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
Sword Art Online...very hard to rate due to the two very different arcs
I love the concept of players trapped inside an VMMORPG, die in the game and you die in RL, remove the headset and die. You can only escape by completing the game.
Gamers in MMORPGs can specialize in certain areas like blacksmithing or gathering and this happens also in the anime. This is a nice feature as it lets you keep the feeling it is all a game, but in the anime it has a touch of despair because of the fear of dying. The same applies on the occasionally showing user controls and HP bars to give you the feeling it is all happening inside a game.
The animation was really good, the characters, the backgrounds and fluent battle scenes, haven't seen any flaws here. No complaints either about the music, the SOA theme song is one of the best I heard.
The secondary characters haven't been much into the picture, it would of been nice to see more of Klein for example. Kirito and Assuna however were both very good characters, both are strong, mentally and psychically, with Kirito as the silent outcast hero and Asuna the popular leading figure. I didn't have the idea they were overpowered as some complained about the anime, both are very high level players so it makes sense that they are (one of) the strongest players. And it not like they won battles without even making an effort.
The first half of the SAO arc revolved around the action and completing the game, the second half it slowed down to focus on the romance. I've got no objections against romance in action shows so I found that it fit in well, it also made you understood why some of the other players stopped in fear of losing their lives.
The second arc, ALO was however a big disappointment. For me personally the setting with fairies and such was a little drawback but the biggest issue was the loss of the fear for dying. This took away almost all of the excitement/tension. Another issue was the development of the characters, Kirito and Asuna started out strong, Asuna already lost a bit of her strength in the first arc but both have been destroyed in the second arc. They have been reduced to sniveling weaklings. They also added an unnecessary weird love-triangle subplot with some out of place ecchi shots. The last issue I have with this arc is the reason why the people are trapped in ALO, the whole reason was ridiculous and made me feel like the entire arc was filler material.
The first arc was almost perfect, it would of completely perfect if they stretched it out towards a full 22-26 episode long season while focusing more on Kirito grinding, gaining his black sword, more development and screen time for the secondary characters and such. The story skipped several months and several dozens of floors to fit it all in 14 episodes.
SAO get the following rating from me:
The ALO arc get the following rating:
I can only hope the second season will be closer to the first arc and maybe, one day, they will remake the first arc into a full 26 episode season.
Notice: I wrote a novel-wide rant about SAO and the word count does not help to post it all here. So read the whole thing in the following links:
Here is a link to our epic podcast regarding this show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1PBROnJT2c
Ah, Sword Art Online (SAO), how much I hate this show. Not because I am jealous of it being more popular and a much better seller than my favourite shows, but because it hardly deserves its hype and popularity. This is the most overhyped and overrated series of 2012, proving once again that the majority of the anime fandom is tasteless people who deify fan service and then try to excuse that by deeming everything as deep and quality writing. I am not kidding here; every time I was pointing out a weakness in this show while it was airing, I would have dozens of fanboys downvoting me, calling me names, and trying to excuse everything with imaginary proof that they made up on the spot. There was even a forum moderator who was deleting every negative post he could find and leave only the hyped positives remaining, thus giving off the impression to anyone reading the thread that nobody had something negative to say about this masterpiece of a show. Ok, the truth is he made a few exceptions; he left a few negative ones. Specifically, those he could prove wrong by quoting them and providing shallow reasoning, found in the realm of imagination.
At the same time these same wonderful people were bashing innovating and quality titles such as Shinsekai Yori and .hack//SIGN because they talk a lot and don’t show enough boobs. Aka, they are about context and subtlety instead of dumbass entertainment. Such is the sad state of the medium and you can imagine what type of shows they are telling the industry to make in the future. It was that retarded mentality that sort of forced me to progressively make the review longer in order to constantly shoot down every new crap they were mentioning every week in a futile attempt to defend a crap of a show. So in case you don’t like the size, blame them; not me. I am only being thorough. If the show wasn’t hyped so much by people with really bad tastes, this series would be just another mediocrity that would soon be forgotten as it deserved. And instead of that it became the latest example that I will constantly be using every time someone claims a show’s popularity is proof of its masterpiece status. I will be replying by saying “Oh yeah? Tell that to SAO.”
The premise is definitely interesting and I see why everybody would fall in love with it right away. Ten thousand players are trapped in the MMORPG where the only way to get out is by clearing the game. A nice catch is that if their hit points run out they will not respawn in the nearest portal but instead they will die permanently. Something similar is going to happen if someone from the outside world tries to remove the VR helmet in an attempt to free them prematurely. This offers a feeling of actual mortal danger and that it’s not just a harmless game. Another catch is how their avatars in the game are made to look as their real selves, so it was funny to find the usual joke of males playing females or hardly being as handsome as they appeared at first. So, think of all the cool stuff you would normally expect to get with such an amazing set-up.
- A thrilling survival/death game
- Epic battles full of buffs, spells, and elaborate strategies
- A huge variety of game mechanics and resource management of rare ingredients
- Soul crushing tragedies concerning the death of people
- Intrigue and conspiracies by those who will do anything it takes to survive
- Thought provoking mysteries considering the reasons behind why they were trapped and how all that lead to some existentialism issues regarding the meaning of life and the value of morality in a fictional world
- Relationships, romance, and sex in cyberspace (yes, it has that too)
… And sadly you only get a few crams of those. As soon as the shock from the most intriguing pilot episode is over, you are offered a mess of a plot, shallow conflicts, cop-out solutions, and lots-n’-lots dumb self-indulgence. Many compare SAO to .hack and Log Horizon, since they too are about people being trapped in a videogame. Aside for the premise though, it has by far the weakest characterization, no philosophical ramblings, no amazing soundtrack, not even a good plot. It is about videogame nerd catering, and poorly presented terminology that is there just to offer familiarity with their hobby.
“Dude! It’s this anime about videogames! Yeah they play videogames and there is this amazing world and if they die they don’t respawn. And they are trapped inside and need to beat 100 super bosses! And there is this cool dude with a huge sword and all the girls love him and he is so tragic and-and… Dude! Videogames, big swords and chicks! Amazing isn’t it?”
Yes, it is amazing. As a basic idea! How about everything else? Like, let’s say, the plot? Or character development? Action? Romance? Or consistency in the rules of the game? That is why it got so hyped; it’s full of terminology that offers familiarity to the target audience. It’s like shonen fans who like Gintama a lot because it is constantly referring stuff from their favourite Jump Shonen shows. We are living in the videogame generation and SAO was made to appeal to this generation in a similar way Gintama did to the Big Three generation, or Twilight did to teenage girls, or Harry Potter did to little kids. And sadly that is the only thing it is doing right; since aside from familiarity everything else in it is pretty much shit.
There are many of course who refused to accept the show as nothing more than a good premise, loved it and hyped it as the best anime of all times. Many viewers only stick to the superficial elements of a series and don’t care about execution, thus they can make anything to seem like a masterpiece if it just looks nice. I mean, if you shut off your brain, I am sure it will fool you to think it is a masterpiece. But if you demand from it to be more than wish fulfilment and gaming fangasm, you will be greatly disappointed.
But even if you are thinking a bit of what the heck you are watching, it is still not enough to realize how bad it is, if you are not a critical thinker. It is barely exploring any of its interesting concepts, which again looks like a positive thing in the tiny minds of its fans, since they get this way to speculate for years over what the hell is going on. Plot holes, inconsistencies, character rewrites, and stuff that simply contradict each other are somehow excused as an elaborate mystery that is too smart to get it. It’s the exact same thing that made other shonen such as Naruto or Bleach so famous. It is constantly making you have high expectations (which of course are never met) and is deliberately not making any sense so you are made to fill the blanks by yourself, using the only tool available: Imagination and wish fulfilment. It’s a very neat trick to fool the superficial audience into liking and talking about something because it is presented as mysterious, even when in reality it is simply badly written fan fiction full of double standards and vague explanations. Just like the Bible! When it suits the script, it will appeal to real life claiming OMG THIS IS SO REAL - THIS IS HOW GAMERS BEHAVE, and when it doesn’t it will run to excuse everything with random gaming terminology clichés. Thus everything is excused! It’s like someone who pretends to be a scientist but every time he can’t reply, he will say God willed it or something; thus winning both sides.
But heck, all that aside, it is so full of stereotypes and overused formulas that everybody can simply have fun with its kitsch factor. I mean, damn, any attempts at romance this show tries to have is straight from a stereotypical chauvinistic and unrealistic eroge. You can easily see why harem and vn fans will love it at first sight. You know what kind of people I am talking about; the same people you give a real book to read and give up on the third page because it is not full of boobs and has more than 100 different words repeating over and over again. And it’s the same people who called this show the most original concept ever seen in anime, when in a span of just one year we had a long list of premises about videogames and gamers in them. -> Accel World, Btooom, Ixion Saga, Robotic;Notes, and Hunter X Hunter. And I didn’t even bother to add all the others from earlier years, such as Dennou Coil, or cartoons such as Captain N, or live action movies such as Tron, Spy Kids 3D, or Game Box 2.0. NOT SO ORIGINAL ANYMORE HM?
So in a few words, you watch .hack to think about the meaning of life, you watch Log Horizon for the game mechanics, and then you watch SAO to have fun with the gaming terminology, or laugh at its eroge stereotypes. Have no delusions, the show is mediocre at best or below average if you are a demanding viewer. I happen to be demanding and seeing how overhyped this trash is only manages to make me hate it even more.
Although in terms of production values the series has a good budget, most of what is going on “in” the plot is implied and not shown. For example, we are told thousands of players died in a few weeks. We never see that, which automatically makes the whole tragedy of the event completely superficial. It would be amazing if we were shown clips of people being killed by monsters and traps since it would make their deaths more than a flimsy passage. Instead of that all we are told is that they are dead; end of story and moving along. In a similar way, do not expect to see a hundred boss fights. You will get only four, the rest are skipped entirely. Do not expect constant grinding, hard ingredient gathering, or epic battles. They all last only a few minutes and always end anticlimactically. This is not really an action show based on survival by killing monsters.
Do not expect 25 episodes of engaging plot, where everybody is constantly trying to survive, levels up, and is always pressing forward.
- The death game ends midway through the show; the rest of the episodes are a completely different, non-deadly game
- Half of the death game episodes are plotless fillers
- Half of the plot-based episodes will not be fantasy adventure in a videogame world but rather slice of life, light adventures, very rushed stories, and fan service. Meaning, the total duration of the actual game only lasts for about 3 full episodes. The rest of them are irrelevant to the basic plot.
Do not expect any real fleshing out. Everything will be mentioned for a few seconds and will never be elaborated. Despite the various explanations you will never understand the game mechanics.
- Every time someone is injured in this game, his hit points drop gradually and not at once. This led me to believe there was a little bit of time allowed to heal someone before his life drops to zero and he dies by the damage he received seconds ago. But no, the game doesn’t allow that and I had to be told you can’t heal someone if his life is “actually” zero. People in the game are simply dying with delay, just so they can have a few seconds to throw out some famous last words. This creates a very big confusion, since without being told that, it really seems like you can heal them but don’t want to, or the victims refuse to be healed and act like they want to die. You won’t believe how retarded everybody seems to act in their death throes just because they never explained this part.
- There is another part where some players have a teleportation crystal but don’t use it to escape to town when they are ambushed by other players. They act like they forgot they had one when in reality I had to be told by someone who read the novels that a crystal needs 8 seconds to activate. Without being told that in-series, it just feels retarded and confusing.
- Most said game mechanics will matter only in the same episode they are introduced. You will never see or hear about them in a later episode.
- All secondary characters do not have a role to the plot past the episode they are introduced. They will become background decoration afterwards.
- All feats the protagonist accomplices will be forgotten in a few episodes by everybody and it’s like they never happened in the first place. This trashes all sense of progress and development.
- And there are many other parts that simply contradict the way the game is played.
* At some cases it is stated none of the bosses can leave the room they guard, in some others it is stated they roam the countryside and can even attack cities.
* At some cases a crystal is said to be enough to teleport away a whole team, at others it only teleports one person.
* At one part they mention there are renegade players who have betrayed their city, but then it is stated they respawn back to their town when killed, something which makes no sense, since this way nobody would be able to escape the wrath of those he betrayed.
* They constantly say you don’t feel pain in the game, yet you clearly see how every time someone hits them, they act like they are in pain. At the same time they say you can feel pleasure in the game (aka, have an orgasm) when otherwise pleasure and pain can’t exist separately since they are basically the same thing.
* There is a barrier at some point of the game to prevent anyone from crossing to forbidden parts of the game. Nothing should be able to pass through it. And yet when someone throws a simple card at it, it just passes through with no problem.
All explanations to game mechanics or character roles are presented mostly though explanatory monologues. Meaning, they are talking a lot and show very little. We hardly see how things work out on-screen and they mostly talk about them; which is boring.
- But this is also a smart trap the series uses in order to make everything interesting. It never explains something clearly and lets you assume how something happened. You can literally explain everything any way you like and you will be right. For example, when I was pointing out plot holes in some forum, the fanboys of this show would run to excuse them by making up stuff that are not present in the show. They were talking about games they somehow / somewhere / somewhat have a few similarities to SAO and thus every game mechanic makes sense. Which of course is bullshit, since there are so many videogames out there, and one of them is bound to have a mechanic to excuse the unexcused. Every show needs to make sense on its own and not by being compared to other shows or games. But no, the fanboys are stupid enough to believe that since the anime never shows how it works, anything you say may as well be the truth. A very cheap method to hide all plot holes or even bother to explain all the rules of the game.
- Of course this trick does not work with someone as smart as me. In fact, if I play their game I get to trash them completely. So, supposed I once played something similar 20 years ago, that somehow feels relevant to a somewhat similar rule in a completely different game such as SAO… Why don’t they become giants when they eat mushrooms in the forests or throw fireballs when they smell daisies in the valleys? If it happened in Super Mario, it should have happen here. But it didn’t, so there are many plot holes in this game.
- The fanboys are again trying to excuse that by saying we don’t know how videogames will be like in the future, so it’s wrong to mention rules than apply to current games. At which point I can only laugh at. First they say they love the game terminology and now they say it doesn’t even apply. Meaning, they don’t give a rat’s ass if it makes sense, they only want to hear words that have to do with videogames. Ha! Losers.
All revelations occur out of nowhere. The protagonist will literally be sitting in a corner and without any concrete proof or actual facts he will be reaching to flawless epiphanies. Examples include how he found out the way people get murdered in towns or who the guild leader really is.
Even if you try to accept the broken rules and the unexplained gameplay as they are, everything still feels stupid as hell.
Take the very objective of the whole SAO game for example. All you have to do in order to win is to kill all the bosses. And if you think this means a lot of hard work and endless hours of farming, equipping, and buffing, you are wrong. You can clear the game without having to fight a single time! I am not kidding; you can spend years sleeping or goofing around and you can still survive. The reason is simple and dumb. Every boss doesn’t respawn! If someone beats it once, it will never return and not every player needs to kill it at least once in order to advance to the next level. Only a dozen hardcore players are enough to clear the whole game by doing the above troublesome procedure, while all the rest can do absolutely nothing. They can be sleeping in town and when they hear the boss is beaten, they can just go to the next level. They don’t even need to walk through dangerous areas in order to get to the next town since they can use an easily acquired teleportation crystal.
- The above easy method gets even easier. After a revelation happens they don’t even need to clear all 100 floors, since the game ends prematurely way before they get to the last level.
The game is also not really as deadly as they want you to believe.
- The things I mentioned above ruin the feeling of dread, since all of a sudden it is very easy to survive in this game. Just don’t do anything or go farming past the easy areas. At the same time it makes the viewer think someone who endangers himself to the point of getting killed, simply deserved it for being a complete idiot who got what he deserved. Every time someone is killed, instead of feeling sad you just end up thinking: “Serves you right for going to farm in a dungeon fifty times your level, instead of letting others with proper levels and skills to do it for you.”
- Any sense of danger is lost when you realize the system will make sure the protagonist will always be overpowered, will never lose, and be the guaranteed victor all the time just because he is the protagonist.
- Furthermore, the death game aspect that seemed so interesting at first, is completely gone in the second half of the show, since nobody really dies there; it’s just a typical MMO where you respawn as usual.
The fighting is heavily based on “switching”, meaning to jump back and forth while waiting for your attacks to cool down and allowing your team mates to storm in without you standing in their way. This makes each battle to feel silly for being based too much on tag in and tag out of battle.
Every single problem in the game is based on the exact same thing. Not being able to use crystals. There are crystals to teleport or heal and if for any reason they can’t use them, tragedy occurs. It becomes predictable early on and so every time someone shows or talks about crystals, get ready for something stupid to happen.
(read more in the link provided in the beginning)
*Don't worry No Spoilers*
Lets see were to start with this amazing Anime...
Story: Alright the story... Now the story is pretty gripping and paced out nicely, the charachters develop well and the whole timing of the story makes sense. What is really great about the story is that it's not extremly predictible leaving some great twists and changes that effect the story throughout.
Animation: There is some really amazing art in this anime which truly brings the world to life in a way that I just can't take my eyes off, it's well thought out and wonderfully designed giving your eyes a nice treat!
Sound: now I'll start with the voice acting here. Lets start with an unpopular opinion (hey it's my review, so my opinions ;D) I love the dubbed version! Of course the subbed is great and it's completly up to you which is your preference but for me the dubbed really worked out and the voices sound perfect for each character. Now as for the OST (and I looooove OSTs more than anyone I know (maybe))
I've listened to it on its own while doing various things such as working and time flew by!
Characters: ahhh EVERY character in this anime is so unique and memorable and it is my favourite thing about it! I love all the characters they're lovable and compliment (both literally and figuratively) eachother sooo well!
Overall: I love it! Now I haven't seen many animes but overall this is the best anime I've seen and it just feels like something I would love to watch again! I recommend if you haven't seen it and you love Action, adventure and romance I urge you to try this anime out!
Bring on Sword Art Online II!
Sword Art Online... You know, at one point, I was actually excited about watching this show, but as the show went on, and its problems became more and more apparent, I grew a burning hatred for everything about it that it began to define me at one point. Word of advice: Just because something is popular does NOT mean it's good (Just look at Justin Bieber, Twilight, and Call of Duty), as you will learn the hard way with this.
First of all, let me start with that it's about. Sword Art Online is separated into two story arcs. Episodes 1 through 14 is the Aincrad arc. The story is set in the year 2022, the latest VR technology known as NerveGear was released alongside the titular MMORPG. The main character, 14-year old Kazuto Kirigaya (also known as Kirito) is one of the game's 10,000 owners after having beta-tested the game prior. What kind of company produces only 10,000 copies of a game? That's not good business, if you ask me. Anyway, upon starting the game, Kirito learns that there's no logout function. This wasn't a design flaw, but intentionally done by the creator, Akihiko Kayaba. He also explains that the players will die for real if they try to have their NerveGears removed or shut down, or if they die in the game. The only way to escape is by completing the game.
What could've been an enjoyable VR experience becomes nothing but a struggle of life and death. Meanwhile, what could've been an actually good show became a godawful show. What's wrong with this show, you ask? Plenty of reasons.
Let's talk about the characters, mainly the protagonists: For starters, these are not characters. These are bland, unoriginal, one-dimensional cardboard cutouts.
Kazuto/Kirito is basically your standard Gary Stu wish fullfillment protagonist. He has the highest stats in the game, gets all the best skills and items, always wears black clothing to show that he's this dark and emo anti-hero, bends the rules to his advantage to win every battle, and is desired by almost every single female. In other words, being this guy is basically every single socially awkward hardcore gamer's wet dream. He's the main character so everyone that isn't him matters none. No matter what anyone tries to say, Kirito is not smart, complex, or badass character. He's a walking example of the writer's complete and utter laziness.
Asuna Yuuki is probably the worst of the two. She's so stupid, she ends up making Bella Swan from Twilight seem not as stupid in comparison. At first, she seems fine, but as the series progresses and she become a full-time main character, she comes off as your typical tsundere and contributes absolutely nothing at all other than make Kirito do stuff for her and drag him into being a even worse character than usual. Oh and guess what? She's supposedly one of the top players in SAO, but all of her skill points is maxed out only to her cooking stat. That's right, no focusing on any particular stats that would be helpful to progress through the game like strength, vitality, defense, agility, or what have you. The only worthwhile use Asuna has is in the kitchen. To this day, I still laugh at the fact people actually refer to Asuna as a strong female character. In fact, anyone who thinks Asuna is "a strong female character" makes me assume that they actually don't know what that even means. I've seen a good amount of actual strong female characters to know full well that Asuna is most definitely not one.
About a fifth into the series run, the story becomes less about surviving in a game of life and death and more about giving Kirito a harem. Like I mentioned before, it's a given rule for any female that cross paths with Kirito to instantly fall for him. Why the chick falls for him is never explained. It sums down to "I love Kirito-kun because" and that's it. No reason at all. And when you put Kirito and Asuna together, then it gets really bad. It's bad enough these two are bland characters. But when their romance (For lack of a more suitable word) starts, it's just as bland. They pretty much do nothing that even implies romance between the two: She hangs out with him for awhile, shares sandwiches with him, whacks him whenever he accidentally gropes her. An episode or two later, they're in love and they're married. Uh, what? There's no buildup to it that it comes out of nowhere, and what's worse is that romance completely overshadows everything. I mean, THAT is the plot that Sword Art Online focuses around: Not about 10,000 people fighting for their lives in a virtual world, it's about two people's romance. They selfishly waste two and a half episodes on their honeymoon while everyone else is off progressing through the game. Our protagonists, everyone. Who cares about escaping the game? The script is pretty much godawful, the worst offender being episode 13, where Asuna spews out stuff about how meeting Kirito changed her life and how she believes meeting him was the very reason she put the NerveGear on. It's completely unbelievable and comes off as nothing but BS. Really, George Lucas wrote better romance in the Star Wars prequels than this.
Later on, they adopt this AI girl as their daughter. Her name is Yui and she's arguably competing with Asuna as the worst female. She has absolutely no character and serves no purpose other than desperately try too hard to act cute and be the moeblob that panders to whatever otaku audience. Also nothing agains her voice actors. I'm sure they do a good jo bportraying the character but mother of God, Yui sounds horrible. It's like that extremely high-pitched mousey moeblob voice, only alot more grating. She's easily unbearable when she's talking. Like, please stop talking.
Now Akihiko Kayaba, the evil mastermind that is responsible for the deaths of around a third of the game's population: When Kirito finally confronts him and asks what was his motivation for doing this, his answer sums up to "I forgot." He even states that he probably had none at all. In the end. SAO's purpose is completely negated and makes you feel like so much time was wasted and so many people lost their lives for absolutely nothing. If that wasn't the most trollish slap-in-the-face since the last few episodes of Blood-C, I don't know what is.
There are only a few characters I like, but they are barely seen at all, let alone given any character development because the story follows only Kirito and considers no one else important. Klein (The guy with the red headband) is the first friend Kirito makes once he enters SAO. You would expect him to be Kirito's best bro or something of the sort, but he's only seen for 5, maybe 6 episodes total. Silica (the loli with the dragon) is one of the more popular characters and she only has a screentime total of one episode and a few cameos here and there. In fact, her only notable scene is walking into the same room with Kirito in her undies. Why even bother introducing these characters if you're not ever going to develop them? Matter of fact, I don't even know why Silica is popular. Because she's a loli. That's basically her only appeal. Same goes for Lisbeth, a blacksmith player. What's her appeal? None that I can think of. There's no point in liking any of these females at all. There's nothing to their character other than she's in love with Kirito-kun. And I think at some point, the author even mentioned that it was hard for him to write a female that doesn't fall for Kirito.
The plot: I've already described the plot. That's it. The rest of the show doesn't ever expand on that premise save for a few minuscule mentions of how many players are still alive. Aside from that, the premise is mostly ignored to the point that it's nonexistant. In fact, through the course of the series, we see the characters with their items and equipment changed only in between episodes. You'd think that a show based in an MMORPG would be focused around character customization, equipment upgrading, skill sets, etc., but it's never elaborated upon. For example, Kirito somehow pulls a dual-wielding skill out of nowhere. How and when he acquired it is never elaborated. He even says it randomly appeared out of nowhere in his skill list. In fact, that's a constant problem: We're only told about this number of played died, but it's never shown. Like the writers just wants us to take their word for it.
Obviously, when we're dealing with a show where anyone can die so you'd expect there'd be some suspense and drama. Nope. Everytime someone dies, the drama falls flat because we haven't known the character long enough to care enough for him or her. A half of an episode isn't enough to for me to know one character! The only "tragic" death, according to this series, is Yui's. When she "dies", the protagonists bawls their eyes out. They only knew her for less than a few days in-universe, two episodes overall. And it's instantly negated because they manage to salvage her data and convert her into an in-game item. Yui's character arc was one of the worst episodes of the series because of its contrived, weak, forced, sorry excuse for drama. In fact, any sense of suspense is gone when you realize that Kirito will win the fight by pulling straight out of the ass some brand new skill that was never seen before.
The second arc (Episodes 15 through 25) titled Fairy Dance (although you don't really see any fairies dancing until like the last episode), is much, much worse as the many faults are present at a much grander scale. The setting here is ALfheim Online, which was developed using SAO as its base. When Kirito first logs into ALO, he finds that all his items and stats from SAO are carried over. So instead of starting over from Level 1, he becomes overpowered at start. It shows nothing but laziness in terms of game development in-universe and writing out-of. The story switches from "struggle for survival" to "save the princess," but there's no real sense of emergency as ALO has a working logout function and no one dies for real if they die in-game. Also, Kirito does mostly everything except his self-stated objective, like it's the last thing on his to-do list.
And just when you couldn't get enough of Yui, she comes back. That's right, she's going Turbo! I mentioned that his items carried over to ALO, but all but Yui can't be read by the game system. She acts as a guide fairy to Kirito, kinda like Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, only even more annoying because she knows about stuff that she shouldn't and it only works whenever the plot demands it.
The Big Bad of Fairy Dance, Nobuyuki Sugou, is way worse than Kayaba in terms of being an effective villain. First of all, this guy is more of a psychotic, pedophilic manchild than a real villain. The first thing he does when we're introduced to him is outright inform Kazuto, "Hi, I'm the villain." Apparently, subtlety isn't his forte. Also, the fanbase clearly does not hate him for his villainy. His plan basically involves manipulating the memories of the few hundred, Asuna included, that didn't escape SAO. But that's not the reason why the fans want this guy's head on a stick. The most heinous, evil, dastardly, utterly descipable crime against humanity that makes this guy lower than scum is molesting Asuna every chance he gets. To the fanbase, Sugou is Hitler compared to Kayaba.
Meanwhile, Asuna is reduced to nothing more than the worst kind of damsel-in-distress. She does more of nothing other than be Sugou's sex toy. She doesn't even try to defend herself, she just sits there and let him have his way with her body. She tries to escape on one ocassion, but ends up getting tentacle raped (Oh, you heard me right) and recaptured just as quickly. Which brings me to my next point. This show is utterly misogynistic to the point that it's outright offensive. The first arc is bad about it, but the second arc is where it is almost blatantly shown in your face. At some point near the climax of the arc, Sugou attempts to rape Asuna in the game right in front of Kirito. This whole scene turns a revenge fantasy and it only serves to make the viewer hate the villain even more. Which is not how to even write a villain. Not only that, but when Kirito gets his chance to put a stop to Sugou, he brutally tortures him without any sense of remorse and even commits physical pain to him. While Sugou did basically do the same thing to him, Kirito does the same to him in an even worse scale and Asuna does not bat an eye about it. In fact, she's not the least bit traumatized over that she was sexually assaulted because Kirito saved her so all is good. This is obviously used for trivialization and shows that the author clearly had no business in even toying with such a thing. If you can't write attempted rape without a serious meaning or purpose other than "all bad guys are rapists", then don't do it.
As Asuna plays damsel-in-distress, her role as a main character is given to Kazuto's younger sister (actually cousin), Suguha/Leafa. Aside from her huge boobies, she is a somewhat better character than Asuna in that her chemistry with Kazuto/Kirito is actually believable. But her character falls apart because of one fatal flaw: She falls victim to the pitfall of being a female character in SAO, and therefore fall in love with Kirito for no reason (That's right, we're approaching incest territory), only here it's different. She's in love with both Kazuto and Kirito, but she's unaware that they're one and the same. Same goes for Kazuto/Kirito, who's unaware that Leafa is Suguha. So it becomes more of a guessing game as to when they're going to find out, and when they do, the damage is already done and you don't really care anymore.
Animation: Well, the scenery is nice. That's the only good thing I can say. Character designs, not so much. In case you've figures out, Kazuto/Kirito is an emo antihero, so he dons clothing that is as black as his soul. Black hair, black eyes, Hell, even all but one of his weapons are colored black. Talk about uninspired. Most characters are drawn with only one facial structure. For example, Take Kirito's design, add light-brown waist-length hair, light-brown eyes, and average-size breasts and you've got Asuna. In fact, the moeblob looks like she was recycled from a previous character's design. The action scenes aren't compelling at all, but made cheaply and lazily with single still-frames in almost every fight. There are a few exceptions, but it only means that the animation staff felt like wasting their effort and budget on facepalm-worthy humor instead of quality fighting scenes.
There's only little I can say about the music. I've heard good things about Yuki Kajiura's score and her music here is pretty much the only thing about Sword Art Online worth mentioning. Although it gets very repetitive most of the time. Only one track has stuck to my mind and it only plays whenever Kirito is about to win a fight. It's a shame that it's sadly wasted on something so awful.
Now the very worst fault that Sword Art Online has is its very fanbase itself. Usually, I won't talk about a series' fanbase when judging a series, but this is a special case because of their' foolish blindness to blatantly obvious flaws that even the brain-dead can find. You will find lots of users and their so-called reviews here that praise this show. Those guys are the suckers who was unfortunate to be sold only by its premise, which is interesting but has been done before (Hello, .hack franchise), and ignore everything else. The premise can only go so far, but how it is executed is what really matters.
This show has the stupidest fanbase ever since they probably like anything that looks like a terribly written fanfic written by a teenager. And from what I've heard, Kawahara wrote the first novel (or maybe the preliminary story) when he was a teen. It definitely shows. There is absolutely no effort put into this story and characters whatsoever. And once again, he admits that he basically wrote the story without even applying any form of logic. I'm beginning to think that he didn't write SAO just to tell a story, but so that it can become popular for all the wrong reasons, sell tens and thousands of volumes, and leave quality works underappreciated and selling poorly. Basically, a cheap cash-in. In other words, it's no better than moe junk.
Thank you, Reki Kawahara. Modern anime has gone down the toilet because of your actions.
Sword Art Online is basically a textbook example of how to make an awful anime by relying on wish fullfillment and asspulls to tell the story. It is a power fantasy: Its message is basically telling you to reject your own reality in favor for their fantasy. I think that message is a load of bollocks and shows that some people who falls for this is in need of a reality check. Want an actual MMO anime that does everything that Sword Art Online fails at in that it actually develops its characters, doesn't cater to the lowest common denominator, and doesn't insult your intelligence right in your face? I recommend watching .hack//SIGN for its psychological aspects and meaningfully-written characters and Log Horizon for its world-building aspects and actually thought-out MMO functionality. It's hard for me to actually fathom how this show is so highly rated because it does EVERYTHING wrong on so many levels. The only thing it does right is make itself, and Kawahara, into a complete joke.