Anime Review: Sword Art Online

My Rating: 4 stars

IMDB Rating: 8.4/10

Content Rating: 16+ (some fan service-gets more frequent as the show goes on, action, some suggestive material)

Genre: Action/Adventure, Science Fantasy, Romance

IMDB Synopsis:

The year is 2022, and gamers have lined up on launch day for Sword Art Online, a hotly-anticipated MMORPG that lets players connect to an immersive virtual reality world with special helmets called Nerve Gear. Kirito is one such gamer who’s eager to jump back into action, having spent a great deal of time as a beta tester, and quickly becomes friends with newbie warrior Klein. But soon, Sword Art Online’s 10,000 players discover that not only are they unable to log out, the only way they can return to their physical bodies is by beating the 100-level tower’s final boss – death in the game means death in the real world. Now, with no one else to turn to, Kirito and the other participants must survive the game as best they can.

*Mild Spoilers Ahead*

If I had written this review around episode ten of the first season, it would have received a full five stars. I absolutely flew through those first episodes, loving every second of it. Now, the rest of the season is good, just not as good as those beginning moments where Kirito is a solo player, trying to make his way to the top alone occasionally helped by Asuna.

One of the biggest things I LOVE about this series is Kirito is AWESOME. It’s rare that a series of any kind starts out with the hero being insanely amazing. This was one of those rare gems. Now, of course, he’s not perfect, but he’s somewhere around thirty levels above most of the other players. It’s really fun to see him barely break a sweat beating the bosses up; you get accustomed to him being AMAZING, making the moments where he fails even more heartbreaking and surprising.

So obviously, this is a fantasy/action series, and there’s a lot of really great battle scenes like the one in this gif. Unfortunately, the battles became less frequent as the series went on; some watchers complained that it became a ‘chick flick’ somewhere in the middle. I don’t entirely disagree. Around episode 11, it seems that the action part of the story took the back seat, allowing Kirito and Asuna’s relationship to be the prominent storyline. That wasn’t too big a deal for me, because I loved their romance; but it was such a relief when they got back to fighting. But lets just say Asuna and Kirito are quite possibly the cutest thing EVER.

Kirito is so used to being a solo player; but he falls in love with Asuna and their relationship becomes the most important thing to him. This is quite a step for him, since part of the reason he plays solo is due to the fact that he watched quite a few friends die early on in the game. He says that she is his number one concern when fighting in a battle, and he’ll forsake the rest of the battle to keep her safe. I loved them and was so glad their romance was such an important part of the story.

Anyway. I  really wish they had stretched the first ten episodes. They skip a bunch of floors/bosses and jump from level 1 to like, level 25, so you don’t see any of that. It jumps two years. Two years that we could have been enjoying more Kirito awesomeness. Le sigh. The art is really cool for SAO; all the battle stuff was fun to watch and the world of the game is gorgeous. I would definitely play it if it were real (not if you really died in real life if you died in the game though, duh).

SAO was definitely different from the anime’s I’ve been watching recently (mostly romantic comedies); while there is definitely humor in SAO, it’s much more serious, with fewer moments of levity and more character deaths. I appreciated the seriousness, and it made the storylines more meaningful. Some of SAO is episodic, although it usually follows bigger story arcs, which was also different. It was nice to follow Kirito as he moved towards the larger goal of defeating the game, and then occasionally get sidetracked to help another player or defeat a boss. As I said earlier, it got less exciting for me when it switched to Alfeim (The Land of Faeries). I thought the character designs were less awesome (although still interesting, just less cool looking) and since there weren’t as many cool boss battles and less Asuna/Kirito development, the story lost a little momentum. Also, I do not care ONE BIT about Kirito’s lame little sister and all that weirdness. You can just GO AWAY Suguha. Still definitely worth watching though, especially if you’re looking for action/adventure/romance/fantasy anime.

Super excited that there’s going to be a second season of this, although nervous that it will only move further away from the greatness that was the first ten episodes of SAO. I’ve heard the manga gets much worse fan-service wise and turns into harem (blech) which is very disappointing since it started out so strong.  I will definitely be mad if they move on from Asuna. I mean come on. How can you just leave this behind?

‘Twould be laughable.

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