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Sword Art Online -Alicization- will continue to solidify itself as a cornerstone in anime, ready to shake the community once again, like six years ago.
Special thanks to Aniplex of America for the amazing opportunity. The anime is now screening on Crunchyroll and Hulu.