Live in a different world – a world of fantasy and wonder. Sword Art Online (also known as SAO) is one of the most hyped anime this 2012. Originally a light novel by Reki Kawahara, the story features a virtual reality game.
The story starts off with the virtual reality game called Sword Art Online. On November 6, 2022, all the players logged into the game using the NerveGear, a sort of helmet that transports the consciousness into the game world. Kirito, the main character, was a beta tester, so he knew a bit about the game. The twist comes when the creator of SAO, Kayaba Akihiko, announces that nobody would be able to log out of the game unless they have cleared all 100 floors of the game by defeating each floor’s boss. The big catch is that if they die in the game, they die in the real world. Kirito decides to be a solo player (he did join a guild once) and met Asuna who became his partner and lover.
In each episode, new characters are featured. As of press time, there are 21 episodes. According to anime data from the producers, there would be 25 episodes plus one OVA. At the moment, the novel is still on –going and there are 4 arcs – Sword Art Online, Alfheim Online, Gun Gale Online, and UnderWorld.
Now onto the hits and misses.
I must say, the plot is pretty darn amazing. When I first saw it, I thought of Ragnarok Online the Animation, which was shown years ago. SAO offers something different though. It kind of makes it closer to our own reality by making the characters live in the “real” world and bringing them to a world of virtual fantasy. SAO also promoted the idea of “practical humanity” – which means that wherever they are, real world or not, humans create bonds and societies for survival.
The biggest hit for me is the graphics. With advanced technology, I quite expected that one of the reasons many liked SAO is because of its incredibly great drawing. It did not disappoint in this aspect. Even the monsters and bosses of floors have incredible design. The biggest props are the details in clothing and weaponry. I really liked Kirito’s swords.
One hit I find interesting is the arc segmentation. Although some anime fans might complain that the arcs are irritating (I mean, they change looks in each arc), they actually keep the story interesting. The 15 episode arc for Sword Art Online was greatly designed and the new arc for Alfheim Online made the story more interesting by providing variety. Game fans would surely love this. The SAO arc started off with just weapons and a level-up system. Alfheim online allowed using magic and did not adhere to a level-up system which now complicates things a little bit. This expands the genre of the story by a lot.
Although the story is quite nice, the characters are not that good. I feel that each character was not as developed as they should be. I am saying this not only as a reviewer, but as a writer as well (I had so many classes about characterization during college). For instance, Kirito’s character is quite confusing. SAO does not justify why Kirito does this or that. Same thing with Asuna. There are some well developed characters like Suguha though.
Because of the weak characterization, the story sometimes becomes hard to imagine. I could not understand why Kirito would fall in love with Asuna (if it’s based on looks, I totally would go for her though). I’m also disappointed at how Kirito and Asuna fell in love. It seems they realized their feelings too early in the series, but I guess it all makes sense when Kirito decides to rescue Asuna in the Alfheim arc.
A good point about the weak characterization though is that the interpretation of the anime might have not given justice to the light novels. Many anime fans and critics have pointed out that there is depth in character in the light novels that the anime was not able to bring out.
Although I mentioned earlier in the hits that the plot is really good, there are many points in the story line that are predictable (like who’s going to die, who’s going to go for revenge, who’s willing to sacrifice their guts so others may live, why Kirito never wanted to join a guild again, etc). For me, a predictable anime can make you bored.
Do I recommend it? Sure, I do. I think it’s interesting, but do not expect too much or you might be disappointed like me. For hardcore shoujo fans with a love for deep, well-thought feelings for a significant other, the KiritoxAsuna love plot would not satisfy you. I think people who like games would probably enjoy watching this though. I don’t do gaming as much as I can, but after the first two episodes, I wished I had a NerveGear.
The 25-episode plan would cover only Volumes 1-2 of the light novel, which means it would only finish the Alfheim arc. I’m sure there’s bound to be a second season.
What are your thoughts on SAO? Is it worth the hype? Leave a comment below!
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