Posted on 25 December 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Sword Art Online



Um yeah. Sword Art Online. While it doesn’t beat Guilty Crown as “trainwreck of the year” for me, it still is a show I had very mixed feelings about. In order to explain why, I’m going to have to diverge a bit from my normal spoiler policy, though. I won’t outright spoil things, but I do have to say things about the plot progression here and what happens at certain stages. Because Sword Art Online has for me been the prime example of jumping the shark for the past half year.

Like Guilty Crown, SAO is what happens if you focus your series way too much around your male lead. Thankfully, Kirito is an actual character. A bland one, but an actual character, rather than a plot device. It’s nearly everything around him that’s a plot device instead though. The first half of the series however thankfully has enough to make up for it.

I mean the setting behind this show is fascinating: you’ve got an MMORPG that traps its own players. Wonderful! The despair of the people who are trapped inside it for an incredibly long time was great. A unique culture evolved that was really interesting to watch. Add that to great fight animation and a great climax, and you’ve got a very solid story. For the first half.

The show’s problems already shine through in the first half, but not bad enough. By far the worst issue I had was the harem element. Picture this: you’re on an mmorpg server. The females are in a big minority. And yet, nearly all of them end up falling for Kirito, the lead. He’s the first who truly cares about them when he meets them, he’s the first who makes them feel comfortable, even though he’s a completely antisocial guy. Yeah, this is wish fulfillment that is pretty thinly veiled. Kirito’s sole salvation here is that he actually ends up in a very good couple, and that the chemistry between him and the female lead actually works. The lead female is strong, and they complement each other quite well. The combination between action and romance works out quite well as the first half goes on and gets to its climax.

So yeah, the second half… it took about two episodes for me to completely give up hope on this series afterwards. That arc is just so inherently wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to really start.

But imagine this: the bland male lead is happy in a couple. Then the female lead gets kidnapped for an entire season, and he starts flirting with his cousin (who he grew up with believing her to be his sister), leading to a completely pointless romantic quasi-incest subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere. Seriously, nearly the entire second half of this series is dedicated to just that, rather than the much more interesting other things aobut this series.

The second half is also littered with plotholes that this show just pulls right out of its ass, just to be more convenient and make the plot go as intended. It’s just too spoilery to go into details, but items appear from out of nowhere, the games in this series are riddled with design decisions that just boggle my mind, characters act irrational for no reason, and half the time this show doesn’t know whether it’s in a virtual world or not, which gets really annoying. Oh and the villain there. He’s one of the most stereotypical evil villains I’ve seen in a long while.

Thankfully this is an A-1 production, so the graphics look good and the fight animation is very creative. Yuki Kajiura behind the soundtrack is also solid, although with this series she really starts to reveal that she has run out of inspiration and that all of her music is just starting to sound the same.

Sword Art Online gets a lot of love. I don’t think that it deserves that. Sword Art Online also gets a lot of hate. And I also don’t think it deserves that either. Sure, its second half is pretty bad and all, but it does have its things to make up for it. Its setting has its traces of brilliance, and the first half was pretty solid there. Nevertheless. There’s better out there. It’s just too flawed to really recommend. The only thing I’m really angry at this series for is how it disrespects its female lead in its second half. That’s the one thing that I really find unforgivable. Apart from that the second half is just bad storytelling. Nothing more, nothing less.

Storytelling: 6.5/10 – Good build-up, but waaaay too many plot devices.
Characters: 6.5/10 – There are some interesting characters here, and the lead couple is quite good in the first half. This show completely disrespects the female lead in its second half by having her kidnapped, making her do nothing and have the male lead head off to a pointless incest subplot.
Production-Values: 8,5/10 – Great animation. It’s overall a very solid looking show at the very least.
Setting: 7.5/10 – The show gets some points for being interesting and having some really nice ideas. It loses points for not making any sense. Especially in its second half.

Suggestions:
– .Hack//Sign
.Hack//Roots
Amatsuki

Posted on 28 October 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

This show is starting to piss me off now. It makes no sense! My suspense of disbelief is gone! What the hell is it doing!?

First of all the details in this episode that made no sense: isn’t flying the core mechanic of the game? In that case, why did that blond girl (otherwise known as the cousin) not find it strange that there was this guy who was awesome at fighting, yet a complete newbie at the rest of the game? On top of that, the races are all supposed to be hostile to each other, signified by how that cousin and that friend immediately wanted to attack Kirito for being a different race. That’s nice and all, but what about everyone else? I mean I don’t know whether this has changed in the past few years… but there were a lot of assholes in online gaming who just basically attacked anything they could. This is not Sword Art Online anymore, so nobody dies or anything.

Second of all, there is a very big flaw in the core mechanics of this game. I”m referring to the main quest of this game, in which the world tree needs to be climbed. This episode heavily hinted that two races need to work together in order to get there. That’s probably another reason why Kirito is special, because apparently he is the first guy who will probably try that.

Now, there were a few years in which I played a lot of MMORPGs, and what really surprised me is that the creators overlooked the possibility of using multiple accounts. Like, just create a team of different races, and when the world tree is cleared everyone can just start playing as the race that got the wings.

Those were the plotholes. What pissed me off the most though, was the main villain. The really annoying thing is that there really is potential here: using gaming technolgy as it further evolves to more and more take control of people. There is so much awesome stuff you can do with that if you put some thought into that, but this episode comes and just turns it into an excuse to keep Asuna hostage. What kind of oversimplification is that?

I mean, this is like Fractale: the setting was fascnating. I’d still love to see a properly done series about a society in which touch is non-existant. But the points that the series decided to focus on… why?! My big problem with the new arc is that there still is very little to make it worth watching.
Rating: 3/8 (Mediocre)

Posted on 23 October 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

Before I start, I want to say the following: I’ve gotten tired of assholes right now. If you want to criticize the series, then be my guest. I’m doing that too. But from now on I reserve the right to delete any comment that insults people for liking or hating this series, and depending on my mood I’m going to ban the posters of those comments from this site. I want this site to be a place in which we can just peacefully discuss these anime. Not hate on each other for having different tastes.

Anyway, Sword Art Online: the new arc has really started now, and my suspense of disbelief is being tested like no other. I’ve got a background in computer science, and I just cannot believe some of the things that the programmers included here. Why on earth was half the game of Sword Art Online copied to that elf game? Who on earth bothered to transfer all that data. That doesn’t just happen by accident, you know? The most baffling thing is that Yui is suddenly back though. Not with her admin powers, but instead as a random program. She was supposed to be there for maintaining player’s mental health. She’s useless here because people can log out now. The image of what she’d be like in real life is just bizarre. Can you imagine being in a marathon-session of World of Warcraft with suddenly a cute little AI-programmed girl approaching you and comforting you?

The episode ended with that elf girl appearing, and Kirito kicking everyone’s ass now that his character still is the same. My impression of her is… “meh”, but that could be because we hardly got to see anything of her. This was all about Kirito getting the chance to impress another girl again by being at the right time at the right place again.

There is one good thing about this arc: it’s different. I like variety, but it’s a double edged sword. If you want to be different you of course need to also be good, otherwise this misses the whole point of variety. This arc furthermore has another big disadvantage: there is very little tension in the fights now that death has become a momentarily annoyance. The end of this episode for example: it made such a big deal of what? Losing a bit of experience?
Rating: 3.5/8 (Enjoyable)

Posted on 14 October 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

What the hell kind of episode was that?! No. Just, no. I’m beginning to fear that this series is heading in a very unpleasant direction here…

First of all: why the sister? Yeah, I know that she’s not a sister and actually a cousin and all, but that makes it even worse: it’s the same kind of twist you see pulled in all of those other bloody incest shows in order to pretend that it’s supposedly “okay”. I mean dear god: anime creators: most siblings out there can get along with each other just fine without any romance, you know? Why does every show with a brother and sister have to have romance between them!?

Second of all, you actually did it. I so kept hoping for the creators not to do it after all that sappy build-up but instead of killing off Asuna, she was just put on a bus. Completely changed from a strong female character to a plot device to get Kirito back playing the game, and she seems to be reduced to a trophy that he needs to save. So much for feminism there.

What’s even worse though was that completely unpleasant and nonsensical marriage subplot that was thrown in. I mean holy crap, what kind of sense does that make? Why won’t Kirito try to contact the police on that matter? I know that technically it can make sense, but it’s a completely disrespectful twist on Asuna’s part. Not to mention, how the OP treats her, shoving some kind of weird elf in her place.
Rating: 3/8 (Enjoyable)

Posted on 7 October 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

I must say, I had been spoiled by that thing with Asuna, but I did not expect this show to go so far already. For a midway climax, this felt more like it was the end of the actual series with all the things that happened here.

I actually like the twist of the creator also being a player of the game. It makes perfect sense, because if I made a game like this, I sure as heck wouldn’t want to sit around for two years doing nothing. His whole proposition of ending the game definitely lead to some interesting developments, giving Kirito the responsibility of 6000 people over just one fight.

After that followed a bit of an anti-climax. First with Asuna sacrificing herself, just like the build-up previously hinted at: every time there is a happy couple, someone will die to break it up. What? Is it that uninteresting to watch a healthy couple here? Well, this show apparently thought the same and pulled some deus ex machina so that Asuna didn’t die after all, and Kirito somehow was able to override game rules with his angst.

The whole talk he had with Asuna and the game creator at the end of the episode was very good again, and Kirito waking up was entirely awesome. That was the moment we’ve all been looking forward to, and it really paid off. The episode ended at right the exact moment: there was no cheesy runion, just Kirito limping through a hospital.

But really… how on earth are they going to follow this up? I mean after this, nobody is stupid enough to start playing these games again. Sword Art Online is dead now. What’s next?

Although, a killer idea would be to indeed drop the entire series, and instead focus on tracking down the creator of the game. I mean, it’s been two years and his servers still haven’t been found. His body still isn’t recovered. That really would be awesome. But knowing the nature of this game, it probably won’t go so far.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 1 October 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

Now I also understand why Asuna is so incredibly popular: she’s literally the only female in the army. Seriously: this episode had the largest party gathered that the army could muster, and she was the only female that I could spot. Is this normal, in MMORPGs? That there is like one girl for every 50 guys? That makes it even weirder for so relatively many of them to fall for Kirito by the way. With so many others they can choose from, I mean.

But I digress: this was a very good episode for Sword Art Online. Due to the fast-paced nature of this series the first half was completely different from the second. The first half was about fishing, the second about encountering a really, really strong boss. Not as strong as the one we saw last episode, but still one who decimated the army with no sweat at all. I’m not going to deny that: that was an awesome fight scene.

A strange side-effect of this was that the rather silly part about fishing also had quite some interesting animation. It really was something that I’ve been waiting for a long time now, because it just showed some people living their lives without all of the drama: they consented to the fact that they won’t be able to beat the game. There also finally was someone who talked about his life outside of the game.

Just one thing. Don’t you dare to pull the “Asuna dies”-card next episode. I mean seriously, this episode contained a lot of those cliched hints right before such a thing happens…
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 23 September 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

Oh come on, Sword Art Online. Are you really serious with this episode?

This isn’t Phi Brain, which has built itself up as being completely crazy.The setting you’re trying to build is a fairly believable one, so you really don’t get away with pulling such ridiculously stupid episodes like this.

So let’s see what all happened in this episode:
– The soldiers with no will to live of a few episodes ago came from the first floor and were sent there by this maniacal tyrant. Ok, makes sense.

– A woman who saw last episode’s display of swordsmanship requests Kirito and Asuna to help and save one of her comrades who is stuck in a cave without any weapons. This also is fair enough for a power struggle.

– When they arrive they find that he is trapped by some incredibly strong level 90 monster. First of all: why is that one guy still alive? Did the guy who took him there serve as a shield and did he find some sort of place to hide out in? I mean, that monster could have easily killed him in one swipe so I find that hard to believe. Also, what was that monster doing there, contradicting just about every rule established so far. There had better be some very good reasons for this. Also, why on earth did he take so long to warn Kirito&co. He started with that incredibly long greeting. Instead he could have yelled “watch out! Trap!”. And for that woman to not listen or even react to that was quite cringe-worthy.

– But the worst came when Yui suddenly pulled out god-mode powers and instantly deleted that thing. Let alone having her regain her memories at a very convenient time, the story of her being an AI monitoring program for player health just makes no bloody sense. Why on earth would you want to give her emotions like that? What on earth was the idea behind this? If people go crazy just show a cute young girl to her? What on earth?

– The biggest insult however was this: the story that Kirito and Asuna changed her because they shared some happy moments together. And apparently were the only ones in the ENTIRE GAME to do so. Are you really serious here? Are you really serious that they are the only successful couple in the bloody game? Did nobody else hook up? I mean heck. I knew that this show looked down upon the players that aren’t Kirito or cute girls, but I didn’t think that it was this bad.

– And Kirito, what on earth were you doing hacking into the server? How did you get a GM account, why didn’t you use this before and why are you powerful enough to override admin actions? Why did he know exactly what to do and why didn’t Asuna question this? And come on. The heart of an AI? Really?

For christ’s sake, if you’re going to have these twists, build them up or something. Hint that it’s possible. Don’t just randomly introduce them from out of bloody nowhere.
Rating: 2.5/8 (Disappointing)

Posted on 19 September 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

This episode made me realize something: there is this unwritten rule in Sword Art Online going on that everyone abides by: never talk about the life you had before you ended up trapped in the game. It’s like, everybody is too scared to remember those days and instead their lives turned to be just their lives in the world of Sword Art Online and nothing else. In .Hack//Sign in contrast, I actually loved how they dealt with this issue: most of the time the characters were characters in an mmorpg, and yet once in a while it would drop hints to their real identities. Now, I do wonder why Sword Art Online went with the route it took: to completely remove any life that the characters had before being trapped. I mean, nobody is reminiscing about those times. They only talk about getting out.

In any case, the new girl thankfully is different from the other girls in this series, in that she doesn’t immediately fall for Kirito. She definitely is the big mystery in this show and will likely be very important in solving everything. She’s got like “I AM MYSTERIOUS” written all over her, but with the right development she can bring a lot of good stuff to this series.

But come on, Sword Art Online. Stop using these overused cliches over and over. The scene in this episode that pissed me off was the one with the thugs. It’s something you see in a ton of different series, and I nearly always dislike how it’s done, and this episode was no different. It’s the standard type of scene that creators go for whenever they need some extra tension, but here it was completely pointless. The kids and the nun are likely never going to matter again after this and there would have been better points to show Asuna’s magic sword. I also always really dislike how stereotypically these thugs are portrayed. I mean, these guys are full grown men. I’d like to see a bit more detail on how they became that way, and who they are. Stop using them as excuses to make the main characters look cool.
Rating: 4.5/8 (Good)

Posted on 9 September 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

My memory with these kinds of things is not the best, but if I’m not mistaken, then this was the first time in which Kirito actually killed a person, right? I mean, not indirectly like what happened with that one guild of his, but in which he was actually forced to strike down and kill a fellow player. This episode was stuffed with character-development, of which that was only the tip of the iceberg: Kirito was forced to join a guild and he and Asuna officially became a couple (including the two of them sleeping together, which is something you rarely see outside of the outright porn shows). But I do feel that this episode was rather forced…

Kuradeel… I get why he was used, but I didn’t really like him before, and this episode did not change that. I mean, I like that he’d try something, considering that he hates Kirito quite a bit, but I feel that he also could have done that without the overacting. In fact, I think that the points in which the characters in this show go mental are hard to buy and annoying, and it didn’t really help that this was followed by a badly covered “I nearly killed you but because I like to talk to myself your ally arrived just in time to save you”-twist. If you’re going to go with a twist like that: at least deliver it properly, because to be honest, at this point I have pretty much been programmed to exactly point out the moment in which these twists happen due to how bloody overused they are. You could have shown this from Asuna’s point of view, perhaps. that would have spiced things up a bit, and at the same time it’d also show that she actually did something… other than look at Kirito on her personal map. A few weeks ago I complained that we saw her do very little guild-duties, and that’s a problem that still hasn’t really been fixed here.

The direction on was on other points really good though. I mean, ignore the hapless overacting and I got quite a few chills from how Kirito and that one guy were killed off. I also like how the creators succeeded in making the first night between Kirito and Asuna rather awkward. One complaint to this however is that things moved incredibly fast. I mean, the end of the episode moved right from sex to marriage in an instant. Wouldn’t it have worked better if the creators put some time between that?
Rating: 4.5/8 (Good)

Posted on 2 September 2012 with categories: Sword Art Online

This was actually really good. Thew best episode of Sword Art Online since the first, and the creators are starting to use the build-up provided by the earlier episodes. Due to showing these episodes first, at least we did get a good feeling of who the characters are, rather than jumping right in and this episode made really good use of that. I just have to ask one thing here:

Kirito, for god’s sake stick with Asuna. Become a couple. I really liked that part in this episode, however it will become rather pointless if he’s going to be flirting with another girl next episode. I mean, he can still interact with them and all, but I’d hate to see more and more girls falling in love with him. just focus on his relationship with Asuna. The problem with these earlier episodes was that they showed Kirito developing a relationship with a girl, then moving on to the next, and then to the next… and it just wasn’t written well enough to make all of them count. With more time given to Asuna however, they did a very good job of showing the relationship between them develop.

One thing I missed here was a look into the mindset of that one commander who just showed up from out of nowhere on a place he had no business being on. Him just charging into battle seemed very out of character based on the description that was given of him just a minute earlier. He would have been completely dead by now if he always acted like in this episode.

Oh, and Yuki Kajiura came with a background tune that sounds actually different from her previous works. It’s still choirs and strings like her trademarks, but the choirs were very different from the ones she used in the past few years, and just that touch gives these songs a very different atmosphere that to be honest, fits this show much better.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Shoutbox

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  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:47 AM)
    Though Aidan this is your chance to throw up a full review as a blog post that isn’t for an ongoing series.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:37 AM)
    Wait, ha I’ve figured it out, most of his work I couldn’t give a toss enough to get immersed in the plots either. Though yes I got immersed in Saya, which really goes to show that if a story is good enough to me I should be able to be fairer and not be too hard on the characterization.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:32 AM)
    Even though his works alienate me with their poor characterization, still still I was able to not care about that issue in Kikokugai and Saya no uta.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:24 AM)
    I forgot to say also a few pages back it needed more action scenes also. I could honestly see myself getting distracted from the thinness of it if there were more.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:24 AM)
    I wasn’t tying Gargania and Aldnoah. Hell Gargania was a step in the right direction for characters. Problem was that Gen only gave an outline. It Gen can’t write characters then he should leave them to other people and just handle story structure and the plot. It worked pretty damn well for Fate/zero.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:21 AM)
    But I’ve got a feeling Juno might not be so bothered by psycho pass 2 I do recall him saying before it aired he gave off the suggestion wasn’t going to come down hard on Tow.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:20 AM)
    *I’d
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:20 AM)
    I really wish Juno was here, really would right now because I’ love to see him argue for psycho pass 2 and Expelled from paradise.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:19 AM)
    I can’t really tie stuff like Gargantia and Aldnoah, even psycho pass 2 much up to Gen he wasn’t heavily involved enough.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:18 AM)
    I saw potential before I watched it I did with the actual setup.

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