Story 10. In the near future gamers can enter actual virtual game worlds via NervGear devices(think Matrix). SOA is one of the most anticipated games, however on launch day 10 thousand players find the logout button is missing, the game master then informs them that the only way to leave SOA is to beat all 100 levels, that if you die in the game you die in real life and if anyone tries to just remove your nervegear- your brain is fried via microwave emitters in the gear. The story follows Kirito, a beta tester for SOA who is also a very experienced gamer, being known as a beater(beta/cheater) which is quite a stigma the beta testers face from the regular players. We see what happens to people trapped, some take to it right away, others go insane all while guilds and alliances form whilst stuck in SOA. Not exactly the most original story around, SOA manages to make you wanting to watch the next episode and considering there's 100 levels to conquer the scenery changes alot. the 2nd half I didn't think would be as great(sorry no spoilers) it didn't disappoint at all- it only reaffirmed the relationship of the 2 protagonists Kirito/Asuna as well as introducing one of the most hated anime characters in years, Nobuyuki SUGOU .
Animation- gorgeous locals in both games, lots of attention to detail you can go from a scenic country to dragon wasteland to fairy fantasy realm, and then real life- I think most of the real life animation is slightly duller with the colors to emphasize the fantasy aspects of the games.
sound- good quality, the voices are all well done and the in game music is typical of RPG's so you really have the feeling these people are in the game
Characters9- Kirito the main protagonist is known as a beta tester and has some stigma attached since he should have known what was happening or spends his time building his stats/ playing solo and not being part of any guilds- not gonna spoil but you find out why he doesn't, you can see the mental breakdown as he pushes forward on the "frontlines" Asuna is the secondary plays the crucial roles of Kirito's saviour, in the game keeps him from totally breaking down. most all others characters are secondary and don't get too much screen time yet for the time they get the second tier characters are pretty much fleshed out enough. Kirito's Sister would be 3rd main character in 2nd season and adds some good complexity to the story.
overall this is a 9 for me., good story telling- I went through the series in about 3-4 days not anticipating liking so much or needing to watch the next episode so badly. action, suspense, darkness without being too depressing and comedy. great show with good rewatchability factor.