Since I've seen a plethora of scores of 10 for this show, I thought I'd write what I feel is a more realistic review for this show. Sword Art Online is more or less the equivalent of a fanfiction in it's writing and quality. Whether people want to overlook it or not is up to the individual, but I believe it fails at the fundamentals for writing a good story. This review will go into details as to my opinions on why I feel this way.
1) Story - This is first major problem is the show. Let's start from the beginning shall
we. The first arc consists of 14 episodes. The first 2 episodes are honestly pretty good and set up the plot of the show that should follow. You're introduced to the main characters and it shows mmo style of play. I mean with 2 episodes that are amazing, surely what follows will be more of the adventures of the main characters and these mmo boss fights...right? Wrong. What follows are 5 completely irrelevant side character episodes and unnecessary terrible time skips that ruin any sense of a story the first 2 episodes set up. So due to some illogical reason, we're now down to 7 episodes to tell the rest of this story. Still doable right? RIGHT? Wrong again. The series wastes another 2 1/2 episodes on pointless filler garbage. So there you have it over half of first part of the story has nothing to do with the overall plot. Well what about the other episodes you ask? The remaining "plot" episodes are filled with deus ex machina in its purest form. Even the finale of the first season makes absolutely no sense. This isn't a fantasy world, it's a freaking video game, you can't have miracles here. So that concludes my issues with season 1, which the majority of SAO fans consider to be the best part....Yeh you heard me, the 2nd part is even worse.
Without going into spoilers, the 2nd part of the series takes place in a different setting, with a mostly new cast aside from our main hero. This part of the series probably deserves the award for most unnecessary story in the history of anime. This arc is pretty much a mario game. Our hero must save the princess in the castle. Not really much to say about it. Oh yeh deus ex machina finale here too...oh and there's an incest subplot...for some reason. This concludes the plot section. I think I'm being pretty generous with a 4 here.
2) Art - The art is fantastic. Colorful characters, bosses (the few we see), and settings are all here. It's easily worth an 8.
3) Sound - Again fantastic. Nothing wrong with it at all. 8.
4)Characters - Here we go...This is easily the worst part of the series. I'll separate the main characters and lump together the not so main characters.
Kirito/Kazuto - The main character of this show is the epitome of the current definition of a "Gary Stu". He has no personality whatsoever. He is good at everything he tries for no reason. He's an amazing player, an super sleuth, a ladies man, and a master hacker. You name it, he can do it. There's no reason given for this other than he's just that good. Girls all love him, guys want to be him, and villains are jealous of him. He also solos MMO boss fights...yeh wrap your head around that one. Side note - I often see people claim they love this show because they're hardcore gamers. I have to say as an avid gamer myself I find this show to be insulting. Unless you've hacked or cheated , I don't understand why you're content with a character who does. Side note over.
Asuna - The main female lead/most blatant waifu character ever. Asuna is introduced as a strong player who can stand on her own with Kirito, that is for the first couple episodes. Once she reappears she barely does anything other than cook for Kirito. That's right, her ass stays in the kitchen, while Kirito does all the important stuff. In part 2 she does absolutely nothing...seriously. She again has no original personality...textbook Tsundere.
Yui - This character is terrible in all senses of the word. She's walking deus ex machina, nothing more. This character should be hated by any gamer, since she's a cheat device, who adds nothing to the story.
Villains (minor spoilers) - There are 2 major villains in this series and they're both terrible. The first one forgets his motives for doing everything in part 1 and the part 2 one is so comically evil he can't even be taken seriously.
Other Characters/ Who the hell cares - The female characters all want to have sex with Kirito and have no personality past this. The male characters don't get to do anything because Kirito hogs the show from everyone. That's really all there is to say about that.
Suguha - This is Kirito's sister. She honestly has layers and was a plus to the show in my opinion. I don't know why she's in this show, she doesn't belong in it...
So yeh, Gary Stu and Waifu - these characters are pathetic (1).
5) Enjoyment - Needless to say I didn't enjoy it. Poor show (3)
6) Overall - This show has so many fans, and I really don't know why. Its plot is rushed and terrible. Its characters so flat, it's almost funny...almost. Its romance is highly misogynistic and terribly developed. I felt insulted watching this, and don't understand how any could like this show. Even Gamers.
I don't really want to go into too much depth, but I'd like to give an overview of the series and give my opinions it. If you haven't noticed yet there are many negative reviews out there for this anime, and while many of them bring up some pretty fair points, I think some people are being a bit too harsh on it. Let me explain.
Yes it's a popular anime, yes it has flaws, no it's not perfect, but at the very least in my opinion it is enjoyable. The pacing is off, the beginning particularly feels rushed, there were moments where I thought
I skipped an episode because of the time skips which made it difficult to really connect with any of the characters in the beginning, and there were some less than stellar instances where it felt like the anime was trying to make me care but failing hard.
Some characters felt to be completely forgotten throughout most of this series too. For example in the beginning we are introduced to a character named Klein who is quickly pushed aside after the first episode and barely seen again and doesn't really make much of an impact at all on the story later on. This seems to happen a lot throughout this series where there might be some emotional moments where a character dies, or something dramatic happens but there is really no emotional impact from it, and the main character seems to not really care that much about it or it doesn't really effect anything significantly.
I really felt this series shined from around episodes 4-13 and I wish they would have kept with that pace instead of rushing an ending midway and throwing something new at us. The second half just felt completely unnecessary and forced.
Pushing the negative aside, I found the overall theme and atmosphere of the series to be great, and being an avid lover the MMORPG genre obviously a lot of things in this series appealed to me. I really enjoyed the idea of being stuck in a game that was impossible to escape from without winning and having real consequences, it really made everything much more dramatic and meaningful in the story. Sadly this quickly goes away midway through the plot.
If I had to pick two of the best things this anime did well for me it would probably be the animation and soundtrack. They both were really well done, and honestly without them being as good as they were this series would have gotten a much lower score from me, and when I say I really enjoyed the soundtrack I mean that I loved it, it was superb.
I think what it really comes down was just the fact that I enjoyed watching it. I can look at the flaws and pick the anime apart pretty easily, but those flaws never really stopped me from enjoying this anime.I really do feel though that it had a lot of potential to be a top tier series, it just made far too many mistakes. Looking at it objectively I simply cannot give this anime higher than a 7. It was good because I found it to be enjoyable, but it wasn't great or amazing.
At the end of the day I watch anime because I want something that will entertain me and keep me interested, and I feel that Sword Art Online did a good job at accomplishing that.
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a brave young boy. He was the best swordsman in the land and the manliest man of all. He overcame countless trials with little effort and won the hearts of many fair maidens.
Yes, it's time for Sword Art Online, the origin of many angry rants.
The premise doesn't sound too bad. Ten thousand players of a virtual MMO are trapped in the game and forced to complete it to escape, except that death in the game leads to death in real life. Just think about it: this could be a tragic story of struggle
where death is behind every corner. A story of sacrifice and despair. A story of alliances and betrayal. A story of the struggle to retain humanity in front of impossible conditions.
...But why have any of that when you can have romance and harem?
That's right; the survival game is just for show. Don't expect deep interpersonal or political conflict. Don't expect psychology or moral dilemmas. Don't expect tactics or mind games. Actually, don't expect witty dialogue of any kind.
And that is the biggest problem with this show. It is bankrupt in substance. It's mostly just uninspired romance and harem, with a bit of action here and there. There isn't much thinking involved. A few plot holes I could forgive, but if the show isn't about anything worthwhile, there isn't much to do. What makes this problem all the more apparent is that the premise promises something entirely different than what it delivers. The show has thrown its hands up in the air and said, "We don't care." So why should the viewer?
It doesn't help that the show has grown infamous for glorifying its protagonist, who in the eyes of many has become the epitome of a Gary Stu. He can defeat anything, he can solve any problem, and he gets all the girls. It's almost like this show was meant to be a propaganda piece in his favor.
The first two episodes are decent, building up the premise. We are introduced to the protagonist Kirito and the concept of the death game. Soon enough, we are told that a month has passed and two thousand players have died offscreen. ...Wait, not even a short montage or anything? Apparently not. Anyway, these two episodes are pretty much the only decent ones, so savor them while you can.
The third episode begins to show more serious problems. We are supposed to form an emotional bond to new characters in a few minutes, and we have to go through over-the-top angst over irrational actions. But there is also optimism in the air; of course we can revive someone whose brain has been fried, right?
What follows is an abrupt leap to harem and romance antics. The next few episodes are about various girls suddenly falling for Kirito, often the same day they met him. This typically involves uncontrollable blushing, fanservice, and people acting Tsundere. You probably get the picture. It doesn't help that many of these episodes have a very filler-esque feel to them. The main plot ‒ if you can call it such at this point ‒ takes a backseat in favor of these random new girls.
The girl called Asuna, who quickly becomes the token love interest for Kirito, has at least met him before, but there is still very little buildup to their relationship. Unless it took place offscreen. You see, another thing that becomes very noticeable is the pacing. There have been timeskips of months between episodes. This wouldn't be a problem if these snapshots contained all the events that were critical to the story, but it's obvious that the author has picked rather boring events out of all the possibilities. Why is it that thousands of people dying is covered in a few lines, while we have to sit through hours and hours of romance and harem? I hate to be beating a dead horse here, but it's unavoidable because it comes up again in just about every episode.
By now, it has also become obvious to the viewer that Kirito is invincible to the point of tedium. He has a level higher than anyone, the best equipment, and a seemingly endless pool of abilities, but most importantly he always wins. There is sometimes false tension, sure, but you know he will survive anyway. You can only stomach so many clutch survivals before you start rolling your eyes.
The rest of the story arc involves Kirito and Asuna hanging out in the countryside to spend their honeymoon. They even adopt a daughter to portray a typical happy family. The problem is that their relationship is really not that interesting. But "dem feels"! Nah, sorry. I have a heart of stone.
This is followed by a sudden confrontation with the main villain, which Kirito wins because the power of love conquers all. And by that I mean the power of love conquers the programming of the game. Well, okay, maybe there was some "power of love" clause in the code somewhere. It wouldn't surprise me at this point.
Predictably enough, melodrama ensues. Tears, promises of love, etc. You can probably imagine. At least now we're done with this show, right?
No, think again, that was only the good part. There are actually 11 more episodes left, and the journey takes us further downhill. We enter another game, this time without the death aspect. Before we get to the plot itself, even at a glance this idea brings up a few problems.
The harsh reality hits you faster than you can say "cashcow." This second arc feels completely unnecessary. It has been tied into the original story with an overly convenient plot device for no apparent purpose other than stretching it further. At least know to quit while you're ahead. But no, they just had to drag this show through the mud to rip apart any shred of dignity it had left.
It doesn't help that there is no death anymore. While this makes the slice-of-life content more fitting, it also removes the established selling point of the show. The change is too abrupt, and the difference in tone is too jarring. If you want to make a slice-of-life of ordinary MMO players, do it from the start.
Now, for the plot itself, and it isn't pretty. We go straight to a Mario game, by which I mean saving a damsel in distress trapped in a cage. And that isn't a metaphor; she is quite literally trapped in a cage. Add tentacles and incest to the plot, and you have a winning combination. The incest aspect is provided by Kirito's sister Suguha, who also provides additional fanservice.
At least now the pacing is less erratic and there is seemingly less development taking place offscreen. It's just too bad that there is also very little meaningful taking place onscreen. There are some new characters and even an ingame war going on, but it's all so irrelevant to the main story that it's hard to maintain interest.
Long story short, Kirito beats the second villain with the help of more deus ex machinas. There are also more tears, promises of love, etc.
So now we're done, right? For now, yes, but there's still season 2 to look forward to.
This is technically part of the story category, but I really think it deserves its own section here. You see, the very foundations of the setting make no sense. People in Sword Art Online are too often acting like they are in a normal game, not in a life-and-death scenario.
For instance, why is there so much resentment towards beta testers who have greater knowledge of the game? This isn't a competition; the faster someone beats the game, the faster everyone gets out. And, similarly, why are beta testers reluctant to share information? Are they so worried about other people using their newfound abilities to kill them for no reason? Look, you can't have both a casual slice-of-life of MMO players and a grim death game at the same time. Pick one.
This casual attitude becomes more pronounced later on when it becomes obvious people are wasting tons of time with unproductive quests, romance, and just hanging around. Kirito himself spends time on seemingly useless sidequests, and Asuna spends time cooking for him. Come to think of it, why has Asuna wasted points on a useless skill like cooking in the first place? Are these people even trying?
And why are so many players dying when towns are safe zones? Are they stupidly rushing into high-level dungeons? I suppose so. You see, for a grim death game it sure is hard to die in SAO. Bosses won't respawn, so everyone can advance forward, even weak players. Going from town to town is also easy enough with teleport crystals. Well, okay, there is that problem of challenging people to a duel while asleep, but that can't take out so many.
There is no lack of critical resources because you can hang out in the safety of towns indefinitely. Sure, exp and money are limited because the regeneration of monsters is limited, which is strange game design itself, but they aren't necessary if you stay in town. At least, the show never implies that they are necessary. Oh, and for the record, I'm treating the show as self-contained and ignoring the source material.
So why do they die? I'd put my money on rushing stupidly into dungeons because we get to see one notable example.
Let's imagine you found yourself in the following situation. Before you and your guild are about to enter a high-level dungeon, you learn that one of them lied about his level. Knowing this, you realize you are underleveled and likely to end up dead, while avoiding death and warning the others would be as simple as staying in town.
What would you do? Would you
a) Record a message in advance, knowing that you wouldn't last long, or
b) Stay in town so that you wouldn't get killed in the first place?
A tricky one, I admit.
We are also introduced to groups of player killers. Sounds good until you realize this isn't a normal game. At least, I thought it wasn't, but it looks like some people didn't get the memo. In a situation like SAO, there should be no reason for these killings. This isn't Danganronpa, where the main point of the premise is that you can only escape by killing someone. This is a game where it makes the most sense to team up and beat the game. There is no prisoner's dilemma; cooperation is the best plan and any sensible person would go for it.
If you kill someone here, you only get some money and equipment. While it may help you beat the game a little faster, odds are that it will only hurt your chances of survival overall. Just off the top of my head, a few reasons:
1) If people start killing each other, it obviously increases the risk of dying yourself, both in retaliation and spontaneously.
2) Killing people reduces manpower needed for beating the game, and the distrust that follows will make it even slower. You could only kill useless low-level players, but they probably don't have much money or good equipment to begin with.
3) There is the chance that you will land murder charges if you escape from the game and officials find out.
Actually, does the equipment even help that much? Kirito seemingly uses the same equipment for long periods of time, yet he is practically invincible. On the other hand, he does say that equipment can be worth many levels, so did he get the best stuff for himself so fast? Is it strange game design or cheat codes? It's anyone's guess.
Of course, if you have little interest in beating the game, killing other players makes more sense, if only a little. I suppose getting more money can help you obtain some luxury items, but is it worth the risk? The implied reason is that they are killing people for laughs, but why did so many murderous psychopaths decide to log into this MMO on its opening day? Is this some kind of stab at gamers, saying that they are unable to distinguish between real violence and fake violence? Maybe, or the author forgot that this isn't a normal MMO. Again.
So is it a legit plan to stay in the virtual world for the rest of your life and give up on getting back to the real world? If so, it would explain a lot. While the range of pastimes in there is smaller than in the real world, maybe there is enough for some people.
The choice between staying in relative happiness in a virtual world and risking your life returning to the real world could have been an interesting one. Unfortunately, their bodies are deteriorating in real life, which makes the choice very one-sided. For some reason, Asuna has to point this out to Kirito because apparently the state of his real-world body had never occurred to him over the course of two years. Yeah, good job, Kirito, you sure were fast on the uptake. Lying down on the grass and having a carefree nap doesn't sound so smart anymore, eh?
Finally, why are virtual MMOs still legal after the SAO incident? Sure, the new hardware is supposedly safer, but the previous death trap must have equally passed through "strict" government examination, so who in their right mind would trust them? And even if we assume it is safe, since when has people's hysteria hinged on facts? People fear new technology even when it's harmless, let alone when a massive incident like this happens. There would be mass protests in the streets in favor of banning them.
You may have noticed that I have only mentioned three characters by name so far. For some other show, this might be because the cast is so vast that there is no time to go through them all, but here it's rather that there are very few characters worth mentioning. Kirito, and by extension Asuna and Suguha who are defined by Kirito's character, hog practically all of the screentime.
Everyone else gets thrown under the bus. Girls only exist to fall in love with Kirito, and males only exist to be inferior to him. The villains in particular only exist as fodder to the guy.
I have barely touched on Kirito's personality. Well, blame the show, not me; it should at least be willing to meet me halfway. We know very little about him, other than being invincible and inexplicably good with the ladies. Essentially, he is the manliest man on the planet.
That's pretty much all he is. Even his dialogue ends up pretty bland. There are no witty insights, no clever jokes, no skillful word games. Much of his dialogue consists of saying that the world is a virtual one, explaining game mechanics, wishing to save everyone, or loving someone forever. The sort of stuff you'd expect from a cardboard cutout hero in a situation like this.
It can be a facepalm-worthy experience to witness girl after girl falling for Kirito like nothing, often the same day they met him. The show endlessly drills into the viewer that he is the sexiest man alive... for some reason. I get that rescuing people can give you points in their eyes, but come on now. I can only assume there is a hidden manliness stat and his black jacket comes with a +999 boost.
As far as his invincibility goes, the win streak by itself isn't the biggest problem. The problem is that he always wins through brute strength. That is to say, his character skills and stats. There are no tactics worth mentioning, no psychology, no politics, no thinking whatsoever. He will just go out there and pull off his generic action hero stunts. Sure, developing those skills and stats may have required some tactical thinking. Maybe he has optimized his skill tree or has amazing grinding strats. In theory. We see no hints of it. It all happened offscreen and offscreen doesn't count. I'm sorry, it just doesn't.
To add insult to injury, some of Kirito's abilities are completely forgotten later on. I'm sure that health recovery thing would have come in handy any number of times. And when even his skills and stats aren't enough, he is saved by plot armor at the last second.
It's also a mockery of MMOs in the sense that Kirito is able to solo raid bosses. And he is able to attain a level higher than anyone despite playing solo, supposedly because he doesn't have to split the exp. His most unique ability is revealed to be... *drumroll* dual-wielding, which nobody else is allowed to do in this game. This doesn't sound like any MMO I know of, or was the idea to portray a player with god-mode cheats on?
I'm seriously thinking that the show would have been a lot more tolerable if Kirito alone had been replaced by one of the side characters. It still wouldn't have been a masterpiece or anything, but at least the Gary Stu accusations could have been avoided.
She is about as bland in personality as Kirito. She is also portrayed as fairly powerful for no substantial reason but of course nothing compared to him. As time passes, her most notable trait becomes being a textbook Tsundere.
...Well, that was fast. Moving on.
As mentioned earlier, her main role is providing fanservice and a tacked-on incest subplot. It's simply another element thrown into the plot for cheap shock value, if anyone is still shocked by incest in anime nowadays.
The first villain barely appears, and his motivation for trapping the players is vague, to say the least. He basically did it out of personal interest. He wanted to create a virtual world where death has meaning like in the real one, but as for why he was interested in the idea, he forgot. Err, alright then. Moving on.
The second villain is pathetic and a disgrace to antagonists everywhere, coming across as a cartoon villain who does evil things for the sake of being evil. The conflict here is portrayed as completely black-and-white, just in case someone had sympathy for the guy, as unlikely as that is.
His main focus is essentially raping a comatose girl. And that is over obtaining tons of cash, presumably in the millions. If he had left the girl alone, he probably would have got away with it, so for all intents and purposes, he chose raping a girl over millions in cash. Talk about priorities.
Come to think of it, it's already ridiculous that the family of the comatose girl is planning to have her marry the guy. I mean, she is in a coma. As in unconscious, unable to state her own intentions, etc. Where are child protective services when you need them? Thankfully, the law disagrees, so they can't apply for an official marriage. Instead, he'll be adopted by her family as their son in spirit... Wait, what?
Furthermore, his sheer incompetence is mindboggling. He openly explains his evil plans and his security is practically at Dr. Evil level, up to entering a secret keycode in plain sight so that the prisoner can see. Thankfully the government and his company are equally incompetent and are not monitoring his research group closely despite its reliance on infamous technology used in SAO. Are these the same people who deemed the new tech safe? If so, I'd like a second opinion. I wouldn't trust these people to operate Angry Birds, let alone a virtual MMO with potential health risks.
So this is where the money went. The backgrounds look nice but cheap fanservice scenes not so much.
Not too bad either. The soundtrack and opening and ending songs work pretty decently, and the voices are also alright.
Funnier than I was expecting but for the wrong reasons. There is something earnest about how the show is trying to portray escapism and human relationships, but it falls just short enough to create a dissonance.
Watch it to witness the writing yourself. But more importantly, by watching the show you can better understand the reviews or, better yet, write one yourself.
Once in a while, there comes along a title (be it movie, book or anime) that takes the audience by storm, sweeping numerous off their feat, leaving several with a bad aftertaste in their mouth and making a few pass the work off as ‘average’ or ‘mediocre’. Online communities, forums, chat rooms and every other nook and corner of the internet known to the man turn into arenas of debates, discussions, fanboyism/fangirlism and flaming. It’s apparent that when something is popular, it doesn’t always get to bath in praises. With the acclaim, comes a sheer amount of criticisms. Also, it goes without saying that
popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to quality.
Sword Art Online, abbreviated as SAO from this point on, is no exception.
SAO, the anime adaptation of a series of light novels of the same name by Kawahara Reki, has been the much talked about show of the Summer and Fall 2012 seasons, and taking into consideration the incredible hype surrounding it with reviews of mixed sorts, it’s likely to stay that way for quite some time. Keeping in mind the vogue of MMORPGs and the demand for something ‘captivating’, the team behind SAO attempts to bring an enticing work to the table by executing the intriguing premise of ‘players trapped in a VRMMORPG where death equates to death in real life and the only way out is to clear the game’. Unfortunately, SAO fails at many levels which is a shame because when the anime kicked off with the highly anticipated first episode, all seemed well and it gave the vibes of something truly worth spending your time on but then it does a flip and from this point, things go awry. And here we have it— one of the most controversial anime of the recent years.
Before proceeding with the review, let’s get one thing straight. I have not read the original source material— the light novels, that is. Hence, I’m not going to draw any comparison between that and the anime. With that out of the way, let’s keep the ball rolling.
SAO on the surface has a fairly interesting premise, no doubt, and it’s executed well to some extent or so did it initially seem. The very idea of a large number of people logged into a VRMMORPG with the intention of embarking on a virtual reality adventure but only to be struck with utter horror as they’re faced with the shocking truth of the game has been put into effect quite satisfactorily in the first episode. It’s pretty much what I’d call an excellent start. However, SAO effortlessly manages to send all my expectations and enthusiasm down the drain for it takes the show only an episode or two to reveal its true colours followed by the disappointment it has in store.
So, what goes wrong? Well, many things.
Following the Great Beginning, the first arc decides to take a detour and invests on a few episodes dealing with side stories in which our protagonist Kirito gets acquainted with one girl per episode and ends up rescuing her from a jam. This is precisely why I like referring to this bunch of side stories as ‘episodic harem’ wherein the primary heroine of the story and Kirito’s love interest Asuna is assumed to be constant and the other girls are variables. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, these side stories have very little to nothing to contribute to the series as a whole. Admittedly, they equip the viewers with some clever, little details here and there regarding how the game world works but they hardly have any bearing to the overall plot. The primary goal of these filler-like episodes appears to be that of giving our hero clad in black an opportunity to flaunt how much of a chick magnet he is and how he has it all that takes to be the coolest dude in this world made up of zillions of pixels. To boot, the characters (read: cute chicks) that appear in these episodes have absolutely no substantial role to play in the story later on. ‘Side’ characters indeed. And SAO knows how to effectively sideline them.
When the arc finally gets itself back on track, it’s only natural to hope that the show will now have something worthwhile to deliver. However, that isn’t the case. If anything, some severe cracks begin to appear as very soon the focus of SAO is the romance between the two leads which is, in one word, cheesy. At this point, opinions are divided. The romance aspect, for some, can be appealing while for others, it can be a major turn off especially if they don’t like the characters involved. It all comes down to personal preference. However, personal preferences aren’t a convincing excuse by any means to overlook the fact that the story, world building and everything else take a backseat for the sake of allowing the two leads to be lovey-dovey in the backdrop of gorgeous sceneries. When the arc does manage to divert its focus on to some ‘serious business’, things look good for a while but with a rather unimpressive ending, the first arc concludes on a pretty bad note in my book.
And then begins the second arc which, to be blunt, is a letdown again.
The second arc or the ALO arc is set within ALfheim Online, a VRMMORPG successor to SAO. Kirito logs in with a mission to rescue his wife (Asuna, duh) from the clutches of an archetypical antagonist who is a disgrace to all the villains in fiction we have come across so far. This arc showcases some really eye candy visuals but that’s pretty much its only redeeming point. It doesn’t have anything much going on except for a few climactic action sequences now and then with intense battle music playing in the background that last only for a while. Not to mention, there’s another girl added to Kirito’s harem.
And then the hilarity ensues.
The manner in which ALO is brought to a close is appalling to say the least and at the same laughable because it doesn’t hesitate to use the much notorious plot device dues ex machina, ruining whatever hopes there were for the final confrontation with the villain. The poor conclusion could be excused if it was handled more cleverly and convincingly but a blatant ass pull is by no means satisfactory. If anything, it only proves that the writer faced a dead end and was unable to think of anything better and creative, and expected the audience to swallow down whatever he could come up with, no matter how downright stupid it is.
Among all the other things, the most easily noticeable flaw without a doubt is the execution of the plot itself which is all over the place. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out after a couple of episodes that SAO suffers from poor pacing and inconsistency. It appears to be highly indecisive as to what exactly it wants to do and how to get it done. This is mostly evident in the first arc which is incredibly rushed at many parts. There’re timeskips and the next thing you realize is that the characters have already cleared quite a lot of floors while keeping us, the viewers, in the dark. This makes the plot disjointed, prevents any sort of correlation to the win-or-die situation that the characters have been put into and gives everything the feel of it being nothing more than a piece of cake. The struggle for survival and a sense of urgency are hardly felt even though the lives of the characters have been said to be literally at stake. The episodes dealing exclusively with the lead couple taking some time off for a ‘vacation’ and subsequently ending up building a virtual family can further make one wonder: Why are they so carefree when they’re supposed to chalk out plans to beat the game and make a quick escape? To put it in other words, the arc has a tendency to go off track. It lays down for itself one thing but ends up doing something else altogether. It’s uncertain as to whether to make itself come across as a story of survival set within a VRMMORPG or as a fluffy love story. In due course, it decides to juggle with both but doesn’t get either of them rightly done. Not to mention, when the situation demands it and the writer goes out of any creative ideas to move the story forward, the characters’ actions are made to contradict the established game mechanics and the only reasoning that’s provided for such miracles is ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way, and there’re times when true love and determination can overcome any obstacle in the game’.
Now, for those who look for substance in any given story, it’s almost a fact that no amount of fanservice, eye candies, self-insertion or guilty pleasure factors can possibly compensate for a substandard storytelling. Yet that’s what SAO tries to do. It brings in all the aforementioned elements to sugarcoat its sloppy writing. On the whole, there’re no sincere efforts made to incorporate details that would contribute in some way or the other to world building or characterization whatsoever.
While the poor quality of the writing is the key factor, the other aspect that contributes considerably to the mediocrity of the show is the characterization. Simply put, SAO’s characters are bland. Essentially, the show has its focus on only two characters: Kirito and Asuna. The others are just there; mere devices to move the story forward. And a few have nothing to contribute to the plot at all. For instance, the ones featuring in the side stories.
Let’s talk about the protagonist Kirito first.
An unsocial, reserved yet headstrong player who knows how to get things done his way and is determined to beat the game. That’s basically how Kirito is portrayed in the beginning. At this point, he seems like a good riddance from the generic wimpy male leads that have become so much of a commonplace in anime. A proficient main character who knows how to deal with things is something refreshing to witness once in a while. Unfortunately, the impressions didn’t last for long. In desperate attempts to make his character more ‘appealing’, Kirito is depicted as a ‘perfect’ being which leaves his character with little plausibility and much insipidity.
He’s a guy with a heart of gold.
He has an ‘ideal’ girlfriend/wife.
He’s admired by those around him.
He can ‘unintentionally’ make every other woman adore him, romantically or otherwise.
Thus, he serves as a mere self-insert character for wish-fulfilment and at the end of the day, there’s nothing ‘individualistic’ about him. Gary stu is probably what describes his character the best, and if paired with the Mary sue of the show, we get a lead couple that seems to have been cut out straight from a tacky romance fanfiction.
Yes, when I mentioned ‘Mary sue’, I was referring to Asuna.
Asuna as the female lead is as stereotyped as they come. Much like Kirito, her character is heavily idealized. She’s pretty, popular, kind, caring and every other man wants to have a piece of her. Oh, and did I mention her cooking skills that level up with each passing day? After all, her foremost duty is to cook for Kirito and show how much she cares for him. While initially she’s portrayed as a strong, independent female player with a tsundere-ish attitude, it doesn’t take her long to make a transition from that to a deplorable damsel in distress, requiring her knight in black robe to come to her rescue whenever she’s in a bind. Kirito fighting her guild leader to earn her some time for honeymooning is laughable to say the least. It soon becomes apparent that she doesn’t have much of a role other than serving as the love interest of the protagonist and being the object of fanservice now and then which might be successful in pleasing the male audience somehow but that alone can’t make up for her badly written character. In fact, the other female character the show cares to put the spotlight on also ends up becoming the target of fanservice but doesn’t have anything else going on for herself.
If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m talking about Kirito’s beloved imouto.
Throughout the first arc, the writer must have had been itching to include a love triangle in the story but couldn’t find a potential candidate to get the job done. As the first arc comes to a closure and the second arc begins, he grabs the opportunity, puts Asuna behind the bars (so that she’s not an interference in what he’s attempting to do) and introduces Suguha, Kirito’s cousin sister. The sole purpose of creating her character, it appears, is to make way for a generic love triangle and melodrama. Suguha loves her cousin but can’t do anything about it because he loves Asuna. That’s the bitter truth. Hence, she looks up to a certain someone she happens to befriend within ALO and hopes that he’d be able to sooth her aching heart. However, she gets trolled… badly. This, in turn, leads to more drama that’s somehow supposed to be heart wrenching but it isn’t.
The remaining cast consists of two antagonists, both failing to make any sort of impression though the one making his debut in the second arc can be a good comic relief at times, and a bunch of side characters that wouldn’t have had made any difference even if they hadn’t existed. The bottom line is, the characters of SAO are a half-baked lot devoid of any depth or development. They could’ve perhaps turned out to be interesting if they were more fleshed out but who cares about that as long as they appeal to the intended target audience?
Onto the technical aspects now.
In the department of visuals, A-1 Pictures does a pretty good job. Within the game, the vast tracts of greenery, the beautiful cities during the night, the castles… they’re all a pleasure to behold. The animation is also well-handled for the most part. Initially I wasn’t much pleased with the character designs but they gradually grew on me, and I personally find a few characters like Asuna, Heathcliff and Lisbeth to be very well designed.
The music is composed by one of the most renowned composers in the anime industry, Yuki Kajiura. While the soundtracks aren’t bad by any means, none of them stand out much except the one that plays during combat/intense scenes. In fact, that’s the only track that can be heard playing most of the time in the entire show. A few other tracks, though they aptly fit the scenes they’re played in, are easily forgettable. The same applies to the opening and ending themes. Nothing groundbreaking there. I’m a fan of almost all of Kajiura’s works and if compared to her previous works, SAO’s music is lacklustre to say the least and so much so that it’s hard to believe Kajiura is the composer to begin with.
To wrap up the review, SAO had the potential to be something good but that potential goes down the drain due to poorly executed plot and bland characterization. It starts off in a satisfactory manner but goes downhill thereafter. Nevertheless, it can be an entertaining ride if one keeps their expectations low and swallows down whatever it has to offer without questioning anything. One of the reasons why SAO has been a letdown is the anticipation the majority had for it prior to its airing but that’s justified since the light novel series from which the anime is adapted is one of the most popular ones out there.
Sword Art Online, aka The Twilight Saga for Teenage Boys.
In the beginning, Sword Art Online (SAO) looked like it could have turned out to be the best show of the year, no exaggeration. The premise of being stuck and unable to log out of a virtual reality MMO with the condition that dying in the game means you die in real life and the only way out is to clear all 100 floors was set up extremely well in the first episode. The second episode continued this with the first boss fight, supported by well-done animation and Yuki Kajiura's amazing-as-always score. At this point, hopes
But it didn't last.
The following few episodes were side stories from the original novel that have little to do with the overall plot. On their own, none of these are all that bad, but together they become rather tedious and ridiculous, especially when you realize that the focus of each one is the main character, Kirito, befriending and helping a cute girl (despite the fact that the female playerbase is said to only be 10%), and in more than half the cases, said girl getting attached to Kirito in more than a "friendly" way. And these characters, if they appear later at all, never again play a significant role.
These episodes would have worked better if they'd been placed throughout the series between story arcs - though it later becomes apparent that this would not actually work - or released separately as OVAs or DVD specials. The best thing to be said about them is that they help to give the game world some more depth since they explain some game mechanics and show viewers how the various groups of players are going about playing the game, but the information is mostly superfluous and could have easily been given to us through the main story. Not that any of it ever gets used again anyway.
Then the main story continues and things get...worse.
It's at this point that an idea starts developing that perhaps the writer of the novels merely had a good idea for a story but didn't know what to do with it past the premise. The above-mentioned side stories were included when they were because the show is being broadcast in chronological order; when the main story picks back up, it's been two years since the last main story episode. Bonds between characters have been formed off-screen and over the half the game has already been cleared.
What a rip-off.
Before continuing with the story, let's look at the characters. We have our protagonist Kirito, a solo player who knows his way around the game fairly well as a result of having been a beta tester for the game. Okay, this is cool. We don't need 12 episodes of training to become the best in every show, a strong-from-the-start MC is fine. But that's not quite what Kirito is. Kirito is portrayed as essentially perfect in every way; he never loses a (fair) fight, he always has a solution, and all the chicks dig him. Basically, Kirito is a Gary Stu, a self-insert wish-fulfillment character with no true substance (have you heard of that before, anime fans?). He even gets a special ability not given to any other player just because he's that awesome.
Now let's look at Asuna, the only other character the show actually cares about. She is initially portrayed as a strong, individual female who has abilities on par with the male characters. Again, this was good at first. But it quickly becomes clear that she only exists as otaku bait. She's extremely popular and beautiful and all the guys want her...but she only wants Kirito. And despite the fact that she is supposedly a strong player, she's treated more like a prize than a teammate; Kirito literally fights for her freedom from her guild more than once. Yeah, she can't even earn her own freedom for some vacation time after all the work she's been putting in for the past two years. Sexist much? No MMO guild leader would actually be this anal, but hey, we need to make Kirito look awesome somehow.
And really, that's all Asuna is here for: to enhance Kirito's badass status. When he almost dies, she's there to cling to him and cry for him. When Kirito needs to look awesome, she's put in some kind of trouble and he gets her out of it. She also cooks for him because her cooking level is so high because hey, your waifu needs to cook for you, Kirito.
Tailor Twilight so that it appeals to boys instead of girls and send your awful fanfic to the printing press. Sword Art Online has been born.
No, I'm not joking. Screw action, screw plot, cue romance. SAO skips out on all the floor-clearing and boss-killing and decides to just have its main characters play house and do character development backwards. Nothing is believable about the relationship between these two characters. We see no real development between them since the show kind of just drops us into the middle of things after those useless side stories are over. And this is the focus for multiple episodes. Lots of cheesy, lovey-dovey dialogue, hand-holding, and sleeping is what we're fed. It's an otaku wish-fulfillment, folks; you're in a medieval world, you're the strongest person around, the cute girls all want you, and you don't have to work because magic (game mechanics) supplies everything.
Oh, and breast-groping. Can't forget the blatant fanservice!
Another thing I praised the show for at first was that it seemed like an accurate portrayal of what a virtual reality MMO would actually be like. But, as usual, SAO managed to crap on itself. The whole "beater" concept, a combination of the words "beta" for beta testers and "cheater," is laughably ridiculous and would never happen and obviously only exists to antagonize certain groups of players and give Kirito even more attention. We also see a group of players acting as an "army" of sorts going around forcing other players to pay taxes, even attacking an in-game daycare (LOL) in order to collect; this is dumb. Once again, a way to make Kirito and Asuna look like such sugoi people for helping out the needy children. Somewhere along the line the writer decided to make this a pseudo-medieval setting, taking what he wanted from the medieval era and what he wanted from MMO mechanics and not caring how they would make sense with each other. It's even written in the novel and alluded to in the anime that characters can have sex (but can't get pregnant, because that's no fun). Now that's taking cyber-sex to a whole new level. What would our wish-fulfillment world be without it?
But before too long we get to the climax of the first main arc, and after a couple miracles and deus ex machinas we can very clearly see that the author had no damn clue what he was going to do with his story after he had the premise down. The promise that was made to us has been broken and we, the viewers, are left with one of the most soulless shows to ever hit the airwaves. Any generic battle shounen at least gives us the action it promises and has better developed relationships and themes of friendship. Any generic harem at least knows it's dumb and only exists to appeal to that niche group of otaku who still enjoy it. SAO is a lie, a cheat, a traitor, and is worse than either of those. SAO wants you to believe it's good and smart, but it's so bad it doesn't even manage to achieve So Bad It's Good status. It's just terrible.
And now we're at the start of a new arc. Things...don't look any better. Kirito has added a new member to his harem in the form of a busty little sister/cousin (emphasis on that bust), because we needed some imouto fetish-fuel in here. Our antagonist is about as generic and stereotypical as they come, but that kind of fits because our new plot is about as generic and stereotypical as they come.
I've spent a lot of time on characters and plot without mentioning technical aspects because the technical aspects, no matter how good they are, really just won't change anything. They're there, and they're good; really, there's nothing wrong with them. Kajiura's music, when noticeable, is great and enhances the few good scenes the show has. The animation is also good. But neither is really amazing enough to be notable, so in the end, they just can't save a terrible piece of work.
And Sword Art Online is a downright terrible piece of work.
Story - 2/10: Good premise, atrocious execution.
Art - 8/10: It looks nice.
Sound - 7/10: Yuki Kajiura.
Character - 1/10: There are no characters in this anime.
Enjoyment - 3/10: It's fun to criticize.
Overall - 2/10.
Well then. SAO is indisputably one of the most polarizing anime in recent memory. It has devout fans who think it's one of the greatest, haters who think it's trash, and a minority that just says "hey guys, can't we all just have different opinions?" I hate the first and last groups with a fiery passion. I feel like breaking down why I think it's awful, so I'm writing a review. Let’s get into it, shall we?
The premise was a somewhat generic one, and “trapped in a video game” has been done numerous times before, but SAO seemed promising. And then the plot did everything
wrong. It utilizes time skips to avoid character development and many important events happen off screen and are never mentioned again or properly explained. Once Kirito was in a seemingly impossible to escape situation, but it just skipped to after he survived without ever explaining how he managed it. Because, I guess, that's not as important as filler episodes about Kirito resurrecting some irrelevant bitch's bird thingy.
It lacks any amount of tension due to the main character having invincible plot armor and LE EPIC DUBBLE SWORDZ. I'm confused by the point of the double swords. Why was that his special thing? No one else was capable of putting another sword in their other hand? I mean, Jesus, if you're going to give the main character an overpowered weapon at least be creative. The funny thing is that although dual wielding was supposed to be Kirito's unique ability and this idea was drilled into our minds time and time again, other characters are shown dual wielding on several occasions. They seriously put no effort into this series.
The worst aspect of the story was how rushed it was. The first half of the series was full of episodic filler episodes which did not develop the plot and mostly featured episodes about random women falling in love with the blank slate of a main and episodes centered on the uninspired romance between the two main characters. Because of this the episodes that were important to the plot were dealt with very quickly and almost glossed over in the grand scheme of things.
Despite the supposed danger of the game, it seems like you would have to be a complete moron to get killed. Towns are safe, there are teleportation crystals, and boss fights were short and boring and easy. Besides, bosses don't respawn anyway. Then all of a sudden the arc came to an anticlimactic finish, illogically and out of nowhere. There was supposed to be 100 boss battles, but we're only shown a couple that are settled easily. But does SAO stop there? Nonono. It's not nearly bad enough yet.
The entire point of the series was an MMO where you couldn’t escape and would die if you lost. While Kirito is, for all practical purposes, invincible anyway, an incident occurs that makes the MMO even less dangerous, effectively killing any kind of promise the original premise had. The second half features even more girls falling for our boring protagonist, a spindly 16 year old gamer inexplicably overpowering a grown man, netorare, kind of-incest, almost-tentacle rape, a world without logic, the degradation of women, and our wonderful protagonist defying all the rules of the game with THE ETERNAL POWER OF LOOOOOVE.
(dude, I don't think that's how the programming works)
Chock full with plot holes, contradictions, deus ex machina, and diaboli ex machina, and devoid of foreshadowing, originality, or subtlety, this is one of the, if not the, worst plots I have ever encountered in any medium. And I've read "120 Days of Sodom."
Good scenery, but the character design was lacking. The characters were very generic looking and their armor and weapons weren't anything special. There were several atrocities as well.
All of the fairies looked stupid, in my humble opinion. Especially the scary butterfly man. There were a couple instances of obvious mistakes like characters that should be in the background of a fight that disappear then reappear after, but that's nitpicking compared to the real problems with this series.
One weird thing was that Kirito was apparently supposed to look different in the game than he was in real life, based on important un-spoilable plot elements, but he looks exactly the same.
Same as the art. It's alright, but that means nothing if the series has no substance. Good sound is just icing on the cake and icing won't make this cake taste any less like shit.
Oh, boy. This is the worst part.
Kirito: Kirito is a character who was designed as a blank slate so that losers could insert themselves into his place. He has no personality to speak of. He is the male Kristen Stewart of anime. His only unique trait or real aspect to his character is him being strong. Really. He's so strong people surrender to him without even fighting. He’s pretty much perfect for a shut-in loser who’s addicted to video games. I mean, only a couple times in the series is he actually challenged because he is an all powerful 1337 b34t3r. Seriously, most of his enemies only hate him because they’re jealous.
What is the point of an action series where the protagonist cuts through all of his enemies with the greatest of ease? There was more than one occasion where he died, but did not die because plot armor. Kirito is too cool for the silly rules of (virtual) reality that apply to everyone besides him.
Asuna: She's perfect as well. She's strong, beautiful, and most importantly, good at cooking. She falls in love with Kirito inexplicably and out of nowhere and they just have no chemistry. When you pair a Mary sue up with a blank slate/self-insertion you get a love story on the level of twilight.
I feel like the writers were trying to make her a strong female character at first, but seeing as how well she fits the female gender role, how often she must be the damsel in distress, and all the shameless fanservice, I'd say the portrayal of her character was archetypal to the highest degree and somewhat misogynistic. Ok, very misogynistic. She’s mostly here for Kirito to look cool. What kind of self-insert doesn’t have a Mary sue girlfriend?
Suguha: She's Kirito's sister-cousin thingy. She's clearly very stupid because she did not recognize Kirito even though he looks no different in the game than he does in real life. All I can say about her besides that is this: she was thrown in for extra fanservice, obligatory incest, (Why is this a thing in Japan? Is the birth rate issue that bad?) a half-assed and predictable love triangle, and for another girl to love Kirito because, hey, you can never have too many. She has no personality and she's annoying. She’s pretty much here to emphasize Kirito’s coolness.
Villains: I don't remember these guys’s names tbh. There was a MMO designer guy who was responsible for a bunch of people's deaths, but for some reason we're supposed to think is good in the end. There's also the butterfly guy. He was my favorite because he was so hilarious, but he was also my least favorite because he was the least threatening villain ever. There were also two purple tentacle guys. I don't really know who they are and I think they were just there to grope Asuna, but they were weird.
As a whole the villains either have unrealistic motives or no motives at all. With the original programmer guy they try to make a morally grey villain, but fail entirely. He is also there to make Kirito look cool, but for reasons that I cannot describe in a spoiler-free review. With butterfly man they make him too pathetic and unrealistically evil. He was made like this to contrast with Kirito and so, like everybody else in the series, he’s just there to make Kirito look cool. And I don't know wtf to say about the purple tentacle guys. They were probably the best villains though. The desire to tentacle rape is certainly the most believable motive I encountered in this anime, especially seeing as most characters never even offered one. Although that is like saying that they are the undisputed champions of the Special Olympics, congrats to them anyways.
Honestly there were a lot more antagonists, but these ones are the only ones that matter enough to me to write about. The others weren't memorable enough to criticize. They were all bad, let's just say that.
Everybody else: Because nobody else matters. Hell, I just put in Suguha to be nice and it's not like the villains actually matter because Kirito is pretty much invincible. Shit, Asuna only matters because she pleases Kirito. If Asuna didn't make such boss sandwiches, she wouldn't even be relevant to the story.
There are a couple recurring characters with no personality and no development, but they show up rarely and only to make Kirito look cool and/or fall in love with him.
There are several incidents where Kirito inexplicably befriends or makes acquaintance of characters devoid of personality who do nothing, but get killed. And then we're supposed to care about the death of these random characters. You can't just introduce random characters, kill them, and say "ohhhh dey died isnt dat saaaad." You need development.
Even worse is the thousands of unidentified characters that die early on in SAO. We're supposed to feel emotion about this, but any writer knows that reducing characters to mere numbers dehumanizes them thus removing all emotion from the equation. They probably skipped these scenes because they were incapable of making sympathetic and realistic character. This laziness and lack of ability foreshadowed the fate of the rest of the show's characters.
Did they even try? Of course they didn't. They don't have to and people will love it anyway. ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN.
I'm going to be honest: The most enjoyment I got out of this anime was laughing at the "serious" scenes. When Kirito introduced Asuna, in real life, as "lightning flash Asuna" and talked about her guild and power level, I seriously cried from laughter. Actually every time Kirito cried so did I. Just not in the way I think I was supposed to. I spat out my iced tea when the butterfly guy was licking agirlwhowillnnotbenamedforthesakeofnospoilers's face. That was too much. Seriously, it stained my shirt. Did anybody actually enjoy that scene? Did anybody actually take that seriously? The answer: no. Or, at least, I really hope that’s the answer. My God, I hope that’s the answer.
As for the action aspect, I'm not sure how anybody would enjoy the action scenes, and I certainly did not. They were all too easy. There were a couple times when it tried to make it look like he was in trouble, but lo and behold, some miracle happened every time. Knowing how the fight will end is an unfortunate situation in plenty of anime, but those anime at least have more creative fight scenes and abilities or they are character oriented anyway. Even runescape has better and more interesting fights than this MMO.
Besides the quality, there were quantity issues as well. This isn't really an action anime. The majority of the episodes were focused on Kirito saving Asuna from something, women falling in love with Kirito, or about Kirito and Asuna's boring relationship. I don't think there's a single episode that's "action-packed." Seeing as we were supposed to get 100 boss fights, this is a problem and it would be a letdown, but after a hundred of those dreary fights I believe I would likely die of boredom.
The romance was just bad. There's much better romance out there and the characters had no chemistry. I'd prefer a romance with characters that are actually intriguing. Also, most anime focus on the build-up of the relationship a lot, but here it happens right away and there's no time to enjoy anything. This wouldn't be that bad if their relationship was interesting, but they don't have any serious arguments and are essentially the perfect couple. The only enjoyable developments in their relationship were the ones where Asuna was in danger. And by "enjoyable developments" I mean "developments that made Kirito cry like a little girl." Those moments were still awful, but comparatively speaking, they were rather enjoyable.
This is not an anime that I would recommend to anyone. I would not even recommend it to my worst enemy. That is cruelty of which I am not capable. It was atrocious, infuriating, corny, cliché, contrived, horrid, purple tentacled, pseudo-incestuous, borderline-misogynistic, vaguely misogynistic, completely misogynistic, plebeian, an affront to mankind, unintelligent, crafted by the devil, a war on art, used to torture terrorists, bourgeois, anti-intellectual, inbred, languid, shallow, self-insertionly, corny, the antithesis of Shakespeare, the apotheosis of awful fiction, blank, infantile, pathetic, vacuous, vapid, salacious, inane, imbecilic, an abortion, Stygian, sub-par, bland, poorly thought out, corny, loathsome, vomit-inducing, virulent, bile, poorly executed, infernal, eviscerating, flippant, an insult to its audience, cadaverific, philistine, lame, sad in all the wrong ways, funny in all the wrong ways, painful, paint-drying, boner-killing, wretched, impotent, generic, unemotional, repetitive, redundant, boring, and corny. I really really wish I hadn’t watched it. If you’re one of the people who told me it was a “must watch” then fuck you. Not even funny.
After examining forums, comments, and reviews on Sword Art Online, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that this anime adaptation is one of the most controversial, disputable TV Series of the year. Thus, it'll be understandable if you disagreed with me at some point in this review, but please take the time to actually read it before deciding "oh, just another fan boy" or "gross, just another hater." Because, in my opinion, Sword Art Online doesn't deserve the amount of crap it gets or the amount of praises; essentially, it's mediocre.
First and foremost, the Sword Art Online TV Series is an adaptation of the
light novels under the same name. People who have witnessed this pattern unfold before know the difficulties in the adaptation process. For those of you new to the community, when a studio announces an adaptation it usually means two things: fan service, and fillers. Sword Art Online is a perfect victim for the studios these days that desire the big bucks. What derived from a romantic, unique concept was transformed into an utter construction of unoriginality and clichés.
Other words, all the significant features residing in the original light novels were compacted down into seemingly unimportant bits and the wrong things got emphasized.
= Story (3) =
What the studios completely ignore first is the purity of the story, scripts, and chronological order of events. It doesn't even matter to the producers if positive/negative attention is given to Sword Art Online as long as the work gains popularity, discussions, and trends. Well, if you just watch anime collectively and only for enjoyment, it doesn't matter too much if the dialogues sound cheesy or unrealistic. However, there are too many clichéd story narratives, the dialogues require better writing, and [insert more heedless blobs of complaints you can read elsewhere].
The premise and first half of Sword Art Online actually poses an intriguing concept of survival of the fittest, which just isn't elaborated on enough to continuously track the audience's attention. In the actual light novel, there's much more emphasis on action-based themes than what's presented in the anime. Execution of the script definitely has problems, the pacing embodies inconsistencies which could've improved, and the story does contain some questionable timeline eclipses. However, it wouldn't exactly be the source material's fault if a parody of their work is bad.
= Character (5) =
The main protagonist Kirito and his companion Asuna both illustrate essentially perfect beings. Kirito is a beater whose masculinity cannot be touched by anyone vincible. Comparatively, Asuna strives for a taint of sexiness with her slender yet untouchable body, and she can cook perfectly--somewhat misogynistic but inevitable. As a couple, Kirito and Asuna are both interesting subjects due to their fair share of intimate interactions with each other and other characters at first.
However, the chemistry between the two main romance interests, in the anime, quickly devolves into little or none at all. Events are laid out too bluntly, at a false pace, and Kirito's dedication for Asuna appears to be more artificial than in the light novels. Asuna became a target for fan service and though the appearance for fan service itself isn't exactly a terrible thing, the problem resides with how they applied that to more females. What shouldn't have processed through as a harem became apparent. Instead of illustrating the chemistry between Asuna and Kirito wholeheartedly, the Series often diverted with several unrelated (female) story arcs, which in turn didn't contribute to much of Kirito's phlegmatic personality anyways.
The main problem with the side characters is that barely any time is spent on them and most of them don't really have a purpose after their first appearance. Even when they do, you don't remember their names or why their presence is significant.
= Animation (8)/Sound (9) =
It's almost factual that nobody can complain about the artistic aspects of Sword Art Online. The impacting action scenes did themselves justice with intense atmospheres. Character designs transported from the light novels comprised of more details and it is overall fitting. Noticeably, the background in some of the scenes portrays a vivid, limitless sky, which soothingly befits the floating island setting.
The Original Sound Tracks from the anime are just fine. Although it would've been better to switch around its soundtracks, the synchronization of music with the art worked out efficiently. Both the Ops & EDs consisted of scores beautifully done by the artist; Yuki Kajiura strikes the mood perfectly yet again. Each voice acting roles also surprisingly resembled their character's traits.
= Enjoyment (7) =
Admittedly, Sword Art Online was a guilty pleasure the day it aired each week despite its flaws. The premise alone embraced me in a MMORPG setting which many have nostalgia for. Although a bit romanticized, the production actually portrayed the prehistoric Medieval Europe (in this case) and flourishing civilization of many cities like Venice at the time fairly well. And those familiar with the time period knows Sword Art Online just added another layer of wistfulness.
Honestly, Sword Art Online provides decent entertainment if you watch it playfully without expecting serious, satirical works of some sort. Otherwise, it may be a disaster if you end up taking the concepts the show throws at you too literally.
= Overall (5) =
A well thought-out premise and concept which ended up being jammed into a catastrophic adaptation—basic outline of Sword Art Online. It's really a shame that an action-packed Light Novel franchise became a victim of today's failing anime industry. This TV series comprises of lots of story arcs which should've been ignored, but was instead included due to their rewarding of pure fan service.
There are too many trickled-down, mixed lighthearted scenes for someone to take the anime too seriously. Yet, the producer of the anime almost expects you to nonsensically. In the end, it's up to the audience to take Sword Art Online seriously or not. For one's health, I suggest viewing this TV Series as a romantic comedy with quirky action scenes and supernatural settings. Otherwise, for the real action-packed themes promised by the premise, I guarantee that the Light Novels will present a much better experience than this "once-in-a-lifetime" plebeian anime adaptation.
Sword Art Online was one of the most hyped up animes of Summer 2012 and has probably the widest range of scores I’ve ever seen. Does it live up to the hype? Read on to find out! That being said, skip to the consensus (TLDR) if you don't want to read blocks of text! :D Please do not send anything overly negative to me; polite and constructive criticism is always appreciated.
The Good: Man, they really went for a lot here. The light novels themselves were actually more action/adventure focused, something that doesn’t happen in the anime. I’m going to do my best not to give
any spoilers, but essentially, the anime Sword Art Online aims to be a love story of epic proportions, where their relationship will experience highs and lows ranging from boundless joy to aching tragedy. Straight up, if you don’t like the main characters, you probably won’t like this anime. That’s how most love stories work. However, if you’re like me, and you absolutely adore the main characters, then this anime is definitely for you! Sword Art Online additionally does a brilliant job of easing us in to the massive, awe-inspiring frontier that is Aincrad. The concept of this anime -- being trapped in a strange, exotic new world and living in it -- is a dream that we all have had at one point, and it's fascinating to see it being unveiled before our eyes.
The Bad: At the same time, however, the execution has been done terribly. Lots of fans/first-time watchers – me included – felt that Kirito and Asuna were not given nearly enough character development. It’s hard to root for someone that you barely know or hate. Another problem lies in the pace. The side stories were rushed, no doubt about, which is bad because they offered interesting insights into Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and personality. At the same time, you can't really justify having two episodes of precious anime time being given to the side stories, and they honestly aren't as interesting as the main plot. Something else that irks me about Sword Art Online is how it suffers from deus ex machina. That is, it'll solve really big situations with just dumb stuff like "it's the power of love" or "strength of will trumps everything". However, other amazing shows (Harry Potter, Clannad) have done similar things, so it's whatever.
CONSENSUS: 7/10. Sword Art Online attempted to create a love story of epic proportions…something that they partially succeeded in. Although they eased us in beautifully in the start, undeveloped characters, a rushed storyline, and miracle syndrome make it lose quite a bit of its impact.
The artwork in this anime can be summed up into one word: inconsistent. The sceneries are drawn very well and have a wide variety (ranging from icy snowcaps to flowery meadows to beautiful cities…), and the characters are done beautifully (a nice contrast to the stupid body proportions in Code Geass or the crazy facial expressions in Fate/Zero), but it gets stupidly bad during the battles. For some strange reason, instead of treating us to a smooth action sequence, we instead constantly gaze at character still shots. It’s really frustrating when you know that the battle sequences could have been amazing!! Background animation is probably the most inconsistent part in that it gets really bad in towns but great in landscapes. I really don’t know what to think. I think the animation of this anime is something that really sets it back from some of the great animes, and I’m hoping it gets better in the future (especially the battle scenes, they can really make those a lot more enjoyable to wach).
CONSENSUS: 7/10. Battle scenes are very badly animated, and backgrounds sometimes are drawn very sloppily. However, the sheer scope of sceneries in this anime is a delight to see.
The music is incredible. Yuki Kajiura is one of the biggest names in anime music, and her music is absolutely astounding. So far, the music’s been perfect and set each mood beautifully. In particular, the battle scene music. Oh my god. I found myself humming it when I was eating breakfast, just a testament to how well done it is. As for the OP/ED, they’re really generic. They’re being done by LiSa, who’s done so many OP/EDs by now, but they don’t really stand out…in a good or bad way. I don’t know, I think Yuki Kajiura’s music makes up for any disparities here though.
CONSENSUS: 9/10, Music is great and going to be developed by Yuki Kajiura, the person who did Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica. OP/ED are generic, but that’s not a bad thing.
The characters are ridiculously hit or miss. Kirito is pretty much your perfect, flawless teenager. That’s going to be a deal breaker for many of people upon knowing that. Many people like their protagonists to have flaws, to be more humanlike, more down to Earth, and having a character that’s flawless frankly drops a lot of the realism. I would like to argue that the alternative of having a whiny protagonist that doesn’t do anything is a lot worse though (Guilty Crown, I’m looking at you). The same lies for the female protagonist, Asuna, our main character’s love interest. Frankly, the relationship just came together too easily. Asuna also has the privilege of being practically perfect in every single way. No really: she can cook, she’s incredibly beautiful, she’s good at swordfighting, she’s dedicated, and she’s a tsundere (personally I love tsunderes). The side characters and the villains lack depth as well. Can anyone else picture how much more interesting this anime would have gotten if Sugou was initially some good guy that Asuna begins to fall for...only to be someone rotten in the inside? Instead, we're treated to a generic villain who literally doesn't have a single good quality.
CONSENSUS: 6/10, Main character Kirito isn’t absurdly annoying like A LOT of other main characters, but he does get what he wants a little too easily. Side characters are overly generic and get far too little time. Same with Kirito and Asuna, we needed more time for their development!
THE BREAKDOWN: It's a great anime if you like Kirito and Asuna, but if you don't, you might as well watch another anime. The anime itself suffers from various flaws -- plot holes, shoddy animation, undeveloped characters -- that prevent me from giving it a high score. Still worth a watch though, if only so that you can rant about how good or bad it is on the forums after each episode. 7/10!
(+) The light novel for this anime is incredibly well done (#1 rated light novel on MAL).
(+) Incredible nostalgia for any MMORPG gamers.
(+) Music is stellar, designed by the best.
(+) Anime gets a lot better after episode 8.
(+) The landscapes are absolutely beautiful...one of the benefits of making the anime set in a fantasy video game.
(+) Tons of people to discuss this anime with since it's popular; since it's polarizing, you get some very interesting arguments too.
(−) Characters not developed thoroughly enough.
(−) Anime may be rushed in first few episodes.
(−) Suffers from very poor animation in some the fight scenes and in the background (budgeting).
(−) Insertion of side stories before main plot may cause some viewers to lose interest.
(−) Anime suffers from miracle syndrome (occasionally will solve problems with a miracle).
(−) Causes you to waste time talking with people about the latest episode of SAO, whether you hate it or love it.
A brave young hero. His beautiful sidekick who becomes a love interest. Dual wielding swords. A world in chaos. Lives at stake. All seem so cliche, why would I even think to watch this? I made the right decision to. I know there is alot of controversy over this anime currently so I, naturally, must enter my two cents to defend and be realistic about this hot commodity anime of 2012:
*As spoiler free as can possibly be*
The story is indeed EXTREMELY rushed. While the ideals and thoughts behind the initial plot are absolutely outstanding and completely unique and original, the SAO anime timeline leaves little
room for the storyline to blossom. As a 21 year old, I found it fairly childish at times yet still enjoyable. I feel as though younger people wouldn't appreciate the underlying plots which the plot holes failed to fill and give way completely to imagination. As a biased idealist, I give the story an 8/10 because the idea is there, the timeframe wasn't. But I guess that's to be expected in today's anime industry.
The art is visually stunning and appealing. The colors draw the viewer in and the scenery is the hook. The entire landscape of Aincrad is a feast for the eyes. On the flipside, some of the fights scenes were choppily done in comparison to the beauty of the backdrops. The boss details, especially the Skull Reaper, were phenomenal and several shots were created in a very different, unexpected perspective, adding additional interest to the episode's events. So that's an A++++ to colors and imaginary vision and a B to combat scenes to make a 9/10.
Yuki Kajiura. Need I say more? 10/10. Absolutely outstanding and completely relevant and appropriate for the anime. The music truly makes the anime and hooks the viewer emotionally.
Kirito is your typical boy hero destined to save his love interest and destroy a corrupt system. Sure, seems pretty unoriginal. However, I connected to Kirito more than I feel many do. The episodes that seemed like fillers served as ways for us to get to know Kirito and his imperfections and taught us to let them go. While the anime completely fails in terms of side characters with failed attempts of Klein and Egil, the main characters are given enough spotlight to give the viewer a general consensus on their personality, actions, and values toward the Cardinal system of SAO. Asuna is a fantastic heroine at the beginning, immediately winning all the hearts of all male viewers and becoming a role model for young women. But as the anime progresses, the anime took a completely different direction in her character than I expected. While Asuna possessed so much strength and leadership, the anime fails to show this as it continues on, letting her slip into the whole damsel in distress role, especially in ALO. I truly felt the connection between her and Kirito and their desire to protect each other but their characters, as well as their love story, need more depth. 8/10.
I can't lie. I truly enjoy this anime. I have such a vision of it in my head that I feel the storymakers truly intended to get across to all viewers. Whilst the anime is lacking in depth, can be corny/childish/predictable, and is unreally rushed, it provides an entertaining feast for the eyes and ears and even for the heart from episodes 8 and on. I can't deny this one a 10/10 because I truly enjoy it.
I have to give this anime a 10/10 wholly due to the fact that I can truly envision its perfection if it could be given more time. The character ideas are there, the unique and individualistic views are there, the fantastic composer and visual settings are there. It has the correct recipe, but the incorrect "bake time". Putting aside my bias, it should probably deserve a generous 9/10 due to plot holes, rushed timeframe, and incomplete character development.
Here's to hoping episode 25 will be a successful completion of an anime that could truly use a cherry on top of the sundae. The fandom will be on the edge of their seats and...so will I. I can't help it, this anime is my guilty pleasure.
|This review contains minor spoilers of the shitty story and characters|
Oh Sword Art Online, how you fooled millions of people into thinking that this show will be every gamer and anime fans' dream-come-true. We all came in, watched the first episode and thought " This actually looks pretty cool " , and continued watching like fish on a fishing rod. How wrong were we? Well, I will tell you, fellow readers, how the anime that received one of the largest fan-bases in recent times, holds the pinnacle of the word 'Overrated '; and I will do my best to convince you to NOT watch this
Now let's begin this review with discussing about the 'gripping' story, that led such a large fan-base into picking up SAO. So, I am not going to talk about the synopsis, as MAl has it displayed at all times, but I have to say that 'disappointment' is an understatement when describing the story of this anime. The biggest disappointment when watching this anime was the colossal time-skips that the anime takes. At one moment Kirito (the main character of the series) is a weakling, and literally in the blink of an eye, he is the most over-powered in the game. Thus, character-development is thrown out of the window. You just can't bring out a realistic and gripping story with such decisions.
The other fact that made the story ridiculous, was the fact that Kirito simply levels so fast by PLAYING ALONE in a bloody MMORPG. If you have played at least 1 game of this genre, you would be highly aware that this is further than impossible, as you would need at least 100 players to beat a boss, of which all players must be very highly leveled. Thus the story becomes so poor and unrealistic, that it is almost hilarious.
The first arc of SAO, which consists of the first 15 episodes, in terms of story overall, was terrible. There were time-skips and an unrealistic story. However, were the story becomes even more ridiculous is the second arc, which consists of the rest of the story. A damsel-in-distress is again, an understatement. You all should be fully aware of the video-game franchise 'Mario'. Kirito is Mario and Asuna (which I will talk about how awful of a character she is in my character section of this review), is princess Peach. And i am not exaggerating at all. This becomes so annoying, that watching this series, I remember wanting to bash my head against the wall to ease my fury. Oh wait, there's more! Ever wanted to see a character in a non-ecchi anime being 'done' by tentacles? Well this is the anime for you! Cause I am sure that all the kids that watched this series, thinking that it would be like a Disney film ended up getting rather scarred.
The last factor that determines my score of '2' is the slice-of-life elements of the show, that tricked the whole audience of the show into thinking that this anime would be consisted of badass action sequences and a complex story. No. Instead, what we get is two idiots telling how much they love each other (even though they met in a game) for most of the series with little to no action. Enjoy.
Oh you thought that I was telling the worst about this anime, were you? Well don't worry, it gets much worse in this section. To put it simply, the characters in this series are laughable, generic, idiotic and extremely one-dimensional. I will talk about some of the characters of the series.
1. Kirito: So what do you get when you mix Makoto from school Days and every other generic protagonist from a harem series, combined with a bit retardation. You get Kirito of course! This guy is living a harem with 5 girls in this series, for absolutely no reason at all. The girls are treated like mindless retards that the only thing that pleases them is a douche like Kirito because of black hair and clothes. This guy is worse than a regular, clueless male lead from a harem series as he does not only understand the situation he finds himself in, but also does not give a shit. He dumps all he rest of the women (including side-chicks) and guess who he decides to go with in the end; HIS FUCKING SISTER. Yes, this anime is incestuous beyond belief. Kirito is the epitome of everything I hate in an anime character combined.
2. Asuna: This chick is the one which receives the worst development (of almost all) of anime i have seen . She starts off looking like a cool female lead, with a large potential of evolution, and then, all of the sudden, she enters a part of Kiritos' harem with what seems like so reason at all. She did not give a damn about Kirito, and then instantly wants his D, after sleeping on a field with him, for whatever reason that is.
The relationship of Asuna and Kirito is not only extraordinarily unrealistic, but also dreadful, as this relationship is seen to be so forceful. |SPOILERS| They end up adopting this one girl they find in the woods, and this is when the characters become so BAD. This father-daughter and mother-daughter relationship is so off from real life it's funny. The end up wasting most of the first arc with deciding whether to keep this girl or not (of which destroys the genres of this series wholly) and makes you think this show is a pathetic Clannad rip-off.
The rest of the characters in this series are so forgettable I have forgotten most of their names as a result. The girls are shown to be whores with no wit, while the antagonists of the show are BEYOND HILARIOUS. The main antagonist of the series has NO purpose to trap this people in this world and kill them off. NO reason at all. This guy simply wants to look evil for no ulterior purpose, because this show needs a reason to exist.
In the end, the characters receive little to no development, while proving to the audience that ' the power of friendship' exists in a couple such as Kirito and Asuna, as the romance is so bad in this series, that it feels like Asuna gets friend-zoned by Kirito for wants to jump his sister, which she was the worst character of all. For absolutely no reason at all, this girl wants to bang her brother (which the anime makes statements here and there stating that they are cousins living in the same house, which is still non-sensical). And Kirito falls for her because his motto is " THE BIGGER THE TITS THE BETTER ".
Animation and Art : 8
I have to give credit to A-1 pictures for producing an anime that has decent-looking colors, and a fair amount of frames within the little battle-sequences this anime holds. The art however is nothing that spectacular as to up the score any more than it already is, as an anime which received such a massive audience deserved a greater production value, in my opinion. The background are usually fairly done, and there is no real lack of consistency when dealing with the anime as a whole.
Yuki Kajiura is an amazing composer and I feel that her music really fit the atmosphere of the show. It's a shame that she wasted her efforts in such a show like this, but whatever. The openings are both fantastic, with greater emphasis to the first one, " Crossing Field " which really suited the tone of the anime itself, combined with an excellent chorus.
As a lot of anime, the voice-acting of SAO was on-par and did their job very well (with reference to the original japanese dub), so whatever part i had to take seriously, I did due to the well executed emotions portrayed through words. Again, its a shame that they bothered to do such a good job on an anime like this.
I tried to enjoy this show, I really did. But I could not take it seriously due to the harem, ecchi and incestuous nature of the show itself. The characters clearly lacked any substance and the story was laughable, thus further lowering my enjoyment of the show. The only facts that upped my enjoyment, was the fantastic opening, that made me want to watch each episode for that purpose. The animation made me enjoy the anime a bit more as well, but all these do not compensate with the sheer horror of the show's execution.
Of course, the animation/art and sound only play for a small part of the overall score. The story and characters were anything below pathetic, and thus could not credit the show itself. Please, do yourself a favor and skip this entry, it is not worth your time at all. Don't get fooled by the popularity of the show itself, as that is not an indication of how good the show is, instead proves how many souls were lost in wasting their time on an anime like this.
Why is SAO bad? First of all let us ask what SAO is and what bad is. SAO is an anime adaptation of a light novel of the same name. The light novel was created in 2002 by Reki Kawahara, around the time when MMORPG were the craze. The anime like the name suggest is about a virtual world in a MMO. Akin to .hack//SIGN it¡¯s about a group of people being stuck inside a videogame (at least until the third volume where the game changes) where the only way to escape is to finish the game. The MC is a guy named Kirito who
meets various people along his adventure to the top of the tower where the key to completing the game lies. However, unlike .hack//SIGN, in SAO everything that could have done really well is destroyed. Now, let us get back to what the word bad means. It means it¡¯s not 'good in any manner or degree' according to dictionary.com and there many reasons for SAO to be bad. These reasons include overuse of cliches and overused tropes, bad characterization and that it exists as a self insert and wish fulfillment.
A major concern I have with SAO is the uses of cliches and overused tropes. One instance is the use of the well known clause in anime where Kirito said 'Do I have to use that?' in episode 9 when fighting a boss. This is one of the biggest cliche in anime and so bad that other shows mock shows using said cliche. In the scene where Kirito said that, there were players dying from the boss. This meant that Kirito let people die because he didn't other players to find out about his skill.
One of the things that I found extremely irritating about SAO was the fact that Kirito was the strongest in the SAO the game barring the admin. This is evident due to the fact that he is a BEATer (a portmanteau between the words BETA and cheater). Also, he has a unique skill where only two people in the game have. Not only was Kirito overpowered, his girlfriend Asuna is overpowered as well. This might be sexist but I find it hard to believe that a girl would be good at MMO (she is one of the highest leveled person in the game) when she has never played them before even if SAO is different from normal MMOs.
This brings in new questions. Why did the author make the main characters the strongest? This is due to self insertion and wish fulfillment. This is painfully obvious when plenty of pretty girls such as Sachi, Lizbeth, Silica and Asuna are lusting after his manhood and his personality is very similar to teenagers who have emo tendencies and antisocial behavior so they can relate to him. He is also later shown to be a massive nerd therefore pandering to computer geeks. Asuna is particularly the largest wish fulfillment girl I have ever seen. She possess incredible power like Kirito, is considered beautiful by pretty much everyone, excels in cooking both in game and in real life and comes from a wealthy family which are considered traits of a perfect girl. However, I personally hate her due to these facts.
The characterization is absolutely atrocious. First there are the main characters Kirito and Azuna as I mentioned before are terrible characters with terrible characterization. They have inconsistent personality such when Kirito suddenly changes from an emo kid to a happy going person between episodes and when Asuna suddenly becomes a tsundere. Also, characters such as Sachi and Lizbeth fall in love with Kirito even though they only knew him for few days. Even Asuna is guilty of this since she had sex with Kirito despite not knowing too much about him. The only good characters in the series are minor characters such as Silica and Klein. (Why couldn't they become the main characters? Klein as the MC would have made the show better.)
The pacing is also a major issue. There are just too many time skips in the anime. This makes the episodes too episodic and not have real plot. I am not saying that being episodic is bad but the episodes between 2-8 serve in no point in the plot other than being a side story. The anime would have been a lot better if it was pure comedic, slice of life MMO life about a guild instead of what it is now where it changed from sol to having an actual plot which neither of them were good.
The only really good aspect of the anime is the music, decent character design, animation and the setting was done well. It had Yuki Kajiura as the series composer who is one of my favourite composers and LiSA, another one of my favourite, as the singer for the opening. The setting for the anime is surprisingly good and is somewhat creative. The art wasn¡¯t anything special but was still one of the best aspect about the anime. Regardless, all of these were sadly all wasted on this bad anime.
Despite all I said, the worst part about SAO is the potential it had to be a good anime. It could have easily become my favourite anime if it was done right. It had the trapped in the video game trope which I quite like. In the end it doesn't even matter what I write since the anime will sell like hotcake. The fact that an anime with bad characterization, plot, and plenty of cliches is the most popular is telling that anime is dead. In MAL SAO is rated higher than Nodame, Tatami Galaxy and many other anime that are better than SAO. This is disappointing and I hope publishers do not start making similar anime to SAO just because it¡¯s popular just to make money.
I would like to thank the user Veronin for helping me when I was writing this.
This is what Sword Art Online should have been about. It should have been an anime that was a pure MMORPG in anime form, as it was made out to be. What did we get instead? 55% slice of life, 25% romance, 10% action, 10% plot. SAO is quite possibly the most overrated and overhyped anime I've ever come across in my anime years. SAO is highly regarded by its fans as one of the best Light Novels ever, better than Fate/Zero, Monogatari series, Haruhi series, Kara no Kyoukai, Welcome to the NHK and Baccano for a few examples. Granted, I haven't read
any of these works, but for some peculiar reason, I have an extremely hard time believing this. Why? Well, this will probably get me some flame for being biased, but because the anime is bad. Really bad. Now, some might say that it's because the adaptation of the anime is bad compared to the Novel, but I pretty much say bull. Even if that is the case, it still doesn't change the fact story is extremly generic and so far has nothing I couldn't get from watching .Hack//SIGN. If I don't like the plot and characters in the anime, I most certainately won't like them in the novel.
But enough with that... What exactly is it that makes me dislike this series so much that I would call it the most overrated and overhyped anime I've yet to come across? Let's begin.
Animation: "The animation is fantastic and incredibly smooth every single scene! It looks absolutely beautiful!"
False. While I can agree that the animation is very good looking, it's not as beautiful and gorgeous as most people make it out to be. The setting is just another generic fantasy-like setting you've already seen before in oh so many anime before SAO. The artstyle is also very unfitting. What do I mean? Let me explain very short and simple - The anime is supposed to be serious and dark (keyword being supposed) yet the artstyle makes this world look like a fairy tale due to the bright colors and round character designs. And animation wise, as in movement, looks exactly like every other anime out there. The movements are just as stiff and movement-less as the anime next to it. The only times the animation is better than your average anime is when there's a fight going on, though the choreography in these fights are pretty boring. It's mostly just rushing towards the enemy and slashing away. They could've made the fights so much more enjoyable and interesting if they put more focus on making the fights more tactical and strategy heavy.
The only thing I could give props for, creativly wise, is how sometimes we see from the player's POV. While this was nice the first time, this starts to get very repetitive as you get to see it in every episode and the fisheye style starts to annoy you more and more. Fortunately, this disappears about halfway and we never have to see it again. But wait... That was the only creative thing they did, and now it's gone. I don't know if I should complain or be happy.
Even the less popular Ao no Exorcist which was also animated by A-1 Pictures was better animated than SAO in my opinion, even during the daily life events, and that one wasn't either extremly well animated. But that anime had much more interesting fights and looked a bit more flashy. Though that's to be expected seeing as that was a Shounen and this is a Seinen. Oh who am I kidding, SAO's obviously a Shounen.
Sound: "The OST was composed by Kajiura Yuki! Instant awesomeness!"
Wrong. While I do love Kajiura Yuki, whom has done some amazing works in some earlier titles (most notably Kara no Kyoukai), this is definitely one of her weakest works yet. The soundtrack is so far lifeless and generic and has nothing special going on with it. For being an anime about an MMORPG, I sure as hell am not getting an MMO feeling while watching this anime. The soundtrack is so generic that I could take the entire OST and put it over any other fantasy anime, and no matter how great the anime is, I would still get the same generic feeling as I get while watching SAO. It does have some nice tracks and the OST can grow on you, but as I just said, this is definitely one of her weakest works and doesn't even come close to her works in anime such as Kara no Kyoukai, Madoka Magica and the previously mentioned .Hack//SIGN.
Voice cast wise, it's very mediocre. The voice cast is very bad at getting me entranced in the dialogues since it sounds like they are always reading straight from a script. Only some characters have proved the different, however, those characters were mostly just side characters that disappear as soon as they are introduced. It also doesn't help that all female characters speak in a typical cute way, further detracting the fact that this anime is supposed to be serious.
Sound effect wise, it's good. It has everything you would expect from an anime that has a video game theme. Swords colliding, objects disappearing, slain enemies and menu sounds.
Story: "The story just keeps getting better and better!"
Nope. Well, to give it credit, it did have a solid first episode and a nice premise. People are playing a Virtual video game which they cannot escape untill they defeat the final boss. And if they are killed in the game, they won't respawn, instead they die in real life aswell! That's pretty interesting. Just a damn shame that it all went down the toilet the further down the anime went with the story. For some reason, A-1 Pictures decided to animate the side stories in episodes 3-8 which severely slowed down the pace to the point where the anime got even more boring that fillers in Shounen anime! That's not very good storytelling if you ask me! I see no reason why they couldn't have just released these episodes on the BD/DVD volumes, as this would make the anime extremely more tolerable and have a much better pace. But, does it get better when the main plot starts again? Yes, but only for a short while (short while=one episode.) After this short while, the story gets boring and makes you care less about anything. This is supposed to be a battle for survival, so why the hell is the story not showing us this gruesome world where people die in real life if they are killed in the game? Instead, it focuses on the bad romance between Kirito and his ever growing harem, which we'll get to in the character section.
Speaking of the romance, if you ask me, this is what the anime is about. Not the plot, you know the whole being stuck inside a game premise, but instead the romance of our main characters. And while I do say that this is about being stuck inside an MMORPG and the objective is about escaping, this only counts for the first 14 episodes. After those episodes, SAO goes over to a very boring and very cliché damsel in distress story.
And how can I forget that SAO resorts to miracles for both of its two arcs' endings. Asspull miracles at that, since these things are never properly explained, or not explained at all.
Character: "The characters are so believable! They are so full of life and relatable!"
I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that is incorrect. For starters, Kirito, out main protagonist is supposed to made out as a shut-in gamer Otaku. Someone who is antisocial, in so many words. So since he is just that, it's obvious that he would play as a Solo Player since he prefers to be left alone. Right? Then tell me, why the hell is he going around helping and saving more people than I can count if he's supposed to be a Solo Player? Kirito was written as a Solo Player for the first 8 episodes, and yet he helps people out during ALL of these episodes! This is a 100% contridiction to how he was claimed to be and act. But hey, we need some romance in this survival story, right? So let's throw in multiple girls whom are all after Kirito's virtual penis. The only reason why Kirito is helping out mainly females is because he's just looking for someone to bone. He finally gets one girl who is willing to give up her virtual virginity to Kirito, Asuna. Well then, Kirito finally has a girl he can have some sweet romance with. Nope. The romance between Kirito and Asuna is one of the worst written romances I've come across in an action anime. They spend so little time actually together were they would show off romantic feelings to each other that it's impossible to believe that they actually love each other. They are the typical Tsundere-Shy guy combo that you always see nowadays. And don't get me started about what happens after the first half. Oh boy, that's when things go from bad to worse.
The character development is barely there, mainly because these characters change personality more often than Aizen trolls somebody in Bleach. But what about the side character? Well... They're barely even there! SAO introduces a lot of characters during the first half of the series, but 75% (random percentage) of all those either never appear again (until maybe a brief cameo in the last episode) or appear way too little. They focus so much on the main characters that you start to forget that the series even introduced more characters. Not good, yo. When you create characters you need to split up the development and screen time of side characters and main characters at a good ratio. Sure, the focus should be on the main characters, but it's also important to not forget about the side characters, as they can be a good way to develop the main characters.
Value: "Best Light Novel ever!"
If this is what people would claim to be the best Light Novel of all frakking time, then I don't know what the hell people in their right mind are thinking. Because based on the anime, AND from what I've heard happens next, I see no reason why you would call it that since the novel seems to just keep going in circles and brings nothing new. If that is what people call A-Class writing, then I guess Kubo Tite is one of the best writers of all time.
And all the hate the series gets, this is your fault to blame. You, as in the ones who hyped this anime to be the most amazing thing ever produced. When you hype something as much as this one, you're risking damaging its overall appeal due to leading people into thinking that it's gonna be a masterpiece, only to be left extremely disappointed.
Enjoyment: "Best Anime ever!"
This could have been one of the top anime of 2012, but ended up as one of the worst of the bunch because of bad directing and awful storytelling. If the series had focused more on the actual premise, this couldn've been a bit more interesting - however - the bad decision to put the side stories among the main episodes, the poorly written romance and the incredibly cliché plot (especially in its second half) makes SAO one hell of a drag to watch. It had its few moments, such as an interesting first episode, and a pretty okay episode 10. But the majority of the anime is nothing more than wish fullfillment and fan catering, appealing only to MMORPG players, teenagers and otaku.
Best anime ever my ass.
And now for my own enjoyment; where's that anime adaptation of Chapter 16.5?
I've heard many things about SAO (Sword Art Online): There's either a lot of love or a lot of hate for it. Personally, I'm leaning a little towards the latter, but not fully on it. Before you start sending me hate mail or press the "Not Helpful" button, please hear me out.
As a gamer, and a fan of MMORPG's, I tried to keep my expectations not too high, because you know what they say: "The bigger they are, the harder they fall". Unfortunately, SAO fits this saying to a T, as it was one of the most disappointing anime that I've seen this year. Why?
Well, why do think I'm writing this forsaken review?!
The story of SAO involves players getting trapped within an VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game), in which they are required to beat all 100 floors of the game in order to leave. The catch is, however, that if a character's HP drops to zero before clearing the game, not only do they die in the game, they also die in real life.
The concept of this story is absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately, the execution of this story is poor. The writing and pacing is just awful. Even during the SAO arc of the show, while this was tolerable, I was left wondering, "What on earth is happening here?" The Alfheim arc, on the other hand, was just... I don't even want to describe it. Parts of Episodes 21 and 24 were just borderline unwatchable... (I'm not going to say which parts, just to avoid spoilers...) At least the ending was somewhat satisfying...
Overall, the story was just utter CRAP. A good premise at first, but was terribly executed due to poor writing.
In my opinion, the characters of Sword Art Online were by far the weakest part of the show. The main male character, Kirito, is just a Gary Stu, and nothing more. But somehow, he has the ability to attract girls by just looking at them. Why are these girls attracted to him? I'll never know. The main female character, Asuna, was introduced in Episode 2 as a badass who I had high hopes for. And what happens with her? The writers decide to turn her into a generic tsundere, and in the Alfheim arc of the show, she basically turns into f**king Princess Peach. Suguha, other than being there for the sake of fanservice, and to be part of a love triangle that involved a little bit of incest (It didn't work for me in Elfin Lied, it doesn't work for me here...), pretty much served next to no purpose (In my eyes). And to go into deeper detail about Kirito and Asuna, I could not for the LIFE OF ME understand the romance with Kirito and Asuna. It felt so forced and plot-driven that it made me feel absolutely frustrated.
However, I'd be lying if I didn't say that the reunion of Kirito (or Kazuto) and Asuna during the final episode was heartwarming... (but I digress).
The supporting characters were either uninteresting or just really annoying. The only character I had actual interest in was Klein, but even then, he was pretty much tossed aside. And as for Sugou, he is one of the worst villains I have ever seen. Period. He just absolutely disgusts me... (Though he has a certain line that's absolutely HILARIOUS!)
In the end, next to none of the characters were interesting or likeable in the slightest...
With my bitching and moaning aside, what DO I like in SAO? That's easy. I love how it looks. The art in this show is absolutely beautiful. From the scenery to the action scenes, the animation is consistent and fluid, and the scenery is just gorgeous. Maybe it's the fact that graphics/art is one of the major things I look into within a video game, but I digress.
With animation, this anime hits a perfect bullseye.
Since I'm not a person to critique VA, I'll just talk about the music. Just like the art, I also really enjoyed the music of Sword Art Online (and because I'm a fan of Yuki Kajiura). It reminded me of the countless hours I used to spend on MapleStory leveling up my character. The first opening, "Crossing Fields", got me pumped for an episode; giving me SOME hope that the show would somehow redeem itself (Sadly, it didn't).
Nevertheless, the music was as good as the art!
While I did enjoy Sword Art Online in the beginning, progressing through it turned into more of a chore than an enjoyment. Most of the SAO arc was "meh", and the Alfheim arc was just painful to watch. If it wasn't for the action scenes, this would've been rated MUCH lower.
Overall Score: 5.4 out of 10 (Rounded down to 5)
In my honest opinion, Sword Art online was just painfully average. While the art and music are amazing, the story and characters prevent the show from being anything memorable (At least for me). Like I said before, it is definitely one of the most disappointing anime I have seen this year. Although it's not a 1 in my eyes, it's also not a 10.
Was it worth the hype? No.
Will I watch it again? Probably not.
*Feedback and Constructive criticism is welcome! Just don't be too nasty about it.*
Remember back in July I said that seeing the hype, this would probably become the next Guilty Crown? Well, reflecting on that now…I would like to sincerely apologize…to the Guilty Crown fans because Sword Art Online is nowhere near Guilty Crown’s level in terms of visuals and soundtrack.
As we all know, studio A-1 is not known for action based anime. Most of their signature works are slice of life romantic comedies. The character designs are reminiscent of those in Working!! despite the fact that this show markets itself as a serious action fantasy series. Action scenes heavily utilized flash frames in order to cut
corners. Most of the time, the viewers are just shown the expressions of the characters instead of what is actually happening to the scene as a whole. In some instances, frames from previous episodes were even reused. Saying that the visuals were underwhelming is an understatement.
The music department is one of the few redeeming qualities of this show although this is perhaps Kajiura’s most lackluster work in recent years. Some parts of soundtracks seem recycled right out of her recent works. Not to mention that sometimes, the music does not fit that particular scene. To put it simply, the music was nice, but lacks soul.
Up until now, we’ve covered the visuals and the music. Both aspects are mediocre at worst and are not bad enough to garner the negativity towards this show. So what went wrong? Well, obviously the leftover parts: the plot and the characters.
Truth be told, the premise of the story had potential. However, that raw potential was untouched and on top of that, was marred by absolutely horrid execution in terms of storytelling and progression. An easy phrase to apply here is “show, not tell”. Several backstory filler episodes were carelessly dumped into the beginning of the series giving the impression that the writers didn’t care enough to put in the effort in order to integrate those side stories nicely into the series. To add insult to injury, those episodes were rushed. It’s pretty ridiculous how the progression would have seemed smoother and more acceptable if the content was cut. And as the viewer continue watching, the story becomes a mass of plotholes rampant with tasteless fanservice that are randomly thrown in; In particular, the breaking of game mechanics written in cold, hard code at the convenience of the main characters which will be covered in the next section. Again, this is just very contradictory considering the fact that this show is trying to get viewers to take it seriously. You really have to wonder if the writers have forgotten that this is supposed to be a story about an MMORPG.
Now we come to the last nail in the coffin: characters. Overpowered main characters are not uncommon and there are generally no problems if they are done well. Sword Art Online, unfortunately, did not handle this trope with expertise and fell into the trap where the main character bends plot more than gravity stretches time. Kirito is a walking deus ex machina. He can do and experience things that are impossible according to previously shown game mechanics. His personality and traits also changes according to the situation such as being a fumbling idiot one moment yet two minutes later he is soloing mobs while spitting out cheesy phrases from some Clint Eastwood movie. He simply does not leave a lasting impression other than his role and abilities in the story. Take away his dual wielding abilities and what do you remember him for? Nothing. On top of that, the story gives no sense of excitement due to his overpowering presence. The viewer does not feel pressured to known what’s going to happen next since it’s a given that Kirito will resolve the situation with no problems. Asuna, on the other hand, was introduced as a strong capable female but turned into a damsel in distress under the influence of Kirito’s plot wielding; eventually becoming a fap fodder waifu character. What’s also not helping the cast is that there are no significant characters other than the main characters. Side characters are pretty much irrelevant given their almost nonexistent character development. It’s almost as if they are taking on an episodic approach to the characters despite the fact that this story is supposedly linear with a clear objective or ending in mind.
The final verdict? A three out of ten. This is taken into account the fact that I've changed into a masochist and this show has given me enjoyment and gratification with it's absolutely tortuous delivery. You really have to wonder if fans of this show love the premise of the series or the series itself. Perhaps this show would have done better if it chose a simply fantasy setting instead since it obviously wasn’t adeptly incorporating elements of an MMORPG. In the end, Sword Art Online is a show that can present the who, what, when, and where with efficiency but fails completely to explain how and why I should bother giving a tiny rat’s ass.
Sword Art Online (SAO) had real promising from reading the synopsis; however, I feel that it failed to delivery on all the hype it was getting. But after watching several episodes I feel like SAO has two major issues which make the anime really hard and jarring to get into. These two problems are the Story and the Characters. The story starts off with the premise that players are trapped within the game, SAO, and the only way to get out is to clear all 100 levels. But the problem here, with the story, is that the anime tends to skip months at a
time, which is very jarring as a view. It felt as if I missed out of entire events from watching one episode to another.
The story, though 11 episodes, hasn't really gone anywhere aside from the main characters fighting bosses and proceeding through the levels, but the main problem is that there is no "main" villain per say. And what I mean is that we don't really see a villain (can be argued that the game is the main villain, but I don't think that this was intended). This bothers me personally, I like to see who is pulling the strings or at least some hint of someone behind everything. Sure we saw the creator in episode one, but after that he is never mention again, as of yet. So I've given the story a lower score because it just seems to not be going anywhere and because of skipping so much time.
Characters look great, sets look great, different levels have different art styles, and they all look great. Not much more to say here.
I really loved the music in SAO, I felt like it harmonized well with the different levels worked well during the fight scenes. Enjoyed the music.
There are really only two main characters that we see on a regular basis and the problem is, well, they're pretty boring. There is no real development for our main hero and heroine because they've skipped so much time in the anime and we're not given time enough to get to know and like these characters. I think that the relationship between the two are rushed and is hard to believe. They are too perfect and have no flaws or interesting traits to them, basically they're two dimensional and have no depth to them.
Overall I think that the story and characters really dragged down SAO from being what it was hyped to be. And the problems are so huge that it's hard to over look them and enjoy the anime. From the time skipped, months at a time, I felt very disconnected from the world they presented because I felt as if I missed so much. So it's hard for me to really give SAO a good score because I believe it had great potential and premise. But overall I would give SAO a 4/10 for the problems mention above.
I heard all this hype about Sword Art Online. Any anime site worth its salt has heard of it. It's vaunted as one of the best animes of 2012, and I heard pretty good stuff about it! However if there's one rule about anime is that the more hyped it is, the more crushing when it turns out to be a disappointment. SAO is one of these.
It started out with an interesting premise: ten thousand people are locked into a virtual reality game, with no law or order. They must beat the game in order to get out. At the forefront is Kirito, a skilled
player and one of the original players of the game. It sounds good on paper.
The issue with this is that Kirito is a borderline Gary Stu. He's the Ace, the secret weapon of the players, and all the player's hopes rides on his shoulders. Okay, apart from being a typical sounding shonen hero, that isn't anything special. What IS, however, is that he picks up a LOT of skills that become more and more often deus ex machinas. He steals the spotlight from every other character so everyone else, even our female protagonist, Asuna, can only stare in awe off to the side.
Asuna went from a powerful, pretty awesome character to the love interest that every anime requires. Her powers and skills as co-leader of the best guild in the game gradually dwindle until she's little more than a plot point. The romance between the two is nonexistent, despite it being praised as one of the anime's strongest points. If this is supposed to be the strongest point, I'm glad I didn't exactly go into this with high expectations. I'm not sure the author knew how romance works and that this was wish fulfillment. News flash guys, girls don't hang out with you, eat with you for a few episodes, and then decide they want to marry you. That doesn't happen.
The other characters, especially the female characters, all fall in love with Kirito. Why? I don't know; it isn't revealed. It's as if just being there is enough to charm everyone in sight. That was where I started dreading turning on my computer to watch this awful excuse for a romantic drama. They're shallow, one-dimensional, and bring little to no depth to the storyline whatsoever. They're only purpose is to long after Kirito, making it seem like a poorly written harem story.
The story is awful, despite having a strong premise. Go up a hundred floors (most of these aren't even shown), beat the boss, leave the game. Okaaay... what about leveling? Or getting better equipment? Interactions between guilds? Friendly duels? Anything NORMAL that you'd expect from an MMORPG? Nope, none of that is present, with the exception of illegal duels which eventually becomes murder cases (Kirito solves these, by the way).
The art is just... meh. It wasn't extraordinary and honestly looks like something I'd see out of a dime-a-dozen manga from 2006. No effects really seemed to catch my eye, and the scenery was just average. I expected more from a 2012 anime.
Sound? It does have a pretty nice opening, and the soundtrack is also nice, so if that's your thing, go for it. However, it's simply not enough to bring to the table. I had to force myself after episode fourteen to find episode fifteen and watch it.
SAO is over-hyped. It didn't live up to half the expectations I set, and I set pretty low standards. It's the perfect example of wish fulfillment to the highest degree.
Yes! Yeeees! Oh, let me taste your tears, Asuna!
Mm, your tears are so yummy and sweet!
Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness! Yummy~
In a world where series' like Harry Potter, or other real abhorrent fanfiction tittles the likes of Twilight sells well enough for multiple sequels, it shouldn't be a surprise then, Sword Art Online's popularity skyrocketing that is. Pretty posters, familiarity, perhaps male power fantasies and the like, etc. There are numerous factors that play a part in a works' popularity; but it's hard to pin-point just what exactly got SAO such hype. Especially since it becomes apparent that it was already losing it's
focus just after the third episode. In a similar vein to SAO's sister in terms of popularity still that very same year, Guilty Crown also had an (ostensibly) enormous fanbase even before it aired. It's a mystery really.
SAO is a clear indication that it's target audience are easy to profit from. Which is exactly why it makes it just the kind of anime that makes you wonder about where the anime industry could be heading. It is not a positive influence. And unfortunately for the supporters, SAO does provide with more than enough empirical evidence to tell them that it is garbage but, that would be unfair as there actually is entertainment value to be had here.
In the visual department SAO definitely excels, maybe not enough to make a graphic artist have wet dreams over, though. From the character designs to the very world which they reside in, it is all aesthetically pleasing. And while consistent and fluid in it's animation, it's a little rough around the edges during the fight scenes. There's an abuse of stills to express 'action', and distorted facial expressions used in an otherwise uneventful location (was that actually intended to be used for comedic effect? Welp). Of course, this alone wouldn't damper the experience. If everything else were intact, this would remain relatively unnoticed.
An interesting concept? A Charismatic main character? world building? SAO had just about everything working in it's favor to make it anime of that year. But even with the few legitimate merits it has it does away with them in favor of, well, to make our hero The Black Swor- wait, no one actually confuses to whom that tittle belongs to, right..? - Kirito, more of a flawless gary stu.
All complete with enough deus ex-machinas to make you puke.
Thousands of players dying? All off-screen and no one gives a crap about statistics. Boss fights? Essentially, a grand total of three and they don't re-spawn.You never really get a sense of dread in the world of SAO. Even the very first death was due to a player refusing to take a life potion. And that's all in the first half of the series. The second half? Not even going to touch it. Unless, of course, we're talking about Suguha's sugus here.
And as you can imagine, with it taking itself so seriously already, when it come to the uh... romance the end result is laughable. Later on, at one point Asuna said something around the lines of, "Kirito has changed me, everything I am as it is now is because of him". I started to cringe at that point, none of what she said happened. The characterization suffers almost as much as the writing; or vice versa. Every villain is cartoonishly evil and every supporting character doesn't fair any better either. All of the 'character development' happens during the constant time skips, successfully nullifying it and making for a heavily disjointed pacing. And It doesn't help that the script is akin to that of an eroge. Meaning: A) relationships take on a surrealistic fast pace. B) can't hear a confession a foot away from you. C) Being nice is enough to attract females from all corners of the land, etc.
SAO could very well be suggesting you to be a Infidelity-committing, sister-fornicating, misogynistic pedophile who loves rape as fanservice. Topped only by those slimy tentacles everyone likes. -- It doesn't encourage anything positive, it's too delusional to do so. All the gamer pandering, multiple relationships, etc. It only serves to further take away any sense of realism it might have had, including it's potential to construct a society within a virtual world; firmly planting it into wish-fulfillment territory.
Splendorous action - this is the only reason I can think of as to why I would recommend this show. And yet, despite all that, knowing that it falls off the rails, crashes and burns; it get's back on the tracks again, and again only to end up crashing.
Sword Art Online is a pioneer of its genre in that, the source material dates from all the way back in 2002 (.hack// being of the same vintage). This is important to note as with all pioneering feats, there is an initial sense of wonder and hype, followed by disappointment as the same concept is refined and improved upon. To give an example, the Victorians pioneered the underground railway in London, a marvel at its time but it was soon realised that they dug the tunnels too small. The tiny, overcrowded trains of today cannot be appreciated for
its breakthrough in technology. SAO, due to its nature therefore shows the same seemingly obvious flaws that only become apparent in hindsight.
With that said, SAO is a fantastic piece of work considering how the author was only a high school student at the time, and how he ventured into previously unexplored territory. The author and the subsequent adaptation by A1 pictures successfully manages to impress the intended audience; the teenage market. This is done through a careful blend of adventure, cliffhangers , pacing, deux es machinas and a good cast of girls.
The show starts off with a highly interesting premise with players in a perfectly modelled virtual reality. Since their consciousness is surrendered to the NervGear hardware, the only way to return to the real world is through the “Log Out” button which has unfortunately gone walkies. We follow the life events of our protagonist, Kirito as he battles his way through his ups and downs, which is not limited to fighting.
Kirito also faces a daunting challenge emotionally, as the stakes are exceptionally high. A death in-game equates to death in real life. These obstacles flesh out the human nature of Kirito’s character in great detail. His behaviour, emotions and actions are closely related to his recent happenings and experiences. Kirito starts off as a social recluse who prefers to limit his interactions with other people. This leads him to shun the cooperative nature of MMORPGs and plays solo. Through a chance encounter, Kirito manages to befriend a group and re-learn the significance of friendship and comradeship, and how that improves his mental well-being. This does not lead to the unrealistic result of Kirito becoming instantly socially adept, as he faces further obstacles and setbacks that push him back to his reclusive old self. Such flaws truly show that Kirito is simply a mere mortal with variable emotions and feelings, which serves to connect with the viewer with empathy. For Kirito is only the strongest player in SAO due to his effort and research, rather than simply being perfect. Only through real experience can Kirito grow as a person, and the growth is closely tied in with the story.
A1 Pictures is to be commended for only highlighting the most significant parts of Kirito’s story as he fights to clear the game. Thousands of hours of level-grinding which was normal in the Everquest era of 2002 (when SAO was written) has given way to achievement caps relating to the hours you play in a day in 2012 (when SAO was adapted). To put it in simpler terms, the firms that make MMORPGs implementing such caps means the community has democratically voted with their wallets that level grinding is far too troublesome and boring.
We are therefore treated to relevant side stories instead of level-grinding filler. Each of these side stories involves an encounter with a supporting cast with wide variations in personalities and nature of the quest. Through the use of variety in the story, not only do we get to see Kirito develop, but also the world. The viewer is introduced to the world of MMORPGs involving Guilds, Raids, Smithing, Conspiracy and even a compelling virtual romance that becomes the foundation of a timely rejuvenation of Kirito’s character. Relationships however, are a two-way street and Asuna’s (the main heroine and Kirito’s girlfriend) worldview is also seamlessly influenced, and improved. The two-way nature of the relationship really makes it convincing, and leaves a lasting impression. The end product is an Asuna, despite her obvious flaws as a human, becomes a character whom many would look up to, due to her dedicated and faithful nature that was born out of hardship.
All of the above really shows that the writers performed an exceptional job. The accurate portrayal of the fickle nature of human emotions, and especially during the tumultuous years of adolescence really brings the show to life. The level of language, and the tones used by the voice actors were highly appropriate. They successfully avoid Kirito sounding like an aged professor with a PhD in SAO, and a realistic mix of rational decision making and emotionally-charged angst is used.
The quality of writing continues with the way the villains are portrayed. The first major villain, Kayaba is an accurate rendition of the genius, lost in his own world, which he seeked to control. He is the prime example of a person termed as a sociopath. The best aspect of him however is not his character itself, but the way he integrated himself into the storyline, and produced the most unexpected plot twist. This twist is a very crafty, and convincing one due to it being totally out of the blue yet in hindsight, perfectly plausible.
The second villain, Sugou on the other hand, is the purest example of a villain in recent times. Villains are meant to be bad, but not all can be successful at being bad and unique at the same time. A recent, highly successful example to compare is Raoul Silva, the highly-acclaimed villain in James Bond’s Skyfall. Not only was Silva bad, he was amusingly bad and obviously received pleasure from just being plain ‘badass’. In SAO, Sugou betters Silva by not only bringing amusement, but also the purest feeling of disgust against the character. In essence, Sugou is the victim of his own success, and the show goes to great extent by detailing his personality and motives. The icing on the cake is when Sugou subjects Asuna to the unthinkable, further solidifying the author and A1’s innovative risk-taking with the series.
Although show is somewhat lacking in all-out battle action which comes across as strange, due to its highly suggestive title; the art of swordcraft, the worry is misplaced. The rarity of such scenes only serves to enhance the excitement during the boss battles. The immersion is further exemplified by the convincing use of light effects during animated scenes. This highly appropriate use of animation technique serves to amplify the effect of each, and every single hacking and slicing motion. Instead of Diablo-style hack and slice spamming, we are treated with the significance of each motion. A1 Pictures have clearly taken on board the mantra of quality over quantity.
Unfortunately, following the mantra means the show tried to cover too much, in too little time. An attempt at too much quality in too little time. SAO attempts to provide a realistic and varied portrayal of the world of MMOGs. They have unfortunately made the pioneer’s mistake of being far too ambitious. Some characters are casted a little too far to the side and that includes those that greatly influenced Kirito’s development being one-episode wonders. This is especially evident in the ‘Aria’ sub-arc where A1 Pictures attempted to cover too much ground in a single episode when Asuna was introduced. Nevertheless, while this may seem detrimental, the flip side is of course, the less intrusive nature of the side cast. This approach avoids the trap of character bloat which other series have fallen into. Despite the blunder with ‘Aria’, Asuna gets the focus she needs later in the series.
The excellent writing and animation is greatly amplified by the renowned composer, Kajiura Yuki who worked on the music. The style of the music resembles her most recent previous work (Fate/Zero), but is sufficiently different to set it apart, reminiscent of the time she worked on Mai-HiME and Tsubasa Chronicles back-to-back. She forgoes her usual techno, and instead utilizes a greater reliance on classic instruments and the orchestra. A highly appropriate decision as the art of swordsmanship and the resulting swordfights are traditional in nature. Despite classical instruments being rather ‘soft’ in comparison with electronic music, Kajiura delivered beautifully with the softer style actually multiplying the effectiveness of the battle scenes. Her mix of opera in the battle tracks only serves to give a sense of ‘epic’, seen in the likes of “The Lord of the Rings”.
It is important at this point to mention that SAO actually has two, highly distinct arcs. The second arc is not a death game, but a race against time. It also gives a much-needed change in pace from the seriousness that hung over the first arc. Unfortunately, the benefits of a slightly light-hearted arc is also its downfall. The sense of urgency from the race against time was not portrayed in the best manner, with Kirito taking seemingly pointless detours, which in actuality was in fact, perfectly reasonable. A1 Pictures disappointed in this regard, disconnecting the viewer with the character’s decision-making. Nevertheless, the detours sets the foundations of Kirito developing in the real world, and explores his relationship with people that are the closest to him. Aside from the minor drawback, the quality of writing is still very good (but not excellent) and the quality of animation and music is maintained.
All in all, the excellence of the individual components (e.g. sound, animation) come together at the end to give the viewer an anime that is pleasant to see, awe-inspiring to hear, and minds in intrigue with the story. A1 Pictures has successfully created an adaptation that entertains a wide variety of audiences. SAO is a must watch for fans of adventure, fantasy, romance and even harem. Even the detractors derived a whole new level of entertainment, expressed in forms not limited to reaction videos on YouTube. The product’s success is clearly seen through pure, objective evidence by means of Blu-Ray sales as viewers have overwhelmingly embraced SAO.
Overall, SAO gets an excellent 9/10. A truly enjoyable series that crosses an extremely wide range of anime fanbases which is no mean feat. It is probably fair to deduct a single point in light of the slight weakness in ‘Aria’ and in the second arc but not any more than that due to the amount of ground that required covering in order to complete Kirito’s development.
Now that I’ve mentioned ‘Aria’, there is another anime of the same name. This series must never be watched, for it involves girls simply rowing boats for 3 whole seasons. Worst of all, a ‘moeblob’ (in other words, ‘moe[brown stuff]’) loli character is introduced, being evidenced by her having an S-tier Zettai Ryouiki. The wise community must avoid such monstrosity going after easy cash and stick to shows of a deep and profound nature, such as SAO.
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 (who is actually his cousin, which somehow makes the romantic siscon undertones not as bad).
...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.
This is a review of Sword Art Online’s adaptation. I do not care for the light novels, this review is based entirely on the anime adaptation.
The Story (4/10)
The plot for this anime falls below that of an average seasonal anime. Sword Art Online begins with a good, interesting premise. The first two episodes are actually very promising. However, once you get past those initial episodes the show doesn’t really do anything of interest and feels like it was written by a sexually frustrated teenager. As I said, the concept is good and somewhat tragic. A new virtual reality MMO opens up and thousands of
players begin grinding away, only to find they cannot log out of the game and are stuck in this virtual world. There are so many possibilities and interesting things to be done with this premise. Sadly, it’s all wasted. Forced romance, time skips, filler and a random love triangle plague this anime.
It’s not that the story is dreadful, it’s just that it was incredibly mediocre when there was so much to be done with it. Disappointing. And that’s without mentioning the second half of the series, which is legitimately awful. Seriously, if you are going to waste your time on this show for whatever reason, just drop it when you get to the halfway point. You’ll know when you’re there. There’s a load of bullshit, Gary Sue, rule-breaking nonsense. I could go on all day, but then I’d have to give actual spoilers.
Art and Animation (8/10)
Very solid, actually. High production value and nothing to complain about really. Other than the fact that this decently-sized budget was wasted on a terrible show.
Ahh, Kajiura Yuki. A shame his time was wasted on this tripe. Honestly, it’s not one of his best works. It fit the on-screen stuff but nothing really stood out. The first opening by LiSA is great, however. Possibly the best thing to come of this series.
Nope, nope, nope. I can deal with silly characters like Yui from K-On. I can deal with whiney characters like Shinji. But the whole point of this main character is wish fulfilment. He’s a self-insert; an antisocial, somewhat pathetic, MMO playing teenager. I’m not sure if they were trying to make a character as close to the intended audience as possible, but they damn well succeeded. He’s then somehow amazing and brilliant at the game purely because he did some beta testing. In fact, he even defies the rules of the game. The hard-coded rules matter not to this Gary Sue! He also becomes some sort of courageous leader, somehow. He changes in the series but there’s no character development. He just kind of decides to be different.
Now for the female cast. I’m sorry, but how is this loser surrounded by attractive young women? Why are so many attractive young women even on this game? Way to ruin any suspension of disbelief. The female lead, Asuna, was perhaps the one character with some potential. Unfortunately, just like the premise of this show, the potential goes to waste and they turn what should have been a strong female lead into a damsel in distress.
This series is below what I’d consider average, even with the high production value. If the second cour never happened this might have been above average for me, but the latter half was just too awful. If you are the target audience for this show (a teenage male who enjoys playing MMOs) then you may very well like this series. It is watchable, and some episodes are pretty good. Think of this as the Twilight of anime; there are occasional good moments, but to actually enjoy the whole thing you need to be a specific type of person.
I would not recommend this show to anyone outside of the aforementioned target audience. Those people will probably love this series, but to everyone else you’ll probably feel that you’ve wasted your time. Good premise ruined by childish wish fulfilment.