A year after escaping Sword Art Online, Kazuto Kirigaya has been settling back into the real world. However, his peace is short-lived as a new incident occurs in a game called Gun Gale Online, where a player by the name of Death Gun appears to be killing people in the real world by shooting them in-game. Approached by officials to assist in investigating the murders, Kazuto assumes his persona of Kirito once again and logs into Gun Gale Online, intent on stopping the killer.
Once inside, Kirito meets Sinon, a highly skilled sniper afflicted by a traumatic past. She is soon dragged in his chase after Death Gun, and together they enter the Bullet of Bullets, a tournament where their target is sure to appear. Uncertain of Death Gun's real powers, Kirito and Sinon race to stop him before he has the chance to claim another life. Not everything goes smoothly, however, as scars from the past impede their progress. In a high-stakes game where the next victim could easily be one of them, Kirito puts his life on the line in the virtual world once more.
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.
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