I might as well skip the plot synopsis of Sword Art Online, because odds are you already know it. Sword Art Online has utterly exploded. It is all over the place. It is that one show the EVERYONE is watching, whether it be through genuine interest or sheer bile fascination. And amidst this, it has split the anime fandom enormously between those who utterly love it and those who absolutely hate it. As you no doubt checked what I scored this before anything else, you can probably tell I'm in the latter camp.
In the event that you've been living under a rock these past 6 months, Sword Art Online revolves around an online game that allows full immersion, that all of it's players soon become trapped in via the classic "you die here, you die in the real world" plot device. All the game's players are now trapped in a brutal survival game, as per a ton of other anime that you have doubtlessly watched at least one of before. SAO's first and most obvious fault even to someone who hasn't watched it would be that the premise is incredibly generic - it's just a cobbling-together of Mirai Nikki and .Hack, amongst others, and neither were very good to start with.
But for all my complaints with the series SAO scrapped itself together from, at least those series bothered with a coherent narrative. SAO's story is an inconsistent and appallingly-paced trainwreck, jumping through numerous ill-placed timeskips and sudden shifts in the style of the story in a way that is, to make an understatement of it, very jarring.
The series goes through several stages. The first is confined to episode 1, AKA the only good episode. It serves to set up the plot, and does a decent enough job of it. However, rather than following said plot, it quickly switches to episodic journeys through the world our protagonist is trapped in. In theory that isn't such a terrible idea, but any promise it had is ruined by drearily slow pacing, and more importantly, the most mind-numbingly flat Gary Stu viewer self-insertion blank slate of a protagonist you could possibly imagine. His sole character trait is that he is an extremely powerful player (worse yet, any development into such a powerful player happens offscreen).
Around the episode 9 mark, the actual plot starts to take place. Kirito, the aforementioned dullard emotion-bot protagonist, befriends Asuna, a similarly one-dimensional fellow player he met in an earlier episode, and through a series of events is dragged into joining her guild, who plan to take on the final boss of SAO. In the process of this, the two become romantically involved. Sorry, did I say the plot happened here? My mistake, it actually gets thrown out the window at the first hint of romance. The whole "escaping SAO" plot is put on hold for several episodes while Kirito and Asuna's romantic "subplot" takes over. This doesn't seem that bad until you remember that Kirito and Asuna are totally one-dimensional. Fittingly enough, their romance feels forced and completely fake. How they even "fall in love" is totally ignored - they just do.
Eventually, they get a move on with the damned plot, and *SPOILER ALERT* - everything comes to an extremely rushed and sudden conclusion (especially jarring due to how drearily slow everything was before), and they manage to beat SAO, in spite of some major leaps of logic involving how it actually happened. At last, everyone can escape this wretched game, and continue with their lives. Happy ending!
...Wait a tick. Why are there still 11 episodes left?
"Oh right, there's still good money to make off this series. We can't end it just yet! Let's draw it out a bit longer... I dunno, pull some bullshit subplot out of nowhere. Just make some stuff up."
In a nutshell, Sore Arse Online managed to drag itself out. Another online game, Alfheim Online, manages to get involved in the plot, using some leftover technology from SAO. Kirito has to enter this game as well, along with his sister to whom he isn't related by blood. Because of course, if they were related by blood, they couldn't make her a romantic interest! Through this convenient and overly-cliche twist, we can remove most of the taboo and avoid all the dramatic writing we'd need in order to handle such a heavy theme! It's the perfect copout! Man, aren't we so smart.
...OK, I'll stop now. Anyway, the most generous thing I can say about his sister is that unlike Kirito and Asuna, she at least has a personality. For better or worse, since her personality is that of a completely insufferable melodramatic whining brat. She's not the only terrible character introduced in this arc, though... we also get the villainous mastermind behind Alfheim Online, who starts off overly and campily evil and just keeps getting more heinous from there. At every opportunity, the series will remind you that he is evil in new and terrible ways. You will quickly get the point, but SAO will keep shoving it down your throat. Even his eventual comeuppance is more uncomfortable than cathartic.
So there's SAO in four parts. It's an uneven, shifting, poorly-planned mess. It's characters are awful. It's plot is awful. It's pacing is awful. Short of it's decent production job, everything in SAO is awful.
I highly recommend you stay offline.
That pun was awful.
Final Words: More like BORED ART ONLINE, amirite?
For Fans Of: .Hack, Mirai Nikki