Sunday, June 9, 2013

Anime Review: Sword Art Online

Okay, my spring quarter is coming to an end. I just have to get through finals week and then I'm free... until the summer quarter... yeah. But I'm sure none of you are interested in that, mainly because I'm sure very few of you guys are actually reading my blog posts at all, or are even interested. Anyway, now it's time to talk about some anime and this week we have Sword Art Online, an anime about a fictional near future MMORPG that uses a virtual reality interface... I SWEAR this isn't .hack!

Oh I hope the Log Out button isn't DLC.
In the near future, Virtual Reality has been fully realized. By using a special headgear, signals from the brain can be intercepted and used as input for the virtual world. Using this technology the first full virtual reality MMORPG "Sword Art Online" launches and all 100,000 initial copies are immediately sold out. However, after booting the game up, player Kirito realizes something is wrong: There is no Log Out button. Shortly after realizing this all 100,000 players are teleported to the starting town where the creator and Game Master of Sword Art Online reveals that this is not a mistake, that no player can log out is a "feature" of Sword Art Online. What's more is that if the headgear is removed forcably, that the small Microwave emitter inside the helmet will overload and fry the player's brain, and that several players have been killed this way. And if that isn't enough, the microwave emitter will overload if the player's HP drops to zero, meaning not only can you not escape from this world, but also that death in the game means death in real life. The only way out is to clear the 100 floors of the game's tower and beat the game. What does this revelation means for all the player of the game? Can the game be beaten? What lies in store for Kirito and the other players, when life and death and survival are a real part of the game? Find out in Sword Art Online.

Incoming message from the Big Giant Head!
Sword Art Online can be described as .hack if it was done right. With the gravity of the situation that in this Death Game, it grounds every action of all the characters and gave weight to a lot of the events that happen in the series. Like a LOT of weight, this has to be one of the most emotionally draining series thanks to the fact that people die, and die a lot. Also, thanks to the "Death Game" aspect of SAO it creates a very interesting world that is very well explored in the series. How characters act, the types of social constructions that get built in response, and how some people start treating the Game World like the Real World, is all very fascinating, which makes me wish that the series wasn't focused solely on Kirito. I wanted to see more of the Game World, get to know characters who we only briefly met in the series, and find out who guilds like the infamous Assassin's guild "The Laughing Coffin" actually formed. There is so much uncovered ground in this series that it is somewhat frustrating.

Oh, you are one of THOSE gamers.
And that really gets to the core of my issue with Sword Art Online, it feels like there is so much more to the series, but we never see it. Interesting characters only appear in one or two episodes and then we never see them again, we are introduced to potential conflicts but are never fully resolved, and then the first season is concluded rather abruptly and we are thrown into the far less interesting second season. The second season is more problematic because there is no "Death Game" aspect which drains the series of it's most interesting features and that the villain of the second season is so amazingly, unsympathetically, cartoonishly evil that he actively seeks out every possible chance to reinforce how evil he is. Seriously, he would kick a puppy off of a roof if he had the opportunity. With how interesting the first season was, it is a major let down to see the second season wander into some of the most cliche territory there is.

Even with the problems of the second season, Sword Art Online is still one of the more fascinating series of recent years. It hooks you in and keeps you watching... until everything took a turn for the stupid in the second season. It's not as bad as say Utawarerumono, where my suggestion is to watch it up to the point of suckage and then make up your own ending, as the second season of Sword Art Online does redeem itself somewhat towards the end, but, in my opinion, not enough to justify it's existence. I would have much rather they spent more time on the more interesting first season and filled in some gaps in it's narrative rather than jumping headlong into the second season. Either way, Sword Art Online is still Highly Recommended.

Until next time.

-Crescent, it's a Japanese MMORPG, of course is was going to happen sooner or later.


  1. Actually I really enjoy the story of Sword Art Online and what a creative idea about real humans fighting in the game world, and I also fall so strong about the love between Kirito and Asuna, so that I try to cosplay as Kirito when I attend in the ceremony of our Academy, I choose the Kirito cosplay costume online at, fast shipping actually! And I also find so many Asuna and Sword Art online related characters in that ceremony!

    1. I also really enjoyed the story to Sword Art Online, for the first half of it. It had an engaging concept, likeable characters, and sharp writing. The second half, on the other hand, made Asuna a damsel in distress, the villain transparently evil, and drained a good deal of tension out of what was going on by removing the one element that made the first season so fascinating: The Death Game.

      The most frustrating part is that my brother was so into the series that he started to read the translated light novels, only to realize that the author was a crap writer, and the quality of the stories just continued to go down hill after the first story arc. Oh and remember how you can feel the love between Kirito and Asuna? Well apparently each new story arc in the novels introduces a new girl to add to Kirito's harem. I am not making this up.

  2. This show should be call wasted potential or the anime that had promise but instead went toward the otaku crowd in the wrongest of ways.

    1. It's actually not surprising considering the light novels the series is based on reads more like a self insert fan-fic of how awesome Kirito (AKA the writer) is.