25 of 25 episodes seen
Sword Art Online is such an extreme example of diverging opinions that you almost never see people rating it anything between 4-9, it's always 10, 10, 2, 1, 3, 10, 2, 1, 1, 1... etc. For some reason, all those who would normally give it a mediocre rating, instead decide that they hate the show. Why? Because so many other people love it, and they can't comprehend that. They then notice that many of the people who love it are those also love Naruto, Bleach, Fairy Tail, and other mainstream anime. SAO then gets branded as a mainstream anime, and gets shit from a whole chunk of the community. They go into it with a closed mind, and after coming out they only see what they expect to see and proceed to rant about how terrible every single aspect of the show is. And such are the ways of the anime community, which unfortunately in everywhere except Japan, seems to follow whatever ideology /a/ tells them to.
In case you haven't realized, I am of neither factions. I am neither a rabid fanboy, nor someone who thinks the show is absolute shit for no justified reason. I think it is, at best, mediocre. I also think, at worst, it is mediocre. To me, this anime represents a couple things: a) It epitomizes mediocrity, and b) The convoluted demographic anime is now aiming for. There is nothing particularly good about it, but on the flip-side, there's nothing particularly bad. The story is kind of well written, but has many flaws. The characters are for the most part pretty flawed and poorly written, but not so much that it detracts from the show. They certainly don't add anything, but they don't detract either. The art looks quite nice; some of the landscapes are beautiful. However, I felt that the action sequences left some to be desired. I would like to say that the sound was great, as it featured some solid voice acting along with an OST composed by Kajiura Yuki (!!!), yet there was nothing for Kajiura's tracks to highlight, and none of them stuck out particularly. So while the sound helped set the overall tone of the anime, much like the rest of the show, nothing stood out.
Yet, with all that being said, without question, it is an enjoyable watch. For those of you debating whether or not to watch it, I'd suggest watching the first few episodes and then deciding if you'd want to continue. I realize that this is what most people will suggest when watching ANY anime, but for many shows the first couple episodes might not give you enough. You might end up dropping a show that could have become your favorite. A personal example for me would be Shinsekai Yori. Honestly, I found the first couple episodes kinda boring, and forgot to watch the next couple. It was only when I picked it back up on a whim a few weeks later did I realize that this was something more than what I had thought it was. Shinsekai Yori is now one of my favorite anime, but if I were to have done the "3 episode trial" with it, I probably never would have finished it. With SAO, this is not the case. The first 3 episodes are a wonderful example of what is to come in the rest of the series, as there is never really anything more than those three episodes, but nothing much less either.
SAO is split up into two overriding arcs, each taking place in two different video games. Sword Art Online, and Alfheim Online respectively. Many people bicker about which arc was better, so I'll share my thoughts on this as well. I thought the first arc, SAO, was much better than the second arc. It wasn't really as much about what the first arc did right, but more what the second arc did wrong. The plot for the second arc seemed to be mainly be a feeble excuse to get them back in some different game. While the plot for the first arc seemed to be relevant and remained interesting throughout, the second arc seemed to be mostly a rehash, where everything that made the first arc work taken out. Without the plot points that made SAO work, they had to create new ones. And so a much more superficial plot was created, complete with some good ol' cousinly incest. For the most part, the second arc just bugged me. It however, through some miraculous force of will, remained entertaining.
The last thing I want to leave you with is the thought that when it all boils down, all you're doing is watching a 16 year old kid play video games. Honestly, you can do that on youtube so much more easily, and instead of 25 episodes there are tens of thousands. I personally don't enjoy watching people play video games, so my enjoyment of the show was cut a bit as a result. If I were rating this on a bell curve (Which I normally don't, but for the sake of this review, I will), I'd give SAO a 5/10. Not a particularly great story, feeble characters, relatively nice art, and one of Kajiura's poorer works. Yet all together, somehow creates something of an enjoyable experience.
tl;dr SAO was okay, and people need to learn to calm their tits. 5/10 read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
MINIMUM-SPOILER PLOT SYNOPSIS:
Ryugamine Mikado is a shy, laid back country kid, who dreams of a "different life", something less "ordinary". So when his best friend Masaomi Kida invites him to move to the big city, he accepts with no further delay. Once he arrives in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, where he is to be living and attending school, he begins learning of the secrets that this town has to offer, from the "colorless" color gang, to the "Black Rider", a motorcyclist who is rumored to have no head, and occasionally shows up riding a jet-black motorbike that makes no sound. His friend also introduces him to many people around town, amongst them an information broker with a penchant for creating pain and suffering, a "bartender" with a short fuse who likes throwing vending machines, and a group of four friends who are lead by the fearless Dotachin. Otakus included. Elsewhere in the city, people are going missing, a girl is having suicidal thoughts, a long separated couple seems to reunite, and a creature from celtic legends who happens to be a tsundere searches for her lost memories, not to mention head. Slowly, these paths start to converge, and secrets are unveiled. What will become of the mysterious place called Ikebukuro?
PLOT: My personal score: 7 General Score: 8
As you may have noticed, that synopsis sounded quite scattered. That's probably because the plot to the series itself is quite scattered, and a little hard to wrap your head around. However, don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing at all. Heck, my favorite anime is Higurashi, which is wayyyyy more scattered than this, so, yeah. Now, let me make one point quite clear, the story is separated into two parts, one part consists of the first half of the show, which is quite a bit more lighthearted, focuses on the side characters more, and exudes badassery on sooo many levels. The other half focuses more on the main three characters (or at least the two others that weren't really touched upon in the first half, and is quite a bit darker. Personally, I liked the first half quite a bit more, mainly because of the plot twists, the converging story lines, episode 7, the creepy twisted relationships of the Yagiri family, and the fact that just about every single thing about it kinda just made you want to go AWWWWWW SHIIITTT. The whole gang war factor is downplayed significantly in the first half, while most of the second half revolves around that, or at least psychological gang wars. As I said, the first half focuses much more on the side characters than the main three. Two out of the main three characters are barley touched upon in the first half, while the other of them shines near the end, and shine he does. Episode 1 focuses on Mikado and introduces most of the main cast, Episode 2 focuses on a girl who doesn't show up in the rest of the series, and introduces another supporting character, ie. not one of the main three, but still a main character, episodes 3-5 focuses on Mikado at school/Dotachin & co./Celty/Dysfunctional Yagiri family, episode 6 is Dotachin, episode 7 is Shizuo... so on and so on. As you can see, it's pretty spread out, and then the storylines all come together, and when they do, it's a big OHMYGAWDTHATWASSOFREEKINGAWESOME. The second half almost entirely focuses on Anri and Kida, and drives up the melodrama by quite a lot, considering there was none in the first half. I found that this was probably because they wanted to keep the same epic feeling, but seeing as most of the plots introduced in the first half had already connected and resolved, they had to create a different kind of suspense, so they left you with the mysterious Anri, which was actually kinda fun, and the dour Kida, who was actually kinda boring.They also precede to introduce characters that never really do anything, and unlike Simon, the big black russian sushi chef, are kinda boring and get no screentime. Honestly, if you don't mind the plot holes left at the start of the season, and want to be left with the epic feeling that it gives off, I would stop watching Durarara!! after episode 12, at least until a second season comes out or something seeing as the second half doesn't have much to offer plotwise. The badassery that was so prominent in the first season is almost not present at all, and the suspense for the most part is also gone, replaced by attempted melodrama/tragic pasts, that don't go over as well. Although, honestly, the second half is probably worth watching, unless you really don't care about undeveloped characters, and enjoyed the first season mainly for the badass plot, which, by the way, is NOT what you should mainly enjoy it for, but I'll get to that in a bit.
OVERALL PLOT COMMENTS:
I personally found the first half that much better than the second half, although there will always be people out there who disagree with me, and really, it's still good, so be sure to watch it. The first half is much more akin to it's predecessor, Baccano!, and focuses more on suspense and the overall "epic" feeling, whereas the second half feels a bit more like a not quite as good retelling of Code Geass in gangland. Some people disagree with me, and like the second half more. Also, to keep from getting you really lost, at the beginning of every episode, they sum up previous important details, amongst the myriad of details you have been feed, to keep from getting you overly confused. I gave the story an overall 7, would have been better, but I felt the second half dragged it down, but overall, other people liked the second half a bit better than I did (though still agree that it wasn't as good), so I gave the general story rating an 8. Surprisingly little amount of gang violence, for a story about gang violence.
ART: My personal score: 8 General Score: 8
While I personally don't care much for the visual art in anime, and it tends to not factor much into my enjoyment of the series, I am well aware that it does matter to some people, so I'll talk. The art in this show is nothing really special, the animators occasionally gets a little lazy, but really, I found that when the art needed to be there, it really delivered. The scenes with the black bike were often quite nice to look at, and the character designs for the show were also quite beautiful. The city in the background, being a central figure, is also a scene to admire. Oh yeah, and Shizuo's fight scenes, I approve. Most people tend to agree here. This was a short enough paragraph, I have no need for overall comments.
SOUND: My personal score: 8 General Score: 9
This is split into two parts, voice acting and soundtrack. The voice acting is nothing superb, although there were some characters that great voices, Mika and Izaya namely. Oh yeah, and for all you dubbed fans out there, I checked out the dub as well, and although I still think almost all dubs suck, save Ghibli movies, the quality of this dub was actually pretty good, relatively speaking. As for the soundtrack, the BGM was very, very, very repetitive; I swear they played the same song at the beginning of every. single. faqing. episode. However, it was still quite enjoyable. Quite a feat I think, when the show seems to have a 5 song playlist. As for the opening/endings, I am in LOVE with the first opening. I really like the way they summed important details, and integrated that INTO the theme song. That was pretty badass. I hated the other opening and both endings though. However, I'm sure many of you will feel the other way around, seeing as I have a different taste in music (I like indie rock, etc.) and hate most mainstream pop/rock, whether it be Japanese or English.
OVERALL SOUND COMMENTS:
The voice acting was okay, the BGM was quite nice, but repetitive, and I thought the first opening was awesome. Most people like the other openings/endings though. Look em up on youtube maybe.
CHARACTER: Personal Score: 10 General Score: 9
Now THIS is the reason you should be watching Durarara!! In the first episode, absolutely NOTHING happens plot wise, yet it is still quite engaging, and leaves you begging for more. Why? How? The characters. Almost every character in the series is likable, from the love/hate relationship you develop with Izaya, to the awe you feel in front of Shizuo, to how disgusted you are by the Yagiri family and their screwed up relationships, and yet how you feel strangely attracted to them at the same time. Hell, Seiji would of had his own badass moment if not for the fact that he was up against Shizuo. The headless Tsundere, the perverted underground doctor she lives with, the four musketeers, lead by the fearless Dotachin, with the Otakus and Car lover in tow, the big black russian sushi chef, they all make for great characters, whether or not they're actually important to the plot! The second episode focuses entirely on a character who makes no later appearances in the show, but is still kinda likeable, and we still suffer with her, even though she is only in one episode. Not to mention the main characters, Mikado, who shows us what badassery really means, Kida, who is a little hole of self regret, and Anri, who personally, I found was the character who was developed the best throughout the series. What the main characters are trying to say in Durarara!! , really, is that everyone has secrets, some of them might be terrible, but that shouldn't prevent their everyday lives, and everyday relationships. I found that Anri did this the best, Mikado did this pretty well, and Kida..... Oh Kida... I think we were supposed to feel bad for him sometime in the second half? I dunno. He worked as comic relief, not as tearjerker material. It might have worked if the story was written by Jun Maeda, but it wasn't, so oh well. The other characters more than made up for him. There were, however, some unfortunately introduced characters in the second half, who got close to no screen time, and were not important at all. One of those two characters was likable. Namely, Shinra's father. The cop was just dumb. And Shizuo's little brother was included in the second opening/ending, even though he got no screen time in the latter half of the show. Lord knows what they were thinking then.
OVERALL CHARACTER COMMENTS:
A huge cast of great characters overall, although some people find the random characters from the second half a little too detracting.
ENJOYMENT: Personal Score: 8 General Score: 7.5
I am going to throw this out there right away, but to enjoy this show, you have to "get" it. If you don't, you'll think it's stupid and pretentious. If you do, you'll relish in the character interactions, and the intertwining plot. Just try it out! At least watch the first half, and if you don't really like it, don't watch the rest. I can't really say much in this category, as I want you to form your own opinion about whether or not you think you'll enjoy the show. All I can say, is that I did! The first half of the plot was great, and the characters/character interactions throughout the entire series were great, from my opinion. Everyone was different aspects that they'll like/hate, but with this show, it doesn't hurt to give it a shot. I know some people who really hate it, and found it dumb, but just about everyone loves Shizuo, and Izaya too, although everyone agrees he deserves to die a horrible death. Also, an important note to take is that the ending doesn't offer much closure, and sets itself up for a second season, but nothing has been announced to this date, so be wary.
Suspense, Epic, Tragedy, Comedy, Slice-of-Life, even Romance at some points, this show tries to do it all. With a cast wide enough, it might be worth trying, but while it succeeds at some, it fails at others. This almost seems to be an experiment in storytelling. You go be a judge of that experiment; I would suggest watching this, but not going in with really high expectations, unless all that I have described sounds like your cup of tea.
THANKS FOR READING, HOPE IT HELPED.
(This was not proof read, as it was too long. It might seem rambily, I am sorry for that.)