Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online - Reviews

PorraMAL's avatar
Jul 2, 2018

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Sword Art Online: Not Complete Shit Edition because of reasons.

I was planning to avoid this because... Well... It's Sword Art Online, I've had enough shit just watching the original series, no need to waste my time with a spin-off that's probably even worse. That's what I originally thought, but then people kept talking about how it's made by a Studio 3hz, a different staff from the original SAO, has a different story with different characters, and most importantly, a different writer: Keiichi Sigsawa, the author of Kino no Tabi, no less! As someone who loves Kino no Tabi, I decided to give this Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online thing a chance, then, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised at the lack of SAOness here since this time around we're talking about a much better writer than Reki Kawahara, I even managed to convince a friend of mine who hates SAO to watch this one with me, she accepted with the condition that if she didn't like episode 1, she would leave and I would have to watch the rest alone. Fortunately, Gun Gale Online did enough to keep us watching together and we actually had quite a bit of fun with it, so it's already better than the original SAO just for that. But okay, it's better than the original SAO. So what? I don't think that's much of an accomplishment to begin with, so I'll refrain from comparing GGO to SAO for the remainder of this review unless I feel it's necessary to make a point.

The story takes place sometime after the whole SAO incident, the NerveGear was recalled and destroyed and VR games lost their popularity because people understandably got afraid of playing a VR game and ending up in a bad romance anime again. However, with the launch of the newest VR gaming device, the AmuSphere, and the assurance that the incident won't repeat itself, the popularity of VR games saw a ressurgence as thousands of rich neckbeards got their hands on this new device. Our protagonist is Kohiruimaki Karen, a socially-awkward university student with a complex about her "abnormal" height, being taller than most people at her age and implied to have been bullied for that in the past, as such she has a hard time interacting with others besides her family and close friends. One day, Karen heard about these VR games that allow people to experience an alternate reality with alternate versions of themselves to boot and it caught her attention, with the help of her gamer friend Shinohara Miyu, she tried a lot of games who gave her different randomly-generated avatars, but all with the same tall height until the shooter Gun Gale Online gave Karen the short loli avatar she was looking for. Wow, I mean, you have these fucking advanced VR games that literally let you BE your own character in a virtual reality and there's no manual customization to how you'll look like? What the hell, VR game designers? Get your shit together! By the way, Karen's avatar is named LLENN... I don't know why her name is LLENN or why it's in all-caps, but alright then.

Once Karen becomes LLENN, she at first uses GGO just to play around as the cute little girl she always wanted to be (though I still find her real life version cuter) but eventually she decides to play GGO seriously, and after completing the tutorial and hunting some monsters, LLENN buys submachineguns, a new outfit and changes the color of both the guns and her outfit to pink in an effort to look cute and more girlish. LLENN's pink outfit actually blended well with the desert environment she chose to hunt around and she started to ambush some unaware players using that as well, which led to them calling her the Pink Demon. Eventually, LLENN comes to know another female player named Pitohui and the two become friends and LLENN buys two P-90 machineguns which she ends up nicknaming P-chan, and they play GGO together as a team and hunt some more monsters, and one day Pito tells LLENN about a GGO team tournament called Squad Jam, where a lot of teams fight against each other until the last one standing is declared the winner, and she wants LLENN to participate in the tournament along with her partner, a player called M. Back in real life, Karen isn't sure if she should participate on the Squad Jam or if she should even keep playing GGO, so she ends up asking Miyu for advice again, and Miyu came up with this idea that she was planning to get tickets for them to see a popular singer named Kanzaki Elsa in concert at the same time the SJ would be happening, and if she doesn't manage to get the tickets, Karen should participate on the SJ then. Well, considering the first episode of the show actually shows LLENN and M already shooting out against other teams in the SJ, you'll probably guess what was the outcome of that little dilemma. Also... Pitohui won't be able to participate on the SJ herself, the SJ will happen around the same time Elsa will play on her concert... Sure, that's probably just a coincidence, of course it is.

If you didn't notice, GGO is a lot more slice of life-ish compared to SAO, which works better to me because SAO's attempt at having a plot and especially the antagonists were by far the worst parts of it, so we're off to a good start here. That being said, I really do like GGO's first half, it still tackles the theme of escapism and virtual relationships this series became known for addressing in a half-assed way, but this time the main character is well-written and relatable! I mean, I don't really relate to Karen's reason to play GGO, my height is just about the average 24 year old man's height, but as someone who has crappy social skills and tends to use video games, anime and even social media to escape real life problems for a bit and have some fun, I can totally relate to Karen's attitude of playing a game to enter a different reality where she can be whatever she wants and meet a lot of other people who may very well be on the same boat as her. Karen is a timid girl, she deliberately avoids interaction with other people in fear of standing out due to her height and possibly get ridiculed by them, which may seem a bit silly to some people, but there's a lot of real life people who develop social anxiety for that kind of stuff, like people who are fat, poor, have an unusual hair type compared to the others, etc. Hell, I've met some real life dudes who say they don't like tall girls because being tall is kind of a masculine feature, imagine a tall girl such as Karen hearing something like that from a guy she happens to like, it would definitely make her feel terrible for being tall, which is something that's not even her fault to begin with! So, I can definitely understand and sympathize with Karen, the show really emphasizes how much more comfortable she feels as LLENN in GGO, after all a little girl will always be viewed as cute by people, as opposed to a tall one, LLENN is considerably more outgoing and extroverted compared to her real life counterpart, which is actually how Karen's personality truly is when she's around other people without her complex getting in the way. The other characters also play GGO for specific reasons that are mostly related to their personal lives, but they're not explored as well as Karen is, which is kind of a shame because most of them are pretty likeable despite the show not giving them much focus, I thought M was kinda boring at first, but when it's revealed that he was roleplaying as this stoic military veteran who's all business the whole time and in actuality he's a beta loser who cries and begs not to be killed, it was unexpected and also fucking hilarious!

I won't delve into GGO's game mechanics because it's a fictional video game that's primarily there to provide some cool action scenes, so I'm willing to suspend my disbelief to an extent, as long as the game doesn't contradict stuff it previously established when convenient to the plot like SAO did, and GGO for the most part works fine within its own rules. Since shooting is the name of the game here, the battles lean more on the tactical side, to win the SJ it's necessary to pay attention to the other teams' positions when the game shows them in the radar, use the knowledge of the terrain to your advantage and attack at the right time, although LLENN obviously have some special skills since she's the main character, being short makes her slightly harder to aim at compared to other players, and she can go full Sonic the Hedgehog and run really fast to avoid bullets and surprise other players. I'm not sure why LLENN has these skills, but since this is an online game with a stats system, I'll assume she built herself as an agility-oriented character and doesn't carry any heavy equipment, which helps her move fast. Anyway, LLENN may be somewhat broken as a player, but she's not Kirito, she's not so broken that she's capable of soloing anyone who dares to fight against her and elminating whatever tension her fights couls possibly have, GGO is still more tactics-oriented, and LLENN isn't exactly experienced in that regard at first, which is why she basically just does whatever M tells her to do in this SJ, and even then she still actually struggles in her fights, literally the only reason she even managed to win the SJ was because M helped her in the nick of time and... Some hardcore plot armor. Yeah, sometimes GGO likes to remind us that it's a SAO show and gives its main characters plot armor so thick that even Naruto characters would find it absurd. That's probably my biggest gripe with both Squad Jams in the series, they have some really good action scenes, but the final battles they lead to have LLENN winning in such a bullshit way that it kinda undermines the whole tactical combat that happened before. Stuff like LLENN being able to block bullets using P-chan and not get hit by a single one and the opponent only shooting specifically where LLENN is holding P-chan even though her whole body is still unprotected made me actually cringe while watching GGO and really stretch out how far my suspension of disbelief can go. I get it, LLENN is supposed to be lucky because she's like a rabbit and even her hat has rabbit ears, but there's a limit even to how lucky someone can be, and this goes way beyond that limit.

Regardless, after the Squad Jam and the whole time she spent playing GGO, Karen started to get more confident about herself, she even talked to a group of girls from a high school affiliated with her university, which just happen to be the last team she fought in the SJ, they're members of the school's Rhythmic Gymnastics Club and played GGO at first to improve on their teamwork, as well as their boss is a girl who wishes she was taller and less girlish. Although it's nice to see how Karen got over her complex and all, I feel she got over it way too quick, it's a complex she had for years, and yes, GGO was an unique experience for her and all, but still, I'm not to keen on her overcoming her complex so soon. However, I know why they made her overcome her complex already, it's because the second half discards the slice of life aspect of GGO and tries to have somewhat of a plot as what drives the main characters to play the game... Aaaaaand that's when the show starts to get progressively weaker, because the plot of the second half is really stupid. Basically, Asougi Goushi (M in real life) wants Karen to participate in the next Squad Jam because Pitohui is actually a maniac with a death wish who regrets missing out on SAO since that game put its players lives at a risk, and if LLENN kills her in GGO, Pito won't kill herself, but if another player kills her, she'll commit sudoku and it's bye bye for her... And Goushi is actually in love with Pito, so instead of calling the police or whoever can help Pito with this inexplicable obsession with death, he decides to bring in Karen and Miyu into this and begs them to kill Pito in the SJ... While he will be playing on Pito's team. As I said, it's a fucking stupid plot, Pito was a decent character before, but now the show turned her into a stock edgy villain for the sake of bringing a plot and an antagonist into a show that didn't really need one, so the second half is almost entirely in the SJ. But it's not all bad, Miyu enters GGO as LLENN's partner and becomes another loli named Fukaziroh, her weapons of choice are grenade launchers and it's fun to see her blowing shit up, I also like how LLENN learned from M in the previous SJ and becomes pretty good at making up plans to engage the other teams, once again the action scenes in this SJ are pretty good, I would say even better than the previous one. This show isn't visually amazing or anything, but the animation in the fights is really good and the soundtrack also contributes a lot to them as well.

... But just like the first Squad Jam, this one becomes horse shit near the end, at the precise moment when Pito takes a sniper rifle shot to the head, survives because of fucking course she was going to survive, and then she becomes DAMAGED personified. Seriously, she starts acting like every shallow edgy anime psycho you've watched before, she just wants to kill everyone and later she starts using a goddamn Sith lightsaber! I'm not making this up, she starts murdering people with a lightsaber, even though the other characters have guns and could shoot her, they never manage to hit her because she has an ever stronger plot armor than LLENN did in the previous SJ. It gets really ridiculous, and there's no actual reason to why Pito acts like that or has this obsession with death, she just does, after the SJ is over we discover that she's exactly who you thought she was the whole time and she's perfectly normal. Was she just roleplaying as an edgy retard this whole time? Was this supposed to be a spoof of internet edgelords who are actually tame and inoffensive in real life? I don't know, but I would prefer if GGO kept going on as a slice of life show where Karen deals with her personal issues while playing GGO to distract and have some fun, maybe explore other characters with their own lives and reasons to play the game, make Karen meet Pito sooner so the two of them can have a relationship outside of the game as well. For the love of God, anything but this asinine plot the second half had and the cringe-worthy edgefest that were its last episodes.

Overall, I have some pretty mixed feelings on this show. The first half is pretty good, Karen/LLENN is a great protagonist, the other characters are likeable, the action scenes are fun to watch and the show's first half balanced slice of life with gaming similar to how a sports anime plays out, but the second half is only worth watching for LLENN and Fukaziroh's battles against the other teams before things get unbelievably dumb. Still, I managed to enjoy GGO for what it was, even though it could have been much better, I would watch a second season of it no problem, assuming it's going to be more like the first half of this one and not the second half, at least. If you didn't like SAO, there's a chance you may enjoy this spin-off, although... Depending on what exactly you hated about SAO and how much you're tolerant to it, there's also a chance that you may dislike GGO as well. I dunno, give it a try and see what happens, at least the first half I can definitely say I would recommend watching.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
6/10 characters
6/10 overall
artsiecassie's avatar
Jan 11, 2020

I would like to start this off by saying I am not a fan of the original SAO series. I tried to watch it and just... disliked it so much. However, I saw this one on netflix and it looked cute so I wanted to give it a try. I did not get the vibes that I got watching the original SAO though others will probably disagree since after all, I only saw a few episodes before I was turned off from it.

This anime however I liked quite a lot. It was cute, story driven, and had no frills to it. The story is about a girl who dislikes reality so much that she finally joins VR life and tries out some games. The one she ended up going with being Gun Gale Online. A game where she could be the person she wanted to be. The main character had no idea what the game was about but she taught herself and grew. I loved the character development of the main character and the choices she makes to help the ones she cares about.

It's a short anime that keeps you interested from start to finish. There are some questions I had at the end such as communication devices in GGO that didn't really have consistency with the rules they placed. That was my only real issue with the anime. The characters were all unique, interesting, and funny. The story was hilarious, action packed, and filled with drama. The drama did not tie you down and make you feel bogged down with emotions either, it was cut up through the comedy and action of the show. As it progresses you start to care for each character, and you want to see them succeed with their missions.

The plot is very straightforward and there isn't much to it. Despite that the characters are what draw you into the story even more. I watched the dub and it was well acted. They conveyed the emotions perfectly on the screen. As for the animation it had it's signature SAO look to it all while being its own at the same time. The scenery was beautiful, each character design was well put together. Everyone had their own flair and individuality that I loved. Their avatar bodies fit their personalities perfectly which I adored.

If a season 2 ever comes out you know I'd watch it. It has not changed my opinion on SAO but It opened me up to trying other alternative series within the franchise.

8/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
MsNova's avatar
Jun 15, 2019

Gun Gale is an SAO spin off that is quite different from SAO. It is much more light hearted, despite taking place mostly in a shooting game. Being a gamer myself I did get a chuckle out of how different the avatar’s are from the real people behind them and the story was predictable to me, but that did not stop me from enjoying it.

I am not sure why it had gotten such bad reviews from some people. I suppose being a Sword Art Online spin off, some had expectations.

It wrapped up nicely, but I do hope there will be a season 2.

8/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
Aniosophy's avatar
Mar 24, 2019

Who would have thought that the best way to fix the Sword Art Online franchise was to get rid of the entire cast, keep just the world, and instead fill it with entirely new characters, I didn’t, and I didn’t think they would actually do it, but they did it with this show, and it actually really paid off imo. This show was a lot of fun to watch and was easily the best installment in the entire Sword Art Online franchise thus far, and except for the random moments where HER GUN HAD A VOICE AND TALKS I liked every minute of this show.

I don’t know why I like this show so much more than the other installments, maybe it’s just my general disdain towards Kirito and his harem of friends or maybe………… Actually no that’s exactly what it is and the fact that he is not in this makes it all the more worth wild to watch. Of course, there is more to it than that, but that was probably a big part of it, since you really do not have to constantly roll your eyes at the annoying harem shenanigans there are just shelved into the original two seasons of Sword Art Online. Really this show was just a fun happy good time that took the best parts of the franchise (the world and the game) and added stuff that was equally as fun to watch and learn about. I know, who would have thought by just getting rid of all of the boring stuff this franchise is known for, would make this show infinitely better, (He said extremely sarcastically).

No but seriously, there are genuinely interesting parts of this series that have nothing to with the original Sword Art Online. For one the characters in this series or actually funny, and not like that fake funny you see sometimes in comedy shows where they just continuously say the same joke, no here the dynamic and subsequent banter between two of our main characters (Karen and Goushi) is always amusing to watch. Additionally, the animation during the fight scenes is significantly better than what you might expect from a series that you might assume is a “cash grab spinoff”. This leads into the second part about the fight scene that I really appreciate, and that is our main character Karen if not the strongest fighter in this game. Yes, near the end she is definitely within the top players, but she is by no means the strongest in head to head combat, nor the most experienced player we meet in this world, and because of this she has to use clever tactics or her superior speed to get the edge on more experienced players. And honestly, the animation as a whole is a lot better than what I was expecting going into this, since like many of you I expected this just to be a “cash grab spinoff”, but I was pleasantly surprise with how colorful this series really turned out to be.

There are other elements like the music in the series, which really just builds off of the foundation that was already laid down during season 2 of Sword Art Online, with any additions to the in game soundtrack feeling similar enough to the originals to feel at home in this setting, while also still adding a nice layer of tension to the atmosphere that you would expect from a PvP FPS. This actually touches on another really interesting aspect about this series, which is the fact that this is a spinoff dedicated entirely to people who enjoy one of the games shown down SAO, and this premise alone I feel is pretty interesting. Because not only do we get more time in a game that I honestly felt was the most interesting out of all the games shown so far in SAO, but because of this extra time we really get to see all the different layers to the game that we really did not get a chance to experience during SAO, mostly because all of those elements got sidelined by the main plot, however hear those elements are integrated very nicely with the main story.

In the end, I am going to give this show an 85/100 because I really did enjoy this show quite a bit and I might actually bring it up to a 9 later to be completely honest, because except for the random gun talking bits I thought this was a fun/happy show to watch, and really that was all it was trying to be. So my recommendation is if you really like the Sword Art Online franchise maybe don’t watch this, because this story wise has nothing to do with the original, except coincidentally being in the same world, so you might disappointed if you go into this with those type expectations. But if you are a person who liked the initial premise that Sword Art Online showed before they fucked it all up, and you want to see them go back to that initial interesting idea and do it better, than you should check this show out😉

9/10 story
9/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
7.5/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
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Rbastid's avatar
May 24, 2020

Considering the facade of Sword Art Online really didn’t match the show very much, it’s no surprise they made a spin off that seems to have even less to do with it.

Story - 2/10

Karen Kohiruimaki is a young girl just entering college who has always been extremely self conscious of her height. This leads her to escape to the world of video games, where she makes sure she’s a cute and tiny character to counteract her real life appearance. In the game she becomes a ruthless killer, while still just being a friendly young woman back in reality.

The story basically takes the same exact plot and repeats it twice, where Karen’s character, Llenn is part of a team of two that takes part in a massive battle royale to see who the best teams in Gun Gale Online are. During these battles she uses her small size to wow onlookers and decimate foes, only to find out that the outcome has real life consequences.

They try to make a story about how an in-game friend of her’s, Pitohui, is really a psychopath in real life, who missed out on the events of Sword Art Online and now seeks death through this game, though it really just comes across as a bad attempt to link this show to S.A.O. They also attempt to make a twist at the end which honestly makes sense on paper, but not at all in practice (Time lines don’t add up, the idea of Pitohui’s real life person spending so much time on games and how she apparently is able to overwhelm grown men, just does mix with how outside of the game world, reality is supposed to match the same reality we know, not some over the top version from other series.)

Trying to make a show about a young woman eventually learning that everyone’s differences are special and that she should love who she is, is certainly admirable, and doing it through a series that isn’t just a typical drama is a great way to introduce that concept to an audience that may be new to it, I just think they could have done it without the really bad second half story.

Animation - 6/10

The segment dedicated to G.G.O. in Sword Art Online had some amazing background animation, and that clearly crossed over her to this spinoff. The lands they fought in were all beautifully drawn and colored, and due to the nature of the series they were able to have so many different locations despite only a small number of episodes.

Character wise I can’t really say the same thing, as there was nothing original or interesting about any of them. It also didn’t help that Shinohara’s character model for Fukaziroh just looked like they grab Yuu from Girls Last Tour and threw her into a different post apocalyptic wasteland.

Sound - 7/10

Surprisingly, despite the characters in the G.G.O. world all having charactery voices, I never became bothered by them. Too often the squeaky little girl or the brutish male can become overly annoying, but between the games action and the personalities given to the characters I always felt that they were just perfectly on the mark to where they needed to be.

The opening song was, well, an anime song if I ever heard one. The same could be said for the ending, and while it didn’t fit the series, it could make sense, as it sounded like the music our lead character would be a fan of. 

Within the show the background music was great, with songs really doing the job they were supposed to, while blending in seamlessly. Likewise they nailed the sound effects that you’d expect from such an action packed series.

Characters - 2/10

The characters are far from original, though having a mainly female cast is a departure from most series of this type.

Llenn’s character is the typical person living out their fantasy in a virtual world, though oddly her fantasy is to be short. Pitohui is a crazy masochist who now looks for the thrill of death as she missed it by not logging in on day one of Sword Art Online. Shinohara is the pervy friend character, and Goshi rounds out the group as the doting boyfriend.

There are also a handful of characters within the G.G.O. game that we encounter, but only the group of Army Amazons, who turn out to be a group of small high school girls, play any major role in our show, though with no interesting story amongst the six of them.

The idea that Llenn is a polar opposite of her real world identity, Karen, is something that was cute for them to run with, but they then did it for every single character, which in turn blows the ending. 

While the characters were almost all very likable, they just were horribly dull and cliche, with the stories of some, such as Pitohui, being a stretch even for the anime world.

Overall - 5/10

I don’t think Gun Gale Online needed it’s own spinoff, as it’s story arc in Sword Art Online was one of the best in that series, but this one was still a fun series, even if it was repetitive and pointless.

There is a lot more they could have done to make the series something special, such as having back stories not be weak and inane, or having an awful ending, but to watch it for just the action, and maybe a bit for the pleasant real world story, it’s certainly far from the worst. If they were able to fix up those few annoyances it might have even been better than most parts of S.A.O.

2/10 story
6/10 animation
7/10 sound
2/10 characters
5/10 overall
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