As the most hyped show in 2012, Sword Art Online is known to be one of the most argued show that exists. With one side saying its the best thing ever, and one side saying it’s complete shite. Nonetheless, onto the review.
In the year 2022, technology has advanced so far that people are able to put themselves into a virtual reality via a helmet which can transport people into a virtual realm. This has led to the development of one of the most anticipated games, Sword Art Online. With 10,000 people being allowed to play this game, everyone who has a copy begins playing, and exploring the new virtual reality, until a few minutes after playing, the creator of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba comes in and tells the 10,000 that they are not able to leave the game until it is cleared. This is all going great for the people in said game till, and I quote from our main protagonist, “If I die in the game, I die in real life!” And the story ensues from there. From the way the story is set up, great things are expected to happen as the first 3 episodes are gripping and exciting, brimming with pain and misery from being in a game. That is, until the story decides to go into side stories for about 5-6 episodes. In the later half in the show regarding a game called Alfiem Online, or ALO, well, yeah. The arc itself is about fairies, which I’m personally fine with. The execution and the premise of it was horrible to say the least. Let’s just say the pacing isn’t exactly THE best thing to come out of SAO.
First up, is Kazuto Kirigaya, or Kirito, as his username entails. As a shut-in who focuses his time mainly on playing games, Kazuto doesn’t show much interaction in the beginning of the show since he is a solo player and a loner. It isn’t until a tragic accident in episode 3, that changes Kazuto forever, urging him to finish the game as soon as possible. Beyond that, well, nothing else happens. If I was to explain him in the later episodes, I would phrase it as an overpowered player who really could care less about anything other then his girlfriend. Yeah.
Next, Asuna Yuuki. As the main female protagonist, she is shown at the beginning to be a strongheaded and focused player who ends up becoming a powerful player thanks to Kazuto’s advice. Although, as the series progresses, the badass attitude that she has early on, develops into well, a needy girl who needs her boyfriend to live.
Then we have the rest of the “main” cast such as Kazuto’s “sister” Suguha, the loli Ayano (Silica), the blacksmith Rika, (lisbeth), the comic relief Ryotaro (Klein), the AI child Yui, and the awesome mace wielder, Agil. Beyond that, we have a whole cast of side characters that get about 20 minutes at most of screen time which have no worth in mentioning. (Figure out the antagonists for yourselves.)
Animation and sound:
Animation is a huge plus for this anime. With extremely detailed characters and beautiful scenery, SAO has some of the best animation quality to ever exist in anime ever. Another great thing is the fluidity that existed within SAO’s battle scenes. From seeing the sword skills and the fantastic fight scenes, SAO truly has some of the best animation ever. For music, SAO has great tracks as well. Quoting only a few of the wonderful selections are “Crossing field“, “Innocence“, and my personal favorite, “Swordland“. The 3 of them serve there purposes as the openings and the battle music. All of them sound great and the opening animations themselves look fantastic. (Except for the dub’s rendition of the opening.) As of the making of this review, SAO has crossed over into english and the dub is well, adequate. While the majority of the voices do match very well with the characters they are put into, Aniplex really screwed up on a select few. The most prominent one is Asuna. To me, Asuna’s voice in the dub sounds like a 9 year old and it irritates me how she sounds really, really whiny. I sincerely wished they recasted her. However, the voice actors do portray emotions when they speak in certain scenes, and that’s commendable considering that many dubs have fallen quite flat.
Regardless of how much I butchered this show to its very core, SAO to me, was enjoyable to watch. If there are any MMORPG players out there, I would highly recommend this, seeing as how the anime is basically based in an MMORPG world. Though the plot was complete crap in development and pacing, there was something keeping me to watch more of it. Like seriously, I couldn’t stop watching this. Because of that, I’m in the half-n-half camp where I like SAO, but it could be better. With all the potential that it had in the first 3 episodes, it’s a shame how badly executed it was later in the episodes. If I was to change this show, I would say to completely get rid of the whole second arc and focus solely on the first arc for 2 reasons. First, it’s called SAO, not ALO. So getting rid of the second arc would make a lot of sense due to the anime’s namesake. Second, is character development. Because there is a 2 year gap between the first half and the second half in the first arc, expanding the first arc to 25 episodes rather then 15 would make so much more room for character development. Kazuto and Asuna’s relationship was very rushed, and the expanded amount of time could make their relationship more meaningful then it was. Also, because SAO’s concept was so much better then ALO’s. So, if you are an MMORPG player, this is an anime for you!