There are a lot of things that can be said about Sword Art Online, and most of those things are not pleasant. I will not mince words: I am no fan of the series. The first season was filled with so many issues, both significant and minor, that even watching a single episode was an incredible test of patience. There were some neat ideas hidden in between the mountains of nonsense, and while I can understand why the show was so enjoyable to so many people, in my case, it was like an aneurysm waiting to happen.
There is often a dichotomy of
opinions towards the show. There are the fans who adore the characters and setting and staunchly defend their right to enjoy whatever they please, and then there are the critics who despise everything the series stands for, often going to the extreme of attacking the fanbase and treating the series like it is an abomination forged in the fiery pits of hell. And that is precisely why, regardless of which side you stood on, Sword Art Online was likely not the kind of series that could be given a shrug and promptly forgotten.
"Was". The same cannot be said for the second season of Sword Art Online. Whereas the first season was either the song of angels or the cacophony of demons, the second season is the essence of mediocrity. It delivers even more of the virtual reality-MMORPG setting and Kirito's usual 'time to save the day and wink at my bitches' attitude, but that's really all it is: 'more'. It's not offensively bad like the first season was (though it does come close at times), nor does it deliver anything to keep the fans particularly excited. It is a sequel that exists to be a sequel. It exists because the author created a successful franchise and thus he needed to keep the fans appeased by throwing more Kirito and Asuna their way. The story could and should have ended after the first arc, but profits seem to speak more than artistic expression. So it goes.
To have a discussion about Sword Art Online is to discuss its flaws. There is almost an endless supply of issues to complain about, and while I will not be able to mention all of them (lest this review reach novella length), I also do not believe that enjoyment alone is enough reason to praise an anime. So you will have to forgive me for nitpicking the show to death. The little things do add up after a while. Death by a thousand cuts, they say.
Sword Art Online's lacklustre second offering begins with the initially promising (and quickly disappointing) Gun Gale Online, or GGO arc. After the events of the first season, Kirito is tasked with investigating the murder of several people within GGO, because... well, apparently a teenager is more capable than the police or a federal agent who has actually been trained in investigation. He is also forced by his contractor to play in the game as a female avatar, because reasons. If that is supposed to be a method to help conceal his identity, it certainly does not have any effect when he continues to refer to himself as "Kirito". Most likely, the author simply put this in so that the fans might be able to write yuri doujins and fulfil their secret desire to be the little girl. That's cool either way, but it doesn't do much to establish the series as something that can be taken even remotely seriously.
Speaking of his female avatar, Kirito is seemingly the only guy in the entire game who plays as the opposite sex. You would think that pretty normal (it's common enough that people often have to question the real-world gender of female avatars), but every single guy in the game believes without a shred of doubt that Kirito is actually a girl. And so they hit on him and fawn over him. Sinon even goes into a full-blown rage when she finds out about Kirito's actual gender, stating how she feels betrayed and how Kirito was a liar for not telling her in the first place. Like... okay? I guess the author felt it necessary to turn Kirito into a heroine himself because there somehow wasn't enough fanservice already, what with all the frequent shots that stare directly at Sinon's butt.
Kirito being Kirito, he immediately makes a name for himself by winning a near-impossible minigame with little to no effort. And while, sure, it isn't too strange that someone would immediately get the feel for an MMORPG, it is certainly a problem when his playstyle is utterly contrary to the nature of the game. GGO is not a game about melee combat; it is about guns, grenades and positioning. If a player decides to pull a knife twenty feet away from someone with a machine gun, they will be absolutely and utterly destroyed. Or at least that would be common sense, if sense actually applied to Kirito. He decides to use a lightsaber (yes, seriously) in a first-person shooter and then proceeds to dodge or cut every single bullet that ever crosses his path, and in one case, even sends a bullet flying into a building which then causes the entire thing to collapse (apparently he deflected a tank shell). Perhaps Kirito is some sort of god, seeing as he can think and react thousands of times faster than any other human being. The show explains it away with some 'high agility stats' nonsense, failing to realise that Kirito predicting the path of dozens of bullets two feet in front of him requires superhuman thought just as it requires superhuman speed. It seems Kirito is so powerful that petty concepts such as sense do not apply to him. Praise be to our God, Kirito. May he forever bless us.
Thankfully, the addition of Sinon creates a bit of a distraction from the Kirito bollocks, but her being a female character, she still inevitably becomes a part of Kirito's harem. And he manages to swoon her by spouting some of the most embarrassingly cliché lines I've perhaps ever seen in an anime. Let me quote one of his brilliant lines: "No one dies alone. When that person dies, the part of them that lives within someone else dies too. You already live within me!" And yes, this is actually something he says within the show. Now excuse me while I go and vomit.
There is also one particularly obnoxious scene in the second episode where Sinon, falling from the top of a skyscraper, somehow dodges all but one of the hundreds of bullets hurling at her from the gattling gun below. All of them land just a few feet below her, which one would assume is because the shooter is trying to match his aim with her falling speed, except if he wasn't completely lacking in brain cells, he would realise that all he needs to do is stop moving his aim for a fraction of a second and Sinon would be annihilated. No such thing happens, and Sinon sends a sniper bullet through his head as she approaches the ground (because that is how sniper rifles work), spouts a cheesy catchphrase ("The end!") and lands with one of those cliché shots where where her back faces her dying enemy. I'm not sure if this was scene was supposed to be 'cool' or something, because the only emotions it conveyed to me were frustration and embarrassment-- embarrassment over the fact that I just finished watching something that even 10-year-olds would think dumb.
Sinon's trauma is somewhat interesting, for it at least creates a character in the show who is actually flawed as a person. But the manner in which this trauma is developed is far from great. She's portrayed as being emotionally strong, even more so than Asuna or Our God Kirito, and then as soon as she sees the same pistol that was used in the incident from her trauma, she immediately turns into a suicidal mess, saying how she doesn't care about dying while actively making an attempt to survive. Whatever. The trauma is not there to develop Sinon's character in any meaningful way or to carry any message about the struggles of post-traumatic stress disorder, but simply exists to establish her as a tragic heroine so that the audience can pity her and empathise with Kirito's desire to protect her. How exciting.
The show also tries to create a trauma for Kirito too, although it only ever comes across as a lame, cloying attempt to make him a darker character. He is apparently haunted by his SAO days where he was forced, in self-defense, to kill two player characters who were murderers themselves. He is so damaged by the incident that in one scene, a nurse actually hugs and comforts him, but his supposed trauma is never explored in any depth and is forgotten about as quickly as it is mentioned. The fact that he can laugh, smile and engage in PvP only moments later is a testament to the fact that it never really mattered in the first place. It also shows that the author has no idea what kind of character he even wants Kirito to be: is he a dark anti-hero or a light-hearted goof who just happens to be good at MMORPGs? The show has no idea. It throws Kirito from personality to personality, to the point where you have no idea who the hell he even is any more.
The story surrounding the antagonist of GGO (cheesily named "Death Gun") deserves a small amount of praise for its willingness to change the show's formula a little bit by creating a meaningful connection between the virtual world and the real world. The way in which Death Gun carries out his crimes is actually quite neat, but the identity of the killer is perhaps less so. The killer immediately transforms into a raging lunatic the second their identity is revealed, committing their crimes for reasons as dumb as "I hate my parents". Is it so difficult to write an antagonist that actually has personality and a legitimate (though disagreeable) reason for their actions? It's not as though every person who ever commits a bad deed is a psychopath. Normal people do bad things, too.
Most of the suspense of Death Gun's murder spree is created through dumb contrivances, though. The characters cannot log out in the middle of the tournament, meaning it is impossible to avoid being killed by Death Gun unless they defeat him in the game themselves. I am pretty sure it would be against every sort of law imaginable, especially after the SAO incident, for players to not be able to leave the game whenever they please. What if there's something urgent going on in the real world and they can't get to it because the tournament is taking longer than expected? What if their bloody house is on fire? This restriction is utterly asinine and would never actually exist, but I suppose there wouldn't be much story if it didn't. Sword Art Online is less interested in creating a believable world and more in twisting and changing everything about it to fit with the author's whims.
The story of GGO is over before it ever really starts. It's a shame, because the setting actually carried a surprising amount of potential. The post-apocalyptic, mercenary-led and cyberpunk wasteland of GGO is far more exciting than the tired 'fairies and elves and swords' fantasy of SAO and ALO. Once the fight with Death Gun is wrapped up, Kirito and his harem simply move on to the next game without much care.
Except the 'next game' is just ALO all over again. The second arc of the story is a forgettable haze of nothing. All that happens during these three episodes is that Kirito obtains the most powerful sword in the game, because he wasn't already powerful enough, or something? There's also more utter stupidity like Kirito and his party being pulled into a questline that can actually delete the entire game's data. I am absolutely sure the developers would program something that allows years of hard work and their entire source of revenue to be brought to nothing. Right.
And the next game is more ALO, too, although the story does attempt to take a different turn in the third (and final) arc by temporarily passing the protagonist baton to Asuna. But even a lack of Kirito seemingly cannot do much to improve the series. Even with the incredible amount of detail given to Asuna's character-- her troubled relationship with her mother who wants her to lead a normal life, her feelings about the future and her struggle to save a newfound friend-- somehow, after all those episodes and all those awful things she had to deal with, Asuna was still the exact same person she was during her first appearance. She does nothing but fill the shoes of what many would consider the 'perfect girlfriend'. She is lacking in flaws and devoid of personality. She's just a pretty face who goes through some bad things. I suppose the aim shouldn't even have been to develop her character, but to give her a character in the first place. If you throw a rock into a tornado, it will still remain a rock once it reaches the ground.
Among the dozens of other things in the third arc to find issue with, there is one particular scene that comes to mind. As Asuna and her new friends are fighting to reach the boss room before another group of people, Kirito somehow, conveniently, shows up as a part of their reinforcements. He decides to betray them all for Asuna and her friends' sake, and holds off the twenty or so people completely on his own. The initial half of the enemy party decides to use healers, and one of Asuna's allies then complains that they're "not being fair", as if using healing magic in an MMORPG is somehow a new concept. They manage to win despite being vastly outnumbered, and as Asuna and her party enter the boss room, Kirito, surrounded by flames, makes a peace sign while holding off the horde of enemy players. Somehow I think this scene might feel more appropriate in a teenager's fanfiction.
It should also be mentioned how cringe-worthy any scene with Yui is, such as when Kirito writes a program so that she can 'see' through the cafe's camera and then hang out with them in reality. Please. She's an annoying NPC, not the daughter of a bloody teenager. If she were to be erased from the entire story I doubt anyone would complain.
And why are Kirito and Asuna so incapable of showing physical affection? They've been dating for three years now and even made virtual babies with each other in SAO, but in the real world they do not dare kiss or engage in sexual activities. It makes their relationship feel very weak, superficial-- almost like the author is afraid of fully committing them to one another because it would make Kirito unable to have his harem. The show eliminates any sense of a realistic romantic relationship by attempting to appease both harem and Asuna fans, except in reality, it has quite the opposite effect. Those who want to see the relationship between Kirito and Asuna developed will only find themselves disappointed, and those who want more of the harem will find themselves even more disappointed.
The problem with Kirito's harem is that all its members are there only as eye candy. Even Kirito's bouncy sister is pushed to the side and made irrelevant, despite her receiving so much screentime in the previous season that it seemed things were about to develop into a love triangle. Nope. All that was for nothing. She and the others all still follow Kirito along, finding themselves jealous whenever he and Asuna share a tender moment, and really, what is the point in them even being there at this point? To remind us they exist so that they can used in ero-doujins? Great.
Furthering this issue is the show's reluctance to write in male characters that are not raging lunatics or utterly irrelevant. Kirito is the only male in the entire story who ever matters. None of the girls have any interest in Klein or any of the other males; they just fight over Kirito despite the fact that he is already (supposedly) in a relationship. It's not that there needed to be another male character with his own love interests, given that Sword Art Online is absolutely terrible at writing romance, but the least the show could do is give Klein and the others a bit more attention. Klein exists only as some random dude that tags along with Kirito, and it's a shame, because he's a hell of a lot more interesting than Kirito ever was.
The last few episodes carry a fair share of emotional weight, but it's quite difficult to care much about what's going on when the entire arc moves at lightning speed. Asuna and Yuuki act like they're best friends after only knowing each other for about two days, and it's not much longer until Asuna starts rushing to her side in the real-world and crying for her sake. Sure, it's pretty hard not to feel sorry for Yuuki given how crappy her situation is, but the audience is just thrown into the drama without being given any time to think about what's going on. I'm not the kind of person who believes there is something inherently wrong with shock value, but I mean, for god's sake, the least you could do is give me some reason to be invested in the characters first. It's just melodrama without purpose.
The actual fight scenes are also thoroughly disappointing. There are no longer any situations where the characters' lives feel at stake. It's a video game and Kirito is incapable of defeat. Most of these are barely longer than two minutes, anyway, so if you were looking forward to massive boss battles and crazy nonsense from the first season like Kirito's dual-wielding skill, there is none of that here. The show instead spends most of its budget on Sinon's ass.
Does Sword Art Online look nice? Sure. And it sounds nice, too. But no matter how pretty the scenery and how intense the main battle theme is, it cannot make the unexciting exciting. Unless the music is married with an appropriate scene, it will achieve nothing if not being awkward, and often the scenes in Sword Art Online feel awkward. All Sword Art Online does is look and sound nice-- in this case, the wrapping paper is more exciting than the contents.
The show has some issues.
I still feel there's so much I've missed and so much more that needs to be said about the series. I've tried my best to assort all my angry groans and rolled eyes into something that actually resembles a proper piece of writing, so if it feels like a massive wall of whining, I apologise. There was a lot to whine about.
And no, I don't believe that my standards being "too high" is a valid rebuttal. Standards are not something that anyone should ever apologise for. It does not matter if a show strives to be some intellectual commentary or if it's content just being simple-ass entertainment (and Sword Art Online definitely falls on the "simple-ass entertainment" side of the spectrum). If a show is dumb enough that you can enjoy it only by turning your brain off, then it is not something that is worth your time. There is plenty of entertainment out there that can be enjoyed while the brain cells are in use. Some of them are even aimed at children (see: Aikatsu, Cardcaptor Sakura or My Neighbour Totoro), so I don't see much reason to force yourself to enjoy mediocrity when quality is easily available.
But if you enjoy Sword Art Online, that's OK too. You're free to watch and enjoy whatever the hell you damn well please, and the people who say you are a lesser person for enjoying mindless entertainment are just as mindless themselves. Sword Art Online definitely has a great deal of appeal among younger folk and MMORPG fans, but please, if you enjoyed the series in any capacity, do yourself a favour and do not conflate your personal enjoyment with critical quality. Fun does not necessarily mean good. It often does-- how can we appreciate something we hate watching, after all?-- but in this case, the enjoyability of Sword Art Online has nothing to do with its merit as a story. Because it doesn't have any.
Sword Art Online is a mess and it needs some shovelling.
Before I start this review, let's all take this moment to bow our heads and close our eyes as we pray to the great and almighty Jesus-kun.
Oh Jesus-kun, let your humble servants be like thee oh Lord. Let us become OP, plot armored, self insert chick magnets so that we can build our own harem. Bless the harem oh Lord, that it be deemed worthy of your hax abilities, AMEN!
You know how you can tell if a story is retarded? When the only way it can continue is if your main character makes an extremely illogical decision, that anyone
with common sense would normally refuse. "Escaped a game where you almost died and suffered psychological scars as a result? Well why not jump into another one :D !" ...The show has yet to get pass episode 1 and has already proven that a room full of monkeys could write a better script. But I won't completely kick SAO II in the balls, as they didn't repeat the crazy timeskips like before.
You know what you don't do with a 24 episode run? try to squeeze in 3 disjointed arcs into one. You thought the move from Sword Art to Alfheim in season 1 felt left field? Well the transition from Gun Gale to Alfheim takes the cake.
The mini mission arc in the middle isn't even worth mentioning, since the whole purpose was to simply make Jesus-kun more hax than he already was by giving him the legendary sword Excalibur (sorry Saber).
Then there's the final arc.. Which was a melodramatic story for the sake of getting the fans to cry a river. "Video games help make AIDS suck less".. now try saying that out loud without facepalming yourself into a coma.
As much as the SAO franchise make me grit my teeth, it should go without saying that they have great production value. This was no exception as they made a visual spectacle that is pleasing to the eyes. The vibrant color of the game world will keep even a person with ADD attentive. The cinematics are also top notch, as the fighting sequence will have you creaming your pants.
However I can't say the same for the character designs. If you take a still shot you'll realize every character shares the same face, which is beyond lazy... But hey, I guess God really did make everyone in his own image.
To add to the visuals, we're also given a score to match the mood. Each scene is matched with a musical theme that works in unison. The OP & ED are even good stand alone listens. The voice actors were also fine, but no stand outs come to mind. They did what was needed to carry the show, and that to the least deserves credit.
Most of the characters from Jesus-kun's harem don't even receive any roles other than being the sideline cheer squad for our MC. Even Klein, who started out promising in season 1, is degraded to comedic relief. The main antagonist from GGO, Darth Vade-... I mean Death Gun was, believe it or not, a good idea for this series. Through him they tried to give Jesus-kun an internal conflict via post traumatic stress disorder. They also tried this with Jesus-kun's new harem addition Shino.. Now notice how I said "TRIED" as nothing really changed after the following arc was over. Kirito remained the plot convenient God and Shino simply fell in line as another conquered piece of ass by our savior. The last character worth mentioning was Yuuki, who only survived the Harem God's clutches by succumbing to AIDs. Introduced in episode 19, we're only given 5 episodes to give a fuck... This is a text book example of forced drama, making Yuuki's existence to be nothing more than a token sympathy character, rather than an actual person. The only good thing to come out of this cast was Asuna, who finally got more screen time. Despite her "development" being brought on by forced drama it was better than having Jesus-kun bask in the limelight. Which in turn made SAO II slightly more tolerable than the season 1 trainwreck.
Despite its 5 page MLA format filled with problems, I enjoyed SAO II for what it was. They tried to develop a few of its characters. They tried to improve the shit story of season 1. And they tried to shine light on someone other than Jesus-kun. Although they failed in spectacular fashion, it was still fun watching it do so.
SAO II excels in the audiovisual department but once again repeated its past mistake of having borderline retarded characters and story. For those seeking to give SAO redemption with this continuation don't hold your breath as it still remains in cesspool quality territory. However If you're a fan of this series and have yet to watch it then by all means give it a go, as it does improve some flaws that were apparent with season 1.
*Sigh... What am I doing with my life? Seriously: What do I have to gain by bashing this show? I’m certainly not the first one to rip this anime and its inane hype train a new one and I definitely won’t be the last. Therefore, forcing myself to sit through yet another collection of incompetent pacing, plot points that make no sense what so ever, and an unbearable self-insertion protagonist doesn’t really seem to be worthwhile, does it? And yet here we are. Goddamn it… Ladies and gentleman: It’s fucking back
Synopsis: After restoring VRMMORPGs to their previous glory by being the total badass
he is, Kazuto Kirigaya is approached by a detective who wants his help investigating the “Death Gun” incident. This incident is a recent event in which a mysterious user who goes by the SUPER original name of “Death Gun” somehow managed to kill another user in real life by merely shooting him in the VRMMORPG “Gun Gale Online”. Kirito agrees, enters the game, is instantly amazing at it (shockingly), meets a sniper girl named Sinon, and enters a big tournament with the hopes of facing off against the mysterious “Death Gun”.
Now, that plot summary probably makes the reader raise a few questions, such as: “Why is the police department recruiting a random highschooler with a documented history of VRMMORPG-caused psychological trauma?”, “Why does Kirito, the man who almost lost his life and witnessed others lose their lives in a video game, doubt so harshly the possibility of death through amusphere?”, or “Why God? Why is there a second season of SAO?” Well, unsurprisingly, none of those questions will be answered. However, that shaky premise is only the modest start to a slew of other problems that this show truly suffers from, and most of them are even worse than the first season.
Arguably the biggest flaw of the show is that the pacing is PAINFULLY slow. I’m not exaggerating; each episode covers about two sentences worth of plot. For a show that’s supposed to be centered around action, it is astoundingly boring this time around. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for the first four episodes to be condensed into one; then we would be talking. Unfortunately, the show never addresses this issue and smacks us across the face with filler as it drags itself out for as long as possible. It's unwatchable at times.
Another major issue is the fact that the plot no longer has any suspense and provides no reason for the viewer to care about what is happening. In SAO’s first arc, we at least had a reason to care about what was happening inside the video game because it was life or death; the stakes were high and lives were on the line. In THIS season, however, the only driving force for us to care about the virtual world no longer exists outside of spurts of laughably forced melodrama. As evidenced by episode 2, the show tries to be theatrical/dramatic in order to convince the audience that what is happening in the game is REALLY important when it so obviously is not. I kid you not; there is a scene in this episode where a full-grown man almost has a mental breakdown because his PH (player hunter) clan was losing a fight. …DUDE. IT’S A FUCKING GAME. We are forced to listen to Sinon (more on her later) give us a ridiculous, obnoxious speech about how logging out and giving up on the battle is “dishonorable”, AS SHE IS KILLING AND LOOTING INNOCENT PLAYERS. Yeah, real sense of “honor” you got there. This might have worked in the first season when the stakes were legitimately high, but when the setting of your story changes drastically, you must adjust the content accordingly! I mean, it’s not like I’m surprised that this show doesn’t make any fucking sense what so ever, but I still have to point it out. Overall, this is just an unbearably stupid plot, as per usual. Impossible to take seriously.
As for the characters… well... what can I say that hasn’t already been said about Kirito? He is made only to pander to male-power fantasies. He is amazing at everything he does, he gets all the girls, and he has no flaws what so ever, etc. Basically, you wish you were Kirito. He is made for the purposes of self-insertion, and while people who know anything about storytelling recognize that this is a SHIT way to write characters, Kirito has been instrumental to the show’s popularity. I HATE that this is the kind of character that becomes popular nowadays, but that’s part of the reason I am writing this review; if enough people don’t complain, it will continue to happen. Don't even get me started on the laughable ways that they try to get the audience to sympathize with him. The only other major characters this season are Sinon and Asuna. Let's start with Sinon, who is another completely worthless, helpless female for Kirito to add to his harem. The show tries to characterize her by describing her devout fear of guns, and I mean DEVOUT. This girl is apparently so scared of guns that she vomits all over herself just by glancing at a FAKE gun (‘cause that’s totally believable…). Now, you may be asking yourself, “How can someone who is so irrationally scared of guns be a top player in a super-realistic VRMMORPG that is obviously multiple steps above the intensity of holding a toy gun in your hands?” Well reader, shut up. This is SAO. Never question it again. …In all seriousness though, her entire backstory is just completely laughable because it doesn’t make any sense at all. One of the worst portrayals of PTSD I’ve ever seen in media. Any personality traits she may have been given eventually fade away into the same old harem-girl bullshit at the first sight of Kirito. Valiant effort, A-1, at least you are trying harder, but this character still sucks. As for Asuna, you already know the drill. A misogynistic object for Kirito to impress and presumably bang. She has an arc dedicated all to herself this season, and it's the cheesiest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. It's like SAO learned to write dialogue entirely through trashy romance novels. Very, very cringey. I won't say anything to spoil the villain of the first arc, but oh my god, if you are in need of a laugh, this show's midseason finale is a must watch. I was literally crying from laughter. That's how stupid SAO's villains are. Maybe worse than season one's.
In conclusion… It’s fucking SAO. If you liked the first season and were able to somehow overlook its ludicrous amount of flaws, then you will probably like season two as well. If you actually have standards, recognized how incredibly overrated the first season was, and hated it, you will also hate this season. To be fair though, the show is still well animated and the music is still great. I’m also willing to admit that SAO has a certain charm to it that shines through despite its major problems, which is probably the reason it has gotten so popular. Do I recommend this anime? No, not unless you are a young teenaged male, but it’s not the worst I’ve seen.
It came, almost like if it has been created for one purpose: polarize the public opinion, and yet the same scenario from back then take place, to be or not to be.... mediocre? I guess the answer was already given in that first season, I'll just throw it here, if we're watching this sequel we already know what to expect, there won't be a glorious comeback, we're watching the wrong franchise otherwise, SAO II is the same old SAO after all.. and for those who understand this basic concept, it might be entertaining somehow, I won't hide that fact, just make sure to leave the
common sense and critic spirit in the next room before you close the door, that it's.
SAO II inherited everything from it's predecessor, specially the bad traits that characterized the first season, traits that were a lot more in highlights this time since we had already experienced them, we live for the second time those faults that made infamous the first season, we could almost say it's practically a déjà vu. Such traits are numerous, we could generalize and call the amount of the bad traits: The SAO Formula, a pattern of events presented since Aincrad, proposed again in Fairy Dance, and finally in this last installment, Phantom Bullet. Being able to determinate such pattern is not something difficult, we could summarize and say: "Kirito came, Kirito saw, Kirito conquered", but since this is a review let's analyze a bit better this concept.
Phantom Bullet takes place a year and half later the SAO incident, Kirito, now living the normal high school life, is approached again by Seijiro Kikuoka, some guy from the Government, who informs him that a series of mysterious murders were happening, where?, obviously inside another Virtual Game. After the previous fantasy themed arcs, this time we have a characterized cyberpunk environment, a huge breath of fresh air, which provides in the only campus SAO distinguish itself, whiteout failing miserably, the Setting (I'll talk about this later). Gun Gale Online, the virtual reality game where a mysterious avatar called Death Gun seems to have the power to "kill" the players inside the game. After a remarkable phrase by our protagonist: "There's no way that someone can be killed inside a game!", almost like if his memories from the SAO incident were erased, he decides to find the culprit by entering this new world, Kirito goes to investigate!.
This is when The SAO Formula emerge completely, in correspondence like the previous arcs, Kirito is assisted by a new female character, in a new game, in a game where you could die in the real world, with an overly pathetic character as villain (Yup, a complete new environment!), but leaving aside those utterly obvious facts, the thing I disliked the most was the absence of simple Logic. If in the first season were remarkable deus ex machinas and bad developed scenes, in SAO II we have the complete absence of logic reasoning.
(Now I'll write some phrases with the interrogation point just to emphasize better my point of view)
Leaving Kirito completely alone during the investigation phase?, Laughing Coffin members that should have been arrested for murder after the SAO incident?, a guarantee security for those, possible, Death Gun's targets by placing some cops inside their house?... no? what about tracing somehow the IP?... for god's sake we're already in a future where Virtual Reality exist and the police can't really trace a player inside a game? and their only savior is a 17 years old kid?, c'mon!.
This season is characterized by Stupidity itself, there are no words able to justify the overly idiotic events occurred, because if there were for the previous season, this time there aren't. And we have yet to talk about how ended Phantom Bullet, the cherry in this cake!, the climax... but that would be spoiler so I won't, I'll just say instead: "ASADA-SAN, ASADA-SAN, ASADA-SAN!!!", you'll understand later and when you reach that part, drop a laugh in my honor.
In a similar mode as the previous arcs, the plot focuses only on Kirito and the new girl (The SAO Formula in action again!), ASSada Shino, while leaving aside the others characters that were once important in the previous arcs, reducing their screen time to only a few scenes. That means we don't get any Asuna or Suguha, already side characters, or how I like to say: "They became part of Kirito's party", and once they join it, the characters loses their personality completely becoming a side character, part of Kirito's harem. Unlike the previous season, the characters psyche is analyzed a bit more deeply and the result is... pretty lame. Actions scenes are replaced with boring dialogues between Kirito and Sinon sharing their experiences with Death and how they dealt with them. Actually I like this kind of approach in the characters but with Kirito?... God no, it doesn't feel right in SAO, it doesn't fit the anime. Cool actions scenes with great soundtrack fits more the show, but that wasn't delivered, in part. The only thing that won't miss in this sequel, in every scene, is Sinon's compact ass, we got a picture of it in every possible angle.
In this second installment Phantom Bullet isn't the only material adapted from the Light Novel, there's also some arcs we could consider as fillers but they aren't, they're present in the Light Novel. Only from SAO we could expect actual canon material to have that unique air that fillers have, anyway these two arcs are Caliber and Mother's Rosario. While the attempt of Excaliber is to light the mood before the heavy drama oriented Mother's Rosario, the result we get it's the exposure of The SAO Formula, yes again. Caliber focuses in Kirito's party, Sinon, already part of his harem, with the special participation of the other girls, Asuna & Company, aid Kirito to complete an ALO Quest. Meanwhile Mother's Rosario focuses on Asuna and her meet with a mysterious girl named Yuuki, drama development is guaranteed.
Like previously commented, SAO II inherited everything from the previous season, also those things worth to be praised, the Animation, the Setting and Soundtracks. Extremely fluid animation followed through the actions scenes meanwhile -not the best Yuki Kajiura recycled work- harmonized the environment. The Setting is something I really liked from the SAO franchise, it's detailed and somehow it drags you inside, Fantasy and Fairy tale like from the previous arcs and now GGO's cyberpunk, it's notable the effort done to create this, I tip my hat. OPs & EDs singles managed to be catchy but a lot less compared to the previous season, anyway "Courage" by Haruka Tomatsu is worth an illegal download at least.
Overall I wouldn't consider it a total waste of time, this show is watchable, I won't say it's a pile of crap or rage about it, I mean, if you're watching SAO II you already know how this was going to be, so I'll just express my expected disappointment with a big "Meehhh" and end this review right here.
Another flagship of the Anime Industry has ended again today. While some people would be delighted by Sao II ending, most are left wanting more and eagerly anticipating the next Sword Art Online. While the series itself is not perfect, I wouldn't say it's garbage as some would say it. I am going to cover the three arcs as separate rather than as a whole so it would highlight their strengths and weaknesses better, then combine it to an overall score.
Story, Phantom Bullet(8/10): The first arc is the meat of SAO II. It has the most episodes spanning 14 of the overall 24. Here,
Kirito ends up in a VR called Gun Gale Online where he is tasked to investigate the deaths of VR players in the real world by them supposedly dying in the Virtual world. The story was crafted excellently, while it did have a slow start at first, the ending was satisfying. There are however inconsistencies to how the story picks up the pace. For instance, the story already jumped to Bullet of Bullets in the very first few episodes, then it jumps to Kirito defeating other players easily, then a duel with Sinon, then after defeating Death Gun. It feels rushed even though the story presented itself well. It doesn't give itself enough time to catch up with itself, it sends Kirito to battle and ends with KIrito beating his enemies. The story though is packed with the Impossibilities like the first SAO. This Time, characters are haunted by their past , and it's up to Kirito to guide them out of it. While that may seem irrelevant to the story, it adds a little emotional impact to the overall arc.
Story, Calibur(7/10): The second arc of SAO II. Here we find Kirito and his Harem + Klein back in Alfheim. They all do a quest to retrieve Excalibur from an Ice Kingdom and ultimately save Alfheim altogether. While it was a good watch, I felt the story was the weakest out of all the arcs. It didn't offer anything new, and it didn't bring out anything we haven't necessarily seen before in the SAO franchise. It's basically an arc dedicated for Kirito to get an upgrade. It is still refreshing to see the old team back together including Sinon to clear out dungeons and let them show off their skills after seeing Kirito slaughtering every bit of competition he has out there.
Story, Mother's Rosario(9/10): The third arc, this is where I don't want to go into detail about because it's an arc where you should see for yourself. I personally think this is the best arc out of SAO II. It doesn't focus on action as much as the previous arcs, it focuses a lot on characters and their hardships in the real world. While some may get turned off by that, it really is a good arc to see further character development in some characters.
Story, Overall (8/10): From the first to the last arcs, the story was great. While a side arc did manage to outshine the main arc for me, it still was a great story to marvel at.
Characters(9/10): SAO II brings to you a new cast with very enjoyable characters. Kirito, Asuna, and the old gang are still there. With the exception of Kirito, and Asuna on the third arc. Most of them were hardly touched. Kirito still drives the main story further with help from new characters. The first up is Sinon. Sinon later became my favorite heroine at the the end of the the first arc. Maybe i just have a thing for girls with a heavy anti-material rifle for a weapon. You get to see into her past and her reason to play a game like Gun Gale. She seeks strength and finds that within Kirito. The next up is Yuuki and the gang on the third arc. This is where the emotional aspect of the show is centered. Konno Yuuki is labeled as Zekken, or Absolute Sword. She is they say the strongest player in Alfheim. While she's strong in the Virtual world in the real world she faces countless problems. It's the same with the rest of the Sleeping Knights. They face numerous problems in real life, and they dive into the Virtual world to escape those problems. You see the relationship grow between Asuna and the Sleeping Knights as the story progresses. You see what the characters have to face in the real world, and their methods to escape that harsh reality.
Art(9/10): Just like in the original SAO, SAO II brings with it fantastic looking worlds and characters. Gun Gale is just amazing to look at. it's a deserted area with tons of destroyed building and broken down vehicles. Also sand, sand everywhere. It's the perfect setting for a game like Gun Gale where bullets are flying everywhere and the world looks like its going crumbling down. Alfheim is also present with beautifully crafted atmosphere. In the Calibur arc, you see what lies underneath the world tree, it was once a prosperous land, but now it's covered in ice and snow. The new bosses and characters are also made fairly well. The back ground characters do look a lot similar, but that's understandable since drawing thousands of unique faces would be a waste of time. However the main and supporting cast all have their personal touch to their avatars which makes the look admirable. #CaitSithSinon
Sound(8/10): The sound overall was good. I don't really have much complaints for the sound even though I gave it an 8. Both Openings were amazing and characters themselves weren't annoying to listen to.
Enjoyment(9/10): I had a lot of fun watching Sword Art Online II. It gives me more to think about when I decide to let my mind wonder. Just the thought of how close a different world can be so close to us just makes me want to watch more and more. I really do hope they come out with an SAO III, it would be to sad to see an anime as great as this with more tales to tell us stop right here.
Overall(8/10): It's an enjoyable show to watch that most people often ridicule too hard because of it's growing popularity. It's a fun series with a lot of great ideas to offer. It's not perfect having some flaws, but it's not as bad as people turn it out to be. I recommend giving the series a go and decide for yourself. Do not let anyone's opinion hinder you from enjoying this show and determine for yourself if it is worthy of your time.
I started SAO II because hearing so many people saying it would adapt arcs that are vastly superior to the previous ones made me really curious about how far this franchise could go, and I bet wasn't the only one. As I bet that I'm not the only one who was left absolutely, utterly disappointed (but not surprised) upon seeing all of the same old bullshit that made the first season so terrible repeating itself.
This review may contain spoilers from now on.
Sword Art Online II adapts two arcs from the novels: GGO and Mother's Rosario. Oh no, wait, it's three arcs: there's also the
Calibur arc - hard to remember it even existed considering it lasted for about three episodes and had no relevance to anything at all. But again, is there even a point to anything in this show other than showcasing how amazing & powerful Kirito is and adding new girls to his harem? I guess not. SAO remains what it is in its core: a self-insert show with childish writing scattered everywhere.
Let's talk about each arc individually. The first one, GGO, is the least weak of the bunch (not that this means anything when all of them are bad). It features Sinon, a new member of Kirito's harem - I mean, heroine, as well as a new setting. The fact that they cast aside an entirely underveloped cast of characters to introduce a new girl should already be stinky - but as if that's not enough, GGO is very sloppily written. They use the most ridiculous excuse to connect the current events to events that happened back in the first arc (I mean sure, the laughing coffin members murdered people 'n stuff, but it makes all sense that they're still out in the loose and not in jail!), as well as a MASSIVE amount of stupidity such as "People are getting murdered inside of a game again? Well geez, I guess our only solution is sending in this 17 year old all alone to investigate this!" The logic in this arc is piss-poor, and as anyone can guess, everything is resolved by Kirito finding out all by himself how the villain was working and who he was, with little to no base at all. I mean of course, Kirito is so awesome he figured everything out by himself! It made all the attempts made in the very same arc of giving him flaws and depth a complete joke. This arc's main antagonist is also a pathetic piece of turd with terrible characterization - you know something's wrong when a villain's entire backstory, motives and goals are explained by the protagonists while they're chatting and having coffee.
Calibur may as well be summed up in a single phrase: What was the point? It features the "main cast", if they can even be called that, clearing a quest in ALO. And yeah. That's all. It feels like really, REALLY bad filler, and I have nothing else to say about it.
Moving on to the last arc, Mother's Rosario: it's an arc where Asuna is the protagonist, along with Yuuki, another newly introduced character. To put it shortly, this arc will do ANYTHING to make you cry. It's as if the writer was noticing that he didn't look "mature" enough with the whole in-game murder thing and thought to himself "I need to add some more drama to this". So cue Yuuki's storyline - no, cue Yuuki's entire character, who was designed to make you cry with the whole "My whole family is dead and I have a terminal disease" thing. Predictably, they deal with this in a very insensitive way - it's not organic, it's not presented naturally, it's 100% designed to make you pity her. Yuuki is more defined by the fact that she's terminally ill than by her bland personality, which makes the second time in SAO II where the writer uses an illness as an accessory to earn easy tears and seem mature (the first time being with Sinon's PTSD). But as you can guess, the way it's presented and dealt with isn't mature at all, it's borderline insulting. Mother's Rosario is also supposed to be an arc where Asuna gets developed as her own character, but considering that her biggest conflict was convincing her mother that she was ready to drop everything else in her life to be with Kirito, it only furthered her role as the lead waifu of his harem.
If I talk about the characters it will take me another 10 paragraphs, so let me try to keep it short. Kirito is still the same thing as in the first season: Amazing, cool, incredible, smart Kirito, who finds out the truth behind serial murders by himself, cures Sinon's trauma by himself and is apparently also a mechanics genius who can make video game characters see the real world. They try to give him depth in GGO by showing that he's truly traumatized by the events of Aincrad, but it backfires horribly when right after it's shown that he's a "strong person who keeps moving foward regardless", a.k.a. he can get over it quite easily if the plot calls for it. They also tried to give Kirito a goal in him striving to unite the virtual and real world as one, but it backfired again as it's clear that nobody gave it enough thought to realize how stupid, dangerous and almost villainous this sounds. His smug-ish attitude towards Sinon also remains unchanged from the previous arcs, so don't worry, he's still an annoying prick on top of being a terrible self-insert character.
Sinon had everything to be a good character, as she's the first heroine in this show with a palpable personality, but they sacrifice it to make her the tsundere that was missing in Kirito's harem. They use her being understandably wary of him as an excuse to make her act tsun-tsun. There's also her backstory, which could have been good if the writer had even a slight idea of how panick attacks and PTSD actually work instead of getting them triggered whenever's convenient to the plot. Her character development revolves 100% around Kirito. Sinon's role in the show is defined by the moment she says "Someone, please save me" in episode 3: she wasn't there to be a character who learns to save herself and grows in the first place, she was there to be saved by Kirito and later fall in love with him. She was there to be nothing more than another disposable harem member disguised as "strong female character". In the end, Sinon is no better than Asuna.
Speaking of Asuna, she succeeded on having the most bullshit "character development" I've ever seen. Introducing her family out of nowhere and sparkling conflict with her strict mother wouldn't have been that unacceptable, really, if at least she had something to fight for herself, but it doesn't count if said conflict is her mother not wanting to let her ruin her life getting married young (to Kirito, of course). Asuna's entire character arc isn't about her growing as a person, it's about strengthening her resolve to get married to Kirito - as IF she needed that, considering that her entire character is defined by her love and devotion for Kirito in the first place. Mother's Rosario did nothing for Asuna as a character as much as it did for her as a "waifu". She will probably be even more loved by otaku now that she fits the "perfect wife" stereotype better than ever, but it sure as hell doesn't make her well written. She, Kirito and their sappy romance remain as flat and unsavory as ever.
I could write about the other characters if there even was something noteworthy to say about them. Suguha was dropped into limbo after ALO and has no relevance in the second season, but that's to be expected - if you're a female character in SAO, you only have two jobs: Falling in love/getting rescued by Kirito in a certain arc and providing fanservice. After that, it's as if you never even existed in first place. The only thing I can say about Suguha, Rika and Silica (and Sinon after GGO) is that the way they get angry at Kirito for getting attention from Asuna is extremely immature, annoying and unfunny considering that they are, you know, engaged. But again all the comedic moments in SAO sound like they were written by a horny 13 year old boy, so I guess it's nothing new after all.
I don't have a lot to say about the animation except that in some scenes it looks pretty good and carefully done and in others it's literally slideshow bullshit (look at the first Calibur episode, for God's sake). Overall, it doesn't look bad. The sound is ok, too. None of it is bad, but also not good enough to even remotely come close of saving anything in this show, so I won't even bother talking about it any further.
Well, now you can downvote me to your heart's content.
Sword Art Online is a series that needs no introduction. To be quite frank, the first season spawned a lot of controversy with the adaptation. As a show taking place in an online realm, the series had a lot of potential but never really capitalized on them when it came down with the story and characters. Luckily, season 2 does freshen up a bit with some brand new storylines and characters. In particular, one of the first story arcs involves Kirito stepping forward into a new realm known as GGO.
To trace back a bit, the series is based off a light novel of the
same name written by Reki Kawahara. As a 2 cour series, this sequel focuses on three different arcs that are adapted from the light novel starting with GGO (stands for Gun Gale Online although the actual arc is titled Phantom Bullet). While the name seems unorthodox (guns in a show with a title called SWORD art online?), the arc actually deepens its mechanics in ways that are more profound than the original. The first few episodes highlight this by exposition and explaining thanks to a young girl Kirito meets in-game named Sinon. Regardless of how GGO functions, Kirito’s main goal isn’t to actually win but to find out a mysterious killer who seems to know him. Meanwhile, we learn more about Sinon and her fear of guns that leads her to make a goal of herself: to get over that fear. While the motivations of both characters are farfetched, there’s a definite connection between the two as the game progresses.
Now, introducing a brand new major character can be a hassle. Luckily though, Sinon isn’t a weakling and she has the resolve to accomplish her goals. We also get flashbacks with concrete background information on her so nothing is left out to make viewers wonder her motivation. But the problem still remains with Kirito and his self-centered goals. While it doesn’t necessarily ruin the arc, his goal of trying to hunt down a cyber-killer is nothing less than generic and similar to ALO (remember him trying to find a villain who tried to ruin his life and Asuna’s?). Somehow though, the arc does manage to connect Kirito and Sinon despite some clingy and over-dramatic dialogues. A few episodes also stretches a bit to highlight how close they become in-game, despite them being enemies at one point. The ending of the arc is nonetheless predictable with Kirito playing a hero like the usual poster boy. The good news is that the GGO arc has great concept with its competitive angle. Competitors, weapons, and setting is visually adapted with elegance and astonishing features. Even the cyber-killer looks convincing enough to be called a menace with some cool gadgets to show off. And Kirito still remains very OP for someone new to the GGO world. When it comes to the action front though, GGO is where the game can be proud of itself. However, the antagonists from the arc is downright stereotypical, generic, and has a delusional purpose when the audience finds out the truth of their goals. Did I also mention predictable? SAO is a lot of things and the show never seems to escape that word.
As the series covers three different arcs, there’s an intermission of sorts. Perhaps I’m saying this wrong but the episodes taking place between GGO and Mother’s Rosario (the other major arc to be adapted this season) feels like so. In this so called Calibur arc, the series returns to its generic setting of sword fighting in their online virtual realm. Kirito also gets a new sword to show off while his female companions seems to try to get their senpai to notice them. The arc is fairly standard and predictable that uses tricks from the old books. However, I do give praise to the choreography and action presented. Every character gets some kind of highlight with their skills. It’s important to realize this since it also allows the viewers to see how far their skills developed since the first season. One other important element to notice in this arc is teamwork as the arc doesn’t just give Kirito all the screen time. Even Klein, a character that some people might have forgotten from SAO, returns and gives the audience something to remember about. To me though, this seems like a preparation to what’s to come soon; a way for the characters to stretch out their muscles and be like “We’re ready to take on anything now”. Still, it lacked much depth or appeal with the story development.
The final arc of the season titled ‘Mother Rosario’ take up the remainder of the season. This arc has more of a slice of life and action-centric flick mixed in together. While it starts off slow, the arc gets to its point quickly once the mechanics and backgrounds are fleshed out. Asuna, a character that seemed almost completely pathetic during ALO, finally gets a chance to redeem herself in this arc. Rather than have her knight in shining armor (Kirito) do all the dirty work, she takes it upon herself to deal with a new conflict. Most importantly is how we see Asuna and her family is like, in particular with her mother. It shows a different side of her lifestyle beyond just spending time with her boyfriend. There’s also a case of ideology that can be seen as controversial depending on whose side you agree with. But for what it’s worth, the arc bounces between real life issues and in-game motivations; a direction that definitely outshines its first half. Not to mention, the action scenes are fairly well done with decent OST and coordination when it comes down to the actual dueling. The arc expands beyond just dueling though as we learn more about the new character (Yuuki) involved and what the audience may be carving for.
When it comes to visuals, it’s fairly standard to see that SAO has touches of fantasy to it whether it would be the settings, characters, monsters, or whatever else you would typically see from an RPG game. Similar to season 1, A-1 Pictures adapts this based on the light novel designs. While fan service toned down a bit, there’s also some zany gimmicks used such as gender bender and the animal characteristics. In spite of this, the GGO setting is one I found to be the most evolved on the visual front. Taking a closer look, the landscapes is desolate but rich with details for a perfect setting for battle. Not only that but characters are designed like they actually have the edge to fight as if their life is on the line; unlike the previous season where some character had cardboard box designs. Action and production values also strengthened with more stylized movements. However, most of the returning main characters still remains generic to their character designs with little change. They are unmemorable on physical standards although I do give some praise to Sinon’s character.
Soundtrack is perhaps the weakest detail of the sequel. Nothing is really changed to the OST besides some minor adjustment while character voice mannerisms remains generally the same. While the first OP song is catchy, the remainder are mediocre that almost all sound the same. Most of the voice castings are also very standard with cheesy dialogues and overused words often to highlight some sense of emotional value; although real life conversation between some characters are worthwhile in particular with Asuna and her mother. I have some mixed feelings with Sinon’s voice with that tomboy tone of hers. While she definitely has a sense of independence with that tone, it also seems bratty at times and feels cranky. Other times though, she can be appreciable when we see her as a person.
As a sequel, SAO II is definitely an improvement of the first season. It gave returning characters more development and screen-time on their own while also debuting new characters with their purpose. The first arc (GGO) highlights the mechanics of the game at a much better way than the first season while also has a meaningful purpose for Sinon. Unfortunately, it doesn’t escape the usual “hero save the day’ shenanigan or one dimensional villains with their mojo. But for what’s worth, SAO’s technical aspects shines more than what is expected when it comes to action. The Calibur and GGO arc are a testament of this while Mother Rosario also gets its moments with consistent choreography such as the dueling scenes. As the show did evolve, this sequel does have potential but don't expect a huge blockbuster.
To sum it up:
The story (GGO/Phantom Bullet: 6/10), (Calibur: 4/10), (Mother Rosario: 8/10 ) – each of them offers something new to the tables; some still suffers from generics and weakly developed tropes.
Characters (7/10) – rather than Kirito become the host of his own show, we get development of Asuna and Yuuki, focus on Sinon, and also teamwork during the Calibur arc with each character getting some sort of spotlight
Artwork (8/10) – much better than season 1
Soundtrack (5/10) – repetitive and edgy along with second rated voice mannerisms
Enjoyment (6/10) – a fun adventure with different feelings of each arc
It was Fall of 2012, and it almost seemed as though the world was in a bleak dark place of temper tantrums and violent outbursts. These were formed due to the nature of one simple questions: Is/Was Sword Art Online really that good or bad? Both sides had convincing arguments to their reasons for disliking or liking the show. But, ultimately, it has now become a staple of how every year, there is that one over-hyped show that defines anime of that year. Now it’s 2014 and we finally have its sequel under the cheers and groans that look forward to or dread it.
one question remains amidst to its conclusion: Is Sword Art Online II better than Sword Art Online? The answer being: yes… kind of?
Make no mistake I was, and am, of the camp that did not see the general appeal to Sword Art Online. With its sometimes flashy action sequences and brilliant score became a general mess of incoherent pacing, god awful 2nd half, and atrocious character development. Going forward with Sword Art Online II, all but one of these negatives that I had with its prequel are officially gone: character development. Of course, this is due to the fact that the prequel introduced these characters, albeit a short while, so now with the sequel, we are able to get to know these supporting characters a fair bit more than at first glance. This in turn makes them a little bit more relatable and likable in that scenario.
Now there are characters that are new to the series that make their debut in this sequel. Sinon being the most notable and hyped character, it is poignant to see how she holds up as a character all her own. From her standout arc, Gun Gale Online, there are some positives to her that I can see clearly but other times I see plenty of negatives that keep her from being great. To put it more into perspective, Sinon has a likable presence and personality that is easily relatable, but her character arcs involving her psychological trauma is, suffice to say, hokey. Her unwillingness to shoot a gun, and yet is able to shoot at most enemies in the game with no hesitation whatsoever comes across as a bit counter-intuitive.
This hokey logic can be applied to the story at large. Although I will say that the story is, by far, the one thing that they didn’t make even worse from the prequel. the hiccups there are in leaps of logic, and trust me there are some, most of them don’t come near close to how badly they were beforehand. There is, of course, the unfortunate illness to the series where the 2nd half of Sword Art Online just becomes weaker as it goes along. Whereas in the previous season it was messy storytelling throughout the 2nd half, here its just flat out dull and meandering. All it is just an uneventful, sappy melodrama involving Asuna and one other character whose backstory I won’t spoil. And really, the less Asuna in any season, the better.
Even with the problematic story elements aside, there are certainly a few moments in Sword Art Online 2 that seem almost laughable in its attempt to be serious. One instance being one of the antagonists going on a full-on psychopathic meltdown on our hero Sinon that goes on for almost five minutes. I almost felt as though the voice actor couldn’t do the script justice and tried his best to make it dire, but failed to do so. What went on was this overacting scene that felt way longer than it needed to be; at the same time it did give me one of the hilarious moments in anime this year.
Now we have what many come for Sword Art Online for: the butts. Er, I mean, the animation and sound! Seriously though, unanimously, everyone can make the case that this series has really good production values. It does have some nice slick backgrounds with really nice lighting to make the world feel vibrant and alive. With this, we have the fighting scenes to go with it, which I seem to be of the minority that the fight scenes in Sword Art Online are pretty mediocre at best. Compared to other shounen shows that do their actions scenes well, here in Sword Art Online 2, most of the fight scenes are pretty tame. Hell, the first one had way more in terms of quality action and even then it didn’t hold a candle to other better fighting shows out there. This entails from how the characters’ actions seem very disjointed and their movements feel rough around the edges at certain points. Nevertheless, when it’s not going for fast paced action, the art and animation is quite stunning for the eyes to see and gander at.
It would be far-pressed to express some sort of relief that the sequel brought us something that’s not unwatchable, even if it still wasn’t a great final product in the long run. For what it’s worth, I could see myself watching this again; at least, insomuch how I would prefer it over the prequel, if I had a choice. It still can’t be given a passing grade from the story’s pacing and writing problems that lower its quality amongst other shows that deserve it more. As if that wasn’t enough for over-hyped shows to begin with.
Sword Art Online... You know, I hear alot of fanboys say that the second season is much better than the first, but I say they're dead wrong. When I started watching this season, I told myself that I'm not taking anyone's word for it and will let the show speak for itself. If you ask me, Sword Art Online should've ended after, y'know, Sword Art Online. Even if Aincrad was a terrible arc, it would've ended with at least some dignity. But nope, Fairy Dance just had to drive whatever dignity it had into the ground.
The second season of
Sword Art Online is split into three arcs: The first arc is Phantom Bullet (Episodes 1 through 14). One year after the SAO incident, there have been killings of players in real life in a game called Gun Gale Online by someone by the name of "Death Gun". Since it's been proven that it's no longer possible to kill someone through the game technology, Kazuto is brought in to log into GGO, and enter the Battle of Bullets tournament to get to the bottom of Death Gun.
How in the world did anyone say this arc was better than the first two arcs? If anything it's just as bad.
First of all, no matter what anyone tries to say, Kirito is not smart, complex, or badass character. He's a Gary Stu, a wish-fulfillment blank slate meant for basement-dwelling loser teenage males to insert themselves onto and a walking example of the writer's complete and utter laziness. His GGO avatar looking female is absolutely stupid and completely pointless. I mean, I can understand the G.I.R.L. thing because I've done it once before, even though it's stated that it's more of an effeminate looking male appearance. But here's the thing: The show plays it up as if he is a female. I don't need to hear Kirito do a dumb girly voice. And even the process on HOW he gets that avatar is stupid. First of all, no MMO would ever give a player predetermined avatars. Secondly, out of all of them, Kirito just so happens to get one of the rarest ones.
And let's talk about how he's the only one out of how many players to use a lightsaber. (Yeah, I'm calling it a lightsaber because that's exactly what it is. It even makes the same sounds effects.) And yet the show passes that off as "if it can be bought, it can be used." But the deal is no one in GGO ever thought to use it. It's basically there waiting for Kirito alone to use it. In fact, the fact that no one but Kirito can, because he's Kirito, proves the writing is too lazy to make him learn anything. Yeah, fans say he's not a Gary Stu. Everything I've seen out of this show makes me think otherwise.
Now Shino Asada/Sinon, the female lead of the Phantom Bullet arc. Her story is that, at the tender age of 11, she was traumatized by shooting a bank robber out of self-defense, and as a result, gained a phobia of guns and anything shaped like one, such as a gun hand gesture. So she plays GGO as a form of exposure therapy to help her fight her fear of guns.
So what happens to Sinon's character? Take a wild guess. Here's a hint: It's starts with "K" and ends with "irito."
God, I can't stand her. I hate her as much as I do Asuna, and that's a big low considering Asuna's one of the show's worst characters. She started out as a decent character with a decent backstory, but then she turned into an useless crybaby whose only purpose is to shove her pancake butt to the audience. If you're gonna do that, A-1, at least give her a nice one. And it made me discover what's wrong with females in this show, and why they're only meant to inevitably become part of Kirito's harem. This is an rundown on how female characters are "written" here: "Here's a potentially good character. I'll spend an episode or two showing you why you should like her. Now that she has your interest, watch as I completely toss out everything you liked about her and make her dependent on Kirito-kun while I laugh at your face, you goddamn idiot." It happened to Asuna, it happened to Suguha, and it happened to Sinon. Did you expect anything less? Like I said before, there is no point in liking any female character in this show, let alone Sinon, if they're just gonna get their character trampled on by Kirito.
And yeah, I do understand how her idea of exposure therapy works. "I've been traumatized by gun violence and by playing Online First-Person Shooters, where I'm surrounded by guns will help me cope with it in real life." Here's the problem with that: First, even if I can buy the exposure therapy idea, you don't relive into the very thing that caused the trauma. Second, the exposure therapy idea ultimately goes nowhere. Kirito does everything for her and she accomplishes nothing on her own. Likewise, they pretty much retconned Kirito's PTSD from SAO just so he can out-PTSD her to make her weak and useless. Her character becomes so dependent on Kirito that it's sickening. You'd think that Sinon, having experienced the same kinds of things Kirito had, would be the one to help Kirito cope and eventually they help each other cope with their respective fears. But since this is SAO, Sinon's only real worth is her pancake butt. Whatever dialogue she has with Kirito become awkward and pointless when she's essentially riding his D.
And after all is said and done, Both Kirito and Sinon's PTSD magically disappears Heck, their PTSD turns on and off whenever the plot needs it to. If the writers actually knew a thing or two about how PTSD works, then they would've known that no matter how much therapy is taken, PTSD is stuck with you for the rest of your life and all it takes is the trigger to bring it back. I'll go into more detail about how this show and its writing has no respect for this stuff later in the review, but what Sinon really has here is a much different form of PTSD: Plot-Triggered Stupidity Disorder.
Now the villain, Death Gun, or as I like to call him "edgy Darth Vader knockoff", and yes, he basically is. The dude is a walking Lucasfilms lawsuit waiting to happen. I mean, nothing's original, but SAO is so unoriginal that I feel it rips everything off. The guy does not feel threatening at all. He's basically evil for the sake of evil and his attempt at villainy falls flat.
We learn that Death Gun is made of at least three persons: Shouichi Shinkawa/Red-Eyed XaXa, his younger brother Kyouji/Spegiel, and his partner Atsushi Kanemoto/Johnny Black. XaXa is logged into GGO as Death Gun, while Kyouji or Johnny Black breaks into a victim's home and injects a lethal drug, while at the same time watching a livestream to perfectly time it so that it looks like Death Gun killed a person in-game. Kirito figures ALL of this out without any prior knowledge. He doesn't take random guesses; he is 100% on the mark. He can't log out during the GGO tournament (because the developers forgot how much of a safety hazard not being able to log out), and he's not in contact with anyone in the real world outside, so his figuring this out comes off as complete convenience.
And to make matters worse, Kyouji being one part of Death Gun was made so blatantly obvious in the third episode that I was more concerned on what dumb motivation he had for killing. And even worse, we have him attempt to rape Shino. Yeah, because murder-suicide is already bad enough, we gotta pull the rape card. Because it worked SO well the last time. And even if Shino was able to fight off Kyouji for awhile, in the end, once again, it's Kazuto that bails her out. It's a problem when this show constatly uses attempted rape as cheap shock. It's also a problem when people actually and seriously attempt to defend such idiotic, offensive, and effortless excuse of writing, which, if you ask me, only makes them just as bad since they allow this garbage to get away with murder. If this had only happened in Fairy Dance, then I would've thought nothing of it outside that particular moment. But nope! Now that SAO has trivialized sexual assault on two consecutive occasions, I have every reason to assume that any subsequent villains will eventually attempt to rape a girl at some point in their time, because we gotta follow the "all bad guys are rapists" cliche so that big, strong hero Kirito can save the girl. Like I said before, ff you can't write attempted rape without any real meaning or purpose other than "all bad guys are rapists", then don't do it.
Wanna know why SAO does these things and gets away with it? Because you allow it to. Yes, you do.
This entire arc runs on the characters being dumb as a brick and plot convenience. And there are two grating examples: First, we learn that Death Gun is an SAO survivor, just like Kirito, only he was a Player-Killer. However, despite knowing where he came from, Kirito doesn't know who because when Death Gun was about to tell him his name, Kirito basically ignored him because he never thought he would see him again. Nothing works even on a basic level, because it feels like not a single piece of thought or logic was put into it.
Believe it or not, I tried to give this arc a fair chance, despite the fans saying it's the best one (and I never listen to the fans anyway, because I found this arc utter trash), but every single time it convinces me why I should never give Sword Art Online any chances at all. Because when you let your guard down for even one second, it drops to the bottom of the barrel. Honestly, this arc is only better than the last arc because it had none of that incest crap. Other than that, it's the same ol' trash I've come to expect from one of the biggest piles of garbage to plague anime in recent years.
The second arc, titled Calibur, takes up Episodes 15 through 17. It follows Kirito and his harem and Klein going on a sidequest in ALO to find the Holy Sword Excalibur.
What was even the point of this arc? No, seriously, what? Nothing. There was no point to it. It was basically the equivalent to filler. It's not like anything in the Calibur arc matters in the long run. Heck, nothing after Episode 14 matters honestly. It's like the writers just ran out of ideas and instead just show Kirito being awesome so the viewer can throw your money at the screen."It takes an idiot to do cool things. That's why it's cool." Honestly, that's Kirito in a nutshell: An idiot who does cool things, and you love it because Kirito is supposed to be you. That's you doing the cool things, and that's you being an idiot. Like I said before, blank slates like Kirito are not good characters. They're meant to be a medium of wish fulfillment and power fantasties, so that you can project yourself onto him, and his personality is what you make for him.
The only things really worth complaining about in this arc is Sinon, because like Asuna, her extstence is a complete sin to the entire series as a whole, and is only there because catgirl and contribute next to nothing. Also, Kirito's personality shifts between arcs, in which he goes from a shell-shocked warrior to a complete asshole. Even if you can say there's nothing at stake here, him being a jerk to his friends for no reason is really stupid. But it's okay because he's the main character, so no one will bat an eye about him yanking Sinon's tail or kicking Klein in the face.
That said, I'd much rather take boring filler over the two arcs before that... and the next one.
The third and final arc of Season 2, titled Mother's Rosario, takes up Episodes 18 through 24, and while most fans say it's probably one of the best arcs, I disagree. I think it's up there with Fairy Dance as the worst of SAO as a whole, mainly because it promises a probability of SAO actually being somewhat decent only to do a complete 180 and show how low it will go to manipulate the viewer while at the same time laughing at the face for anyone who fell for its trickery. Mother's Rosario is SAO's biggest slap to the audience's faces. Remember when I said I should never give Sword Art Online any chances at all, because when you let your guard down for even one second, it drops to the bottom of the barrel? Well, this arc is the reason why I'm going to hold to that statement for the remainder of the series.
In this arc, Asuna takes center stage. Kirito has a small presence but enough to offer up some plot convenience in the arc, which is a good thing because Heaven forbid we keep making him the one and only star of the show, stealing everybody else's spotlight. She is recruited by Yuuki Konno/Zekken into her guild, the Sleeping Knights. Their goal is to defeat a Floor Boss with only seven players before they have to disband.
Let me just say this: A character whose only goal in life is being Kirito-kun's waifu (which she said in the beginning of the season) is not even a character, let alone a strong one. And guess what? Asuna's character doesn't change beyond being Kirito-kun's waifu. Maybe she might have changed, but in the end, she reverts back to the way she started. Her story is basically dealing with her mother who wants to set Asuna's future. Which is understandable, because children at Asuna's age at this point (18, I believe) are nearing adulthood and have to start planning for their future. On one side, she's right about setting Asuna on the right path, because spending time online with friends won't get you anywhere in life. But on the other side, she's wrong for forcing it all onto Asuna without her say in the matter, which included, if you recall, marrying her off to a middle-aged businessman who kept her comatose and sexually assaulted her.
The problem here is that Asuna doesn't confront these problems head-on. She runs away from them. Whenever her mother calls her out on her spending time online with friends and Kirito, Asuna's first instinct is to walk away and attempt to escape from her harsh reality by running into Kirito's arms. Because she feels at home online with Kirito rather than with her own family in real life. I don't mind escapism so long as it's doesn't try to avoid and/or ignore the characters' issues in reality, which is what SAO does. Secondly, her running away the issue proves how childish and weak Asuna is. The show uses video games skills in place of character strengths, but in reality, these so-called strengths are artificial at most. Eventually, Asuna does decide to own up to her mother (albeit not on her own accord) and manages to reach a middle ground with her mother, but it mainly results in Asuna's mother being portrayed in the 100% wrong, and Asuna herself learns nothing. She still is Kirito-kun's waifu, a character whose ambitions and accomplishments are not her own.
As for Yuuki Konno: She may very well be considered the closest thing SAO will get to an actually likable female character. I know I say that there is nothing likable about any single female character, but compared to Asuna, Suguha, Sinon, and every other one, being a likable female character in SAO is an extremely low standard, and Yuuki took very little effort to surpass it. She is essentially the opposite of every female in SAO: She doesn't fall in love with Kirito, she doesn't become dependant on him at all, she doesn't end up in his harem, and she actually defeats Kirito in a PvP battle, which is a big achievement since Kirito only loses a fight due to some technicality. One might think that Yuuki's too good of a character for a pile of garbage like SAO.
At this point, I thought the Mother's Rosario arc was surprisingly not half bad. I mean the past few arcs were utterly terrible, and because of the irreparable damage it has done to itself, I couldn't be optimistic that this arc will change my overall opinion of it. Again, the same issues that have been seen in most arcs are still present: The biggest one is Kirito himself. The guy is so Gary Stu that all the flashy sword swings and deflecting magic and what have you, everything he does is all show just to make him look awesome, but it makes me lose interest quickly. It's other biggest problem is its ability to handle emotional drama. Sure, Zekken and the Sleeping Kights are a fresh change of pace from Gary Stu and his harem of waifus, but there's some sense of turmoil from not only the fact that the team has to disband, but from something personal from Zekken herself. The problem is I cannot get invested in these characters alot because they never make their issues known to anyone, and the show is trying (and failing) to make me do so. I actually began to believe that Mother's Rosario is the arc that Sword Art Online should've been, which made me feel that all the previous arcs' past stupidity weren't worth reaching this point...
Or so I thought before a certain point near the end.
As it turns out, Yuuki is terminally ill, and not just with any fictional illness. She has Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS. Not HIV, but full-blown AIDS. In 2011, her mom gave birth to Yuuki and her twin sister via C-section, which caused her to lose a severe amount of blood. The doctors then gave her HIV-infected blood that no one in the hospital knew it was infected until after the transfusion. Eventually, the virus spread across her family and they all died from it, and she's the next to go.
First of all, FUCK YOU! Fuck you, Sword Art Online. There isn't a violin small enough for how sappy and goddamn stupid this is. This is the reason why I will always hate this garbage with every fiber of my being for as long as I live. Because it somehow manages to show itself it can be decent every so often only to jump back to the bottom of the barrel and make me look like a fool for getting my hopes up for nothing.
The fact that Yuuki has AIDS isn't the problem here. It's how she (and her family) got the AIDS, how it's handled here, and how it's only used as a substitute for character development. It's done in the most unrealistic way possible and makes you wonder if either the writers made the hospital staff incompetent on purpose so that this can happen, or they didn't even bother to do the research. I'm no medical expert, but I know enough that hospitals do check blood for any signs of infections before giving it to people. The technology to detect infections in blood exist, even in 2011. Heck, if the blood is infected, it wouldn't even be in the hospital. I'm not gonna ask myself why the Konno family didn't sue the pants off this hospital for medical malpractice because I'd be doing the writer's job. And let's be honest, anyone with a shred of common sense can do a better job at writing SAO than whatever you call this piss-poor excuse of writing. Heck, Captain Planet handled AIDS better, even though that was ridiculously overblown on a comical scale. AIDS is a disease that is usually contracted and spread through bodily fluids. It would be understandable for her dad to get it from her mom, but what about her older twin sister, born mere moments BEFORE Yuuki? How did she get the virus? There's no way. Not one single aspect about this story works, not even on a logical standpoint. There's no excuse for this. No amount of medical research can handwave or excuse, let alone justify what is irresponsible handling of a real-life terminal illness for the sake of artificial feels. This whole "we didn't know the blood was infected until later" story is a middle finger to medical science and to the audience's intelligence, and I'm just gonna give it one right back.
The Mother's Rosario arc is not some "heartbreaking, beautiful, powerfully human tale". It's nothing but a cheap sob story done in the most underhanded, manipulative, unrealistic, and overblown way imaginable. I like Yuuki, I really do; but I'm not going to say her character was developed that much, because she wasn't. Yeah, she's isn't as one-dimensional as all the other characters, but I felt more saddened that she had to be subject to how full of shit this show is, reduced into a vessel for ill-gotten sympathy. You have to let the audience feel the emotion for themselves. Forcing them to by giving a character Super AIDS is basically making your audience look like dumbasses. The one time I thought SAO might have a decent character and she's ruined by the worst possible idiotic melodrama because the writer still has his head too far up his own asshole. Why did I expect anything less? Considering that Kawahara once said that he's incapable of writing female characters that don't fall for Kirito (yeah, he did say that), I can't help but wonder if he decided to screw over Yuuki this way as punishment for not being like every other female character in SAO. Why even do this? Was it because Yuuki didn't become a part of Kirito's harem so Kawahara decided to off her with Super AIDS? I bet it was! Ultimately, the Mother's Rosario arc reflects SAO as a whole: A piece of garbage that takes a big steamy dump on whatever it pleases. Out of all the stupid moments SAO has done between its two seasons, this is the ultimate final nail in a coffin full of final nails. I'm not made of stone, but when shows try to manipulate the viewer into feeling sad, it's basically asking me to hate it.
This is a recurring problem with SAO as a whole, arguably its biggest one and the one that has brought the entire season down. The writers has an insistence on handlng heavy subjects such as sexual assault, post-traumatic stress, terminal illnesses, and what have you, and every time they try, it only shows how immature the writing is as they end up being used as a plot device and done in a completely unrealistic way. If anything, the way such issues are portrayed here could be construed as disrespectful to those who has experienced it themselves. When it comes to things like this, either do it in a respectful manner or don't do it at all; there is no middle ground about it. These kinds of things have absolutely no business being here if it's not going to be handled in the right manner.
Contrary to what some may say, Season 2 of Sword Art Online is in no way any better than the first season. Actually, it's WORSE than the previous season. At least the first season started out good before descending into garbage. This season was hot garbage on a plate from start to finish. At this point, even the most minuscule shred of sympathy I had for SAO and its toxic fanbase is as good as dead. It's nothing but a dumpster fire that can ONLY get worse. Something that has learned from none of its mistakes, which should've made evident when it trivialized sexual asault for the second time in a row. needs to be thrown into the garbage, where it belongs.
Another season, another helping of extreme controversy, a countless number of attacks on the fan base, even more flame wars, and perhaps the largest amount of unfair criticisms and double standards ever seen in an anime.
In my review of the first season, I stated that "Sword Art Online was the most over hated anime of recent decade." Considering what I've seen in this season and the newest criticisms against it(despite it correcting most of the weaknesses of season 1), I still stand by what I said back then.
So what do I think of it? This season has solidified my opinion that I've had about the
series since Season 1.
Much like Season 1, the story of SAO II is split up into separate arcs, each with a different tone and genre. These arcs are Phantom Bullet(Gun Gale Online), Calibur, and Mother's Rosario. Two of the arcs continue the trend of showing how virtual reality affects reality, while the one in between is just a simple quest.
Keep in mind there may be spoilers.
Phantom Bullet(Gun Gale Online) - The story focuses on perhaps the most controversial protagonist in all of anime: Kazuto Kirigaya, and a new character for this season: Shino Asada. It's about a year after the ALO incident and, yet again, another incident occurs that involves the virtual world that seems to affect the real world. This occurs in the new VRMMO of Gun Gale Online, an MMO created from The World Seed mentioned in Season 1. A player named Death Gun(who's attire looks like a cross between a mummy and the Grim Reaper) was reported in shooting players in-game, only to have them die shortly after in real life. However, unlike the Nerve Gear, which could fry a person's brain, these cases have involved another vital organ: the heart. Because of the Amusphere's improved security mentioned in Season 1, it appears that these deaths would be impossible to cause through virtual reality. Seijirou Kikuoka, a member of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that first appeared in SAO: Extra Edition, contacts Kazuto and offers him a job to investigate, knowing just how much experience he has in the full-dive environment.
The overall genre of this arc is murder mystery.
All in all, this was a bit of a trade-off arc. On one hand, Kirito gets more depth as a character, Sinon(Shino Asada) develops as a character by the end of the arc, and the story can be pretty engaging with the logistics behind the GGO incident. On the other hand, the action is much more limited, some characters are STILL sidelined for the most part, and the episode before the ending of the arc comes off as all kinds of disturbing. I've always loved SAO more for the story and characters, but a few of the final episodes of this arc left me with mixed feelings.
This being said, it was engaging the whole way through, had much better character development, and was a HUGE step up from ALfheim. 9.5/10
Calibur - I'll keep it short for this arc: it focuses on the group of Kirito, Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica, Leafa, and Sinon on a quest to Jötunheimr.
The genre for these episodes are mainly action.
This arc wasn't nearly long enough to get me emotionally invested. It was nice seeing the other SAO survivors(Klein, Silica, Lisbeth) get the spotlight for fighting, but, overall, the dungeon's setting was too bleak, and the story wasn't nearly as suspenseful as other arcs. 6/10
Mother's Rosario - This arc nearly matches up to the brilliance of Aincrad in half the episodes. Asuna's character development was the main focus of this arc and just like Sinon in Gun Gale, another character is introduced in this arc: Yuuki Konno, a swords-woman that has earned the title of "Absolute Sword" for being the strongest player in ALfheim.
This arcs' genre is mainly drama. It can be pretty heartwarming with Yuuki and Asuna's interactions, but in the end it's unbearably tragic.
Much like most of Aincrad, I was in tears for this arc and the friendship formed between Yuuki and Asuna was beautiful. I won't spoil the ending, but it's very tragic and you'll most likely cry if you have even a shred of empathy. 10/10
Art and Sound: If there's one thing every viewer of Sword Art Online can agree on, it's that it has great animation, and an amazing soundtrack. This series continues the trend, so I won't go any further. 11/10
Characters: This season did a better job in the Character Development department. Overall, the characters were very three-dimensional, and have their own problems that they have to face, such as Sinon with her PTSD fear of guns, Kirito with his inner demons that revisit him from SAO, and Yuuki with her terminal illness.
The backgrounds of the new characters are introduced well, and some of the characters from the first season get more depth.
This being said, quite a few of the characters are still sidelined.
I mentioned that I'd have to wait for Mother's Rosario for Asuna's character development, and this arc made up for the limited amount from Season 1 flawlessly. 10/10
Enjoyment: I mentioned that this season solidified my opinion on the series, and that opinion is that this is my all-time favorite anime. 10/10
Mother's Rosario helped me realize that Sword Art Online really lives up to the 'Art' part of the name. Not only with the many interpretations that every viewer has had(both "masterpiece" positive and "train wreck" negative), but also from how it's able to connect with the fans on a very personal level and become more of an experience rather than a simple show.
Negative Points: Episode 13 was beyond disturbing. I won't spoil it, but it was very uncomfortable.
Action wasn't nearly as exciting as the past season.
Unnecessary fan service that breaks tension in episode 11.
Excluding aspects or story points from the light novels that would have improved the overall quality of the GGO arc.
If you're watching the English dub of Season 2, there are two contradictory lines of dialogue. One relating to a game mechanic in ALO (beast taming) during Calibur, one relating to an event in Mother's Rosario (the floor the Sleeping Knights and the SAO survivor team clear shown in the final episode, as it's supposed to be Floor 28, but they say Floor 23). These minor plot holes are only present in the English dub. The English subbed version doesn't have this fault.
Bonus Points: Still continues the trend of presenting nearly all of the information needed for understanding the plot. This as well makes the story limited in ACTUAL Plot Holes.
Greater focus on character development helped me to connect with the characters much more than Season 1.
Focuses more on how VR affects reality.
Asuna going back to being a bad-ass, and getting far more development.
As long as you don't interpret anything the wrong way, there really isn't any other girl character that "falls head over heels" for Kirito, or has a crush on him. Overall, it's just a nice friendship between him and Sinon with a little bit of cute flirting solely for the purpose of trolling.
Mother's Rosario having the biggest tear-jerking moment of all tear-jerking moments in this series. (T_T)
Correcting a lot of the weaknesses from Season 1.
Overall Score: 10/10 Does a great job at improving an already amazing anime.
If you can afford to give it another chance, I'd highly recommend seeing this season.
If you still hold hatred for this series, and don't have the capacity for being optimistic, or giving it a chance for redemption, then there's nothing I can do.
It is time to review a story that never should have taken place. By any measure of realism and sensible writing, the show would have ended after their escape from SAO, the technology would have been banned in the wake of the public outrage, and there would be no need for further walls of snarky reviews at MAL.
But there was more money to be made, and what are realism and sensible writing compared to that? So here we are then.
When reviewing season 1, I implied that the second arc was a cashcow, and I feel the same applies here. It is a thinly veiled attempt
to stretch out the SAO franchise for quick cash, a calculated money-grabbing venture. A part of what makes it that way is that these new arcs don't contribute much to the overall narrative. It's just adventuring for the sake of adventuring. It doesn't help that each arc is fairly self-contained, with a jarring transition from one arc to another. Now, I'm not against multiple plotlines but here's an idea: try developing them simultaneously, side by side. It would also improve the show from a world-building perspective, creating a stronger illusion of an actual world instead of this clip show of the protagonist's adventures.
This season is divided into no fewer than three arcs, so I'll have to go through them one by one.
Gun Gale Online arc: 3
This is the longest of the three arcs, taking up 14 of 24 episodes, so it stands to reason that the most effort should have gone into this. Predictably enough, this is not the case and it drops the ball right at the starting line.
The premise is that players of a virtual reality MMO, Gun Gale Online, are dying in real life after being shot by a magic gun called the Death Gun. This gun is wielded by the creatively named character, Death Gun, who is subtly dressed in robes and a steel mask so that nobody could figure out he's the bad guy. How are the authorities going to investigate this? Track Death Gun's IP address? No, of course not. That would be stupid. Obviously the only way to solve this problem is to call Kirito.
For the record, there is an in-universe reason why they can't track Death Gun down: the people running the game are apparently refusing to hand over his player info. Furthermore, they are in the United States, and obviously the American authorities won't ask them or simply place them under surveillance because... shut up. Seriously, if you're going to use that as an excuse, at least place them into a third-world country or something. After the SAO and ALO incidents, I can't believe for a second that there'd be such a lack of government oversight. If all else failed, they could simply threaten to launch a negative media campaign over the deaths to force the GGO staff to hand over the data or go bankrupt.
This is something I mentioned in my SAO review, but I cannot emphasize it enough. After the SAO disaster and the consequential mass hysteria, it would have only been realistic to ban the technology. It doesn't matter if the new hardware is safer. People just wouldn't trust it. After all, the old death trap passed safety inspections with flying colors too. (I'm being generous here and assuming they actually have safety inspections in the SAO-verse. I could be wrong.) Add to that the ALO incident where government safeguards failed again, and this lack of regulation and oversight becomes all the more ridiculous.
Anyway, Kirito is asked to put his life on the line in an MMO again. You'd think he would refuse after spending two years trapped in a life-and-death struggle, but we wouldn't have a new story otherwise, so after brief hesitation he jumps right in. He logs into GGO without any kind of prior experience of the game or any weapons or a pool of funding. He also converted his old account, so he is going with his famous standard username. These government-funded covert operations sure are overrated.
So why did they ask Kirito who has no experience in this game, especially given how it's played by professionals for cash prizes? The reason is simply that he can be trusted because of his earlier involvement. ...Okay, I might buy that if Kirito was just going to play casually, but instead he joins the tournament where all the top players gather. Realistically he'd be eliminated right away, but this is Kirito we're talking about, so he's immediately better at it than the people who make their living out of it. This is because he has the good sense to bring a sword into a gun fight, and by sword I mean lightsaber, complete with Star Wars sound effects. It's only fitting that he has godlike reflexes and can deflect bullets with his sword, up to slicing them in half in midair. In a word, he is a Jedi.
I mentioned gun fights because GGO resembles a first-person shooter. The strange part is that you can see bullet lines to predict enemy shots, with the exception of a sniper's first shot, which is an odd design choice to say the least, or rather it ruins the whole thing. But Kirito has figured out it can be faster to just look where the gun is pointing or follow their eyes. Why nobody else has realized this simple fact is beyond me, but that's apparently how it is. It is this insight, along with his overpowered reflexes, that allows him to easily beat an allegedly impossible minigame no one else could.
He also encounters a female sniper called Sinon who suffers from PTSD and is morbidly afraid of guns in real life. Which is naturally why she's playing a gun-themed MMO as a form of therapy and is completely fine with guns within the game. Probably not the first line of therapy I'd recommend. She is also frequently used for fanservice, which shouldn't really surprise anyone.
If that wasn't bad enough, Kirito is pretending to be a girl to gain Sinon's trust and apparently to troll random male players. This gives an opportunity for additional fanservice in case Sinon isn't enough. I wonder if he even takes his girlfriend and adopted daughter seriously if he's fine flirting with not only women but also men. I'm also going to be generous here and assume nobody can use an avatar of the opposite gender in these MMOs because otherwise people assuming that he is female in real life is just ridiculous.
The lack of continuity becomes apparent when a raid against player-killers in SAO (by which I mean the original Aincrad arc) is retconned into the story instead of presenting it during season one. Kirito also suddenly gets PTSD over the events of SAO, despite never having problems before. Thankfully he can trivially overcome these problems, and his heroic bravery also inspires Sinon. Yes, even Kirito's flaws are portrayed as strengths.
Eventually Kirito figures out the culprit's MO by some guesswork and proceeds with a plan to obtain his name that shouldn't really work. But it does. I also think it might have been a good idea to contact the authorities beforehand and send surveillance teams and security to the relevant locations, but we've seen how well-prepared this covert operation has been, so maybe it wouldn't have made a difference. GGO also displays its high safety standards with the lack of manual logout during tournaments, which sounds damn ominous after the SAO massacre.
This is followed by infodumping the villain's backstory at the last minute. Without going into spoilers, the ultimate reveals are not worth it. Death Gun's identity is extremely anticlimactic, his method of killing is very situational, and his motivation can barely be called one. There is also the obligatory attempted rape scene to establish that the villain is in fact evil. You can't trust the audience to figure that one out on their own.
One more thing. In his spare time Kirito is developing revolutionary virtual reality applications. Sounds like a bit of a stretch for him alone compared to, say, a massive research team, but this is Kirito after all.
Excaliber arc: 3
Kirito and co. must take on a new quest to save the world of Alheim Online from a dreadful menace: their save files getting erased!
So, yeah, they are questing in ALO for three episodes, and if they lose, nobody will die, but game data will be erased. How is this a problem, you ask? Well... there are no backups. It uses a core program derived from SAO whose functionality isn't fully known. Of course the staff is also unavailable because they are all on holiday.
So let me get this straight. This is an MMO where
- the game may arbitrarily decide to have its map implode,
- there are no real backups of the game world,
- the staff hasn't bothered to check the system thoroughly enough to realize this possibility, or simply doesn't care, and
- the GMs aren't always on call, even though this game uses the same software as the infamous SAO.
I can picture it now.
"Hey, something strange is going on. I'm trapped inside the game and can't log out."
"It is currently outside support hours. Please send your query during regular support hours."
And, yes, I know that they don't understand how it works because they didn't build it from a scratch. But here's the thing: if you don't understand how it works, don't use it! Especially if it's software from an infamous death trap known to be full of surprises. I mentioned earlier that the technology would have probably been banned, but if it isn't even fully understood, I'd say banning it might have been a good idea.
The actual questing is pretty much just beating up some bosses and other enemies in a dungeon and short interaction with NPCs. Actually, there are some newly introduced AI characters (I suppose the threat is legit to them), but they don't get much screentime, so it's hard to develop any connection. I don't dislike the idea of having people do normal MMOing, but it would work better if the show was about that from the start. If you have death games, murder investigations and so on, a few random episodes of normal MMOing won't fit in. It is little more than a filler arc. And while you're at it, flesh out the game mechanics more. Watching a Let's Play usually works better if you understand more firmly what's going on.
Mother's Rosario arc: 5
The last seven episodes decide to go with "the feels" tactics and appeal to emotion. It's actually a familiar idea from the first season: the show introduces some new characters and, guess what, pretty soon some tragic things happen to them. Unfortunately, I found it hard to become emotionally invested in people who have only been introduced a moment earlier, especially if it's obvious they only exist for this purpose. You see, the tragedy is an incredibly unlikely stroke of bad luck, almost implausible, which makes it look very plot-convenient. The show tries to make them more meaningful by presenting deep friendship between the old and new characters in a short timeframe. It succeeds halfway, but it's still bordering on implausibly fast. At least the situation provides an application for virtual MMO technology, but it could have been handled in a way that looks less convenient.
Oh, and the main character for this arc is Asuna, which is a refreshing change from Kirito, I suppose. She is a bit less overpowered too, if only a bit, not that fighting is really the focus here. Still, we do get to see a moment where Kirito single-handedly overpowers several dozen players, but at least it's only once.
There is also another subplot in which Asuna and her mother talk about their relationship and her future career. And by future career I mean marriage prospects, for which Kirito is unsuitable simply because he isn't loaded with enough cash. In case anyone hasn't figured out by this description, or by season one's Alfheim arc for that matter, Asuna has absolutely terrible parents who care about her daughter's status and bank account more than her free will and emotional well-being. I don't get how Asuna can even be on speaking terms with them after the events of season one, but apparently this is the case, if only barely. Still, the interaction is believable enough and manages to produce some much needed character growth, making it one of the better parts of the season.
Story overall: 4
It may not be as off-the-rails as season one, and there aren't any ridiculous timeskips, but instead we get a fragmented season with little connection between the arcs. And the arcs themselves have their own problems.
Kirito: The man himself, as overpowered as ever. As far as his personality goes, it's hard to detect any notable growth. The PTSD aspect was easily overcome and it seemed artificial considering that he had never had these problems before. But the real problem is the same as before: he never has anything interesting to say. I mean, really: it's just dull heroic lines or generic exposition. No wit, no eloquence, no charisma. Kirito is an all-out action hero, but that's all he is. He is no strategist, and he isn't much use for conversation either.
Asuna: Finally gets out of Kirito's shadow and gets some development that makes her more of an actual human being. We learn more about her family, the problems in her personal life, and so on. By the way, there isn't any real development in her relationship with Kirito, but how could there be given how it's portrayed as nigh perfect from the start?
Asuna's mother: Not the kind of mother I'd like to have, but I can see people like this existing. She does get fleshed out a bit though.
Sinon: The PTSD aspect is handled so unrealistically it's hard to take it seriously, and its resolution is almost arbitrary. After the first arc she becomes irrelevant, much like most of the side characters in this show.
Death Gun: Could have been handled better, to say the least, and by that I mean both his virtual and real-world self. For starters, how about giving him some better motivation? They say that the villain makes the plot, but here there is almost neither.
Yuuki: She receives barely enough screentime. It's far more than most of the side characters, but that isn't saying much. Her backstory and role in the plot feel too convenient.
The rest of the old cast: Barely exist. They get to appear a few times, but they don't really do much. If there is anything worth mentioning, it's that Klein not getting a girlfriend has become a running gag.
Technically there are a few that I didn't mention, such as Sinon's friend who only exists to be inferior to Kirito in Sinon's eyes, and the government official guy who just stands there unable to get anything done while Kirito saves the day. But that is already being generous. You would think that a show about MMOs would do some world-building by introducing a greater number of characters and portraying their relationships, but nope. Only a few other characters are meaningful to the plot. Kirito himself hogs much of the screentime, though it isn't nearly as ridiculous as in season one.
Again, this must be where they spent the cash. The visuals look great. GGO in particular has very nice backgrounds, ranging from massive steampunk cities to postapocalyptic ruins and wastelands. ALO may feel like a repetition of season one, but the execution is good nonetheless. The fanservice is probably less impressive, but what else is new? The second and third openings have pretty great visual design and the last ending likewise.
Gets the job done pretty well. The voice acting, opening and ending songs, and the soundtrack are all good enough.
The slower pacing somewhat hurts the possible "so bad it's good" effect compared to last season. If we're talking about legit enjoyment, Mother's Rosario takes the lead by far.
Kirito continues his epic struggle to trivially beat everyone in his path, even if it doesn't take all season this time. It made some money though, so who am I to judge?
‘Right here, I can’t tell you what I’m thinking and what I feel. I want you to see my world!’
SAO was a one trick pony. Its death game premise burdened the already heavy task of climbing Castle Aincrad’s 100 floors. But the illusion of the unconquerable castle would often break, as the anime proper would skip floors at the story’s convenience. Halfway through, the show lost the sense of scale it needed to cover for what the characters lacked. In many ways, we saw their world, but not their feelings. SAO was a lukewarm experience.
Which makes me proud to say SAO II is actually quite
A year after the SAO incident, Kirito is assigned to investigate a series of real life deaths linked to the videogame Gun Gale Online, or GGO. By playing GGO, Kirito hopes to directly contact the prime suspect, Death Gun, and discover the truth behind these deaths. Let it be said now that, much like SAO, SAO II is more of an alternate world fantasy than a reflection of videogames. There are inconsistencies in the game mechanics abound that would make videogame purists cringe. Then again, if you’ve seen the first season, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.
Except for the things we haven’t seen before. It’s a lot, and it’s mostly for the better. The pacing is now steady and believable, instead of skipping multiple events at a time or spending a lot of time on one event. In turn, Death Gun’s dominating presence in the GGO storyline is unmitigated, while the Mother’s Rosario story arc is steeped in nostalgia. Unfortunately, the three episode mini saga of Excalibur is little more than SAO II’s last love letter to its harem fans without care for telling a good story. But the crack left by the Sword in the Stone is barely a dent to its characters.
And it’s a good thing too, because what SAO II lacks in scale more than makes up for in its characters. Kirito especially has improved a lot. Gone are the days where his only real challenges were ones where strength alone wasn’t enough. Now he’s both ‘mentally’ examined and physically tested, especially during GGO. He is a much more rounded character for it, but unfortunately this character arc doesn’t go the extra mile. The source of his inner anguish also feels like a rewrite of SAO.
Co starring with Kirito in GGO is Sinon. Her quiet casualness in real life masks a silent strength in the game, but there’s no moment where her real self and game self clash to make her feel like a different character. It’s two identities created by a single incident in her past, with the events of GGO bleeding them together and forcing her to confront her fears. It is a slow burning, punishing journey that thankfully does not fully solve her problems even at the end. The story recognizes how weakness needs to be overcome one small step at a time, and the time with Sinon is time well spent.
Unfortunately, Sinon’s development isn’t the only thing SAO II likes to show off. To be sure, the fight scenes and music are still as slick as they ever were (I freaking love Tomatsu Haruka’s ‘Courage’), while the GGO setting is lively and distinct despite the brown and grey everywhere. From the shrub forest encroaching the river to the mesh of an abandoned metropolis and old west town, SAO II is the envy of first person shooter games everywhere. It’s just too bad the visuals also show off Sinon’s backside a bit too much. Which is odd, because the last story arc, Mother’s Rosario, doesn’t have anything like this.
If the Alfheim story is what took away Asuna’s integrity from the Aincrad arc, Mother’s Rosario puts this woman back in form with a vengeance. She’s faced with the reality of what two years lost means in real life, while forging the friendship of a lifetime with someone in the game world. Asuna doesn’t develop in this story in the traditional sense, but she doesn’t need to. She’s smart enough to know why some people are acting the way they do with her, while her congeniality was always a part of her. What Asuna needed were characters to bounce off of, and the Mother’s Rosario provides just that.
In particular are the two characters this story introduces. One is estranged to Asuna to play the role of antagonist but never a villain. She is frighteningly believable in what she says, and could definitely hit close to home for a lot of viewers. The other character is one half of the most believable relationship in the entire series. The development between them is silly, sweet, smooth, and not once does the feeling between Asuna and this new character ever feel romantic. Their relationship flawlessly glides across the tightrope called ‘intimately platonic’ that’s so easy to fall off from.
Talk about refreshing.
On top of all the surface improvements from SAO, SAO II is thematically unified without being heavy handed. From Sinon’s reason for playing GGO, to Death Gun’s motive for terrorizing others, to another’s gung-ho liveliness in the game, SAO II is more about the power of online identity than an alternate world fantasy adventure. For better or worse, people change who they are or show their true colors online. And SAO II builds this naturally to the point where the show never loses its narrative breath.
The mark of a good story is it won’t build itself around a theme, but that the theme builds itself around the story. For SAO II to understand this despite having blundered so much in its first season on top of its own improvements, honestly makes me wonder: is this seriously the same series that left me so conflicted? THIS is SAO?
It's my first review here and english isn't my native so, forgive me if I make some mistake!
Let me start this review by saying, yes, your eyes aren't fooling you, i rated this as a 9, i'll explain my reasons below, it's going to be long but i'll add a tl;dr version at the end of every 'arc'.
SAO is a series that doesn't need any introduction, its really popular, loved and hated, but, before you watch SAO2, i need to tell you something so you can enjoy it to its full potential, first, SAO as a whole is NOT about action nor romance, it does
have some, but it's not the main theme, not even in SAO1, not in SAO2, not even in the hopefully coming SAO3.
Made my point clear, i'll start the review, which i'm going to split in 3 arcs, just like the anime.
Phantom Bullet Arc (eps 1 - 14)
SAO2 starts where SAO1 left us, Kirito and Asuna going to the SAO survivor school together, it's been a year since SAO incident and VRMMOs are still really popular thanks to The Seed, which made possible to create a bunch of new games. One day, Seijiro Kikuoka from the "VR division" asks Kirito to investigate about a rumour that was spreaded in a game called Gun Gale Online, where, if you get shot by a mysterious avatar with a black gun, you will die irl, Kirito is reluctant at first, but gets curious about it and ends up accepting the job.
As usual, SAO's visual are AMAZING, not much to say here.
The soundtrack is really fitting, from the OP to the ED, you can get an idea of the characters, their struggles and their wishes. The OST, as usual, amazing, one of Kajiura's best jobs.
First off, we have our so-loved and so-hated MC, Kirito, getting some development and action here and there, no need to say much about him.
Then, we have Sinon/Shino, the female lead in this arc (no, Asuna doesn't appear much) one of the best snipers in GGO nicknamed "Icy Sniper" because of her calm personality during battles. She wants to win the Bullet of Bullets, GGO tournament. As a character, she is really well done, she has a backstory, development and courage.
The only reason my enjoyment is low compared to the rest is, the butt shots, this seriously ruined some scenes in this arc, Sinon's ass was focused A LOT in 14 episodes, even during serious scenes, made the anime kinda annoying.
Overall: 8.6, compared to the 9 i gave this in LN, all thanks to ass shots, A-1, you're the real MVP.
TL;DR: This is really good, the pace is the opposite to SAO1, it's slow and takes its time to develop but be prepared to see Sinon's ass A LOT, music and animation are awesome as usual, if you like Psychology, VR and Games, you should try this, if you are expecting a lot of action, you should go somewhere else.
And so, we get to the best arc this season, Mother's Rosario. In ALO, there's a rumour about a player nicknamed as "Absolute Sword" who has been doing a lot of duels in some island. With 69 wins at row, this player catches Asuna's attention, specially after hearing that Kirito lost against him. Who is this player? Why is he doing so much duels? Prepare for the feels.
Amazing, nuff said.
THIS soundtrack, same OP by Haruka Tomatsu but new sequence, new ED by LiSA called Shirushi, both songs are amazing, specially the ED with all the feels, OST is great also.
First off, we have Asuna, our so-loved and so-hated female MC. In this arc, we see some development for her, we can also see how is her relationship with her family, which will lead to a trip full of feels.
Then we have, Zekken, probably, one of the BEST SAO characters, even in the LN, strong, fast, this player holds a big secret which is going to send you to feeladelphia.
I loved everything about this arc, was adapted really well, the scenes, soundtracks and everything portrayed its meaning perfectly.
TL;DR: An arc full of feels, a new player with 69 wins at row, one of those against Kirito, this player will have some serious effect not only in the story, but Asuna as well, it's really worth watching.
If you are a SAO fan, you could like this, even if youre a hater, the story is really well written, most of the failures are from animation itself. But don't expect so much action, its slow paced, but its really worth a shot.
When Sword Art Online II appears, a beam of light peep out in my mind and hope that the sequel able to cover all its mistakes.
But again, my hope was shattered into a dust
Based off the light novel written by Reki Kawahara, Sword Art Online II is a sequel of Sword Art Online. The series started after the Alfheim Online's Arc, in a new game called Gun Gale Online, where a string of deaths begins occurring in the game. Our main character, Kirigaya Kazuto is assigned to enter Gun Gale Online to investigate the cause of the deaths.
The story is divided into 3 arcs:
Gun Gale Online (or Phantom Bullet), Calibur, and Mother's Rosario.
The story adapts the same conflict of the previous series (the point of murdered inside a game), but in a different way. The story offers us a great action and fierce battle scene. At the Gun Gale Online arc, the story has a decent orientation and still manage to bring the main idea of the story itself. But after the GGO arc, I found out that Sword Art Online once again failed to live up to my expectation. After the GGO arc, there is a dull arc (Calibur Arc) where the fillers leak out from all directions. Into the last arc, Mother's Rosario is an arc that transforms this into a drama series in a bad way. They force up a few episodes into tears while forgetting the main story itself, and causes a heavy damage to the ending itself. Again, SAO is failed to revive itself.
Let's forget the story section and move to the animation section. The animation is done by A-1 Picture, they bring a wonderful and attractive animation which became the main reason to watch this anime. And became the diamond itself within the series.
As for the sound section, the seiyuu did fairly well when bringing such character to the screen. The 1st opening theme "Ignite" sung by Eir Aoi really describe the GGO arc very well, the other soundtracks are decent.
Again, Sword Art Online II does the same poor development on the character section. Our new female lead, Sinon is the only character that having an interesting and meaningful development. While our male lead, Kirigaya Kazuto is far behind our new female lead, same as our old female lead, Yuuki Asuna. The Kirito's harem and his friend are same too. Other characters besides Sinon are not having a single development at all. Also, the main antagonist of the GGO arc had a relatively weak motive.
I found Sword Art Online II shine brightly in my enjoyment at the Gun Gale Online arc. After that, SAO doesn't have anything in its storage, just a dull and fair entertainment in our glance. It is fairly recommended to the big fans of the SAO series. Overall, I think SAO once again fell into the darkness.....
Ok. So there's a lot of reviews for this out there so mine's going to be a little different. Bear with me guys. Bear. With. Me.
One. Two. Three Four Five
Everybody grab a gun and c'mon lets ride...
Yep. That Mambo N.5 appropriation pretty much sums up the first arc of SAO II. The only problem is the people driving seem to even more geographically challenged than me, and as the anime's seemingly directionless take becomes apparent you'll find yourself yelling 'For fuck sake use a GPS'. Yep. This anime has trouble navigating itself.
But smash on the beaks and hop on out. Lets step back, shall we,
and look at the bigger picture. Coming as a sequel to the original SAO I'd pull the words 'hype' and 'expectations' from my metaphorical hat. Whilst both were there the hype seemed to remain for far longer than my expectations - which were quickly smashed into the ground. Ouch!
The sequel seemed to serve to accentuate the flaws of the original and downplay any strengths it had. Plot inconsistencies rose to new heights as what was seemingly at stake trudged lower than ever. Fanservice made an appearance at awkward moments and some of the motives behind peoples actions made as much sense as a giraffe eating a dinosaur. What? You say. What indeed.
But hey, it's not all bad! Open those eyes and ears! The animation and sound were done well, and whilst I wasn't fond of characterisation and development early it did get a little better towards the end. SAO II is also a little special in that it has a unique charm to it, where you know it's bad but somewhat enjoy it anyway. That being said I did find myself getting bored at moments and looking at the ceiling (oh how plain white ceilings entertain me).
We don't want to be here forever, so lets sum up! This anime is a polariser. It has a lot of flaws and a couple of strengths. You might like it, you might not. The problems that exist in this anime are very in your face (similar to a non-scary ghost popping out in a haunted house). You can't miss it. The question is, how much does it bother you?
It broke my 10 pairs of rose-tinted glasses in the first few episodes. How many pairs do you have?
The SAO franchise, and particularly SAO II, is a very controversial series. It is disliked by a lot of people, and the complaints are quite damning. For these people the story seems disjointed, the characters make decisions that don’t make sense, and the pacing is all over the place. Those that make such complaints are happy to describe how they think they would act if they ever found themselves in a similar situation. These people generally have something in common. They have either never played any MMOs, or played them very casually. In this I am sorry because they will likely never understand
the depth that this anime has to offer beyond a few nice pictures and pretty songs.
This anime, and the entire series, is a love story for and to the MMO players, made by MMO players. That means many, if not most, of the intricacies of the story and characters, and indeed even much of the message fails to come through if you do not have fairly extensive hardcore experience in MMOs. This is unfortunate, because the depth of this anime is on par with some of the greatest stories I have seen in this medium. To make matters more difficult, the story requires a very good understanding of the plot and themes of the first SAO to completely appreciate. It is simply not be well suited for casual watching; little details of vital importance flash for short seconds, often in completely unexpected scenes. Characters do things that are easy to misinterpret unless you can understand out what’s going on in their heads. The relation between the various events are rarely spelled out, leaving you to fill in some of the blanks yourself. All of these are things that make sense if you remember the source material is a book. The anime is very true to the book, and thus it should be watched with the same amount of attention and tolerance that you would put into reading a good novel.
If you can accept the level of engagement required, SAO II is an absolutely wonderful experience. It paints an accurate picture of what those of the mid-2010s thought life would be like in 2025. It covers some of the most important questions that you could ask. It tells a story that knows that it's better to show, rather than tell. Best of all, it does so in a package of impeccable artistic quality; sporting both gorgeous art, and very atmospheric music. This is quite critical for the story. Due to the absence of a novel’s narrator, the series has a penchant of dropping into the point of view of the various characters. This is often the only gateway the viewers have into the mind of the characters. It also helps justify a good bit of fan service; such is the mind of a teenage boy.
The biggest problem that I could really complain about were the occasional inconsistencies across scenes; spelling mistakes, characters in strange positions, and minor bits of continuity strangeness that you might notice on the second or third watch-through.
It's a series that meant to mature and bloom as you understand it better, and in doing what it set out to do it is an absolute masterpiece.
[Spoilers to follow]
-- Story --
Any discussion of SAO II must inevitable be prefaced with a discussion of SAO. This is a plot heavy sequel of a plot heavy anime, and it's simply not possible to understand the various character study arcs without some understanding of the message SAO was trying to deliver. At the core of SAO was the question of "What is Reality?" Eventually it arrived at the answer that your reality was what you made it, within balance and reason. In the process it followed the daily lives of a few perfectly normal people as they went through a dangerous world they could never have been prepared for. It let you see into the lives of two kids that suddenly had to fight for their lives, and mature long before they should have had to. Most of all, it did so in a perfectly believable way that any MMO player can easily relate to.
SAO set the stage for SAO II by introducing the characters and the experiences that brought them together, and then gave way to SAO II to truly study what this meant for each of them. SAO asks, attempts to resolve the question of "What is reality?" Then SAO II picks up this theme by asking the only question that hopes to achieve the same scope and scale. This anime is a thematic study of the question “What does it mean to live and to die?
Everything in SAO II is questioning the meaning of life and death, particularly when it comes to this world that the characters have accepted as being equal to their own reality. Everything from the first arc, which blurs the line between death in the real world, and the virtual, to the last which offers a bittersweet glance at what it means to live life to the fullest. Even the middle arc offers an interesting perspective on how alive the world the characters inhabit really is, and how deep the attachment to this world runs in each of them. Weaving throughout all these themes, the series manages to include a heartfelt romance, a good look at various cultural idiosyncrasies of Japan, entertaining fight scenes, and a variety of worlds each totally different from the other.
-- Characters --
The characters were probably the strongest point of the series, assuming that one took the time to really empathize with them.
Kirito is a normal teenage boy, with normal teenage interests. He’s fascinated with VR technology, and has dreams of realizing his own ideas developed over years in this sort of game. Behind this mask you have a boy who was forced to become a soldier, and bear the burden of thousands. He’s a person that wants to live his life in peace, but is willing to help those in need. He shows a deep attachment to the world that became his home; the world where he met his love. He acts like a person forged on the battlefield; when under pressure he takes charge, and when he is safer he understand the need to rest and plan. He actually shows traces of PTSD, with clear hints that he’s spent quite a while dealing with these matters, either alone or with professional help. He’s also a bit of a pervert, but what would anyone expect. The book makes it quite clear that he an Asuna share a rather intimate relationship.
Along with Kirito the first season introduces Sinon, who is a bit of a "foil" that the story uses to help compare and contrast with Kirito. Like him she had killed someone, but unlike him she never had the experience to deal with the result. Instead she built herself a nearly schizophrenic persona of a quiet sniper running with the rough and tumble gunmen of the world of GGO. As the first arc progresses we get to see as she slowly manages to put her trauma behind her, and recaptures the more friendly and outgoing persona that you might expect of a girl that age. She does fall off in importance once the first arc is over, being relegated to an minor role for the rest of the series. This makes sense when you consider that the Sinon is Kirito’s friend, while the second major arc focuses on Asuna.
This brings us Asuna, arguably one of the most interesting characters in the series. While we are only treated to hints of her problems during the first half of the series, the second half does an amazing job of telling her story. Here we learn that Asuna is facing some serious challenges of her own. Despite her normally happy appearance we get to see that Asuna is troubled by her position in society. As the daughter of influential people she is faced with certain expectations that run counter to what she wants from her life. However, her upbringing, and the cultural gulf between her and her mother makes solving those problems quite difficult. Despite all of that she manages to put on a strong face for all of her friends, even when she finds out that the first female friend to truly understand her is a young girl in the terminal stages of AIDS. In this she acts as a pillar of stability for those around her, protecting her family above all else.
Yuuki is a mirror into Asuna’s character in the same way that Sinon was a mirror of Kirito in the first Arc. Like Asuna, Yuuki strives to protect her friends in the face of insurmountable circumstances. She too puts on a mask of the happy, cheerful girl, even when her reality is a broken body constantly on the verge of death. She works hard, and does her best so that the technology which let her live the last of her days in happiness can help others. With her strength of will she even helps Asuna find the strengths to confront her mother, passes on a legacy that will live on in the VR world, and receives a true champion’s farewell.
Then, we have the "harem." Despite what some chose to see, this is actually a fairly normal a group of friends who have formed a bond akin to family with this alternate world. These are people that lived, bled, killed, and faced sorrow with the main characters. Some of them have traces of an old crush on Kirito, though that is rarely played out beyond exasperated sighs as they watch Kirito and Asuna cuddle in the distance. Nevertheless, all of the members of this group are well fleshed out characters with interesting personalities and unexpected depth. For the most part these characters add a softer, often more comedic edge to the interaction. That’s not too say that they lack serious moments, but unfortunately they simply cannot get the serious treatment that the main characters enjoy.
Finally, I cannot let the review go without bringing up Yui. The character that gets the most complaints for being not acting human enough, and for being a bit of silly. Ironically, Yui is the one that best exhibits what she was meant to; she is an AI, and behaves herself in a consistent fashion with the rules of the universe that we are introduced to. There are even hints to a deeply technical side of her that is very close to Kirito, and helps him in his day to day life. Unfortunately we rarely see her outside a tentative support role, because I believe there is a lot of potential there.
-- Art & Sound --
There is little to say here. The both the artistic and audio direction were top notch. The studios selected were clearly picked for their ability to deliver a complete package, and I believe they managed to catch the mood and the theme of the series perfectly. The music was quite amazing and thematic, connecting well with the ideas of the show. It’s truly difficult to match the melancholy feeling that the last ending theme evoked when you realize that the song was something shared by Asuna and Yuuki, as the last notes fade out over Yuuki’s memorial.
I will take some issues with the character animations, particularly during dialog. While the backgrounds are always utterly amazing, the characters are often too still, and too simple to really do justice to the backdrop. It’s something that’s fairly easy to forgive given the consistent style, and exciting battle scenes, but it still stands out at times.
-- Enjoyment --
If you are willing to invest some time into this show, and truly dive into the world then it offers an experience few series can match. If you can relate to the experience of farming rare items for weeks on end, of gathering materials for a rare recipe, of spending weeks and months on a new boss, and of meeting friends that will last a lifetime through the screen of the game, this series will speak to you like no other. If you are willing to treat this series with the care and attention given to a book, then you will find an involving and captivating plot. If you can look beneath the surface you will find a deep world full of wonderful characters. Unfortunately if you are just looking for a normal anime experience to fill out your list then you might not even see a glimpse of any of the things I speak of.
-- Overall –
This series completes the package that is SAO. Even if we never see SAO III, I will hold it in my heart as one of the greats.
I would be a fool to claim that this is a show for everyone. Clearly it will not appeal to every person that picks it up. However, I do not believe that this is a shortcoming of any sort. I simply do not see how it could have delivered such an experienced to a wider audience, at least in anime form. Maybe more people might understand it if read from the book, but that’s not really here or there in an anime review. In short, when seen by the target audience, this show offers an experience that matches and even exceeds some of the very best masterpieces of the past decade. For that I give it 10/10, and to those that understand why I raise my glass. May we meet again, and share the stories of the worlds that we have seen.
*Review contains minor spoilers of Sword Art:Online and Log Horizon too*
I have seen thousands of people who compare Log Horizon with Sword Art:Online and how much it is better from SAO and most of them people are from here only. Don't get me wrong as a gamer person myself, I like both series. My review covers up 2 anime of same genre!
Story- Overall, the Plot is totally messed up all the 5 arcs (SAO,ELF,GGO,Excalibur,Mother's Rosario), even though the very first SAO arc of the first season is still slightly better than the rest.To sum up this is the order SAO>Mother's Rosario>GGO>Excalibur>>>ELF. But, I don't
see how Log Horizon is any better?
-The story development is just too slow to the point I find myself sleeping. At least SAO series have pump up action/fighting scenes and romance which is a + point for me. Yes, I agree Log Horizon has romance too, but it is still one sided. The main drawback of both these series is actually the story's atmosphere. In SAO first arc people can die, but players still carry out their daily events like rape, killing, fun, sleeping with no care,sex, marriage. On the other hand In Log horizon if players actually die, they can still respawn at the respawn point. But, Still way too serious on focusing Politics, Govt, rules and regulations 85% of the anime revolves around this. These kind of genres was needed in SAO and SAO in Log Horizon.
Characters- Here I can agree with Log Horizon's fans. SAO has poor characters and character development. The whole show revolves around our female attracter kirito as an OP MC even if new characters are introduced like Sinon in GGO. Kirito is still the main attraction (Yes, clearly the main attraction specially in GGO* )
-Where as in Log Horizon has better and lovable characters and personalities but, then again I think it just has way too many characters. Just see the opening of the Log Horizon how many characters it has. I had a hard time remembering all of them. Every episode at least introduce 2 new characters though not all are given enough development, and some are soon forgotten but, at least this series has 3 main characters that is Shiroe, Akatsuki, Naotsugu unlike SAO where every season old characters are treated like background wallpapers except kirito. I am gonna give a brief review on both the MCs of these shows.
Kirito- Yes he is OP to the point he can overwrite codes of the games, just with willpower, female attracter ( Agree with this because for real if you save a female twice, she will have some sort of feels for you), but all they back off when they realize kirito is in relationship with asuna. So, NO ITS NOT HAREM! You will also see huge improvement from Season 1 to Season 2. Kirito's OP moments are toned down a lot, he defeated death gun with the help of sinon and Kirito is not even the main character in the mother's rosario arc. Asuna gets major development and it was really emotional . You gotta give credit, where you see improvement!
Shiroe- He is OP too but not as OVER OP as kirito. When it comes to flawless strategies shiroe beats kirito, but if it comes to power and skills kirito> Shiroe. Shiroe is a mage class unlike Kirito's melee class, But you will hardly see Shiroe in a battle. Most of the time, It will be side characters who fights in the battle. All Shiroe does in the battle is act as a narrator give battle's explanation, even in those battles where shiroe's contribution is null to the battle plan. As for female attractor Shiroe is quite a charm himself. Akatuski likes him and there's one more girl who likes him. So, Currently there is a love triangle going-on and one more girl who wants Shiroe on her side.
Art- SAO beats Log horizon here, because of beautiful colors used in animation and actually you can see improvements of the animation from season 1- season 2, where as Log Horizon remains the same. You will see no improvement!
Sound- Again SAO takes the thrown why? Log horizon opening song is sure is damn good, but from episode 1-25 it uses same opening song, and just to make the listeners get fed up of the song even more. Creators uses same opening song for the season 2 ANOTHER 25 EPISODES SAME OPENING AGAIN where as SAO Opening songs changes every arc. Now, if we compare the ending songs SAO takes the cake easily. ED2 of SAO II is so far the best ending song in the whole SAO series.
Enjoyment- SAO has a replay value for some, where as Log Horizon none because there's hardly any impressive fight scenes all there is politics, how to make govt. etc. The season 2 of Log horizon is really disappointing compare to S1. Here, I guess fans can agree at least SAOII>Log Horizon II
P.S- I know my review might make many users flipping middle finger to the monitor and be like (F*** this guy). But, hey this is just what I feel and it is my personal opinion!
When I heard SAO was getting a second season, I was excited. Yes, SAO is one of my favorite animes, but I try not to let that cloud my judgement for how I would score it.
As you can read in the series description, a player of a shooter VRMMO is killing people in the game. This is the first arc (Phantom Bullet). Kirito gets sent into the game because he's apparently the closest thing to a professional gamer at the disposal of the company trying to solve the mystery of how the player is killing people. Sinon is a sniper in that same
game and she's trying to overcome some trauma from her past by 'becoming strong' in the game. It felt a bit drawn out at times, but it still kept me interested as I waited to see how the arc would end.
The second arc (Caliber) is more of a filler arc than anything. Kirito and his harem go on a quest to get excalibur in ALO that takes three episodes. It was a fun little adventure, but it didn't expand the characters in any way, and the overall quest itself was a bit of an odd draw on Norse mythos.
The third arc (Mother's Rosario) involves Asuna taking the role of MC and going on an adventure with a new group of characters, namely Yuuki, to try and clear a New Aincrad floor before anyone else. It was a lot of fun to watch, with plenty of sword art sword play and the new group, the Sleeping Knights guild, had a secret that made me care a bit about them (I think I cared about the Sleeping Knights more than I cared about the majority of Kirito's harem).
The main things I love about SAO return in its second season. The music sounds fantastic and the art is amazing. Not much more needs to be said there.
The usual shortcoming of SAO is its characters, and its second season isn't really an exception. The third arc has Asuna trying to face her own weakness in the real world compared to her strength in VRMMOs, but it's kind of a side-note to the story. Most of the attempts at character development are seen in the first arc. Kirito finally starts to deal with the trauma that comes with the fact that he killed people in Sword Art Online, but that's about it for his character. Sinon, the other MC for the first arc, is given more depth as she tries to come to terms with her own past. However, her interesting character is practically dismissed in order to turn her into the missing tsundere component of Kirito's harem, which was rather disappointing to see. She was a strong character who was reduced to a mess when her trauma followed her into the game, leading her to completely rely on Kirito in the most tsundere ways she could.
I wasn't really a fan of how much of a prodigy Kirito became out of nowhere in this season. Hacking SAO itself back in season one to save Yui wasn't enough to prove his technology prowess; he now makes little cameras that make it so game characters can see the real world without any difficulty whatsoever. The only explanation given to his mechanical genius is that he has been on the internet.
Even though I was REALLY disappointed to see Sinon merge into Kirito's harem without a second thought, it was still a fun season to watch. The art and sound still kept the scenes alive for me and I managed to forgive the shortcomings in the characters and story just because I was still having fun. It may have been ridiculous, but it was fun watching Kirito basically turn into a jedi to deflect bullets in a shooter game.
It's still SAO. Kirito has his harem and still cares for Asuna. Sinon unfortunately becomes a part of the harem, but had a good char before that. Art and Sound still carry the show past its shortcomings for me.
There's no way to review Sword Art Online that won't piss someone off, so I might as well come out and say it and piss of both the fandom AND the hatedom:
This wasn't as bad as the first one.
Both of the two main arcs of Sword Art Online II (disregarding the mini-arc inbetween the two) actually manage to fix a major problem with their predecessors, creating an overall better experience in the process. Unfortunately, they make new and different mistakes instead.
The series begins with Gun Gale Online. Surprisingly, this was neither as aggressively boring nor as aggressively bad as either previous arc,
and was downright enjoyable in places - in particular, Episode 2, an episode shown to introduce the new game and a new major character, butt done with no prior context and holding over nothing from the rest of the series. It focuses on the tactics of the game and is rather interesting to watch, especially as it sets up new character Sinon as quite the bad-ass.
The actual concept of Gun Gale Online is pretty good too - the setup of a game in which people who die also die in real life, butt AREN'T supposed to was great, and gives the show a sense of much-needed tension that was absent from ALO in particular. Bringing back a member of Laughing Coffin was also a good idea, and so are the parallels drawn between Sinon's PTSD and Kirito's regrets over killing LC members in SAO.
Butt the problem this time around is not the ideas, butt the execution.
Kirito's absolute despair over having killed people in SAO comes completely out of left field and breaks the suspension of disbelief heavily. Him going from no mention of it whatsoever to a full-blown nervous breakdown is ridiculous. They try to play it off with the excuse that he had been "trying to forget it", butt trying to forget something is not the same as just conveniently not remembering it.
Then there's the idea that somehow, Sinon is fine with handling guns in GGO even though she can't handle them in real life.
That doesn't make sense.
I know most of you are going to say "well, that's the point!", butt that doesn't fly with me. Just because something was intentional doesn't mean it was a good idea. If you pissed on a meal you were cooking, and people complained that the meal tasted like piss, you couldn't exactly get away with saying it's supposed to taste like that, could you? Anyway, the point is, I could accept a funny little twist on things like that if the show ever actually gave us a reason for it, butt it doesn't. We're just supposed to accept the usual answer: "Because it does". The irony is that this same show then tries to make a point of virtual reality being the same as actual reality, at least on a sensory level.
Hell, Sinon in general is kind of a bad character - she's basically the same deal as most SAO girls. Supposedly strong, butt for some reason reduced to a mere damsel in distress for Kirito to add to his harem, at one point literally begging Kirito to save her whilst whining like a spoilt child. The only thing she is genuinely good for in the plot is as exposition (well, that and one other thing).
And even having her as a harem character is a pointless thing to do in of itself, because KIRITO IS FUCKING MARRIED. There is no point in adding other characters that he might potentially do the frick with if he is in a committed relationship already and is clearly not going to do the frick with anyone else. Harem anime are one of the worst things in the whole damn medium of anime, and SAO can't even get that right!
You know the real point of having Sinon in this show? Yeah, of course you fucking know it. Everyone knows it. I jokingly referred to the first season as "Sore Arse Online", but this time around it's more like "Sweet Ass Online".
The show isn't even trying to be subtle about it. It's just saying "yeah, like I give a fuck. Don't even act like you're not enjoying this." The camera sometimes pans to that glorious ass and back again for no discernable reason other than fanservice. Dramatic moments are even shown from the cleft of those glorious, firm cheeks.
There is, of course, one other reason for Sinon to exist, and that is because of her link to the extremely obvious big bad's true identity. Man, what are the odds that the first person Kirito would meet in GGO happens to be friends with the very person he is here to hunt? What a crazy random happenstance.
It's obvious in every way. Because seriously. There is no point in Deathgun being mysterious if it isn't someone we already know. There is no reason he would caress that photo of Sinon if it wasn't someone who knew Sinon. And there is no reason for his character to even exist if he ISN'T Deathgun. Fuck, he's even in the same room as Kirito right before Deathgun appears, and is mysteriously absent from the moment Deathgun starts talking to Kirito. He also keeps shooting meaningful glances at Kirito. Oh, and you want the best part? Look at the OP sequence. It literally fades from him into Deathgun. As if it were almost trying to be clever about it. Which it might actually have been if it wasn't obvious!
And here's the kicker - there is also no way that Kyouji would be allowed to exist in this show unless he were later forcibly be removed... because he is an obstacle to Sinon being a member of Kirito's incredibly pointless harem. No male in this show is allowed to be any remote kind of threat to Kirito's ultimate sexual dominance, being that this show is the ultimate wish fulfilment tool for lonely teenage boys. It kind of raises awkward questions about the writer, butt then again this is the same guy who wrote Kirito's sister as a love interest, and then there's the whole "glopping" thing, so this isn't exactly a new low. Butt then, just to demonstrate how NO MALE OTHER THAN KIRITO CAN BE ALLOWED TO BE SEXY, it does the same bullshit as ALO and makes the villain super rapey and incredibly uncomfortable, also driving in the point that OH MY GOD THIS VILLAIN IS BAD. You don't have to force the idea that he is bad down my throat - You had me at "murderer".
Butt anyway, regarding Kirito's unthreatenable harem, this brings me back to the ultimate problem with SAO that has returned from the first season - Kirito is monumentally godmodded. He enters the game, knows nothing, and immediately kicks more ass than every other player combined, no matter how illogical his plans, like running headlong into a hail of fucking bullets like the vengeful ghost of Leeroy fucking Jenkins himself. Kirito cannot fail, because the writers like him too much. There is no tension whatsoever, because there is no doubt that Kirito will succeed. The worst point is when he gets stuck with a deadly neurotoxin needle, only to discover that he had a fucking electrode in the EXACT SPOT THE NEEDLE HIT AND NOWHERE ELSE WHATSOEVER. As if the concept that Kirito was at any risk was not already nonexistent, this seemingly happened just to prove that very point beyond a doubt.
Disregarding the mini-arc inbetween the two main ones, because nobody particularly cared about that arc and it could have been left out entirely without any fuss, the other main arc is the Sleeping Knights arc - probably the better of the two.
The core plot of the Sleeping Knights arc is actually, dare I say it, good. It's a clever piece of worldbuilding focusing on the other sci-fi implications of the series' FullDive technollogy - in this case, the medical implications. It also does itsself a service by building this story arc around an emotional character arc with a surprisingly likeable character who doesn't fall victim to any of this series' typical character writing tropes. The whole arc leads to a surprisingly satisfying finale.
The problem is the path it takes to get there. For a start, the lack of any real-world ramifications to the gameplay was exactly what the problem was with the first ALO-centric arc, and they've repeated it here with even lower stakes. And while cutting Kirito out of the series for the vast majority of the arc and making someone else the protagonist was certainly an improvement, Asuna is by no means a more compelling character, and creating a pointless subplot about Asuna and her oppresive mother, full of teenage angst, was a questionable choice to say the least.
Overall, Sword Art Online II improves on the first series in some places but makes it worse in others. Overall a slight improvement, butt that's not much consolation for the second season of a show that should have ended halfway through its first.
Like most of the community, I was watching Sword Art Online whilst it was airing about four or five years ago, and I remember how everyone collectively became more and more disappointed with the show as it was airing. Not only was the show's pacing completely out of control with constant time skips amongst many other glaring issues during the first half, the show practically imploded in on itself during the horrendous second arc, which only left nothing but a bad taste in my mouth. At the time, I hated the show, and still do to a certain extent now, but my main thought was
that, at the very least, Sword Art Online couldn't get any worse... right? Unfortunately I was proven wrong since the second season of Sword Art Online proved to be even worse, becoming one of the worst anime I have ever had the displeasure of consuming in my entire life. While there are perhaps one or two elements of the show that is worthy of praise, the negatives far outweigh the positives and this review will be tackling all three arcs in order while practically spoiling every event in the show, so take that as a warning if you're planning to watch this anime at some point. With all of that out of the way, let's jump into the Phantom Bullet arc!
PHANTOM BULLET ARC (1/10):
This arc is one of the worst story arcs I have ever seen. What could of been an interesting look into the mental state and psyche of Kirito, just becomes an aimless mess with no sense of direction, followed by glaring pacing issues and awful characters as well as a terrible villain. This arc does so much wrong that's insanely annoying to watch and I constantly wanted to consume cyanide during my viewing to taste the sweet, sweet relief of death. The second season of SAO takes place a year after the events of the first season and opens up with Kirito and Asuna on a date, happily reminiscing about their time in Sword Art Online. Y'know... that place where thousands of people met their horrible demise? Perhaps they view the entire experience as some sort of romantic honeymoon or some shit. Anyway, whilst on this date, Kirito is asked by some government dude if he could speak to him about some strange incidences involving the massively popular game known as "Gun Gale Online". Government-kun tells Kirito-sama that in this game, a player has been able to successively kill other plays in the game, resulting in their real life deaths. The viewer learns of this player, called "Death Gun" from the opening scene of the show. Not only is the character design a lesser version of Darth Vader, but the name "Death Gun" just seems silly and stupid. A gun's primary use is that of a weapon; to kill people and bring about death. So, I guess the gun is double the death then...? I guess it does make sense in the context of the show since this "double death gun" does result in the avatar and the real life death of the person controlling said avatar, but the name does seem a little silly for someone trying to be so intimidating and feels more like a cheap knock off, of the Death Note than anything else.
Anyway, Government-kun asks Kirito-sama if he will work with him by going inside Gun Gale Online to try and put a stop to Death Gun, and, after some reluctance at first, Kirito agrees and the rest of the arc sees Kirito attempting to find out Death Gun's true identity. Now, this sounds fine on paper, but the execution for this arc is fucking terrible. First of all, let's discuss Kirito's character and the HUGE waste in potential this anime throws out the window in regards to his PTSD. At some point in the show, while Kirito is about to enter a tournament in the game (I'll get to the specifics of this in a bit) we learn that Death Gun was a part of a group called "Laughing Coffin" in Sword Art Online; a group that Kirito and Asuna fought and was forced to kill some of their members. This triggers Kirito's PTSD and this is easily one of the most interesting things that has ever happened to his character since he actually exhibits symptoms of actually being a real, genuine person for once; it helps his character feel more grounded and relatable than simply being a generic self insert. Kirito's psychological stress and hang-ups in regards to actually killing someone and having this link into the main villain was a smart idea and could of allowed for so much development and understanding of his character and just really how much damage SAO had done to his mental well being. This COULD of been the case, if the show expanded on it at all. Kirito's physiological hang ups barely last for even one episode, which means that his character hardly develops as a person and, instead, is completely absolved of his stress and worries after only a five minute talk with some nurse at a hospital! They throw out the only interesting thing that has ever happened to this character in only one episode! After this, Kirito just devolves back into the boring, self insert that he is and his character ceases to ever be interesting ever again. The fact that the show throws out its only redeeming quality is just a flick in the nuts to the audience and, again, is such wasted potential. The show should have started with Kirito waking up in bed or something, after having a dream about the time in which he killed someone in SAO, which would imply that Kirito has been suffering from his PTSD for a while now, as the rest of the show sees him come to terms with what he has done in the past and slowly learn to accept it and move on with his life. It could of made for a fantastic character study, but is just thrown to the side like a child with a toy.
Speaking of wasted potential, this also brings me to the other main character of this arc, Shion. Shion does have a bit more in the way of investment and drive in this narrative but is just as poorly handled as every other element in the show. As a child, Shion was caught up in a post office robbery, in which she manages to get the gun of the robber, and shoot him, effectively killing him and saving the lives of everyone in the post office. This, however, has given her a severe phobia of guns, to the point where she throws up at the very sight of them. In order to overcome her phobia, she plays Gun Gale Online, a game all about battling it out with guns in an attempt to overcome her fear of them and she believes that, by winning the Bullet of Bullets tournament (the same one as Kirito enters) ,she will be finally strong enough to overcome her fear and move on with her life. Her motivation in this narrative is not so bad but it lacks intrigue. Shion, herself, is a boring character since her characterisation is minimal and I always found it hard to connect to her or care for her struggles or goal. She consistently repeats some of the most corny and irritating lines in the entire show, most prominently during a fight in the second episode where she proclaims that another player is "strong enough to smile on the battlefield". The entire show is filled with these corny lines, and I understand that, to this character, the game is a huge deal in overcoming her ordeal but it feels like the show is trying to force drama and narrative stakes with cheesy, hyperbolic lines; it feels superficial and clunky. Shion's character is effectively ruined once she meets big strong Kirito who saves her at every hurdle and sorts out every problem for her. Like every other girl in this series, Shion does begin to feel feelings towards Kirito and she simply becomes just another boring, uninteresting love interest. Her character feels lazily thrown together, with all of the typical Tsundere traits you'd expect. She slaps Kirito after seeing her in minimal clothing (despite it being a fucking video game), she has an apprehensive personality and her character is as inconsistent as a corrupt politician's views. The main problem I have with her character is how quickly the show is willing to let her become the damsel in distress who needs Kirito to save her when it should be the other way around. Shion should have been a side character Kirito meets inside the game, who helps Kirito work out his own mental hang-ups, but instead she is used for pandering to the Otakus and all the teenagers who see Mr Kirito Mclovin as a self insert for themselves.
The Villain, Death Gun, is just as bad as these two characters, if not worse in many regards. Myself, and many others were able to figure out the identity of who Death Gun really was only after the first episode. Once I saw the opening, I pretty much figured it out since A-1 Pictures doesn't understand subtleties in the slightest. Whilst watching the opening, we see a shot of Shion's friend, Shinkawa, reach out his hand to her while she is on a swing. As he does so, the screen explodes into flames with Death Gun riding on a horse. This visual queue was more than enough for me to understand and suspect that he was Death Gun, which later proved to be correct, but even without this blunder, it is painfully easy to get since Shinkawa seems too nice to be true to Shion and the hints they drop are not exactly subtle. Not only that, but the way the author wrote the way around how Death Gun kills people is needlessly convoluted and stupid. It turns out that Death Gun was working as part of a three man team, and one person out of this team would go the player's house in the real world, with a lethal injection, ready to inject the person with this stuff, once Death Gun's bullet connects with said person in the game. This would mean that the person at the house would have to be watching a live stream of the tournament, waiting until the bullet connects in order to inject the person. There is so much fucking wrong with this. For starters, there was no need for such an overly complicated scenario since we already know that this is a fantasy world in which anything is possible; why couldn't Death Gun be able to kill someone in the game without resorting to this bullshit? Not only that, but what happens when the person ready to inject the medicine believes that the bullet connected but it didn't really? What happens if the player is hit but he doesn't see it? This is so fucking stupid it hurts...
Another huge problem is the lack of tension in this arc. Kirito, as usual, is a fucking God who can do anything the plot demands from him, just because he is Kirito. One of the things I was most looking forward to in this arc was the fact that Kirito was playing a gun game, a weapon he was not accustomed to and he would have had to learn how to properly yield one and adapt to this world. Much like how the audience wouldn't know anything about this game, Kirito wouldn't either and we could grow attached to this character, seeing him learn the rules and get better the more he played. It would have created, y'know... NARRATIVE TENSION AND STAKES! But, no, Kirito finds a light saber, and thus is now unstoppable since we already know he can use a sword with no trouble whatsoever. Not only that, but despite this game being for hardcore players, Kirito pretty much destroys every single one of them instantly, learns how to use the very hard to control buggies straight away and pretty much deduces the entire plot for the audience through very long and drawn out monologues and exposition scenes. And holy shit is the exposition for this arc terrible! There are so many cafe exposition scenes in this show that it is insane and all of them just essentially tell the audience directly about the plot or how the characters are feeling. Setting exposition scenes in cafes is one of the laziest and boring ways to push a story forward and there are so many scenes like this that I almost fell asleep on many occasions. It's visually boring and only serves to pad out time, and the pacing for this arc is also pretty bad. Stretching out the source material into such a length was a bad idea since it leads to many scenes feeling as if they're dragging on for far too long. Take for example the episodes where Kirito and Shion are taking refuge inside a cave during the Bullet of Bullets tournament. We spend nearly two whole fucking episodes in this god damn cave as we see both characters explain their predicaments and back stories to one another in slow and dull ways. We don't learn anything about the characters nor do we see them grow either, only in that Shion wants Kirito's dick a little more as a result. It's incredibly boring to watch since they just explain their backstories once again to the audience, which, at this point, only serves to pad out the arc and episodes.
The game of Gun Gale Online itself feels so badly done and I imagine that, if this game were real, nobody would be playing this shit. I have a lot more respect for a show that goes the extra mile to make their world believable but here, the game mechanics that the author thought of to put in the game feel so stupid. For starters, we are told that Gun Gale Online is the only game that has professional, hardcore players which is just a ridiculous notion since I can think of plenty of games off the top of my head that already have pro players, but the customisation option presented in the game is stupid too. We learn that in this game the player has no control over their avatar and it is randomly selected for you! Why on Earth is this a thing? In games, developers are constantly trying to expand on customisation, and the fact that Gun Gale Online locks you into only one playable class only adds to the fact that this game is fucking broken. Moreover, if the avatars are randomly selected for you, then why the hell does Shion look like herself just with blue hair as well as Kirito, only now with longer hair and his character model is that of a female, while other avatars look nothing like their real life owners? You may call these pedantic things to complain about, and perhaps they are, but when the show is this boring and dull, my mind wonders over to such things since I am not immersed in anything that is happening.
Even the animation wasn't that stellar with frequent use of recap footage and many of the scenes set inside cafes with two characters simply taking. Even the final fight between Kirito and Death Gun is incredibly dull and anti-climatic to boot. This arc is just SO bad on every level from the insanely bad writing, to the stupid as fuck plot, to the wasted potential and characters. Everything about the Phantom Bullet arc is awful and I still have even more things to complain and talk about, but I'm getting way ahead of myself. I still have two more arcs to go!
CALIBUR ARC (4/10):
I actually don't have too much to say with this arc since it is rather simple. After Gun Gale Online had finished airing its episodes, many people were tired out from the experience, and for many fans of the series, this was the arc that brought them back to enjoying SAO once again. This arc is a lot more simple in its complexity and is essentially about Kirito and his harem, dicking around in Alfheim Online. Essentially, Kirito and friends hear news of the legendary item, Calibur, has been found and set off on a mission to get this item, along with newcomer to the harem, Shion, who is now put on pause forever and is now part of Kirito's harem bitches. It's an arc that fans of the series will enjoy since it is mostly just comedic hi-jinks and while I did find some of the jokes funny, mostly regarding Klien, I found the arc to be pretty boring since I don't have a modicum of interest for any of these characters at all. It's not a bad arc, but an incredibly boring one for those who, like me, do not like these characters.
MOTHER'S ROSARIO ARC (6/10):
Now, I believe it is time to give some credit where I believe credit is due. This arc is actually not terrible and manages to do quite a lot that actually managed to impress me, while handing a character death in a mature and even quite sad way too. This arc focuses more so on Asuna as the main character which I was happy for considering that Asuna is the only character that has anything going for her and luckily her character is not completely ruined and gets some small development. This arc focuses mainly on a girl called Yuki, who is a fantastic player in the game of Alfheim Online, who actually manages to beat Kirito in a fight! Can you fucking believe it?! Anyway, we learn that this character actually has aids and is close to her death, but what is great is that this death and character is actually handled with a lot of care and heart. Yuki's character is simply not there just so that she can be used as a cheap plot device to evoke tears and drama into the story, but actually develops nicely over the course of this story arc into a respectable character, and, while I didn't cry at her death, the show was successful enough to evoke sadness in such a cynical cunt such as myself.
It's easy to feel emphatic towards Yuki's character since she is very lovable and easy to care about. She feels like a real kid going through such a horrible ordeal and her final moments were surprisingly well done. The arc isn't great however, since the pacing, again, is pretty bad and the newly introduced characters, other than Yuki, don't get much attention and are pushed to the sides, but overall, this arc was a massive improvement. Not only that, but the animation quality and fight choreography are a bit better than that of Gun Gale Online and the arc has a killer opening too. There is much to like about this arc but it ultimately doesn't absolve all of the shit that Gun Gale Online put me through either.
In conclusion, SAO II is a mess. It has frequent tonal shifts, the narrative is terrible with glaring plot holes and other glaring writing issues and even the few things that are worthy of praise, are not enough to raise the bar or change my stance on this show. I know that recently, it has become very trendy and hip to hate on SAO, and while I don't think this show is the worst anime ever made, it certainly is far from good, and every aspect of the show is so lazily produced and boring.