*Parental Advisement: According to MyAnimeList, this season of Sword Art Online is Rated "R".
What makes a soul?
Is it our personality? Our values? Or perhaps, something more ethereal, like a spirit? Although the topic of what makes up our soul has been debated, even by Christians, Sword Art Online: Alicization explores this concept.
They call it fluctlight.
If you’ve been a fan of Sword Art Online for any period of time, you know the basic premise: Kirito, an avid gamer, plays Virtual Reality games that can impact the real world. His girlfriend, Asuna, either assists Kirito in his quests or has quests of her own.
For the Alicization arc, Kirito embarks on a new adventure: a special, government protected program called the Underworld. He enters the Underworld and discovers very realistic N.P.C.’s (non-playable characters). These N.P.C.’s are different from the usual gaming characters because they each have an artificial intelligence based on a person’s soul, or fluctlight. In fact, the creators say that they have copied a baby’s soul onto the characters in the game. That is why these A.I’s (artificial intelligences) are more real, and as Kirito argues later, are real, compared to the digital worlds he has inhabited before. Kirito’s job in the new game is to help develop these A.I’s and check for any glitches.
Of course, his job won’t be easy.
This starts an adventure, where he faces conflict both in the game and out of the game. As stakes rise, Kirito is given a new mission: find Alice and bring her to the outside world. Assisting him in this quest is Eugeo, the first apprentice that Kirito has. Together, they will face the dangers of the Underworld, while their friends face the dangers of the real world. This fast-paced, emotional, intense anime is sure to please fans of the isekai and shonen genre.
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”-Dr. Seuss
When the game creators develop Underworld, they initially do not think of the fluctlight as people. In fact, they don’t seem to care if anyone in the Underworld lives or dies. To them, it is a giant experiment, regardless of whether someone’s soul has been copied on to the A.I. programs. But for those who play the game (Kirito, Asuna, and others), the fluctlights ARE real people. After all, they have souls, even if they are copied souls.
This brings up the long-debated question: what makes a person, a person? Or the even more hotly-argued question: when does life begin?
I am not a philosopher, and I certainly don’t have enough degrees to do a thorough analysis of whether or not A.I. could be considered sentient. But, if you really pressed me, I would probably venture to say it isn’t. That is only because our A.I.’s, in the real world, don’t have souls, and I personally believe that only God can give something a soul. So, no matter how hard game creators try, they will never be able to replicate human life as well as God himself.
My argument comes from this verse:
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
This passage argues that God alone is the one who creates human beings, and all their substance or souls. No one can replicate his actions, and this is reinforced throughout Scripture that He alone can create the inmost being, or soul, of a person (Isaiah 45:4; 46:3; John 1:3 are among my favorites). If that is the case, we cannot replicate it in a machine, which are not made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). And in that, we can have hope, for it is God who made us, and he cares for us more than the game creators of the Underworld (Matthew 6:26).
For a supposedly shonen anime, there is quite a bit of adult content.
One is language, where characters curse either out of pain, frustration, or malice. I didn’t hear the f word, but certainly a**, s***, and d*** are used on occasion, though not enough to bring me out of the story.
The sexual content is limited to a scene where two villains attempt to rape two female characters, but are stopped by Kirito and Eugeo. The rape was not successful and the most that happens is that the women are tied up and the men get on top of them before being killed. Later in the series Alice falls in love with Kirito and pins him to the ground in a duel, confessing her love to him. Kirito does not return her affections, but is surrounded by girls who confess they love him. Asuna and Kirito kiss and it is implied they live together in all the ways as husband and wife in the Underworld. At times, women wear revealing outfits or are seen nude with hair covering parts (especially one particular bad guy).
As for violence, this is definitely more intense. There is blood spray, coughing up blood, and gaping wounds, etc. There is also more at stake because these people are “real,” and therefore, it is more akin to murder than just killing someone in a video game. That being said, it is still not on the scale of Attack on Titan or Castlevania, which show guts and heads and all that nasty stuff. Instead, it still looks away when Eugeo and Alice lose their eyes, and it doesn’t dwell on the blood. It does not show the actual beheading, but does show a head chopped off.
There are elements of PTSD and dealing with trauma, which are understandable considering how the story plays out, but may be triggering to some. I would not recommend this for middle-schoolers, but high-schoolers could watch this if they are of the right maturity. This is with the caveat that this show portrays getting lost in virtual reality as something good and healthy, which some parents may want to avoid entirely. These are all content pieces to keep in mind while viewing.
Overall, Sword Art Online: Alicization brings back the nostalgia from earlier seasons of Sword Art Online, while adding a compelling plot and new characters. Even though many have criticized or parodied this series, I have found it to be interesting, engaging, and well-worth watching for its realistic portrayal of the effects of gaming, death/loss, and artificial intelligence in the world. Adding to my positivity is the discussion of what makes a person a person and the value of human life as a whole. These combined make the series well worth viewing, despite criticism.
M.H. Elrich is an author, reader, teacher, and otaku who wears too many hats. In her spare time, she watches T.V. with her husband and travels to places with lots of trees. She is a contributor to Finding God in Anime Vol. 2 and author of the Christian Fantasy series, the Daughters of Tamnarae.