Language: Japanese + English Subs
Director: Tomohiko Ito
Producer: Kazuma Miki and Shinitirou Kashiwada
Distributor: Aniplex (Japan) Crunchyroll (EU/US)
Genre: Action, Fantasy, MMO, Shounen
In the near future, a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online has been released where players control their avatars with their bodies using a piece of technology called: Nerve Gear. One day, players discover they cannot log out, as the game creator is holding them captive unless they reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. However, if they die in the game, they die in real life. Their struggle for survival starts now…
Sword Art Online (S.A.O) is one of those shows I usually avoid due to the huge amount of hype surrounding the show. Shows like this usually fail to live up to the hype, and frankly so does S.A.O.
I sat down and watched all the episodes in a marathon session, and from what i saw it was an okay anime, and frankly without all the hype about it I’d probably even go so far as to say it was a good anime. What I’m going to try and do in this post is get past the hype and just look at the series for what it was.
There’s one big problem with the series, it’s pacing. On the one hand i understand why they handled the time passage the way they did, limited number of episodes meaning a lot of things had to be cut completely. However i think that it would have served the series better to spend more time showing the lead characters levelling up and progressing.
The pacing as it is just doesn’t feel right, especially since Kirito has some rather odd personality quirks that change over the course of the series. These are never really explored until much later in the series, and even then it’s rather sloppily done.
The first part of the story, based on the S.A.O world should have been given the full twenty five episodes to explore things. Kirito’s personality, his relationships with Asuna and the others could have been handled a lot better as well.
This was especially true for the Kirito x Asuna relationship, the way it develops just doesn’t feel natural or fluid. it has a forced feel to it that gets in the way of their characters at times. If the arc had been spread over the full twenty five episodes they could have explored that relationship better, make it feel more natural as they fell in love and developed.
Kirito is the one that really needed a lot more exploration though. Frequently it’s brought up about how he’s a solo player, which is very rare at the high levels due to the dangers. Most people join guilds, yet Kirito never does until he’s forced into it. It’s always hinted that there’s some reason for this, but it’s never revealed, which i think was a shame since it would have brought an interesting dynamic to the character.
It also just would have been great to see him develop as a fighter in the game, he garners a fearsome nickname and even scarier fame that scares a lot of people just from mentioning his name. How did he get these? How did he get the rare drops that he’s got? All of these could have been explored and frankly made for an amazing series in it’s own right.
The second arc, which frankly had the potential to be even better than the first arc, was actually the weakest. To many plot conveniences throughout the arc, ranging from stupid amounts of gold that he basically throws around like water; to the AI Yui from the first arc still being in his inventory, despite everything else being corrupted. Finally to cap it off he’s stupidly overpowered considering he’s supposed to be low level since it’s a new game.
There was also the potential for two sides of the story, both the in game stuff and the out of game stuff. However this is never really explored very well, which leaves it feeling a bit off for me.
The pacing of the second arc feels even faster than the first, but with almost no real development in the characters. There is some, between Kirito and the new female character Leafa, and while this does prove to be rather interesting for a while, it ends up being rather stale. the resolution of it has a ‘yeah saw that coming’ feel to it which is disappointing.
The art of the series is pretty good, i liked the look of the world for the first arc, it had an interesting feel to it. The creatures, and ‘bosses’ had a great feel and look to them. The boss fights, the few we’re given, we’re okay. though as you’d expect in a complicated scenes, the quality of the art does drop a bit. However it’s not to bad, and doesn’t really hinder the fights much.
Yet despite it’s failing’s i did enjoy the series, especially since there weren’t really any ‘crap’ episodes that slowed the series down. I still feel that Ragnarok the Animation does the MMO aspect better, and had better character development. I also doubt I’ll watch the series through ever again. I May pick it up if it’s ever licensed for DVD distribution, and isn’t overly priced.
At the moment this series is available on Crunchyroll if your a premium subscriber. For £4.99 a month it’s worth subscribing, since they have some interesting anime on it.