Sword Art Online (TV) – Review
One of the greatest anime series to air in the recent years. That’s what I thought when I first started watching Sword Art Online back in the summer. It was so good, that I couldn’t wait for every episode, and after episode 3 – I picked up the novel.
Starting to read the books made me put SAO anime on hold for a while – my own imagination satisfied my weekly need to see the Aincrad world. However, when I finally finished the first 6 books (I took my time there, and in between novels 2 and 3, I watched a few episodes of the anime), I felt that something was wrong.
The reason was simple – I started comparing SAO anime to the novels. Just like any other people who watched this. On the inside, I believe that was a mistake on my part, and I tried to wacth each episode with the least amount of bias originating from the novel. Perhaps I succeeded, perhaps not. However, one thing can’t be changed – my opinion of the anime adaptation decreased. Not much, but still enough to make an impact.
Visuals: First episode of Sword Art Online really did what it should. It is one of the best first episodes I’ve ever seen, and the quality of the visual played a big part in it. It must have taken a big sum of money to bring the virtual world of Sword Art Online to the screens with such quality – because with each consecutive episode, the quality decreased. At times it seemed perfect, but sometimes it was just plain bad. There are worse out there, but I didn’t want to get that from SAO.
Sound: When I started watching this, Iwas a bit confused when hearing Asuna’s voice. I have a tendency to not look up who is voicing the characters in an anime, and when I heard her talk, disappointment overwhelmed me. Seriously, I’ve heard Tomatsu Haruka do a different job, and the voice shouldn’t have been so soft. Asuna was a strong-willed fighter of the frontlines, afterall. Kirito and the rest were fine. Soundtracks were relatively good – I didn’t really feel much for the first opening/ending, but the second part of the anime was better.
Characters: First of all, Kirito. The best, and most badass character of the series in my opinion. I guess he was meant to be the most overpowered person in SAO – thus beating everything in his way, without a hindrance. Development could be seen with a naked eye! Asuna – as I said in the sound part, I didn’t really like her voice. That resulted in me genrally leaning more towards disliking her whole personality – and her becoming weak and passive in the second part of the second part of the anime didn’t make things any better. Suguha – meh. More like an annoying character that tries her best to break the relationship between Kirito and Asuna, while being very selfish. Her final change made her slightly more likeable though. Everybody else: Liz, Silica, Egil, Klein, Kayaba, Yui, Sugou etc. – were okay. They fit the roles of side-characters quite well, and most of them contributed their own part towards to whole story.
Story: First, the setting. I want to say that I have played tens of different MMORPGs. Some for a few days, some for longer. Overall, I could say that I’ve seen it all and know what the anime was dealing with. Therefore, I was probably part of the main target audience. Shortly, I loved the setting. A normal high-school boy gets stuck in a virtual world, where dying means the end of the person’s real life. Only way of escaping the death is completing the game – a seemingly impossible task, due to more and more people being killed with each floor – and there are 100 in total for the 10,000 players to beat!
The romance was also good in my opinion, because it added something more to the setting of a VRMMO – a feeling of a normal life. After being stuck in the game for a very long period of time, some players started doubting whther they actually needed to end it all. They had their new lives: friends, jobs, plans, thoughts. Everything was new. In this new life, even love could spring – just like it happened between Asuna and Kirito. In terms of love, SAO raised the question: what is real? If a person spends a long time in a virtual world and falls in love there, wouldn’t it be true love?
The ALO arc was a bit weaker in my opinion. Although it showed more of the real world around the players, it felt different. I guess SAO without the ‘survival game’ part isn’t actually SAO. The epilogue to it was fine, and even good, but everything else – it could have been executed much better.
Thoughts: I can’t say for certain whether I simply loved this anime, or I am just closing an eye on all its flaws. I know that there were many – in the plot, in the visuals and in the characters themselves. Yes, even the fanservice would have been better off left out. However, all of the positive things about Sword Art Online – especially its setting – add up to a good score from me. I would not dare to give it a perfect score – no, there were just too many things that went wrong. The very ending, for example. I expected the most epic fight throughout the whole anime, but oh, how wrong I was. Everything ended in a few minutes, without any real tension in the atmosphere. Also, SAO was supposed to be the best action anime of the season/year. Did we see that? No. The fighting scenes were arguably the weakest part of the whole anime. Summing all of this up, I give this anime a score of 8.5/10. Rather positive, considering everything I mentioned here, but oh well. I’m the opposite of a hater who hates just to hate.