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 with a very inconsistent season.
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.
Pacing is an issue. The first half of the SAO arc revolved around the action and completing the game, rushing through the floors where they would skip dozens of floors in several minutes. The second half of the SAO arc the story pushed the brakes and it slowed down significally to focus on the romance. I've got no objections against romance in action shows so I found this different focus nice, Kirito had something to lose inside the game which made you understand why some of the other players stopped climbing in fear. And where normal shows peak at holding hands SAO got as far as actual sex and having an family!
The second arc, ALO was however a big disappointment. The biggest issue was the reason for the plot, it felt tacked on from out of nowhere. And another big issue was the removal of the ''die ingame and you die IRL''. 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 a sniveling weakling and a literal damsel in distress. They also added an unnecessary weird love-triangle incest subplot with some out of place ecchi shots.
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.
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 comprised of tasteless people who deify fan service and then excuse it 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 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. Sure, they were slow and relied on talking instead of showing, but look at the sad alternative. If the show hadn’t been hyped so much by people with really bad taste, this series would be just another mediocrity that would soon be forgotten as it deserved. And instead of that the type of shows the fandom wanted more of led to the industry creating more crap in the future, and the result was the isekai boom. A completely lowbrow subgenre, based on badly written light novels for virgins whose social life is limited to videogames.
The anime is based on the light novels by Kawahara Reki, the same author who wrote the Accel World (AW) light novels, which have very similar concepts and themes. This guy is practically only writing about the ideal brothel all gamers want to spend their lives in and sure as hell does not write good plots or characters. He is exactly like those people who write sappy romances full of sex for bored middle aged housewives. He just mixes popular sci-fi / action / superpower / comedy / drama ideas that are somewhat related to totally imbalanced videogames.
His AW novels were also adapted to anime and were even airing at the same time as this one for awhile. And guess what, just like SAO, AW was also mostly guilty pleasure than quality writing or good characterization. It was also hyped for similar reasons and was also mocked by most after it turned out to be crap like SAO. So in case you disliked that one, you will dislike this one for similar reasons.
If you want more specific examples, just look at how he writes. Constantly introducing new characters and trying to make them dramatic before killing them or never mentioning them again. If he wants us to feel sorry for a dying character, he should have kept him around for a dozen episodes so we get to like him first. Or when he is not killing them, he is keeping a few of them around as antagonists, only to conveniently turn them to jerks soon afterwards, so Kirito can seem heroic next to them. There is no effort in making them act like a person worthy of liking, or having more than 1 dimensions.
Here is another proof of how crap these books are. The SAO series has a dozen novels. One would think that the story is very long. And it’s not! SAO technically lasts only one book! The others are irrelevant side stories that happen in flashbacks or entirely different games! That’s right; the title SAO is practically useless after the first book. It’s there just so the idiotic fans will keep buying more books with its name on it. Being incapable to keep a story going for more than a few chapters, yet unwilling to let it finish and move to writing something else, every time an arc ends the author just finds a poor excuse to make another arc and start all over again, rehashing the exact same things. The characters constantly enter completely different games that are not called nor played like SAO!
After all the aspects of the first game were presented (poorly and unbalanced as always), the only way for the gamers to keep being interested in such a show is to introduce a new game with new rules and start all over again to explain stuff. You heard right; the only thing this story does in order to keep you interested, is to present something in a rushed and superficial way before it resets the plot completely.
And let’s be honest here; aside from anything I said so far, it is based on light novels. Meaning, stories written by people with little to no talent, appealing to people with no exposure to quality literature. Some of them may be smash hits and may be considered masterpieces amongst LN fans, but try to give those books to veteran readers of literature and try to see what they will say about it. You won’t find a big enough rock to hide under. So don’t assume that because the SAO novels are considered to be THE BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN it automatically means they are good. They are not. They are simply glorified fan service in a similar way the Harry Potter and Twilight books were hyped in the past.
The premise is definitely interesting and I see why most would fall in love with it right away. Ten thousand players are trapped in a videogame 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 since 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. 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 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. It is barely exploring any of its interesting concepts; it is full of plot holes, inconsistencies, and character rewrites, which can only be defended with ridiculous amounts of mental gymnastics. 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. It’s just videogame nerd catering, and poorly thought out 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 concept! What about plot, character development, action, romance, or consistency in the rules of the game? Not much there, but if the premise sounds cool that is fine for most anime fans who 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. And don’t forget the terminology! It makes it so familiar with the target audience, like Gintama referring stuff from popular Jump Shonen shows. We are living in the videogame generation and SAO was the first high budget anime that was made to appeal to the generation of 2010 fans, in a similar way Gintama did to the Big Three generation of the 2000s, and Harry Potter to the generation of the 1990s. Most of them shut off their brains, hype whatever looks cool as the best and most original idea of all times. Which of course it isn’t, since there already were a handful of similar shows before, 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? Said fans then proceed onto becoming a joke a decade later because of all the dumb things they did while defending that crap.
Very bad direction. The scenes change randomly and people seem to be standing in a completely different position in each one. Even worse, secondary players magically disappear from the fighting scenes for no reason.
Half the duration of the first half of the show is about stand alone missions, which in the books were short stories without connection to one another. Each one of them ends up being nothing but an easy mission where the protagonist is showing off how cool he is and increases his harem. They are completely boring despite attempting to help us get to know the game and the secondary characters. It also creates continuity problems, since when the side story ends and the main story is back, people behave very differently, as if the previous events never happened and crucial information is mentioned only then and not earlier when they were supposed to know it all along.
The story was also badly adapted from the books.
- They took out several explanations regarding the way the game is played, and internal monologues which reason the mentality of a character in certain episodes.
- The girls are presented in a lot more harem-like way. They were turned from somewhat dynamic women who like the protagonist to fap material after his virtual cock.
- They took out the sex scenes and replaced them with several ecchi scenes where they simply make overused boob grabs and pantsu shots, followed by bitch slaps. And instead of “we had sex” they always say “we were playing for hours.” Great way to dumb down the good parts.
- The original script of the first arc was only one book long that could hardly fill half a season. The second book was just stand alone side stories that happen in between its various time skips. The director had the stupid idea of animating them in chronological order, which means that for several episodes you get a bunch of filler episodes which lack plot continuity and even have several personality inconsistencies.
The plot is one huge pile of stereotypes aiming at gamers and dorks. The setting by itself is going to attract anyone who likes playing MMORPGs. It will make them to constantly be comparing it to various game mechanics, and since the game does a shitty job at explaining its gameplay, they will be talking about it for weeks. Before eventually they realize the game sucks that is.
Take the protagonist for example. He is THE BEST in everything. He has the highest level in the game, super skills nobody else has in the game, the most knowledge of how to farm easy, and can beat the strongest bosses all alone without even being prepared for it. No reason for why he is so good in everything; we are just supposed to accept he is super cool and wish to be like him. Also, he is supposed to be an anti-social yet EVERY SINGLE GIRL IN THE GAME HAS THE HOTS FOR HIM. And he accomplishes that by being a complete jerk. He lies, exploits, doesn’t reveal crucial information, leads people to their deaths and every goddamn girl in the game finds out about that and her reaction is to beg him to bang her. He’s basically an empty husk, and a self insert power fantasy for gamers with no social life.
It goes further than this by having all the female players running around in mini skirts and constantly trying not to show their panties.
- And of course the animators made it impossible for girls to wear decent clothes.
- Oh, and not to forget to mention how they are constantly molested by tentacle monsters and crazy rapists.
- And how they can’t do anything right when Kirito is around so he will of course run to their rescue every single time with his amazing skills.
- And how they constantly forget to dress and walk out of their rooms while in their underwear.
- And how they never miss the chance to bend over and have the camera zoom to their asses.
It is supposed to make the viewer be afraid of the game, but at the same time it wants from him to self-insert with wish fulfilment nonsense that pretends to be SERIOUS AND DEEP when it’s otherwise as shallow as it gets.
- Imagine you being trapped in a fantastic world full of dangers and adventure, where you need to fight hard in order to survive! This is not a game, it’s as real as life itself! … But at the same time it’s still a game and everybody still acts like it is. You would definitely want to be there, right?
- Imagine you being the most awesome, most powerful, most smart, sexiest person in the whole world, and have all the girls falling in love with you right away. But you stay faithful to an equally perfect, beautiful, sexy, tsundere wife who cooks and cries only for you. And imagine having cyber sex with her without worrying she might get pregnant. It’s the best life there is… But you also want to get out of there, because it’s a virtual world and your real bodies are withering! You would definitely want to be that man, right?
The animation is done by Studio A-1 Pictures which usually cares a lot for character appeal and has good budgets. This is hardly one of their best works though; it has several scenes per episode where it is too crude. The artwork is definitely nice since it really feels like a fancy Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). The animation is otherwise very poor in a show that is supposed to be full of action and adventure. There may be battles in this show, but they are all dull and usually end in a few minutes. You are looking at static pictures and flashes that are substituting motions to the most part. Many times the battles aren’t even shown and are resolved out of screen or we fast forward after they are over. Hell, all battles are resolved through broken powers and deus ex machina asspulls. The emotional impact is lost because everything feels dry and convenient.
Although in terms of production values the series looks kinda great, most of what is going on “in” the plot is implied, not shown, and is in general skipped. 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.
The plot is, in general, all over the place, to the point it has several time skips every few minutes. To give you an example, it begins with making the game appear extremely hard in level 1 but 7 episodes later they have cleared three quarters of it out of screen. In the meantime, characters have gained new equipment, got lots of levels, and joined powerful guilds without ever bothering to show us how they managed to do all that. Jump forward a few more episodes and the death game aspect that seemed so interesting at first, is completely gone and nobody dies anymore; it’s just a typical MMO where you respawn as usual.
Adding to all that we have some of the sappiest melodrama you can ever hope to encounter, forced tragedies and revelations that come out of thin air, just for the sake of superficial shock factor. Any attempts at romance come straight out of 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.
As a whole, there hardly is a plot, since it time skips all the time and shows close to nothing of what is going on. More specifically:
- 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 premise.
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. 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 confusing mess, 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 behaves during 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 monsters or other players. They act like they forgot they had one when in reality a crystal needs 8 seconds to activate. Without being told that in-series, it just feels retarded and confusing.
- Most game mechanics matter only in the 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 play in the plot past the episode they are introduced. They become background decorations.
- All feats the protagonist accomplices are 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.
- 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.
- 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 pleasure and pain can’t exist separately since they are basically the same thing.
And here are two examples from the second game:
- 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.
- There is a barrier 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 item at it, it passes through with no problem.
Most explanations regarding 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 since they mostly talk about them. It’s a trick that the series is using in order to keep everything vague. It never explains something clearly and lets you assume how that something works. You can literally explain everything in any way you like and you will be always right. And that is why the fanboys always had an explanation for every plot hole, by mentioning other games with similar game mechanic to SAO. Which of course is bullshit, since there are countless videogames out there. 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 filling in the blanks with stuff from other shows or games. Otherwise, you can just as easily complain every time the characters don’t turn to giants whenever they eat mushrooms, or don’t throw fireballs when they smell daisies in the valleys. If it happens in Super Mario, it should be happening here as well! ... What did you say? That was a different game with different game mechanics and therefore should not be used as an example? Well then, in that case DON’T MENTION OTHER GAMES FOR EXCUSING PLOT HOLES! The fanboys were eventually resorting to saying “we don’t know how videogames will be like in the future, so it’s wrong to assume the game mechanics are stupid because they differ from current games.” How convenient! First they try to excuse it with current 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!
Even the game mechanics that are explained, still feel very iffy. For example, you don’t have to actually defeat 100 bosses in order to survive. The bosses don’t respawn. As long as a dozen hardcore players power through the levels, the rest of the players can clear the game without doing a thing. 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. This nulls most of the action/survival aspect. Also, it makes the game very dumb. Who would play a game where the bosses never respawn and you can clear it by never fighting or by sleeping all day? It makes the viewer think that 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.” Also, as it is usually the case with protagonists, any sense of danger is lost when you realize the system will make sure the protagonist will always be overpowered, will never lose, and will be the guaranteed victor all the time just because he is the protagonist.
Other dumb mechanics:
-The fighting is 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 battles to feel silly because they are essentially turn-based and not real-time.
-Every single problem in the game is caused by the exact same thing. Not being able to use crystals. There are crystals to teleport or heal and if for any reason the characters can’t use them, tragedy occurs. Every time someone shows or talks about crystals, get ready for something stupid to happen because immediately afterwards he won’t be able to use them.
-Cheats are treated as bad, when they are super helpful in a death game. There are many ways to abuse the game mechanics for powerplay and for allowing shortcuts when levelling up. They are presented as evil when they are an easy way to beat the game easier. Kirito is hunting anyone who cheats, supposed for fair play, when in reality he is cheating himself for being a beta tester who exploits farm areas.
And to add to all the confusion, several rules don’t even matter after awhile. The author will constantly be rewriting them just for the sake of retarded plot twists, thus ruining even the very main appeal of the show.
- Being about to be killed? Have the artificial intelligence of the game saving you just for the heck of it.
- Being paralysed? Break the unbreakable status effect with the power of love.
- Staying alive even after you are dead? Sure, why not?
- Transferring all your hax skills to a completely new game instead of starting from level 1 as normal? Happens all the time.
- Being able to steal main equipment from other players that can trash completely the balance of the game? This is something no MMO ever allowed and no other player was ever shown doing it. Only the protagonist can do it and only because he is the protagonist.
- Being able to use items such as access cards that are restricted to admin status only, even when you are not an admin? Yeah, I bet there is a game somewhere that lets you do that too.
- Being given the admin status and revoking all the privileges the game owner has by a ghost? But of course! That happens in every MMO we ever played! And I love how the ghost was waiting for the last moment before transferring this power up, when it could otherwise do it any time it wanted to.
The funniest part is how thanks to this review I made the fanboys eventually admit the gameplay is full of crap… and STILL excuse it by saying there are lots of imbalanced games out there being played by thousands of people JUST BECAUSE. Yes, the exact same reason everything works in this show. JUST BECAUSE.
As a result of the lacking presentation, several characters have some really weird mood swings.
- You will never know what they think or why they changed like that all of a sudden. Something as simple as internal monologues could help to clear the confusion but the anime adaptation removed most of them.
- Characters will behave in the most one dimensional way possible, just to make the audience know right away what to feel about them for the rest of the show.
- Character introductions and relationships form, develop, and end in a few minutes. You are given no time to appreciate what the show expects from you to do. It’s impossible to care for something which has no time invested in it. You will constantly see characters crying over people they know for a few days and barely exchanged ten sentences with. You are left to wonder what is so tragic about people you barely saw a couple of times.
- All characters follow stereotypes that you mostly find in ecchi comedies. To the most part they are not worried about their lives. They will behave as if this is a game and not a life or death situation. And indeed, instead of making you feel like they do anything they can in order to survive, you are instead made to think they are enjoying it, like nothing of importance is going on. It may be fun for the audience to see them doing all the classic stuff players do in online games, but this is NOT a typical game. In fact, they are not actually playing if they are forced to do it, and defeat means death.
- The plot is half the time like that of a typical harem and not like that of a survival story. The protagonist for example makes any girl to fall in love with him 10 minutes after they meet, without any effort or even when he acts like a total jerk to them. There are no ugly girls in the whole show, even when they are supposed to have their real faces, and they all fall in love with the same guy. At the same time, every other male besides the protagonist will be either a lame comic relief, or a completely sadistic asshole that loves to mistreat women and has no redeeming qualities.
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.
*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!