**SPOILER FREE REVIEW**
*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.