The Hero’s Journey in Animation

I’d been meaning to watch this for a while now. I should have had this review completed back when The Dragon Prince came to AFNYCC, but alas – sometimes the things we intend are just not so.

When I heard that season two would premiere on Netflix February 15th, I knew I had to get at it.

And boy, it did not disappoint.

The Dragon Prince takes place in the far off lands of Xadia, where magic rules within six primordial sources. Or at least, it did until one human eons ago decided to create a new energy source: dark magic. The mage gone rogue is implied to have ruined the natural balance for all, causing the Elven citizens along with other magical folks to split the kingdom.

In the latest schism, the dragon guardian of the border had its heir murdered. As this creature only hatches once every thousand years, the magical kingdom seeks revenge on the human king and his heir – Ezran.

This is where our story begins.

Let me just say that the Avatar: the Last Airbender nostalgia hit me hard. I’ve been meaning to rewatch that series, especially with the oddly timed announcement of the live-action Netflix adaptation. I don’t want to make too many comparisons to the show because it is its own separate entity, but seeing Claudia reading “Love Amongst the Dragons” in episode one really gave me a good laugh.

For those of you who don’t remember, Prince Zuko’s mother, Ursa, enjoyed taking her family to see the Ember Island Player’s rendition each year when he was young. According to Zuko, they always botched it.

Aside from ATLA head writer Aaron Ehasz creating and producing the show, we also have Jack De Sena (ATLA’s voice of Sokka) playing Ezran’s half-brother, Callum. Director Giancarlo Volpe is also on the executive production team.

Taken from Tumblr User kaf-kaf-kaf

Arron Ehasz and his wife Elizabeth Welch Ehasz were arguably the driving force behind the ideas that lead to what made ATLA so memorable. A feminist Katara who had a strong sense of justice, a strong-willed Toph who could take on any foe and ( was arguably) stronger because she was blind. An emotionally complex Prince Zuko, and a Princess Azula who was the prodigal younger sibling instead of a male brother.

“10-Year Anniversary” Interview with Newsweek, 07/19/2018
“10-Year Anniversary” Interview with Newsweek, 07/19/2018

The married duo just may have saved the show from being one-dimensional characters with no depth…or whatever it is the characters devolve to in the graphic novels.

On ATLA’s future, IGN 06/09/2007

Sadly, team Ehasz did not join the production team for The Legend of Korra. I will not solely blame Bryke for the low favorability of that sequel series as Nickelodeon played a huge part. I will say, that they were allegedly talked out of the Aang – Katara – Male Toph love triangle in the first series and without surmountable opposition, we got the horrible Asami – Mako – Korra nonsense for at least three books in LOK.

But, enough about that. Let’s go back to the human kingdom of Katolis.

The show seems to be following the Hero’s Journey formula along with its TV Tropes.  I wonder if they will diverge from this in season two.

Let me explain:

Popularly coined by Joseph Campbell, The Ten-Phase Formula of the Hero’s Journey is something most fantasy epics follow. Lord of the Rings is one series that comes to mind. Harry Potter is another contemporary example of this. Anything that features an orphan is also a typical archetype in this genre.

I am not going to delve too deeply into the exploration of these themes since with my writing style, we’d be here all day. Instead, I am just going to point out what I consider as interpretations of these stages, or passages.

The 10 stages can be interpreted as followed:

I. Beginning and Breach

This is an introduction of the world. In the shows first few minutes, the world’s current issues and history (war with Xadia, dark magic) are explained. The breach serves as a catalyst of current events: so the “death” of the dragon egg, of the Dragon Queen, and the old world’s status quo. All of this causing the moonshadow elves to seek immediate revenge.

II. Departure

With the death or departure of the old world’s status quo (the dragon and its heir, King Harrow’s rule) there is a departure, or journey of the hero to reestablish homeostasis. The young Princes Callum and Ezran are forced to leave their home in an attempt to not be completely overtaken by the new order – i.e. die. In this stage magic is introduced to the core plot of the story, hinting at a new beginning or metamorphosis. Rayla joins the group and proceeds to tell stories of Xadia, Callum learns he is a mage and capable of sorcery.

III. Outerspace or the Forest

The journey into another realm or state that has laws and regulations foreign to the old world. I will view this interpretation a bit more loosely, as the trio travels by land and by river. River or water symbolism in general aside (a source of life, rebirth and constant motion in itself) Rayla has not traveled much by water and dislikes it. She also has to play the villain at the winter lodge in the woods. This begins her proverbial journey of becoming the “embodiment” of the “villain” or “outsider” which in turn, makes it easier for her to adapt to Katolis’ customs and perceptions when later entering the other human kingdom’s village.

Rayla adjusts to the human mode of transport, and upon seeing it was not difficult allows herself to boldly “blend in” once more. The boys likewise learn the propaganda at play surrounding the magical residents of Xadia and how to travel through the forest and hike up mountains. They learn to traverse in the forest as Rayla has. They also leave their human food – bread – behind, which besides the tracking plot point for Viren’s kids (or the assassin), leaves Ezran and Callum open to tasting food native to Rayla’s nation.

IV. Secret Society

The descent up the creepy mountain. This is the hero’s entrance into the otherworld, where mythic and primordial beings of cosmic balance reside. A place similar to ATLA’s spirit world, with figures that have “a shadowy look, ghostly ability to disappear and reappear across space, magic powers”. Think of the imaginary spider that leapt across time and space. The Dune-esque creature that drains blood from its victims. Rayla’s vision or hallucination of the mummified corpse speaking.

“The secret societies are the gatekeepers of the mysterious world, ensuring that the undeserving doesn’t pass.”

On the mountain underneath the tree, we are able to meet Lujanne, the Elven illusionist who literally admits these psychological barriers are a way to keep the mountain safe from those who seek to do it harm. In order for the heroes to meet her, they have to go through trials and persevere to prove their intent.

“By trying and improvising, the hero must discover the language of communication with the groups of unknown beings.”

Ezran reveals that he is an empath and can communicate with animals and other beings. He realizes the illusion for the benefit of the group and helps them advance onward.

“If the hero passes all the tests, meet all the challenges, and solves all the riddles, he or she is accepted, hence gaining a temporary community…”

Lujanne tells the trio the conditions a dragon needs to hatch, and Callum is able to conjure them using the storm orb. Once Azymondias hatches, Rayla is “rewarded” by the mythic universe and freed from her bonds by her lands protector. I also find it interesting that the pact was made just before the full moon, and was released again under the moon in different circumstances.

V. Taboo and Violation

This phase relies heavily again on the “symbolic forest” but also can include mountains, which I’d like to focus on. Basically, let’s consider Claudia’s spell in the cave turned underground cavern basis for this explanation. As that can literally be considered her conducting dark magic in an underworld – or underground before climbing to the highest peak with Soren.

“Many barriers shield the path toward new knowledge, which must be protected. Falling into the wrong hands, it may damage the Homeworld.”

So, let’s talk about Mr. Evil McEvil pants, the dark sorcerer himself – Viren. From offering King Harrow an asp a la Cleopatra’s death, to sucking the life force out of magical butterflies, to stealing souls and imprisoning them in currency (is he collecting for Charon, who ferries the departed?), to sowing seeds of doubt through subtle manipulation of his children to pin them against one another…this dude is evil.

He even looks like an undead corpse after stealing Runaan’s soul. Maybe this denotes the price high leveled dark energy propagates? An unnatural balance of one’s spirit in a Voldemort horcrux sort of way; which is why the Xadians were so against it.

I’m all over the place currently writing for this site, trying to get my other (author) site off the ground, and working on books. Hopefully though, I can explore phases six through ten in another post and speculate on the story (and my headcanons) further before Season 2 premieres. The remaining phases are:

VI. Punishment/Abyss: Death and the Dragon

VII. Otherstate/Dream

VIII. Donation or Sacred Instruction

IX. Reward and Return

X. Incorporation and Bliss

This has been a lot of fun tonight, albeit me trying to cut down details due to a pre-desired length for this post. I also might post something tomorrow regarding thoughts on diversity and accurate portrayals of this world that I planned on adding to this post, but it didn’t flow well enough.

Also, if you hadn’t noticed, Rayla is my favorite character. From her lovely Scottish accent to her Naruto run, I find the moonshadow elf quite endearing. I am also super excited to see Xadia, which Rayla makes out to be quite beautiful. Hopefully for one reason or another, it hasn’t been destroyed or its entry been blocked by the time the trio visits. Or, there isn’t another conspiracy to make the dragon prince disappear on their end….either way, I will be tuning in to watch!

Do you also find yourself comparing The Dragon Prince to Avatar: The Last Airbender, or other shows like Voltron? What do you think General Amaya signed at her sister’s memorial? Did you find any of the show’s easter eggs? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more animated show reviews!

Book referenced and quoted: Fictional Worlds: Traditions in Narrative and the Age of Visual Culture by L.A. Alexander.

A Rushed Story Always Fails the Viewer

A Tokyo Ghoul :re 2nd season review. I am not even going to lie, I felt like I was watching Naruto after the first few episodes.

Weeks ago, I spoke about Sui Ishida’s struggle to finish Tokyo Ghoul under the duress of external stresses. The anime industry is bad, and the manga industry is just an uncomfortable extension of that. It is hard enough to write and create a world to bring to life without suits and executives breathing down your neck. Especially if a serialization is scheduled to come out weekly, the stakes grow even higher. Mental toll aside, that amount of stress could really screw with your physical health and give ailments you didn’t even know were possible.

Because the author, or mangaka is now affected – so is the story.

I’m not really sure what happened regarding the anime adaptation’s development other than Studio Pierrot had produced the entire series with revolving directors. Tokyo Ghoul and Root A being Morita Shuuhei, TG:re being Watanabe Odahiro and the spin-off OVA’s TG Jack and Pinto were Shimada Souichi and Matsubayashi Tadahito, respectively.

So…what does this have to do with it?

Different directors have diverse styles and prefer to hire those who would be true to their vision.

There is a general fandom consensus that the original TG adaptation was spectacular, minute faults aside. When √A came around that good sentiment went to hell and the season was subsequently retconned from existence. Then we got :re, which was a jumbled, rushed mess from the start. The fact that we don’t know how to refer to the second half of this series or categorize it is a reflection of this. If season two never existed in Root A, then would :re be the spiritual successor? But that series was then split into two parts with twelve episodes each instead of just a regular twenty-four episode run. Is it a new season aside from itself? Or is it just Tokyo Ghoul 2nd Season as MyAnimeList categorizes it?

Aside from periodically looking up spoilers to any series without lessening the enjoyment of the show, I had already read fan summaries of everything cut out of each episode. Dozens of arcs squeezed into a twenty-four-minute time slot.

Characters came on screen, and almost five seconds later would be dead. Others would be flashed on screen with their ghoul name and ranking class. Sometimes I’d pause the video to head over to the wiki if I were interested enough, other times I’d just turn my brain off and wait until a segment I understood appeared.

I was particularly interested in I believe episode five, where Mado Akira, Touka, and Hinami had a heart to heart about how much of a monster Mado Kureo was. The Touka-Kaneki wedding was also something great to witness, even if the…er…’artistic’ sex scene lasted longer than the ceremony. There was also the cheap slideshow of reaction to what I guess was the after party? It was really vague concerning the timeline and why they were in ceremonial attire one moment and later in plain clothes still being cheered.

I had no clue but went along with it.

I also remember reading that the sex scene in the manga was implied shortly after Touka asked Kaneki if he was a virgin, but it was never shown. Maybe someone on the production team was a really big fan of the couple and wanted to do the ship justice? Or they were an uncontracted animator who came from Goblin Slayer and wanted to spice up the show with a bit of action for the male viewers.

Either way, they conveyed that the scene was of importance for Kaneki’s growth as a person.

After the remaining Anteiku crew and their associates have a degree of happiness, Mitsuki shows up to get his twisted revenge. Which was really a shame that such an interesting character was reduced to being mad senpai didn’t notice them. From what I read, I thought the transgender storyline was something unique that could have been explored in-depth to add more context to the angry slick-haired man trying to murder Touka like a Scooby Doo villain at every turn.

Which while I’m on the subject of bad villains, can I just point out the shift in animation from the first half of :re is so jarring I didn’t know who some of these people even were? I had no clue it was Kaneki in the first episode during my initial watch of the series. Urie Kuki looked completely different and if it weren’t for his…what…cheekbone moles? I would have no clue it was him. Yonebayashi Saiko turned into a complete loli after cutting her hair. Touka during her wedding looked like a character straight out of Princess Mononoke.

I’m not someone who nitpicks animation (especially since I have the artistic abilities of a baked potatoe) but it really took me out of what little immersion the show left viewers who hadn’t fully read the manga.

Despite all of this, I kept watching.

Until… the show turned into Naruto Shippuden with its use of clones, long-winded monologues, and speeches about friendship. I could no longer take it seriously and decided to completely turn my brain off and just withstand the watered down mediocre blink and you’ll miss it fight scenes.

So in the end, what was the point of this review?

I wanted to talk about what a shame it was that this show was rushed. That the manga was rushed to a finish. It was such a unique concept that has now been (arguably) copied in other works (such as Oshimi Shuuzo’s Happiness).

Tokyo Ghoul was unique and wonderful, full of tragedy, regret, and psychological analysis along with the commentary of our current world.  Then Gaia literally got in the way of this story with its own problems to prevent its full potential from being unleashed.

Aside from the anime adaptation, a large chunk of the viewer base who has not yet been lost by the terrible pacing of this installment will not venture on to the manga. They will not care to read the source material. They will not care about going to the Wiki, Reddit or any other online forums to find out what was cut out of the story. People will simply move on, with the impression that this mess was the author’s true intention. I love reading the manga after a series ends, but sadly I must admit I haven’t even waited for the show to end before writing this review. The final episode will air Christmas day and deciding I don’t want to witness the disappointment, I’ve decided to jot down my feelings two days beforehand. The show won’t magically improve in its last episode. I won’t leave the series with a warm fuzzy feeling inside, wondering what is to become of the characters. It will end on an anticlimactic, unsatisfying note.

Which is a complete tragedy.

Update: Touka and Kaneki’s kid Ichika is adorable but she still doesn’t redeem the series for me.

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When Art Imitating Life is Utterly Effective

Jesus Christ be praised! Kingdom Come Deliverance is the historical RPG you’ve been missing in your life.

I’ve always liked video games. When I was younger, I owned almost every game system there was. Sega, Nintendo, PS, Gameboy, Wii, etc. you name it – I had it. As I got older, however, things changed and I didn’t have as much leisure time for gaming. The last major system I purchased was a PlayStation 3 in 2010 during my senior year of high school. I know this because I found the receipt for the console recently while cleaning my room in anticipation for the New Year. I also brought a Nintendo 3DS in college to play Pokémon Sun and Animal Crossing: New Leaf but I don’t really count that as they just took the edge off while I was stressing during finals.

I’ve since not even touched that portable console.

The game I played most often was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’d actually wanted Bioshock Infinite, but the clerk at Game Stop talked me into purchasing a bundle. So I did.

I had watched most of the game in a walkthrough by TheRadBrad and stopped at a certain point because I wanted to try myself. This was also around the time he started cheesing his fanbase by uploading 10-15 minute videos to make more money from ads, so needless to say I was a bit put off by his new methods.

I played the first mission of the game and after a while got…bored. It was strange, I thought it would be the best thing since sliced bread but I just couldn’t care for it. I popped Skyrim into the PS3 and haven’t looked back since.

I am a HUGE fan of medieval historical fantasy. Or even historical realism. I adore period dramas and anything that features castles and kingdoms. I adore the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, relish watching shows like The Last Kingdom (which recently got renewed for Season 4!) and Downton Abbey (and its lot). I was sucked into the world and silently clucked to myself “damn it, Todd Howard got me again” each time I brought a new iteration of the game or a DLC that I really didn’t need but wanted and therefore – had to have.

Things had luckily changed for me in 2018, and I had the ability to not spend every single dime I earned on transportation, bills, and groceries and could indulge in small luxuries and hobbies after years of yearning. I purchased mainly books, or attended conventions, sometimes opting to buy tasty Japanese snacks or try a new restaurant. Other times I would just visit a new location for a day or explore a park I’d never been in. It had been lovely.

With the change of the weather I couldn’t go out much anymore comfortably, and decided to focus on buying a PS4 before the holidays ended; especially with the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3 and multiple supporting trailers so we all collectively knew it wasn’t a fever dream onset by ten years of waiting for the ultimate greatness to come. I mean, yes the games have been still coming out but the story is so damn convoluted and no one had money to keep purchasing new systems just to play the newest installment in the series. Then there was the fact that the Final Mix games with actual content would not be released outside of Japan.

Then it was decided to release the FM games in some sort of shady attempt to grab more money from the fandom starved of any new and tangible information to the main story or its characters. I own Chain of Memories on the Gameboy Advance SP. To eat away at my feelings of inadequacy, I also purchased some of the manga for the series at Barnes and Noble and read those instead of pinning after games I knew I would never play. I did end up buying the Final Mixes when they were released for the US, but the experience felt cheapened, somehow.

Around Black Friday (which is the huge discounted sale day after Thanksgiving for those of you outside of the US) retailers and outlets began advertising the PS4 Slim for a slashed price. At first, it was just supposed to be Target, but other retailers did it early than expected and I went insane. I didn’t have another paycheck coming that soon and frantically called stores to see if they could hold the rapidly selling out product. I even kept tabs on websites and would get sad when I refreshed and seen the dreaded “out of stock” listed below the PlayStation.

Eventually, I woke up super early one morning when I did have money and ordered it on Walmart’s website. I went back to bed for a few hours and checked again after waking to see that it was sold out. On Black Friday, the system was delivered and I felt like I was back in the age of technology. I set it up and the first thing I did was open Netflix to watch season 3 of Frontier with my mom.

I missed the option to buy Assassins Creed: Odyssey on sale, so I opted to purchase The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (I know, I know – but this one had mods! Albeit not as many as Microsoft or PC because Sony enjoys sucking the fun out of everything…but mods! And dynamic lighting! Yeah!) and a medieval RPG I still wanted despite all of the questionable things I’d heard – Kingdom Come Deliverance.

Jesus Christ be praised!

Obviously, not Jesus Christ.

I fell so far into the Holy Roman Empire’s Bohemia it is not even funny. After the holiday I had a health scare and wasn’t able to do much each day. I would get up, crack open my laptop and write a few things and then shut it and go back to my room to lie down. After a week of this, I decided to play the game instead of starting another Skyrim file that would take up all of my time.

And it was amazing.

I spend from morning into the late night running around the in-game town doing errands, reading the codex and learning everything I could about this completely immersive world. Then after a few days – I realized I was still in the prologue. I stayed up one night, drinking water and eating dates, and powered through the prologue to fully experience what the open world had to offer. I was neglecting my website and other writing duties, but as I still hadn’t felt well I let myself just enjoy something for once.

I loved how realistic the game was. Meaning, I couldn’t half ass anything.

I’ll be honest, my Henry of Skalitz was an absolute loser in the beginning. I couldn’t ride a horse to run away from enemies, I couldn’t jog to a new quest without running out of stamina, holding a sword? Lol forget about it. It infuriated me when the horse would get stuck in the tiniest of streams because I couldn’t handle it well. Or that I couldn’t pick a lock or even knock out an enemy. I had no armour and the enemies that did would rightfully kick my ass. Only I couldn’t black out, because that meant losing progress because I couldn’t afford to purchase Savior Schnapps and I was nowhere near one of the games various automatic save points in the story. I couldn’t read to even brew the potion for this alcoholic drink, and since I didn’t have money for a bath I was dirty and no one wanted to talk to me.

Warhorse Studios really went there. And they went there all the way.

It made you commit to the story and turning the son of a blacksmith into someone who could at least handle a sword. Ride a horse. Afford food for breakfast so he didn’t starve. Someone who had a place to sleep at night.

Slowly, but surely, young Henry made his way through the world. He made friends, learned skills, and the story progressed in a way that felt natural. No one gives a shit about you in the beginning. There is no sympathetic character who tries to help you out of the goodness of their hearts. Well, I take that back. There is Lady Stephanie, Sir Divish’s wife but she seemed to have…a lack of heirs and…ahem…other motives for her kindness.

But everyone else wants something, and you either have to trade or compromise. Or if you’re like me, woo them with your fancy speech options and book-learning.

This game really made it for me when I kept failing this one questline over and over again for literal hours. “Getting Runt” was quickly becoming a pain and I was at my wit’s end. I couldn’t just eat blocks of cheese mid-battle or drink marigold concoction to heal my health – because that is not realistic. I couldn’t fix my armor mid-fight because at the time I attempted this I didn’t even have armor and I somehow thought that would be okay and that I wouldn’t get my skull cracked open and bleed out in a gutted old upper floor of a cathedral.

Why did I think I could best an enemy with more strength than me, a great set of armour and a nasty attitude towards life would easily go down because I was the hero?

The unremarkable hero that didn’t even have enough strength to wield a sword, didn’t possess knowledge of combos or even have two groschen to rub together and had been eating out of community pots up until this point to not faint and die.

Kingdom Come Deliverance takes your expectations of what an RPG is and turns it on its head. You would not magically possess and display the abilities you needed to survive in a life or death situation. You would simply just die. And no one would care, because you were not remarkable or well-known.

You would be mourned, but you’re not far enough into the storyline at this point to understand why. I’d just all be for nought.

After displaying clear signs of insanity, I decided to reload an earlier save before I even attempted this battle. I went to train with Sir Bernard, a man who will pumble you until you get the combos right. Until you learn the in-game battle system and its rules. Until you build up your strength, stamina, agility, warfare and general knowledge.

So I trained. I learned. I fought the bandits who jumped me for being foolish enough to travel at night and think I would be untouchable. I took their armour, selling some, fixing a lot more to wear. I purchased a sword, a Needle to stick them with the pointy end. I started saving up to buy a horse so I no longer had to travel on foot. I spoke to people, a lot of folks to improve my speech and unlocked new conversation options. I learned how to hunt, which helped Henry learn how to hold a bow. I traveled across the map, meeting new people and seeing friendships being formed.

Then I went back to that mission I was stuck on, poisoned my blade with bane and hit that big brute square in the face three good times and cued the cutscene that signaled the end of that mission. I just sat back and laughed, feeling accomplished for the first time in years while playing a video game.

I put in the work, and it paid off.

I was also now respected and taken seriously as Henry’s life began taking a turn for the better. The game truly started now, and I had a front seat to how I wanted to shape the world based on the skills I had to learn in real life. The combat system, the recipes for potions, and how to investigate a situation to end a quest without violence. Search around the actual world to find things to help the character of Henry out.

It was so rewarding. Truly.

Beating the game two days ago I just sat for a while and watched the credits roll. I completed the epilogue and then took to Reddit to find out if more story was to come, if there were DLCs or a third act planned. The newest DLC, Band of Bastards, will have the first mission streamed on WarHorse Studio’s Twitch account tomorrow on January 2nd. I’ll definitely be tuning in. Also, a well-placed Twitter photo seems to allude to more story to come concerning the cliffhanger we were left on, so I will be keeping tabs on that.

So where have I been this past December? I was stuck in Bohemia, turning a black smith’s son into a distinguished war veteran and private investigator. I was smiling like a fool, being damn proud of a bunch of 1s and zeros. All the while being thankful that there are so many different mediums available for storytelling and optimistic of what the future holds in the realm of technology.

Kingdom Come Deliverance is a good game. If you enjoy RPGs with historical context, be sure to give it a go and don’t be frustrated if at first, you do not succeed. Try, and improve your methods of approach. Only then can you attain mastery, when you keep trying at something despite failing over and over again. Hard work is what builds character, and this is what KCD has shown flawlessly.

Where to Find the Game: Steam PS4 Xbox

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My Oddly Interesting Observations at Anime NYC 2018

Is Anime NYC worth it? Read about my strange experience and let’s find out.

I’ve been waiting for this.

After the rather lacking experience of Anime Fest @ NYCC, I was ready to shake it off and be surrounded by nothing but fandom.

I woke up super early, arriving at the Jacob Javits Center at 9:30am. There were a bunch of autograph tickets being raffled at 8 am and out of curiosity, I decided to see if any were left.

Coming to the con, I didn’t really have much of a plan. See a few specific booths, stop by some vendors, go to industry panels and try to stay long enough for the masquerade.

I accomplished half of this list.

It’d snowed the Thursday before the convention, turning Manhattan into what felt like early January depending on the time of day. I ordered my ticket late and went up to the will call area upon arrival. There were a ton of red ribbons everywhere for the queue and corresponding signage. I barely waited five minutes before getting the Black Clover inspired badge, a lanyard and show programme booklet.

After a quick walk through security I ventured downstairs to find the autograph hall queue.

Many fans were casually lounging around the food court area and the atmosphere was super relaxed. It was refreshing. Hours earlier, an email had been sent out from the convention letting everyone know the game plan for the day and that “You can also walk around the building, sit down, get coffee, and visit the Merch Store.”  

I decided to take advantage of the good vibes and take off my coat, rearrange my bag and gather my bearings. Heading even further downstairs I asked security where the ticket signing area would be and was pointed in the right direction. Getting there, however, one staff member was already closing the area off with the red tape I’d seen earlier. I asked if there were any more tickets and he apologized and said no. I asked where would be a good place to wait for the Exhibition Hall to open and found my way back to the lounge area with the other fans.

The escalators were now blocked off and no one could go up to where I initially entered the building.  Venturing up to the area two staff members were standing guarding the section and only let other staff members cross.

A crowd assembled and one fan (for whatever reason) decided to argue with one of the men for a few minutes. When she paused for breath, I asked where I should wait for the Exhibition Hall and was directed back to the now taped off section I had just previously come from. I mentioned that I was sent over here by another staff member and received a confused look in response. I suggested that maybe I should just hang out in the area and he agreed. The fan from earlier then continued her pointless argument with the same staff member.

I’m honestly not sure what her goal was. It’s a new convention, only in its second year and it has upscaled greatly from its inauguration. She kept repeating that it made no sense to close off both exits and someone else chimed in that it was a fire hazard. The worker reluctantly agreed but there was literally nothing he could do about it.

I worked in customer-facing roles for about six years and learned that sometimes, people really do just want to argue with you for no apparent reason.

I scanned around and found a seat as the crowds formed from a mob into a somewhat thick line. I sat down at a table with some guys who seemed to have been saving a seat for late arriving friends, but didn’t protest when I asked if it was taken. I took photos and people watched to pass the time. There was a huge line for the Mega and Crunchyroll Premium Fans to get on the showroom floor first. Some people found creative ways to get around this and join their line, and I tip my hat to them.

An hour later at 10:30 am the other line had successfully entered the floor and we were allowed to finally go up the escalator.

I had heard that the convention took up half of the Javits Center, the other half dedicated to “Pet Con”. It’s a bit funny in a sick sort of way that the convention center stuck the anime fans with the animals, but c’est la vie.

Walking around there was so much to see and do. I wrote a list beforehand of booths to check out and made a beeline to the first on my list.

I was an email subscriber and explained that I read you could get a poster by showing the newsletter on your phone. The woman in the booth looked back at me dumbfounded and suggested I go to the booth in back of her. I looked at the posters in front of her and she covered them with her arms. Another fan approached and the woman looked at me, looked at the other woman and then back at me as to ask “why are you still here?”

I asked if I could have a poster and she reluctantly agreed.

Weird. Maybe I was bothering her.

I visited the other booth and mentioned that the other woman said to come here for a poster. She gave me one with a smile and I went on my way. I decided to do a sweep of the area with my camera to get some photos before it got super crowded.

There was a little stage that was playing music. Later returning to the area two men were teaching people the Wotagei dance. Wotagei [ヲタ芸] or Otagei [オタ芸] is the synchronized glowstick dance done at Japanese Idol concerts by (otaku) enthusiasts.


Everyone was jamming and then a baton flew into the group of on-lookers.

No one was harmed, and it continued without a hitch.

One of my favorite mangaka’s works are becoming more popular in the West and I spotted one of his serializations at a booth. I wanted to ask questions, but it was pretty crowded. It seemed like if you didn’t have a credit card out or look like a devoted sycophant – you were pretty much ignored. Which is fine I guess, people came to make money. Nothing wrong with that.

I decided to swing back around to that table in a few hours.

I went down the list of things I wanted to see and finally found myself in front of the last booth. A girl working it was in cosplay speaking to two con-goers. They were having a very passionate conversation and I wanted to ask questions about their streaming service so I decided to wait.

Note: Not the booth in question

There were posters on the table and a lot of booths went the route of having a “Freebie” sign out encouraging people to take the designated items. About five minutes passed and it didn’t seem like they were letting up anytime soon, so I decided to grab one of each poster. There was a boy standing beside me who was also waiting and followed my lead. The cosplayer broke off mid-conversation and glared at me before saying it was only one poster per person. I apologized and she rolled her eyes before finishing her conversation like nothing had happened. I put one of the posters back and walked away, noticing the boy beside me had done the same.

Right. Well, at least that saved me some money. I’d rather people show their asses before I support their lifestyle.

Also just to note, while going through my camera I found pictures I’d taken of this booth earlier. The girls were blocking the “freebie” sign, and different employees were handing people multiple posters. So maybe this was at their own discretion?

Moving on, I decided it was time to rest so I caught a few panels. The first one was a bit dry and they had slight technical difficulties which was fine – as it is a new con. The dull tone was made up for however by the great information being delivered.

I ventured into another panel that I had been looking forward to. They also had technical difficulties and initially did the presentation without visual aid until the problem had been fixed. It was the same people who had serialized that mangaka’s work, and they were focused on indie works. I started taking notes of when titles would be released and photos every now and again. After the panel, they invited the audience to come up to their table and take some promos. I spoke to the man closest to me and told him it was a really great panel. He dryly said “right” and just turned away.

Maybe he thought I was being sarcastic?

I brought a mask to wear at the convention due to the germs. Being flu season, I didn’t want to catch anything – least of all a con cold. It made my voice a bit muffled and you couldn’t tell my facial expression. I am wondering if this factored into the way he responded. Or maybe he was just stressed and I shouldn’t have even bothered.

Either way, upon leaving I found myself no longer interested in their work.

There was another panel I wanted to see, but first I wanted to try and find the bathroom on that floor level. The manga library caught my eye and I took out my camera to try to get a photo. As I moved to get closer, another girl with a camera also decided to do the same. She was in my shot, so I moved closer and she walked in front of me and into the foyer area to snap a few shots. After a few seconds, she quickly came out of the room and walked away. I decided to go in as well, not passing the table checkpoint as she had. I snapped two photos and walked a few feet out of the room before stopping to look around for the bathroom. I hear someone yelling “Ma’am wait” and see one of the people at the table sprinting after me. He tells me he has to check my bag, and confused all I said was “I didn’t”. I meant to say “I didn’t even go in”, but I assume he thought I meant “I didn’t steal anything” because he then replied “Well good, because we have a lot of great manga.”

After he checked my bag I looked ahead and seen the other girl already at the top of the escalator.

Wow.

I’d be lying if I told you that this didn’t pissed me off.

I was completely pissed that I was accused of stealing, and that I watched someone else also walk in and they weren’t even checked. In fact, I wanted to write this article Saturday when I got home but purposefully held off until I cooled down. It’s 11 pm on Thanksgiving Eve my time of writing and I am still angry at that exchange. Hopefully, that bit of negativity isn’t coloring the review and causing bias. That is not my intention at all but I need to share these experiences so I can move on to other things.

Following that incident, I said screw the panel and the bathroom and the cosplay meetups – deciding to take one last loop around the convention floor. I went up two escalators to find Artist Alley and stood on the huge line for a security check before getting annoyed, walking up to the table barrier, snapping a quick picture and going back downstairs. I had to go through the main security checkpoint again to get back to the hall and almost just walked out and left. I forced myself to stand in line and thankfully it went quick enough.

After taking some pictures and uploading them to social media for treats, I stumbled upon the far side of the con I hadn’t noticed earlier. People were huddled around cute plushies, novelty merch, and the sparse gashapon machines. One station had some particularly interesting toys inside and upon asking how much a spin was, I was informed it was five dollars. I internally wished I had come to this section earlier when my mood was better and thanked the woman before walking away.

I decided to stop on a lower concourse by a water fountain to sit down and re-arrange my bag. The crowds had really come out and it was hard to find space. There was a group of teenagers sitting next to me in a circle joking and having a good time.

An Undertale cosplayer had walked over and they took pictures with the character. One of their friends had been eating and missed her photo op. A young male from the group got up, followed the cosplayer wherever they went and stood over their shoulder repeatedly asking for a picture until they returned to the group together. After the photo the girl just sat down and spoke to her friends, leaving the cosplayer standing there awkwardly.

I thought about saying something to the kids about harassing people, but decided that I should just go home if I’m in this sort of mood.

I had seen all I cared to see and left to find Jollibee before catching the train home.

Walking to the store from the center there was, unfortunately, a really long line, so I just turned back around and headed home.

So what does this all mean?

Full disclosure: I don’t care about the anime posters. I don’t care about the buttons. I don’t care about the stickers. I don’t care about much of the freebies offered at anime or comic conventions nowadays.

As I mentioned before, I care about experiences. I know where to find most of the merchandise offered at this con here in the city, online or even where to look in Japan. Because of this knowledge, I am generally very laid back and will not fight another fan or anybody for that matter over merch. I’m not one to join a crowd bum rushing a certain area just to claim something before someone else can or does.

I’ve been going to conventions since 2011 where I learned early on that sometimes just grabbing something on a table has consequences. I’ve grabbed posters before and been told that they cost money and had to put them back. With situations like this in mind, I like having a conversation with the person behind the counter or even just saying hello and asking what is alright to take. I go to conventions to feel a part of the collective fandom, meet new people and make friends (even if they are just line friends!).

But for some reason, that was very difficult this year at the convention. I attended last year on a Sunday, and had an average experience based on the con’s new status. This year, I went Saturday and was having the time of my life until (what I perceive to be) bad events happened in quick succession of one another.

Does this reflect badly on Anime NYC?

Absolutely not.

It’s a great convention for what it’s worth. Solid. It’s grown tremendously from its inauguration last year, and I expect it to grow even further for next year’s installment. 

What happened is a reflection on those individuals.

It’s a small industry and I have an impeccable memory, so I’ll leave it at that.

Go to the convention next year if you are able to. If you are local, even better!

The general consensus is one of great excitement and enjoyment, and I am in the minority with the ever odd situational stories to tell.

Your experience will not be my experience, and everyone has their own subjective reality.

Also I hate to beat a dead horse or make this comparison, but between Anime NYC vs New York Comic Con, come to this convention for all of your otaku needs. It is for the fans and they truly do care. You’ll have a lot of fun and hopefully, make a ton of new friends (=

I have nothing against this con and look forward to what they have in store for next year.

Signing off,

In Asian Spaces

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Oh I forgot to mention, if you’re in the market for a face mask to keep you well this winter season, check out this for the brand I was using:  Pangda 4 Pack Anti-dust Cotton Mouth Face Masks Mouth Cover for Man and Woman (Black)

A Crime Drama with STRONG Female Leads | LIVE | Kdrama Review

For the Hongil Division in Seoul, maintaining work-life balance isn’t easy. Thankfully, this Korean drama on Netflix seamlessly juggles an ensemble of characters problems in a way that doesn’t burn you out. This is a review of one of the best crime kdrama of 2018, LIVE!

I caught this one a few months back when it was trending on Netflix. Live, Laibeu or 라이브 is a 2018 South Korean Drama. It follows a squad of police officers who defend the crime-laden Hongil district while also maintaining personal lives.

I didn’t know what to expect when coming into this drama.  I wasn’t even sure if it was pronounced like “Saturday Night Live” or “We all live” live. Either way, it turned out to be a solid story in the vein of a recent office drama I watched.

Our main leads starting out are Han Jung Oh and Yeom Sang Soo. Jung Oh is a college graduate who is trying to break into the sexist Korean corporate culture. It was a bit of a laugh coming from Misaeng and seeing Jun Suk Ho playing another jerk role. While on a commute home with a friend after a disastrous job fair, she comes across a listing to join the police academy.  Jung Oh seems to have a complicated relationship with her father, but nonetheless, she borrows money from him to take a year off and study for the exam.

Yeom Sang Soo is actually introduced in the train station the same time Jung Oh is leaving. I love when tv shows place characters in the same spaces before their formal meeting of one another. It just makes you think about how many times you may have unknowingly crossed paths with someone who later in life became a good friend or even a lover.

Sang Soo runs himself ragged all day porting water and making phone calls as a company intern. Similar to our other lead, he comes from a single parent home. Believing upper management’s urgings to invest in the company and get rich, Sang Soo borrows money from his mother and brother. He pours his life savings into the company as well, only for it to turn out to be a Ponzi scheme. He later sees an advert for the police academy and decides to join.

The show introduces and explores different characters from here.

It details the pair’s lives at the academy, and the bond they form with another recruit – Song Hye Ri. The trio decide to transfer into the same dodgy district after graduation, believing they will be promoted quickly. At the academy, Sang Soo butts heads with over the top training officer Oh Yang Chon – who comically leaves shortly before graduation. Yang Chon’s life and marriage seem to come spiraling down, and he ends up transferring into the same district as the rookie recruits.

The show deals with themes of duty and what it means to be a police officer. I keep dwelling on this one quote from Superior Ki Han Sol. It was something to the effect of “There are two types of cops you should watch out for: Officers with a strong sense of justice are dangerous, but cops with nothing to lose are even more dangerous.”

Given the situations the squad seems to find themselves in, this dynamic is explored as some are pushed to their limit and react accordingly, given their life philosophy. I don’t want to spoil the core plot too much, but I will say that a strong sense of camaraderie proves more powerful than any sense of duty to the institution.

LIVE also focused a great deal on the politics of South Korean police officers. One thing I took note of was that an officer’s gun had to be returned after each patrol, and only senior or responsible officers were given one in the first place. Taser guns were given freely and cops could be penalized if they shot dangerous areas such as the chest, stomach or thighs. One of countless incidents involving the precinct happens on Jung Oh’s patrol. She later expresses a wish to transfer to America due to their perceived reverence and protection of law enforcement. Given how reckless she becomes, sadly (I think) she would be fine overseas.

It was an interesting take on two newbie recruits: one who had no sense of duty but needed a job and one with so much duty he would continually risk his life. It also made me reflect on the state of law enforcement in America. I will not suddenly become a bluelivesmatter fan, nor do I personally care for cops or the American justice system. But it was an interesting take on another country and how social degradation was fought.

These opinions expressed on law enforcement are my own and do not necessarily reflect the core beliefs of this blog.

I watched this Korean drama on Netflix, if you know of any other legal subscription sites offering it please let me know and I will update this post with that information.

I usually wind up watching cop kdramas like Signal, so LIVE was a real treat to watch. I hope fans of crime investigation and cop thrillers will enjoy this one!

Do you enjoy crime dramas with a bit of romance? What was your favorite kdrama to watch in 2018? Do you have any recommendations for Korean tv shows premiering in 2019? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to check out our other articles on Korean Culture while you’re here!

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More Than Just An Office Drama| Misaeng: Incomplete Life|Kdrama Review

This review contains slight plot spoilers. Enough to understand the context, but too few to ruin the entire series. Read on without fear, because I am determined to talk about this wonderful series with you.

A chase scene in Jordan. A young fashionable man wearing a suit. Two men in suits inquiring the whereabouts of a fugitive. A parkour sequence over the rooftops of a foreign land.

You would think that this was some sort of cop drama, no?

No, no no my friends. This is actually an office drama that starts at its end and takes you through a flashback for the entire series. Here, Jang Geu Rae was living his best life. But in order to understand the magnitude of his confidence and how we got here, we have to delve through his pain…sift through office politics, abuses of power, human rights violations and ever rampant misogyny. In the end, however – a strong message of hope.

Perseverance and hard work do pay off, despite the cold and calculated reality we live in. Yes, there is a future for everyone and it is something special that we create. We never know what our paths will cross or where they will lead, but these roads should be followed diligently until the very end.

This is Misaeng. This is the story I will write about. A tale that upon waking up a day later, it still brings a smile to my face.

Misaeng (미생 – 아직 살아 있지 못한 자), or Incomplete Life is a 2014 South Korean television drama. It was adapted from the webtoon Misaeng: Incomplete Life by Yoon Tae-Ho. The kdrama follows four interns who earn contracts and become newbies at one of South Korea’s top trading companies. Each character has their own motives, dreams, and aspirations for joining the company.

For blue-collar raised Han Seok Yul, it’s a fortunate opportunity to change work conditions for field employees. For Jang Baek Ki, it means embracing his birthright – a culmination of selfish entitlement and social standing. For An Young Yi, it is a start over from a promising future that was previously snatched away too soon. And for Jang Geu Rae…it is a chance to move forward in the game of life that he views as Baduk, or Go.

College Vs Merit

This series, in short, focused on coming of age in a world that tries to dictate your worth by upbringing. Now I know what you are thinking – In Asian Spaces, that is essentially the case everywhere. And frankly, you’re right.  But there is a certain nuance between things we perceive and things that actually are.

Such as the persisting question of a college education and the “right” upbringing versus actual merit and grit to accomplish anything.

In the drama, Geu Rae is allowed an internship at one of the top trading companies in the country. However, things go awry when his peers and the permeant staff find out he received this red herring through a connection. In addition to this perceived favor, he only had a GED from high school. I am referring to this as a ‘red herring’ because ultimately this allowance amounts to nothing. The connection is revealed later on in the series, and it was seemingly just a placid favor with no expectation of the boy’s success. Something intended to hold him over until he essentially becomes another’s problem.

Baek Ki has an insane superiority complex but felt threatened and inferior to Geu Rae and his skills. He was also extremely jealous of his relationship with Young Yi, whom he desired. Baek Ki later admits embarrassment over his qualifications upon realization someone “beneath him” had grown faster in Korean corporate society through hard work and determination.

Baek Ki frequently does things wrong despite instruction, makes careless mistakes and is not for the team but himself – which isn’t bad in a corporate setting but the dynamic isn’t cohesive like within Geu Rae’s group – Sales Team Three. The relationship between these two is the core of the show and explores the dynamic between college-educated employees who know nothing, and ‘less than’ undesirables who put in the work and truly fight for recognition. Once Baek Ki understands Geu Rae’s background and why he did not attend college, he respects him more as he can finally understand things in the context of his own narrow worldview.

Before this revelation, Geu Rae’s character is simply thought of as lazy, too stupid to attend higher education or too poor. These assumptions also carry over into American society. It seems nowadays even the “simplest jobs” (although the most emotionally taxing and stressful) such as retail work require college degrees. A degree from a good university seems to have replaced the high school diploma requirement in most establishments, despite the quality of worker not visibly improving.

Geu Rae is placed with the team that the company has the least faith in. Throughout the series, we learn that the sales team is not ‘traditionally successful’ because they have a heart and are conscious of their actions. They will not lie, cheat, bribe or indulge in illegal activities to secure a contract. It is very admirable morally, but socially due to the nature of the work they are considered a troublesome and outspoken group.

Due to an internal scandal, the section chief and now mentor to our main character, Mr. Oh, leaves the company. Before his departure, he overhears former colleagues gossiping about a recently hired college grad that didn’t know how to use a printer and called his mom for help.  This gives Mr. Oh a flashback of how his team had bullied Geu Rae when he first arrived and his response to the treatment by simply saying “teach me”.

I won’t go any further into the plot, because I’d really like you to watch this drama yourself. All I will say is that because of his connection with Mr. Oh, Geu Rae is given a chance. Which still somewhat brings in the underlying factor of the drama into question: do connections matter when merit is involved, or do they only enhance one’s merit?

Also be sure to note Mr. Oh and Geu Rae’s connection at their first true meeting. It will be explained towards the end of the series and I would like to think of it as a “rebirth” for both characters.

We should be receiving a season two of the series, which will explore the aftermath of decisions made.

Which brings us to the land of plenty, which I actually hope to visit one day.

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Petra, Jordan.

The crossroads of the old world. In this place, the duo is reborn.

Mr. Oh remembers things that he had long forgotten. The yearning to travel, the importance of family, daily life outside of a job that later consumed his being.

The fact that those higher-ups who do wrong never seem to be reprimanded is also hammered home, and perceptions are not as they seem. This is in relation to Mr. Choi, the company head honcho, who is shady and thinks that he ultimately won with his questionable business tactics. (Again, watch the show and you’ll understand exactly where I’m getting at – it’s a great moment I don’t want to spoil for anyone.)

The series ends with a truck driving into the sunset, on the road less traveled. Freedom, endless vast spaces. The sands of time. A complete break from the traditional and opportunity to do whatever one wishes.

A great takeaway from this series is that anyone can ignite their entrepreneurial spirit. That sometimes, office work is not for everyone. People are fake and co-workers who seemed to care really don’t. Or in turn, people who you thought were complacent are actually secretly batting for your wellbeing and supporting you in their own ways. It is also a PSA to not let your corporate office life become your work. Do not lose your sparkle, do not change, do not forget who you were before you began your adult work life. Don’t forget the dreams you had, the places you wanted to see, or the friends you wanted to make.

I have had so many terrible jobs for the sake of a paycheck. I’m at a point where I am not making much money but I’m happy each and every day. I feel free and remember what I wanted to do and what I enjoyed doing before waking up each morning to please people who didn’t give a damn about me outside of what I could do for them. It is pure bliss, and I hope anyone out there reading this is truly happy in their job and lives. I am taking a huge gamble but I want to see it through until the end. I know everyone cannot just up and move things around in their life, but if you can change even just one thing to make life more pleasant – that’s something special.

There is so much more to this…thing called life. And I am so happy that I realized it.

If you enjoyed this review and wish to support the series legally, it can be watched on Netflix  VIKI or if you enjoy owning DVD’s, Misaeng : Incomplete Life (Complete Series Episode 1-20, 7-DVD Set, All Region DVD w. English Sub)

Please watch Misaeng, it is so good and is shot in both South Korea and Jordan. I am still looking for similar shows like it, but until then I’ll leave this review here.

Are you happy in your work life? What types of Korean Drama do you enjoy? Do you know someone who has been shut out of society because they don’t have a college degree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us by email to see more reviews like this!

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 [Also, if anyone is interested, apparently Misaeng means incomplete life in Baduk terminology.]

A Fresh Start for the Series? | Sword Art Online Alicization Review

A promising fresh start for a series that has become synonymous with goofy tropes and character flaws.

I love VR. Or Cyberpunk. Post-Apocalyptic Shenanigans…

Anything to do with encapsulating oneself in a virtual world is something I’d like to see refined in my lifetime. I’ve always been drawn to virtual reality inspired anime, watching the likes of No Game No Life, Log Horizon, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash with extreme vigor. Hai to Genso no Gurimugaru [灰と幻想のグリムガル], or Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash seemed to take a similar route as Log Horizon by showing the actual struggles of finding yourself stuck in a virtual world. It should also be applauded for its humanistic approach on taking a life, the stages of grief and how to recover from a severe trauma. If you are into highly realistic plots in your anime, this is one you should not miss.

I could write all day about how great Grimgar was, but this article will be about Sword Art Online [ソードアート・オンライン].

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but I am a huge high-fantasy and science fiction fan. I love series like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, H.P. Lovecraft’s work (despite his extreme personal flaws as a human being), Grimm’s Fairytales and anything by good old Edgar Allen Poe.  The SAO season one Aincrad Arc was like Christmas to someone like me. The medieval feel of the in-game town mixed with the real world Sci-Fi drama of having your mind trapped in a rouge technology with the risk of death was such a hook.

After that arc, however, things quickly took a turn for the worst. Between the whole incest thing, the almost-rape scene with Asuna Yuuki, and main character Kirigaya “Kirito” Kazuto’s harem I’d had enough.

Back in 2014, I made the mistake of watching a harem cleverly disguised as a sci-fi anime called Brynhildr in the Darkness [極黒のブリュンヒルデ] and have never made that poor choice since. I wanted to gauge my eyes out after completing that series. The sheer fact that a gaggle of women were borderline obsessed with a boring main character to the levels that it affected the storyline’s plot in ridiculous ways irked me to the core. So coming into SAO without the knowledge of Kirito’s harem gave me something akin to war flashbacks.

However, the core story was intriguing and I was very pleased to find out it took place in the same universe as Accel World. There is even a prevalent fan theory that Kirito and Asuna are Kuroyukihime’s parents.  This theory has been shot down regarding all the characters in question because of respective ages, but one can still dream of a connection between the three besides Nerve Gear.

I tuned in for Alfheim Online, Gun Gale Online, (or Phantom Bullet) and watched Mother’s Rosario. I skipped Ordinal Scale and now have returned for Alicization on the currents of good buzz. Other weary watchers expressed skepticism that was met with assurances that there would be none of the nonsense that plagued the past seasons.

The premiere was forty-five minutes long and had a bit of a cold opening. It set up the premise of this season’s story, which will revolve around Kirito testing a new form of VR that uses the soul. He explains to Asuna and Sinon the Soul Translator’s methods and expresses concern over the somewhat shady practices of its creation entity, Rath.

The sequence was fine, but it slightly bothered me that no one said hi to Agil while in his cafe. I’d imagine there was a quick hello while ordering drinks, but for the most part he was stoically shinning glass cups.

Either way, that’s not totally important.

Towards the end of the episode while walking girlfriend Asuna home, Kirito is accosted by the last known member of The Laughing Coffin. If you remember from the first season, they were a guild who enjoyed ‘player killing’ for sport. Johnny Black seemingly comes out of the woodwork to stab our hero with a lethal dose of a drug called succinylcholine, which causes paralysis. The episode ends with Kirito on the ground unconscious from his wounds; the targeted attack area being the implant he conveniently spoke about earlier at the Dicey Café.

Episode two has already premiered, and I’m sure Kirito is fine. He’ll most likely fall into a coma and be transported back into Underworld, the Soul Translator game he was testing. The game seems to have an “Alice in Wonderland” vibe and explores his budding friendship with a resident named Eugeo. It is unclear (as of the season premiere) if Eugeo is an AI aware of their world or remains in ignorance as a player. An interesting aspect of his character was his notice of Alice’s game code while she was being taken away after committing a taboo in their world.

It should be interesting to see how Kirito and Eugeo’s friendship develops, and the exploration of “fluctlight acceleration”. I will definitely be watching and will most likely have a season review at a later time once it concludes.

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If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Sword Art Online 1: Aincrad and Sword Art Online 9 – light novel by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Did you enjoy past seasons of SAO? Do you miss Kirito’s harem? What has been your favorite VMMORPG anime to watch? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more updates and reviews!