Spoilers may be a foot for those still in the process of watching SAO!
Animation: The animation is standardly cliche. It doesn't stand out among the scores of anime there is. It's pretty boring and mundane. 3/10
Sound: Is alright, it does it's job, but it's not very memorable. I can't even remember the sound thinking back to it. 6/10
Story/Characters: Sword Art Online had a good premise... You die in the game, you die in real life. But even the premise is not original. (.Hack both the game and anime had this set up about ten years ago. It was also in a MMO game and both anime and the game are better than SAO.) It's set in the near future in a virtual game where people are trapped and can't log out. It leaves them in a comatose state.
There are so many problems with the story. I am not even sure where to start. Well, I will start with the first 15 episodes. You see, the first 15 episodes, are fairly decent in terms of character development and the works. (It literally is 15, too. I counted.) You get to see people playing various aspects of the games, the MC [Kirito] falls in love, twice, and his character develops very well. Later on, his online GF's persona develops as well and we get to see some very cute bonding moments between the two.
By the time of their last stint in the game, however, the series just kind of has this weird writing where all of the sudden Kirito wins the game with out them doing the dungeon crawling they were supposed to do and grinded for, for TWO YEARS. What was the point of wrapping it up so fast? I mean c'mon writers!It's like some Twilight writing or something. I'm thinking more of New Moon though where Bella just drops Jacob for little reason and decides to continue an unhealthy relationship. In this case, SAO is like that where everything just drops.
So after that Asuna (His online wife, now.) is still in a coma and in some other fairy game where they can do magic. Kirito is recovering irl, discovers some guy who wants to marry her and admins the game, is keeping her in the game so he can marry her irl with her parents permission... What was the reasonable thing to do? Call the cops? NO! He hooked himself back up to the virtual world that is almost exactly like SAO and is going to rescue Asuna. After he spent two years stuck in the other game you'd think he'd swear off these virutal simulators forever! His cousin, who is in love with him, also follows him in the game. While there's some very cute bonding moments between the two she does eventually figure out who she's been hanging out with in the game. Point is Asuna's character developed into a kickass one and then it undeveloped into a damsel in distress. (She was almost as reasonably badass as Kirito.)
Kirito doesn't like killing people, this creates problems for him and I am supposed to feel as morally obligated as he does according to the anime, which I don't. (I don't think not killing people in every situation makes you a good person, either.) I am sure there's tons of anime with the message KILLING IS WRONG, but I don't agree with it and this anime at all. (The anime takes it to the next level.) Though Kirito is a great character, he is really Mary Sue for the writer of the Light Novels. This is why girls just swoon over him, he's baddass, doesn't kill people, and rescues his love interest.
The change after the first 15 episodes is so great that it creates numerous plot holes and charactizations they just seem to have forgotton when writing. Such as in the early episodes there was this online group of gamers called Laughing Coffin who actually killed people... They introduce them, and then they were gone. Never to appear in the next half of the show and never spoken of again. What was the point of that? You made a big deal and foreshadowed that Kirito would run into these dangerous nutcases in later episodes, and then nothing.
They did this again in the later episodes when Kirito turns into a monster somehow and eats people in the game. But it ends with that episode again. Nothing is ever stated again. This power is never demonstrated again. What was the point of that? You know, people give DBZ crap but I can understand after 20 year of Dragonball that Toriyama would 'forget' things and that's why it wasn't shown later on. This anime doesn't suffer from this excuse. It's just poor writing and random instead of organic, however, it gives this image off that it's organic when it's not. Just because it feels right doesn't make it right at all.
At the end, Kirito is confronted by the admin of the fairy game irl and almost kills the guy who would have taken the advantage and killed him, Asuna, or raped Asuna at various points in the game and irl. While this is played out in it's dramatic glory, Kirito comes close to killing the guy by slitting his throat. But doesn't because he's a "good" guy. Then the anime ends with Kirito visiting Asuna but nothing in there about the police, which had to be called. Somehow Kirito is ok and they decide to rebuild SAO and their now irl friends from the game are ready to do it. Like, this game you were trapped in for two years and no one is tramuatized from the experience and they're all a-ok to jump back in?! What the hell, man?! If I had to play one solid game (This is coming from a gamer's POV mind you.) for two years and I was forced to, after I got out, I would never go back. I'd probably take a break from gaming for along time. The government and FBI are already fairly ticked off about those types of games and how they're used for mind control, so why not jump right back in?! Story: 5/10 Characters: 6/10
Overall: 5/10 -There are enjoyable parts but overall the story is flat and there is a lack of exploration in the game. Character development is every which way with the story. You'll find various plotholes and this show is way overrated by people. The characters are better than the story, however, watch for the ethics pushing stuff. .Hack//sign is a better anime.