Welcome to our 2018 Spring Anime Reviews. We’ll be tackling a few of the new shows airing this season in fairly brief reviews. The reviews will only cover the first episode of each series unless one catches our eye.
Anyone who has spoken to me about anime in real life for more than ten minutes knows I am not a fan of Sword Art Online. Those same people would also know that I consider Sword Art Online II a vast improvement, though still not necessarily good entertainment. Since I had the most fun with the Gun Gale Online content in SAO II (despite it dropping the ball on its climax, just like every other SAO arc), I decided I could give Alternative a shot.
To be frank, the first episode doesn’t give much to work with, though. It drops us right into a battle royale among teams in Gun Gale Online. One team, seemingly greatly outnumbered given it only has two players on its roster compared to the 5+ on other teams, is comprised of the pink-clad LLENN and the sturdy and calculating M. Despite being team leader, LLENN follows the orders of M, who seems to possess a much firmer grasp on tactics and the general gamestate. By his command, the two wind up avoiding confrontations and even manage a surprise attack against a team of real-life combat professionals. All this works out fine on paper, but the fact that the ONLY characters we spend time with are LLENN and M doesn’t help the show become any more layered, especially since we’re given no real details about them beyond their general personalities. Without any knowledge of the other players, the eliminations are uninteresting and almost timewasters. The battle royale, at least the chunk we see this episode, is conducted without any of that particular genre’s standard psychological thriller beats or moral dilemmas. It’s just a game, and that’s unfortunately how the first episode is treated as well. No ribbons or frills — just pure virtual gunfighting.
All in all, Alternative’s first episode is fine as a chunk of entertainment, but it does little to separate itself from the rabble. Without the stakes from Sword Art Online II, I can’t say I expect this to change over the course of the season. It doesn’t help that LLENN herself is uninteresting, especially compared to Sinon. The only point I can think of in this show’s court is that it doesn’t rely on an over-powered protagonist like the main line of SAO. LLENN’s super-speed ability does seem quite powerful against unsuspecting opponents, especially given how her size makes her a more difficult target, but victory in this series is brought about by calculations, as mundane and simple as they may be. This factor allows the show breathing room to actually place its characters in precarious situations they can’t just shoot their way out of. Whether or not the show takes advantage of this remains to be seen, as this opening episode offers little in terms of an engrossing narrative.