Sword Art Online: Alicization - 2.01 In the Far North
After a lengthy hiatus, Sword Art Online: Alicization has returned with the new story arc 'War of Underworld.' To briefly recap: at the end of the last arc, Kirito had just defeated Administrator when it was revealed someone was attacking the sea base holding his recovering body in the real world. The last we saw of Kirito, something was causing his Fluctlight (his soul) to flicker and glitch.
In the Far North picks up six months after that moment and a lot has changed. WithKirito still being viewed as a rebel by other Integrity Knights, Alice has taken him away from the capital and back to Rulid Village where this whole story began. Alice, claiming an inability to wield her sword, is content to live a quiet life outside the village taking care of Kirito, who is far from the powerful swordsman we last saw.
Kirito's condition surprised me greatly; this is the weakest the character has ever appeared. Not only that, but his current state has major ramifications for the rest of the season, particularly if nothing changes soon. Remember that at the end of the last arc, Kirito was given very important instructions that only he heard. As he's in no state to carry those instructions out, who knows what could happen as a result. There does seem to be a little hope, as Kirito visibly reacts if anyone tries to take away his swords, indicating that some part of his mind remains intact. It'll be interesting to see if that connection to his swords proves to be part of the key to Kirito getting his mind back at some point.
Aside from getting the audience back up to speed with what happened in the aftermath of Kirito's fight with Administrator, the only other major plot development involves the seeming futility of going through the battle at all. Despite going through hell and back to save the world, no one seems to be at all appreciative of what Kirito or Alice did. It's quite a change, given how Kirito was hailed as a hero in season one for clearing the game. Given the catastrophic damage that has been done to Kirito, it seems horrifically unfair that he's being treated this way. However, I can understand why this scene needs to be included, because we need to see exactly how Alice and Kirito have been getting by for the last six months, and it's nowhere near as idealistic as it first looks.
While relatively little happens in this episode in terms of immediate action, In the Far North does lay down some significant foundation for what is likely to come in the near future. Enough references were made to enemy forces massing in the Dark Territory that the ending scene was almost predictable. If the last moment of the credits is any indication, some serious action is set to begin in the next episode. So far, Sword Art Online: Alicization's second arc is off to a great start.