OPINION: Sword Art Online is Not the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

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By


*Spoilers Follow For The Entire Series*

Seriously. After covering every episode of Sword Art Online for Operation Rainfall I have come to realize that this is a series made popular by cute girls and an interesting premise, with some narrative value adding to the mix. People have been pronouncing SAO as the best anime ever, best of 2012, and question how anyone could not like it. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the series for what it is (minus the jarringly-different second half), and I would like to see more of it made. But it’s time to take a minute and think about Sword Art Online from a macro level. Let’s do this.

Sword Art Online Overworld

Sword Art Online will always be remembered for its split storyline structure, divided by the now-famous episode 14 (“The End of the World“). Series protagonist Kirito determined that Heathcliff simply could not be anyone other than Kayaba Akihiko. This throws a wrench into the entire plot, as Kayaba was not meant to be defeated until the 100th level. It was a twist that fans of the novels could see coming a mile away, while those new to the story were likely thrown off guard. Sword Art Online had something going up until this point, but sadly everything changed once Kirito awoke from his two-year slumber.

The first six or seven episodes can be looked at in two ways: One, we received a display of short stories that helped to establish the world of SAO or two, we were given a random mess of horribly-paced glimpses into the adventures of Kirito the wandering “beater”. I tend to lean somewhere in the middle, as I enjoyed the majority of these episodes. Yet I can’t deny how awkward it was to jump ahead in time and somehow miss what happened to Kirito along the way. We receive the origin story of Kirito’s black cloak, see his depressed nature when he fails to protect a guild of players, and then we see a few harem-like episodes with Silica and Lisbeth. The point at first was to show how much Kirito was to be a “solo” player, but then we rapidly see his characterization change to having an unspoken need to be around others. Thus we receive the love story between Asuna and Kirito.

Sword Art Online Kirito and Asuna Together   Sword Art Online Asuna and Kirito

In my opinion this is arguably the best part of Sword Art Online. Beginning with episode 8 (“The Sword Dance of Black and White“), we see something more human in a series known for its digital premise. A solo player who tends to keep to himself discovers love with a young woman that has the confidence to lead in the front lines. At first Kirito seems to be a bit standoffish to the relationship, but thankfully the creators of the show decided to alter his perception of how things should be.

The main purpose of this small arc, of which certainly includes Yui, is that even in a digital world players can feel emotions such as love and sadness. One theme that takes hold is how so many remaining players have become accustomed to the life of SAO. At one point Asuna and Kirito have a conversation about the possibility of living within the game’s world for a longer period of time so that nothing would change. But the reality in the back of their heads, the gnawing fact that their real-life bodies are decaying in the real world, is evidence enough that they must continue on to escape Kayaba’s reign of a controlled situation. Though it’s clear that Kirito and Asuna were satisfied with making love with one another in-game, and that Kirito was surely impressed with Asuna’s in-game cooking skills, I think they truly wanted to be with one another in reality so that they could experience the naturalness of a physical relationship.

But things can’t be so easy, right? Just as Kirito defeats Kayaba and expects to wake up in a world with the real-life Asuna, he learns that she never woke up. If we halt on this premise alone it’s actually fairly interesting, and better yet we receive a new villain who affects Kirito in two ways. Sugou has held back three hundred players from logging out of Sword Art Online so that he can perform science experiments with their brains, and he also has some form of marriage arranged with Asuna. Kirito can’t allow for either of these things to happen, so after some narrative development he logs into ALfheim Online to resolve the situation.

Sword Art Online Sugu   Sword Art Online Leafa

But in my opinion this is where the series goes south and loses the spectacle of what we knew as Sword Art Online. Sugu, Kirito’s cousin who secretly loves him, was almost an interesting character until the opening theme for the second half clearly defines her as a piece of fan service. Her online counterpart in ALO as Leafa was also interesting at first, and her purpose as Kirito’s guide to the World Tree seemed to be standard enough. But the series leaves its entire former roots to the side and dives into a full narrative adventure with a goal in mind. Up until episode 14 we never really knew what was going to happen and we were kept on our toes in a deeper story about survival. Yet everything after Kirito wakes up is about him rescuing Asuna, our poor Asuna who can’t do a damn thing for herself anymore.

Wait, what? That’s right. Asuna, the strong-willed and sexy female lead in SAO part one is reduced to a princess in a locked-up cage. The few scenes she’s shown in are there explicitly for fan service moments. I’m sorry but a scene where Asuna stands up with a narrow and determined look on her face does not qualify as plot development, it qualifies as useless filler. And that episode where she actually escapes her cage to only be molested by some tentacle monsters? Yeah, that was crap too.

Sword Art Online Asuna   Sword Art Online Asuna Tentacle Monster

Unfortunately Kirito’s adventures in ALfheim Online are not that exciting beyond the occasional battle scene. I will admit that the battle scene between General Eugene (I still can’t believe that’s his name) and Kirito was probably one of the most epic moments of the entire series, but it doesn’t make up for a rather bland story. And while his adventures with Leafa are fun for a short while, the dramatic irony that she is indeed his younger cousin wears off before the series’ creators are fully able to use the dramatic reveal. She was thrown in as a sort of love triangle distraction for the longest time, only to be thrown to the side even after Kirito learned of her forbidden attraction.

Sword Art Online Kirito and Eugene Battle 2

Sword Art Online Kirito Learns Sugu Loves Him   Sword Art Online Kirito and Sugu   Sword Art Online Sugu Crying

Every aspect of ALO, from Kirito having ridiculous stats to Leafa leading him to Asuna’s location, all seemed to be a bit flat in narrative design. Everything was fairly predictable. But along the way I realized that all of this was for a particular reason. It was all for Kirito to reach Asuna no matter what it would take, which isn’t really that hard to see right? This isn’t some form of amazing revelation that I am presenting to you, it’s just a standard known fact that presents ALfheim Online as a straight line narrative. Though even after a ten-episode build of dramatic irony, the situation between Kirito and Leafa never really resolved itself. Yeah it can be argued that Sugu somehow came to realize that she could never be with her cousin, but we never really get Kirito’s side of the story. It actually makes future scenes awkward, like the battle scene between him and Leafa where they end up spinning together in mid-air. Or how about that really awkward scene in the final episode where they dance together? Asuna’s been freed from Sugou’s reign and we see more development between Kirito and Sugu than we do with him and Asuna. Some may find these to be minor gripes, or maybe you were a fan of Sugu all along, but in a series where everything has turned into Kirito rescuing his beloved I would expect to see more of him and her together once she has been saved.

Sword Art Online Kirito and Leafa Dance   Sword Art Online Kirito and Leafa Hug

I look back at Sword Art Online with a stronger memory of stories being adapted into animation from Kirito’s nightmare of being logged into a game where if you die, you will also die in real life. This concept seemed so much more real, more alive, when compared to a less-realistic story driven by destination and boring premise. The first half of the anime series gave us the building blocks to show us the fundamental rules of the game and why it was important for Kirito to live. The series transitioned into a love story between him and Asuna, who slowly eliminated his need to be a solo player. But then, to drive the series for another 10 episodes, Asuna is locked far away from Kirito’s reach and belittled to a damsel in distress. The value in these episodes let me down because I was expecting something more daring, more thrilling like the early episodes I had become accustomed to. While some elements were fun to watch, such as the battle scenes and the moment Sugu finally realized her sad truth, the series fell to a sub-par level of storytelling. Here’s to hoping that future installments of the Sword Art Online series will take its values back to the roots of not knowing exactly what to do with itself, because the outcome is that more entertaining indeed.

Do you agree with my thoughts or do you find more value in the second half of Sword Art Online? Let us know in the comments.

Sword Art Online is available via streaming at Crunchyroll.com.

About Jared Cyhowski

[Former Staff] Jared is a recent graduate from Fitchburg State University where he studied communications, video production, and English. He enjoys playing video games, watching anime, writing, and of course pizza. His favorite games are Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy IX, but he can’t possibly choose a favorite anime. Jared enjoys following the games industry and observing what will happen next, and he puts out an invitation for discussion on these topics. He loves a great story in these mediums and prefers a stronger narrative design over most features. Jared is personally responsible for creating and managing the Anime section of the website, and hopes to inspired and entertain with everything he writes.




  • Definitely nowhere near the best anime ever, but it was really fun to watch. Loved the love story along with the action. Alfheim arc was a bit draggy though…

  • It didn’t even make our top ten 😐

    • whitedevil

      It make it to my top 5-TOP 5 WORST ANIME EVER

  • John Ellis

    I was enjoying it until ALfheim Onlinecame along. Kirigaya being a big reason.

  • Blastinburn

    You have summarized the major problems with this show perfectly, though it still sits at my personal favorite anime (the first half).

  • The bigger problem was trying to adapt two story arcs with one season. Yes, Sugu was sadly too fanservice-y, but when she wasn’t, she was actually my favorite character in the arc. But that doesn’t mean the arc should have happened anyway.

    A single season of 16 episodes adapting the first arc would have been brilliant. It would have allowed for some really cool things, like stretching Sachi’s arc across two episodes, and giving more room for the totally epic fight scenes.

    But, with all that said, I really enjoyed it. It just isn’t anywhere near .hack//Sign or Clannad as one of my favorite anime of all time.

  • Ace

    I’m not trying to be snide when I say this, but the best way to describe SAO to someone is that it’s Twilight for teenage boys. It has everything a teenage boy fantasizes about and a story simple enough for teenage boys to appreciate. However, any mature watcher/reader will realize that the writing is as terrible as Twilight’s plot structure.

    • Good to know, I shall keep this in mind.

    • dubaloseven

      I just read that exact same line, word-for-word, on Reddit yesterday. Hmmm…

    • MD108

      Damn, this hurt me.

    • crzyphl

      right tho.

  • I loved SAO, its one of my favorite animes. I do wish they would have stretched out the arcs a bit longer, ALO was rushed(ive spoken to people who have read the novel, and they cut a few parts out of it) and not as enjoyable as the SAO arc, but i still liked it. Because of the popularity of SAO, its spawned a lot of hate on the internet, similar to what you see with Naruto, Bleach, etc. Its honestly all up to opinion, people wana say its one of the best ever, then its kinda hard to fault them if they enjoyed it that much. I really hope we get a second season, which with the popularity of the anime, ide be surprised if we didnt.

  • there is only 2 problems with the series:

    1) After Kirito’s HP is down to 0 against Headcliff, the whole “divine” or whatever force came and helped Kirito was truly uncalled for. I was expecting Klain to use the Revival potion and bring Kirito back, then Kirito would get his act together and win.

    2) The whole ALO cycle. As far as I know, ALO is supposed to be an independent story aside from SAO so the way the connected them was kinda awkward not to say lame, but aside from that it was still enjoyable

    • Actually, the later arcs in the novel are independent. I believe ALO is supposed to be a continuation from SAO considering the events that take place.

  • Joey

    I personally enjoyed Sword Art Online as a whole, even though it had its share of faults, including the lack of screentime from Kirito early on to before he can solo bosses. I can’t shrug off what happened in episode 14 either, when Kirito was still alive after . Still, it had a great concept and pretty good animation to go with it. I kinda like how the second arc involved a little IRL time as well, but I wish they did something more with it. It also irked me when the forbidden love was pushed back under the carpet after a pretty tense, emotional confrontation. I don’t think they overdid it though. It’s good where it is.

    And hey, virtual reality is bound to happen one day.

  • You know, even though I did not read the novels, I DID see the Heathcliff thingy coming half a mile away.

  • Dai10zin

    Yes to everything in this opinion piece. I had the same thoughts.
    Also of note was the episode where he and Asuna encounter each other after she’s joined the guild – there’s a big argument over the best method for defeating this monster, then the two of them take a nap until sunset. If I recall correctly, the central conflict is completely forgotten in that episode.
    And another: the episode where he transforms into that massive dragon thing and goes berserk … and then never does it again?
    A lot of missed opportunities – but “Yes!”
    Everything said in this article is exactly what I thought (even down to the bizarre ending with Kirito and Sugu with no sign of Asuna). Just weird.
    Decent anime, but not great. Certainly not the best.

    • Actually, Asuna was there. She was the blue-haired girl that flew past them at the tail end, IIRC

  • What… is interesting about the premise? I’m trying to avoid spoilers so I haven’t read the piece.. but what is interesting at all about an anime series based around a virtual reality mmo…? It’s not like that concept hasn’t been used HUNDREDS of times in the past…

    In all seriousness though I’d appreciate someone saying what is interesting about it without major spoilers… as I’m interested in the series but never knew it was all that popular to begin with x.x

    • dubaloseven

      Its like a Matrix scenario. If you die in the game, you die in real life.

    • That’s… still not new.. basically EVERY show that has had people sucked into a virtual world has had that premise.. hell Scooby-Doo has had a movie based on that premise for god’s sake.

      Thank you for the message, I highly appreciate it ^^. I still am looking forward to the anime and plan on watching it.. it just bugs me when people claim something is new and innovative when it’s clearly not x.x

    • The two main selling points of SAO, IMO, are the tech used and the world portrayed. The game uses a “new” technology helmet that links up to the brain and sort of hijacks the transmissions it gives to the body. This way, everything you would normally tell your body to do would instead get transmitted to the game you, allowing for a MUCH greater sense of realism, as well as the ability to experience all five senses within the game. This basically means that the game pretty much is a second life to people now, so it’s interesting from that point of view. It certainly helps make the whole premise a lot more believable than say, .Hack, where the game runs almost the same as SAO, but with a pair of goggles and a basic controller, or worse, an iPhone app in later renditions.

      The game worlds portrayed are both quite interesting, to be sure, and look to be quite interesting games to play, but the universe itself is really more interesting. The writer of the SAO novels is the same writer as the Accel World novels, whose anime released shortly before SAO. Looking at the technologies used in both games, and the premises of the later books of SAO, it can more or less be inferred if not confirmed that both series share the same universe, with SAO occurring a few decades before Accel. This makes the show doubly interesting for anyone who enjoyed Accel World, since you’re essentially seeing the tech that preceded it.

    • Thank you very much for this, it is highly appreciative. I know it’s kind of selfish to ask for someone to explain it to me but I really didn’t want to spoil anything for myself. I haven’t heard of Accel World, but if I like SAO I may have to look into that as well.

    • No problem. I watched Accel World and loved it, since the premise was really rather interesting to me. While I didn’t know that SAO was written by the same person at first, after knowing this my interest in the show easily doubled. Right now, I’m hoping both series get a second season, and that we’ll be able to see just how the two worlds are linked.

  • I personally loved Sword Art Online. I personally am still hoping that maybe they will go back to the drawing board and do the other Arc’s Because I mean who doesn’t want to see the Laughing Coffin Guild part of the story from GGO (Aka Phantom Bullet). I thought the series was really well done. I admit the only thing that sorta disapointed me was the lack of the additional characters in the ALO arc. Like Klien and what not but if they were actually part of the 300 trapped souls from SAO to ALO then I can understand. again IMO SAO both seasons have been better than a past few anime’s I have seen.

  • dubaloseven

    I completely agree. The sheer number of plotholes that reares their head as soon as ALO was mentioned was atrocious. Seriously, why the hell would that number of people be stupid enough to put one of those things on after the SAO incident? And why wasn’t that tech off limits to the public

  • Moonfaze M

    I have to agree that the second half was a letdown compared to the first.

    Regardless, I believe it still is a really great anime, and one I’ll definitely enjoy and watch again when I get the chance.

  • jcl

    i like it but it’s not up there with my faves

  • MagmarFire

    While I love the series myself, I do actually agree with your opinion on the second arc not being as good as the first one. However, for me, I think the contributing factor for that is kind of because Kirito’s stakes were greatly lessened–namely, the lack of HP-goes-to-0-and-you’re-dead thing. Yeah, there were still high stakes, but it wasn’t as high as before and wasn’t as personal to me.

    That said, that’s where I stop because doing it even more simply amounts to “X did Y better than Z.” All because something was done better doesn’t make it bad. You didn’t say this, of course; that’s just why I’m not gonna bash it like others are.

    There is one thing I disagree with, though…

    “And that episode where she actually escapes her cage to only be molested by some tentacle monsters? Yeah, that was crap too.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that where Asuna was kind of being the audience surrogate and just discovered what was happening to the other two hundred ninety-nine people who were hijacked out of SAO? Seemed kind of important to me.

    Granted, they probably could’ve not had her as the POV-character, but the fact they used her as such allowed the writers to put her into a situation where there was hope that she could finally log out–which was a great setup for conflict. She did end up getting captured (and “molested” 😛 ), but there was a chance she wouldn’t. And the fact that she was taking initiative to bust out speaks quite a bit against the demoted-to-damsel-in-distress accusations going on.

    Forgive me for the nitpick, haha.

    • I think his point was less the escape and much more the molestation. I really enjoyed the series as a whole, but that single moment in that single episode really lost a lot of respect with me. Unless that scenario plays out word-for-word in the books I really don’t see a reason for it to have been inserted, and even then I really wouldn’t have wanted to read it anyway; tentacle rape is just disgusting IMO.

    • MagmarFire

      Yeah, fair point, although I myself just write it off more as a random thematic choice than one where they had a particular preference for tentacle rape. A kind of Hanlon’s Razor, if you will.

      That said, my disagreement lies not with the tentacle rape thing but the assertion that the episode sucked.

  • Author: it was terrible how Asuna couldn’t do anything for herself anymore!
    Reader: what about when she slyly escaped from the cage and nearly the entire virtual world on her own with no weapons or abilities at all?
    Author: doesn’t count!
    Reader: oooookay…….

    Really, what was she SUPPOSED to do? With no weapons or abilities and with Sugo being basically all-powerful in that virtual world?

    • Exactly. Asuna was strong-willed in SAO because she was actually capable of making something of herself. She was able to become stronger and actually fight. Whereas in ALO, she couldn’t since the one running the game basically locked her up and kept her from doing anything. Not to mention, one would have to think about what could’ve been going on in Asuna’s head at the time, seeing as she was expecting to die once SAO was done, only to come back as this guy’s caged plaything, leaving her to hope that Kirito would come help her.

    • Having a justification doesn’t make up for her basically become a damsel in distress.

    • Josh Leitzel

      … it sort of does.

    • It really doesn’t.

    • Josh Leitzel

      She was in the wrong place under the wrong circumstances, it’s understandable in my opinion. But hey, different strokes for different folks I guess.

  • Eugene Ng

    Currently watching the series (behind due to watching it in Australia and I’m watching on Madman online). It is a great anime series, action, adventure, surprises and more. Slightly short but its all good when it comes to the character development especially with Kirito… Something mysterious about him and his persona is what I like about him plus his clothes are so cool yet so dark, I would love to wear one if I want to cosplay!

    • whitedevil

      Especially good your ass. Action is just a mere tags. In practice no single, or even the whole action scene can patch the shittyness of the plothole. Romance is everything they got, but it’s just shitty and cheesy that I wonder if it’s that can be called romance.

      PLOTHOLES
      1. Online plot? What a good game where YOU CAN EVEN RECOVER FASTER THAN A BUNCH OF PK-ERS GANGING AND SHITING THEIR ASS TO KILL YOU. YEAH, YOU AND YOUR JESUS YAMATO.

      2. Character who “cheat” by not sharing information.
      – What is the meaning of cheat?
      – Why it’s so hard to just sharing information (it’s internet dude, information iz everyWHORE. It is sword ass ONLINE for god’s sake).
      – Ridiculously strong from the start, even the whole party annihilated, you can survive no problems (again, very ridiculous for online game concept)

      3. Heh fall in love with the female lead, have harem consist of female blacksmith, little girl and big boobs imotou, surely romantic, sure. His wife even stripping first in their first night sure, romantic. so you just wonder around lifting each other in online world, again VERY ROMANTIC HA!

      Then about character development. What is so good that superpower main char remain strong as ever, even getting bonuses of dual wielding and super strong cloak+sword that remain from lv 40-almost 90.

      Man, I can’t help but shake my head reading people’s comment about how good SAO is. Just completely unthinkable with that gigantic plotholes.

    • Kathryn Murasame

      1. There’s no plothole in being able to recover faster then the PK-ers attacking. SAO utilizes a level system with the recovery of HP and Kirito trained it more then many other things. Him doing this is explained by his obsession with surviving in the game. Not only that but those players were likely at a much lower level then him. If you’ve ever played an MMO, you’ll notice that when a player is high enough level, they can sponge much of the damage from lower level players. We don’t notice this in most MMO because while in combat, the HP Recovery rate drops significantly. SAO has a skill that ignores that fact.
      2. It is the internet, yes. However, they’re trapped in a game with no access to a computer, with their only means of obtaining information being getting it from another person. Now perhaps you have better luck then me, but when I need help finding something out in game, 9/10 times the players in the entire area I ask will not respond or respond with “LOLN00b” and then ignore me.
      As far as Kirito’s survival ability during the events of SAO, he was a Beta Tester so believing that he could survive while others died isn’t so hard to believe. He also closed himself down from all things irl and focused 100% on SAO during the Beta. Up until Floor #74, he may have run every Boss Floor with a Party — which were most likely Beta Testers as well. To finish off that little explanation of how overpowered he got when he got Dual Wielding, it’s not just a skill — it’s a Legendary Skill. It was created to be used by the “Hero” of the game, stated by Kayaba himself. So it’s not hard to believe that he would become greatly overpowered after gaining it.
      3. There was absolutely no romance from Kirito onto Silica. With Lisbeth, there was some but it was at most a close friendship from Kirito’s perspective. And when you get down to Leafa, it’s essentially the same thing. The entire time, there were only two people who you saw actual romance that was mutually felt and that’s Kirito + Asuna & Kirito + Sachi. Aside from that, it’s a typical anime in which all the female characters had romantic feelings for the main male character.
      4. As for character development, I think you failed to see the hopelessness in the end. Yes, Kirito is very overpowered and its very easy to see that he’s probably the best player. He also was almost defeated by the Floor 74 Boss, Floor 75 Boss, and the secret boss in the bottom of the First Floor’s dungeon. Dual Wielding being the Hero’s Ability saved him on Floor 74, just barely. Floor 75 it required a huge party of the games best players to make it with many casualties. And both him and Asuna, two of the best players, couldn’t lay a scratch on the secret boss and that required a Game Administrator to defeat. Yes, Kirito might be overpowered and yet the game still managed to properly beat him at every turn near the end with the final win obtained only because of a divine force at work — as is the case for most Heroic stories.

      No, I won’t say there aren’t a few plotholes. But I don’t think that any number of them completely ruins the story. It’s still a great show that deserves some level of respect and I shake my head at the disrespect people can show it.

  • I liked this anime so much I can forgive all the mistakes made.

  • Nomado

    Here is the good advice: JUST READ LIGHT NOVEL. Anime became boring after 14. But Light Novel nope. Its still going on and strong as usual. I would definetly recommend Light Novel to anyone interested in SAO(obviously if you liked first 14 episode of Anime)

    • Blastinburn

      Glad to hear that, I’ll move it up on my list of things to read/play/watch. Thank you.

    • whitedevil

      IMO-Starts boring at episode 2, gone abysmal at episode 7, a little bit hope at the start of episode 10 with those battle but GONE TO THE LOWEST OF LOW with those cheesy wedding and all. I can’t understand how you manage to watch after episode 10, I just slammed the table after that woman suddenly strip herself with no good reason (is she a wench or sumthing?). SAO is one of the worst anime ever, even with romance genre (really, liking each other and smoothly done in-game-wedding iz so romantic really? FUCK).

  • As a 20 year old male who is a huge fan of Japanese media, I can say with utmost certainty that Sword Art Online is shit, complete and utter shit, and if you like it you are a bad person…

    • Josh Leitzel

      Well shit, I guess I must be a bad person.

    • At least you know now

    • Josh Leitzel

      And I can live with it if I’m allowed to watch SAO.

  • Has seen a lot of anime

    This is crap. Sword Art Online is masterful in subverting the usual nonsense you’d see in these kind of animes. From the very beginning you’d think our main character some sort of hero, and he’s going to go around with Asuna leading people to beat the game.

    Then he doesn’t do that at all.

    Then you think the series will be a slow build up to them beating floor after floor, with them reaching the top and perhaps getting some screwy plot twist and then beating the last boss. You know, like Tower of Druaga.

    But that doesn’t happen either. They beat the game in the middle of the series.

    Then with his girlfriend in a coma, you think “Oh, here comes the harem” when his sister-oh-but-she’s-not-related starts pining over him.

    But that doesn’t happen either. He gently shuts her down and stays faithful with no indecisiveness whatsoever (an anime first?)

    Yes the story drags during the middle of the Alfeim arc. But then you get the wonderful ending.

    And it’s an amazing anime overall, with a narrative structure other crappy by-the-numbers animes wish they had the balls to emulate.

    • Kirito is a Gary Stu that literally breaks the established rules of the game because protagonist, the pacing is terrible and the villains (especially in AFO) are cliches. Just because you had some weird ass expectations going into this series that got subverted does not this a good anime make. Sorry “Has seen a lot of anime”. You should maybe read a book to prevent brain atrophy. This isn’t a very good story. It’s just a fun one.

  • I’ve said it before but there are really only three good things in SAO: the character designs and animations, Yuki Kajiura’s god tier score, and the ED Overfly.

  • Elk

    .hack//SIGN was better. ):< SAO is nothing but a fun, fancy looking ripoff of .hack with slight tweaks.

    • its actually less fancy looking then dot hack to me…

  • Josh Leitzel

    Disagree. SAO only gets such criticism because it’s really popular. In my opinion, it IS one of the most enjoyable anime I’ve ever seen. It might look as if I’m just on the SAO bandwagon, but the show became popular for a reason.

  • I’ll be honest, I liked sword arts online… but… it was like .hack// less talented little brother to me :/ it had its own value on it’s own but, I’ve seen better… I love SAO but yeah, its not in my top 10

  • Well thanks for this. Now I know there’s no need for me to watch anymore. I didn’t enjoy the first few episodes so i’m guessing I defiantly won’t enjoy the rest.

  • nraza

    i dont really understand how every single woman he meets falls in love with him! Also isnt it too much of a coincidence that he ‘happens’ to rescue Leafa in a supposedly huge world? The villain from arc 2 was poorly thought out as well. I agree with the part where you said that the series seemed more ‘alive’ when dying in-game meant something. The series turned from a dark world to a happy bubbly place after episode 14.
    Great article!
    PS: The whole spinning/dancing with Leafa was seriously stupid!

    • nraza

      Also what parent in their right mind would marry off their daughter who is in a fricking coma anyway?

  • Ragnawind

    I agree with the Aincrad Arc part of the story in your summary. It would be nice if they made an anime based on the Progressive Novel series, though, eventually. That would add much more to the story. As for the Fairy Dance Arc, which you refer to as ALfheim Online, a lot of that was completely cut and a few parts that aren’t in the anime are there in the Novels, but due to how they decided to adapt them, it didn’t turn out as good as it could have been. Also, unfortunately, in the future arcs of the story, there isn’t much of Asuna at all, except for Mother’s Rosario, which is in the 7th novel, following the Gun Gale Online’s Phantom Bullet Arc in Novels 5+6. Volume 8’s Aincrad stories and some other Aincrad stories would have been nice to adapt, as well, even if just as OVAs that are unrelated to the main stories. For Novels 9-13, there isn’t much with Kirito and Asuna, either, unfortunately. After the first Arc, she technically became a supporting character from a main character until Novel 7.

  • Buddah Cjcc

    The first half was amazing, the second half was bad

  • Airborn913

    Well, I personally love the anime, But you’re only review the anime, the light novels are beyond compare, read them yourself, faggot

  • Airborn913

    I do agree that the ALO instance was quite boring, but the SAO aspect was fantastic, the first few episodes are similar to fillers in other animes, there is literally a whole different light novel for them. Anyways, I love the anime for its animation, compared to AOT SAO would win anyday…

  • Guardian

    I highly enjoyed the first half of the show, it was probably one of the best I have seen, but it loses what made it great after they were saved from the death game. That is want makes SAO II (GGO) good because they bring that aspect of the story back. But the “IRL” scenes were not as good as the virtual reality part.