Beating the boss in a game doesn't mean you will be popular.
First of all, I would like to say I've enjoyed a lot of the reviews about Sword Art Online (SAO), as they were absolutely HILARIOUS (mostly negative ones). I promise not to rant too much and give a proper analysis on why I've given the ratings for each category. Of course, you may disagree with me. Feel free to check my profile to view my alternate review status.
I understand that many of our viewers have anticipated or were encouraged that SAO was a masterpiece. That is not the case for me. I will not rate an anime until I've finished it and understood it. A critic must always look out for the least expected flaws while others swallow up the praise that this anime receives. Oh, how easy it was to spot those flaws.
A good storyline at least puts the hero through a trialing period until he grows stronger from experience. Pokemon, is an elementary example. SAO's storyline is below elementary. The villains traps the hero/heroine in a virtual prison and must beat the game in order to reclaim their real lives before time runs out? Isn't that the REALITY of what you consider today, a hopeless game freak? But what do you expect from an anime about being stuck in a virtual universe? You fight until you get enough experience and with romantic love being the dues ex machina, the storyline becomes a simple boy meets girl story through a worldwide network. And that's all it is, folks. There is no symbolism, no deep analysis of the characters, full of plot holes...there is absolutely nothing interesting about SAO's storyline. I've realized that SAO is not an anime about a game. It's a romance anime where the hero falls in love with the heroine -- online. That makes me puke in disgust.
I can imagine the production team gathered in the meeting room, discussing for hours about how the art needs to be perfect, so perfect that they completely forgot about the storyline. The art is outstanding and blows you away out of the water with its visuals. Since we are talking about a future Japan with surpassing technologies, at least the production team got one thing right. The background is tantalizing and extremely detailed. You can tell that they were not lazy when it comes to bringing orgasms for the eyes (no pun intended). I'm impressive at every scenery they show in SAO and they seem to have the right tools to make this anime as realistic as possible.
The fight scenes are ridiculously intricate, providing first-class animation with extra-fluid movements. Every swing of a weapon in SAO is noticeable and up in your face so you won't miss a fight scene when you see one.
The first half of the OP, "Crossing Field" by LiSA is energetic and it was this song that seduced me to watch SAO. It makes you want to run across a field and start slashing away at your enemies and stand victorious on a mountain of corpses. Yes. This song should definitely feature in a game! The production team has done a great job submerging the viewers into the anime with a powerful, resounding intro. I will say the same thing for the second half of the OP. "Innocence" by Eir Aoi made me want to fly to space and explode with a force of a thousand suns then free fall back to Earth.
The first half of the EP is "Yume Sekai" sung by Haruka Tomatsu, who is quite the popular Japanese artist. Personally, I don't think the song really fits SAO, no matter how much romance was suggested in the anime. By no means am I saying Haruka is horrible, but it's awkward when it clashes with the conflicts that hero/heroine deals with in SAO. The song just does not fit with the plot and fails to bring additional emotions. But I'm sure the J-music fans were screaming in ecstasy when her soft, crisp voice reverberated for the first half of the endings. The second half of EP, "Overfly" by Luna Haruna is a totally different story. Since the second half of SAO brought new characters and new conflicts, I felt this song blended perfectly into it. I admit that when it first played in the anime, I got chills.
All I have to say for the characters is -- burn. Burn thoroughly in hellfire. From the beginning to the end, there is no growth in character development for the hero, Kazuto Kirigaya, nor the heroines, Suguha Kirigaya and Azusa Yuuki. They are exactly the same personality from when you are first introduced to them in the beginning of the anime. The only thing that seemed to flourish is their repetitive romantic relationship(s). I don't really have anything else to say, because there is nothing to further analyze about the characters. I did have some interest in the villains as they were shrouded in mystery until the end. But the ending was just a plot hole to reinforce more romance. Their allies and friends are helpless background decorations (much like Yamcha in DBZ), as the hero/heroine end up obliterating the problem themselves. Yui, the loli mascot of SAO is my favorite character though she does absolutely nothing other than bring fan service (I'm not complaining).
The only thing that kept me hooked on SAO was Yui and the OPs. I think I'm being pretty damn fair to rate this a 6 (although my version of 6 is "Eh..."). I feel the production team were not looking to create an intelligent, sophisticated anime but rather target MMORPG gamers and J-music fans. As mentioned above, SAO is a mediocre romance anime which suggestively takes place in a worldwide network. If you are looking for theme songs that will blow you away with amazing graphics to boot, SAO is compatible for you. Personally, as a romance fan, it hasn't moved me at all. read more