Sword Art Online: War of the Underworld: They Fight

Our look at the anime series Sword Art Online has now reached the final arc. It has been a long ride full of ups and downs, but now we are here, the final chapter. The last forward moving entry, for now, of Sword Art Online until most likely 2030. I’ve already discussed my thoughts on both halves, but now I want to talk about the series as a whole. Join me after the cut as I dive into the fourth season of Sword Art Online: War of the Underworld.

How it all ends, and how it will begin, again.

If I wanted to sum up the fourth outing for the season, I would only need a few phrases. Things like “course correction,” “sticking the landing” and “they fight” are the ones that often come to mind. As I stated in a previous post, Alicization has been a story arc hampered by poor adaptational choices and over reliance and exposition and monologues. War of the Underworld in many ways is an attempt by the showrunners to take back a bit of control, and focus their efforts like a laser.

And boy, do they focus that laser. Aside from cutaways talking about the Rath crew, or the secondary cast before the dive in, War of the Underworld is all 100% focused on its titular war. A bloody and action packed spectacle that often feels like 90% climax, and 10% character. Watching this season, I couldn’t help but be reminded of movies like Deathly Hallows part 2 or The Battle of Five Armies where everything is at a breakneck and action filled pace to the finale. We know who the players are, what is at stake, and what things mean for our heroes, so the plot (mostly) wisely decides to get out of the way and let the fighting take over. People win, people lose, heroes are made, sacrificed, redeemed and destroyed, and all of it is a bloody and ruthless spectacle.

Despite this, Underworld is able to finally give more attention to the secondary cast, by placing Kirito on the bench for the majority of it. From characters like Lizbeth, Klien, the integrity knights, and even Alice herself, they all get moments in the spotlight, and it goes well to endearing characters who were  overshadowed by what is often the Kirito show. If there is one thing I will give this season universal praise for, aside from making Eugeo the best wingman you could ever ask for, is its use of the secondary cast. It was a long time coming.

And despite being in the sidelines for most of it, Kirito himself fares well, his return being triumphant, and his handful of fights echoing the best of shonen past. The final moments of the series, after the swords have been swung, the underworld saved, and the girls safe, leaves him with a greater sense of self and maturity than before. There is little to no resemblance to the young moody loner he was in Aincrad, and like at the end of Mother’s Rosario, Kirito is heading towards a future with purpose, balance, and most of all, a greater appreciation and experience of life, both the triumph of it, and the pain.

Sword Art Online: War of the Underworld feels in many ways the end of an era for the series. It is the action filled climax of not just Alicization itself, but of the whole story from the moment a young man slipped on his Nerve-gear. It isn’t the narrative brilliance of Phantom Bullet, or the best parts of Alicization, but it is honestly not trying to be. War of the Underworld is about sticking the landing, bringing the party home, and it is able to do that 85% of the time. What happens next however, is still waiting to be written in the stars. While Moon Cradle is almost certain to show up in some form, and the Aincrad re-telling Progressive already greenlit, there will be plenty of the series going forward, but in terms of the next chapter, I doubt we will see anything until the start of the next decade. Still, War of the Underworld closes the book on this series for now, and does it in a satisfying way.

As for my look at the series itself? Well we have one final post to do. Join me later this week as I give you my final overall thoughts on the franchise itself. For now though.

Take us out, ANIMA.

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