173 of 497 people found this review helpful
5 of 25 episodes seen
Sword Art Online seems to be an anime hyped up by many this season. Its easy to see why, as the setting of a virtual world in which players are trapped and must fight for their lives can easily attract many. Personally, I was excited as well, and as the summer anime season rolled by, I immediately picked it up. I had very high hopes for this anime, as it was in fact my first "virtual reality" anime. I had never watched .hack or any other similar anime so the setting was very fresh to me and i wanted to see how an anime taking place inside an MMO would play out. Now that I've viewed episode 5, it seems fitting to offer my initial thoughts on the series. In my opinion, Sword art online definitely did not disappoint in its portrayal of a virtual world, but is seriously lacking in other aspects such as character development and story.
Lets start with the good. Wow. What a fantastic world SAO is. Its portrayal definitely made me jealous of the players. Except for the fact that they were unable to log out and that dying meant death, I definitely wanted to visit SAO. Sword art online portrays its world magnificently. The art is fantastic, the settings are vibrant and colorful, and they all make the viewer feel that they are, in fact, in a virtual MMO. However, what I was even more impressed with were the concepts introduced in SAO. Its easy to see that SAO was inspired by many of today's MMORPGs but SAO takes it a step further and translates all of these concepts into a VMMORPG. Its very interesting to see how the concept of guilds, parties, and health points are portrayed in a world where the player is the character. One thing i thought was brilliant and hilarious was the concept of "sleep-pk," in which a player duels another player who is asleep, by using the asleep player's finger to accept the request. Overall, sword art online has a magnificent setting and I am looking forward to it expanding over the course of the series.
Unfortunately, I was not a big fan of the storyline or the characters. One main issue I had with the storyline probably came from my unfamiliarity with the franchise. The time gap between episodes 1-5 is erratic and almost none of the episodes had any contiunuty. Generally I'm open to this type of storytelling but the jumping around simply left me confused. Kirito's experience changes drastically in between episodes and it almost seems like he is a different person in each new episode. After wathcing episode 5 it seems that they are finally going through with an "arc," though I would have very much liked for them to continue a coherent story from episode 1. I feel the episodes were more used to show off the concepts and setting of SAO rather than to give insight into Kirito's personality and motives. In fact, I feel that this format of storytelling actually hindered my relationship with Kirito and isolated me from his character. Because of this its hard to keep track of Kirito as so much time passes by in between each episode. In addition, I feel that Kirito is too one dimensional as a character. In almost every episode, he plays the role of a "white knight" and helps random girls he runs into. It seems to me that he has no agenda in each episode, and that he is simply there, playing the game and helping people that he runs into. Its hard to see any ulterior motives and it seems to me that Kirito is 100% pure, which I hate because it subtracts from the depth the writers could have added to his character. In episode 5, Asuna returns(finally) and the two embark on an epic journey to.. help investigate a random murder. It seems to me at this point that most of the shows conflicts are caused more by other players rather than by the world itself. I would very much like to see Kirito "progress" in the game world and have a goal that he can work towards, rather than come to the aid of anybody who needs his help. Everyone he interacts with seems to be a girl as well(I was starting to think this anime was turning into a harem.)
To sum it up Sword Art Online is definitely worth watching. The weaknesses I addressed only pertain to the first 5 episodes and it is very possible that the show will pick up. I'm very much expecting it to. The setting is magnificent, and has revived my daydreams of visiting a virtual world. I hope to see a lot more good things from this anime and will post another review whenever I feel like it.