The anime releases of Japanese manga and light novels never seem to come fast enough. For those looking for limited information on the Sword Art Online Season 3 release date we’ve already provided some minor spoilers, but now we thought it’d be best to explain what this “alicization” process means for SAO Season 3, and perhaps even Sword Art Online Season 4.
In a related report by the Inquisitr, the Sword Art Online Season 2 English dub of the anime has a release date for North America that’s practically around the corner.
To begin, this spoilers guide is not intended to give a point-by-point description of the SAO light novels, so you will still have plenty of surprises left when the Sword Art Online Season 3 release date is upon us. But in the process of explaining Project Alicization, much of the plot can probably be guessed in advance, so you’ll be left with very little surprise when the anime comes out. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Writer Reki Kawahara has released 15 SAO light novels so far, and about half of them focus on alicization, so you know it will be a long term plot point. To put things in perspective, the anime SAO Season 1 covered volumes one through four and one of the side stories of volume eight, while the Gun Gale Online story arc from Sword Art Online Season 2 covers volumes five through seven. The Excalibur story arc is pulled from volume eight, and the Mother’s Rosario plot in the SAO Season 2 anime sets the stage for the Sword Art Online: Alicization Beginning light novel.
The new game world, called Underworld, is set in an era where science is first being discovered and technology is mostly medieval. The two new main characters are named Eugeo and Alice Schuberg, with most of the emphasis of the story going toward Kirito’s friendship with Eugeo. Alice is a master of the sword, so as might be expected, she tends to show up mostly for battle scenes over the long term. Eugeo, on the other hand, is a simple woodcutter whose life is upended by corrupt nobles, and his life story intertwines with Kirito’s adventures in Underworld.
Card-carrying members of the Asuna fan club will disappointed that she’s not a major character for this section of the story. Even Kirito spends a good portion of the story missing Asuna, so you’ll just have to be happy with Mother’s Rosario in the meantime. Sinon also makes an appearance, but like Silica, Liz, and Leafa, their roles in the story greatly diminish in importance.
Sword Art Online Season 3 opens with Kirito already inside Underworld. He embarks on a quest with his new friends Eugeo and Alice, but the audience won’t find out the meaning behind Underworld until later. It turns Kirito is working in the real world as a beta tester on fourth generation FullDive technology with a company called Raft. The Soul Translator allows a user’s soul or consciousness, or Fluctlight, to connect directly into the virtual world, which means Underworld is supposed to be more realistic compared to previous versions.
The new FullDive machine also introduces Fluctlight Acceleration, which greatly accelerates the user’s perception of time in comparison to the real world. In practice, this means years can pass in Underworld, whereas only hours or days have passed in the real world. Scientists are also said to be working on a brain implant chip that merges the virtual and the real, which ties into the Accel World series written by Kawahara.
Shortly after this introduction, events quickly go awry and Death Gun makes a reappearance. While I’ll leave the details of the resulting confrontation as a surprise, it could be said the game world of Sword Art Online never ended. Kirito finds himself stuck in Underworld and he’s missing memories, cannot log out of the game, and cannot call the admins to get him out.
This is where Project Alicization comes in. While Kirito thought he was simply testing out the Soul Translator, Rath is secretly working with the Japan Self-Defense Force on creating a new type of Artificial Intelligence. The name of the project comes from A.L.I.C.E (Artificial Labile Intelligent Cybernated Existence) and the goal is to create an artificial Fluctlight. Unfortunately, all attempts at cloning a human soul were futile because the copies could not handle the fact they were not the originals and destabilized into hysteria. Thus, the new goal with Project Alicization was to copy the soul of a newborn child and then nurture it inside Underworld at a fast pace by using Fluctlight Acceleration.
These new AI humans were raised by Rath employees using the FullDive system, but due to Fluctlight Acceleration, many years went by in Underworld while in the real world only weeks had passed. The population of Underworld grew to the point they created a central government structure and their own religion, which includes the Taboo Index. While most of the AI were peaceful and compliant, one of Rath employees passed on ideas that led to a feudal system where ethics were not the ideal goal.
The reason why Kirito was brought into Underworld was because the Japan Self-Defense Force could not use the AIs for military purposes. They were simply too peaceful and incapable of breaking moral laws, even when faced with decisions related to their own survival. It was hoped by Rath that a real human’s interaction with Fluctlights would allow them to figure out how to twist the AIs for military purposes. Of course, Kirito was not told of the truth of Project Alicization, and audiences also discover these details over time.
Unfortunately, the Sword Art Online Season 3 release date hasn’t been announced yet, but we can make an educated guess on what the light novels means for the anime release schedule. Reki Kawahara has previously commented that the SAO anime adaptions follow the light novels very closely. Since the Project Alicization story arc covers a lot more material, we can assume SAO Season 3 will likely cover three to four light novels. Kawahara also hasn’t finished the alicization story arc yet, so it’s possible we’ll have to wait for Sword Art Online Season 4, perhaps even Sword Art Online Season 5, to see the completion of the story.