Sword Art Online (seasons 1-2)

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Sword Art Online (seasons 1-2)

SAO 1.jpg

SAO 2.jpg |Caption= This anime based on the beloved light novel has finally come back to life, but without the plot based on from the book.

This anime based on the beloved light novel has finally come back to life, but without the plot based on from the book.
Genre: Action
Science Fiction
Running Time: 24 Minutes
Country: Japan
Release Date: Season 1:
July 8 – December 23, 2012

Season 2:
July 5 – December 20, 2014

Network(s): Tokyo MX
Created by: A-1 Pictures
Distributed by: Kadokawa
Muse Communication
Seasons: 3
Episodes: 96


Sword Art Online is a Japanese Anime series based on the namesake light novel series written by Reki Kawakahara and illustrated by Abec.

Plot

Season 1

In November 2022, virtual reality has progressed by leaps and bounds, and a massive online role-playing game called Sword Art Online (SAO) is launched. With the aid of "NerveGear" technology, players can control their avatars within the game using nothing but their own thoughts.

Kazuto Kirigaya, nicknamed "Kirito," is among the lucky few enthusiasts who get their hands on the first shipment of the game. He logs in to find himself, with ten thousand others, in the scenic and elaborate world of Aincrad, one full of fantastic medieval weapons and gruesome monsters. However, in a cruel turn of events, the players soon realize they cannot log out; the game's creator has trapped them in his new world until they complete all one hundred levels of the game.

In order to escape Aincrad, Kirito will now have to interact and cooperate with his fellow players. Some are allies, while others are foes, like Asuna Yuuki, who commands the leading group attempting to escape from the ruthless game. To make matters worse, Sword Art Online is not all fun and games: if they die in Aincrad, they die in real life. Kirito must adapt to his new reality, fight for his survival, and hopefully break free from his virtual hell.

Season 2

The story of the second season follows Kazuto "Kirito" Kirigaya as he plays the new virtual reality game called "Gun Gale Online" (GGO), where he allies himself with a girl named Shino "Sinon" Asada and enters a tournament to investigate a player known only as "Death Gun", who has the ability to kill a person in the real world by killing their virtual avatar.

Why These Seasons are Offline (Bad Qualities)

  1. A lot of a plot from the light novel had been changed so drastically for a petty reasons. Which makes Season 2 of The Promise Neverland and Tokyo Ghoul:re Season 2 look good in comparison, but worse. Many important storylines from the light novel are completely replaced to everything that is new is not better or related to the book is still bad idea to adapt a book to media.
  2. Anachronism: The show is supposed to be set in 2022 but the world has a washed 90's look.
    • This also goes for the game: Gale Gun Online. The game is a Cyberpunk style game set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, (hinted at a theoretical World War III) where humanity has left the desolated planet behind in giant spaceships. The Hub City is formed from one such Star Battle Cruiser Glocken, and still called SBC Glocken, which for reasons not explained returned to Earth. Players even use Energy weapons. Despite this, however, characters often use regular bullet shooting guns, all of which are based on weapons in real life that at the very least reached "working" prototype stages. One character can even be seen using a Vickers machine gun which in the real world, has long since stopped being made since the 1960s.
  3. Ass Pull:
    • Season 1
      • Kirito is capable of hacking SAO's Operating System within seconds, even if he's never seen it before, and save Yui's code from shutting down forever by placing it in a bauble.
      • Asuna is able to break free of in-game paralysis through the power of love to take a blow for Kirito, and then Kirito when loses all of his HP fighting Kayaba, he is able to disobey the System's orders for him to die through sheer willpower, and delays his death just long enough to return the favor. Some explanation is offered later by Kayaba that willpower overrides the power of the system, but this is never stated as even a possibility before it happens.
    • Season 2
      • Inside GGO, Kirito suddenly remembers Death Gun's true identity thanks to a borderline Bat Deduction, which is when a character makes a huge jump to reach a conclusion that has to be made in order for the plot to progress, but without any real explanation for what might have spurred the conclusion.
      • In the real world, Kirito survives a fatal syringe stab thanks to a fully providential and amazingly well-placed Pocket Protector.
      • During the climax, Yui is able to hack a real-life hospital TV screen to show the MMO Tomorrow live streaming of the Bullet of Bullets Tournament. This is quite ridiculous considering that not only does Yui no longer have admin privileges, but some random TV screen doesn't have any connection to the Seed or Kirito's computer. There's also the fact the nurse doesn't appear shocked that their security system has been so easily compromised.
  4. Deus-Ex Machina: Kayaba's consciousness appears out of nowhere to Kirito and gives him administrator rights to the game system, which allows him to defeat Sugou.
  5. While many of the characters are tolerable and are decent most of the time, they're all either underdeveloped, underutilized, and sometimes just outright poorly written due to the show not taking the time to explore their backstories or even sometimes out of pure laziness.
    • Easily the most notable offender is the main protagonist, Kazuto Kirigaya, or Kirito. While he is tolerable, he is very poorly written due to being a Gary Stu. He's shown throughout to be one of the greatest players in Sword Art Online, however, this comes VERY suddenly since we never see him grow as a player due to a time skip where by the fourth episode it's shown that he's already more powerful than many other players. Not only that he has a lot of female characters suddenly fall for him for no real reason and he is able to do things that are never hinted nor foreshadowed via Ass Pull (BQ #2).
    • Asuna falls into this after the Aincrad arc. While initially a strong female lead with a lot of focus and her own character, she gets reduced to a damsel in distress in the Fairy Dance arc, while the subsequent Phantom Bullet arc has her staying away from the main action. Though this does get largely amended with the Mother's Rosario arc which has Asuna taking over as the protagonist which fleshes out her character and gives her a lot of development. Something cemented further by her prominence in the movie Ordinal Scale, where she's the Deuteragonist once again to the same extent she was in the Aincrad arc.
    • Despite being the first player Kirito ever meets (and kind of befriends), Klein is hardly ever seen and is wasted potential. The two separate by the end of the first episode but instead of making use of Klein by having him possibly act as a foil to Kirito (mainly because Kirito fails to save the first guild he joined, Klein protected his whole guild through SAO), and him being an active ally in the series, instead Klein serves mainly as a comic relief character with not much characterization beyond being "Kirito's buddy".
    • Yuuki Konno has the reflexes and skill to be Kirito's equal or even better, is lauded in-universe as the "Absolute Sword", and even Kirito states upfront that if she had taken part in the death game, she'd be the one who would have been given his Dual Wielding skill that he got... and she dies after one arc. To make matters worse, the very next arc introduces a perfected a way for someone to upload their brain which could've saved her. For obvious reasons, people prefer the videogame adaptations, where she DOESN'T die after her storyline, and instead is given the chance to shine as her fans feel she was meant to.
    • Yui serves no purpose to the story of any kind other than being a cute "daughter" to Kirito and Asuna who is also a Deus-Ex Machina since she has access to information she shouldn't given that she's an NPC and loves to dump exposition.
  6. The villains aren't much better and they are just poorly-written.
    • The villain of the Aincrad arc, Akihiko Kayaba/Heathcliff, doesn't have any clear motivation for trapping thousands of players in SAO. When he's point-blank asked about it, he doesn't go into detail besides him basically saying "I did it cause I could". The fact that, before going into his rant, he just says "I forgot the reason a long time ago" doesn't help, since a lot of people take that line at face value, and consider Kawahara just didn't care about giving him a motivation. However, the subtext and the voice actor's delivery in the rant that comes after that line heavily imply that there could be other reasons. Likely him having some sort of God complex; not in the sense of having absolute power, but rather in the sense of being the creator of a living world out of his imagination, and he was obsessed with having his vision made (virtual) reality. Unfortunately, the series never explores this.
    • The villain of the Fairy Dance arc, Sugou Nobuyuki/Oberon the Fairy King, is even worse than Kayaba due to being a complete monster. Following the clearing of Sword Art Online, Sugou trapped 300 of the surviving players in his own game, Alfheim Online, he ran experiments on their minds, testing their fear and pain responses. Kidnapping Asuna in the game, he keeps her trapped in a gilded cage at the top of Alfheim's World Tree, while plotting to wed the comatose girl in the real world. When Kirito reaches the top of the World Tree, Sugou uses his administrator abilities to paralyze him, tortures him, and then sexually assaults Asuna in front of him, gloating the entire time about how, once he's freed, he will rape her again in real life. When he fails, he attempts to kill Kirito in the real world, attacking him with a knife.
    • By the way. The villains of the Phantom Bullet arc, Shoichi Shinkawa/Red Eyed XaXa and his brother, Shinkawa Kyouji/Richter are just generic doomsday villains that only cares for killing.
  7. The girls constantly hit on Kirito despite being in a relationship with Asuna, who doesn't even tell them to cut it out. Because of this, it almost presents it as if there's a harem in the works when there isn't.
    • Kibaou being the self-serving asshole who always thinks himself as being right decides that everything is the beta testers fault because they don't share information with everyone and attempts to ostracize all beta testers and publicly paint them as the bad guys right after the first floor is cleared even though their knowledge are their best chance of clearing the floors and surviving, which Agil already tried to point out.
    • Kirito could've easily explained that Diabel himself was a beta tester and help Kibaou realize he was used like a sucker and trying to establish a more positive reputation for beta testers. Kirito could also have gone a long way in trying to promote cooperation - who cares who gets what, when everyone has to work together to ever hope to get to Floor 100 in the first place? But Kirito doesn't do this at all and oust himself as some competitive asshole, and basically throws the idea of cooperation out the window. The resulting stigma has resounding repercussions throughout the rest of the Aincrad arc, the competition for grinding and power grows out of control for a long time which probably causes a number of off-screen deaths, and Diabel dies a misfortunate hero while unwittingly being the catalyst for incidents like Sachi below. Even worse, Kibaou gets to continue unopposed and thinking he was in the right the whole time, which causes him become a full-on corrupt antagonist and absolute bastard in the long-term, only coming short of personally player-killing.
    • Kirito is a beta tester, and as a result, knows about in-game content before everyone else does. However, due to the fact that there is a general dislike of beta testers among non-beta testers (which, in of itself would also qualify for an entry on this page, since only ONE person has to clear the game in order for everyone to escape, and it's not mentioned if the person who clears the game gets a prize other than bragging rights), he must keep this a secret. Kirito could've found some people who do not have a dislike of beta testers, reveal that he is a beta tester to them, and share what he knows, and either have them use that info to decide what actions to take (if they happen to be a leader), or have them propose the idea, and then second the idea that they "proposed" (if they aren't a leader), but he chooses to keep this fact a secret, causing quite a few people to be killed as a result, including one of his love interests, Sachi.
    • Kobatz, the leader of an Aincrad Liberation Front squad, has just received map data from Kirito leading to the Floor 74 boss, the Gleam Eyes. His squad is fatigued and Kirito himself warns them that they'd be no match for the boss, and says not to do anything stupid. Instead of Kobtaz to listening to Kirito, and wait until a proper boss raid meeting to try to take on the boss, he leads his squad to fight the boss anyway. Predictably, he dies and so do two of his soldiers. The only thing that stopped the results from being EVEN MORE disastrous was the fact that Kirito, Klein and Asuna stepped in (and Kirito unveiled his Dual Blades), and even then Kirito himself almost died.
    • Asuna has managed to escape her gilded cage. After avoiding some slug guards by stealth, she is lucky enough to find a terminal from which she can get both her and the experiment subjects offline. But she takes her goddamn time angsting, doubting and pondering instead of just, you know, doing it. As a result, the slugs catch her before she can do it, destroying her chance and condemning all them to continue in Sugou's virtual slavery.
    • Kyouji had pretty much everything he could ask for at the end of the arc in theory, given that he had an alibi and the right circumstances to theoretically clear himself of any suspicion of being related to the Death Gun incident if he played his cards right, plus there was no implication that his brother would rat him out either. The only thing really standing between him and Shino was Kirito, who didn't know much of anything about him to go on either. Given how good of a job he has been doing in keeping his true intentions hidden that he'd try to keep his distance for at least the night due to the plan falling through, figure out if Shino really did have feelings for Kirito, and generally play things cool so that his suspicion continues to remain low. If he did that, there was genuinely a chance he would've taken Shino for himself with no one the wiser. But for no reason other than plot convivence, he immediately visits Shino after the Battle of Bullets tournament at a time when Shino was expecting Death Gun's assistant, and his seeing Kirito hugging a crying Shino in the game causes him to start trying to claim Shino as his own. Right then and there along with an explicit murder-suicide threat, after Shino starts resisting him due to a particularly creepy expression he made in the midst of the circumstances which let her put two and two together. This results in Shino fighting back, catching him off-guard, and buying enough time for Kirito to get involved as the two of them eventually overwhelm Kyouji.
    • As mentioned, not only does Kirito come to the sudden conclusion as to who Death Gun is, but also figures out how Death Gun kills people in real life. The solution being that it's because there are two people behind it. How did he come to this sudden conclusion? By looking at a pond with two fish and then at Sinon's ass.
  8. Terrible pacing. The Aincrad arc of season 1 and Phantom Bullet arc of season 2 feel rushed. The former especially since it goes through time skips which could've been used to develop the characters especially the Moonlit Black Cats. The opposite can be said about Fairy Dance arc of season 1 and Mother's Rosario of season 2 as both arcs feel like they were shoved in at the last minute and takes forever for them to end making them both feel tedious. This is especially the case in Episode 21 of Season 1 where there's the perfect opportunity for Asuna to escape and she very nearly does. But nope, it has to continue to be dragged out so that Kirito can have the final showdown with the Sugou, complete with the squick-inducing attempted rape scene.
  9. Filler: The second season feels like nothing more than a filler season since the characters don't really grow and after the Phantom Bullet arc nothing meaningful really happens asides from the Mother's Rosario arc, which is predictable and boring.
  10. Seasonal Rot:
    • The Fairy Dance Arc is widely deemed to be the low point of the series by fans and haters alike, with reasons ranging from the treatment of Asuna, the series changing the Death Game premise to "save Asuna", the series becoming more like a harem, Yui's role change from mysterious adopted daughter to being a moe exposition character, the incestual element brought by Leafa crushing on Kirito, and Sugou as the most ridiculous and annoying villain, among others. Some fans even refuse to acknowledge the entire arc and go straight from Kirito waking up from SAO to meeting Asuna (freed from ALO) in real life for the first time.
    • To a lesser extent all of the post-Aincrad arcs get subjected to this to some degree because Sword Art Online stopped being about the titular game and instead kept bringing in new games. It's a very common view among fans that Aincrad should have been the only arc in the series, and instead expanding that out to the whole 100 floors. This ended up getting done in the video game continuity, although it still continues past Aincrad.
  11. Missed Opportunities: One of, if not the most recurrent criticism the series receives from its detractors. Despite how good the premise is with it being full of possibilities, Kawahara never came close to realize that potential. On the broad strokes, many see the execution underwhelming due to crucial plot contrivances, questionable story choices, and underdeveloped characters. Another huge point of contention is that, rather than exploring his otherwise good concepts, Kawahara seems to unabashedly focus on pandering to a degree that detractors find alienating at best, and intellectually offensive at worst.
    • Kirito becoming a Beater in Episode 2 had a lot of plot potential and one of the more interesting directions his character was taken in, but it promptly gets dropped by the next episode where a time skip shows he's gotten sick of being a solo player and joins a guild, abandoning the characterization that had established in the previous episode. This gets resolved in Progressive which shows what happened during the time skip and Kirito keeps up the Beater act for far longer and leads him to be ostracized by nearly all players, who consider him a powerful asset to the Assault Team but almost no one trusts him on a personal level.
    • One of the main appeals of the series was the fact it was a death game set in virtual reality, where characters could supposedly die at any time. However this is mitigated by the fact that the story focuses on Kirito, who is a Gary Stu where it's made apparent there is no true chance of him dying in SAO. Fans agree that had the spotlight been one of the other characters of SAO, the story would have been more interesting.
    • The biggest example would be not exploring all 100 Floors of Aincrad, instead stopping at Floor 75 with the arc only spanning 14 episodes/a few books rather than a whole season. The video game continuity amends this by featuring all 100 Floors, while Ordinal Scale has the characters being able to see what would have been on the 100th Floor which they face as a final boss. Progressive also makes amends by actually showing Kirito and Asuna's adventures during the venture up.
    • The Phantom Bullet arc featured Gun Gale Online, a sci-fi themed shooter, which was vastly different from the fantasy settings of the previous two games introduced. However the game's full premise remains largely unexplored, focusing almost entirely on the BoB tournament and Kirito facing the antagonist, Death Gun. Fatal Bullet and Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online alleviate this to a degree by fleshing GGO out and giving full exploration of what the game is like away from Kirito.

Season 1

  1. There are things missing in the game Sword Art Online that despite being things that are common in MMORPGs like dual-wielding, a job system, class selection, range weapons or attacks, and etc., which doesn't make any sense.
  2. Episode 3 introduces the Moonlit Black Cats, who all eventually die in the episode including Kirito's love interest Sachi. The problem with this is that, the Black Cats aren't introduced prior due to a time skip between episode 2 and 3 and is emphasized that they meant Kirito sometime between these episodes. Because of this, all the characters feel incredibly shallow since we aren't given any insight as to who they are as people with the show not even giving the audience their names outside of Sachi, and in turn, makes their deaths' weightless since we never got to know them nor are we given a reason to care.
  3. The final counter between Kirito & Sugou is very pointless as Sugou didn't die even though he was cut in the neck by Kirito. Also, don't forget that his scream will give you a lot of nerves.

Season 2

  1. The Mother's Rosario arc is nothing more than a predictable Tragic AIDS Story. It's about Yuuki Konno, a girl who was born with AIDS due to an infected blood transfusion given to her mother before she was born. Her whole family contracted HIV and had passed away, leaving her as the only one left alive. Since she's in the hospital 24/7, she spends all that time in ALFheim Online gaining fame as the best player and eventually befriending Asuna. While this could be interesting, it all just feels forced as the viewer isn't given enough time to get to know Yuuki nor does she really have much personality outside of being really good at ALFheim. This, in turn, makes her death really melodramatic and underwhelming despite how hard it tries to get you to feel sad.

Good Qualities

  1. Amazing action scenes (except the final counter of Kirito and Sugou at the end of Aincrad arc), with some of the moves paying homage to the video game series, Devil May Cry.
  2. Aside from Kirito, most of the characters are decent and likable like Asuna, Sinon, Agil, Klein, and Silica.
  3. Fantastic soundtrack with lots of thrilling and bombastic tracks. The intro for season 1 in particular is one of the most memorable openings in anime.
  4. Great animation by A-1 Pictures.
  5. The voice acting is well done, both in English and Japanese.
  6. The characters' designs and the backgrounds are beautiful and iconic in their own right.
  7. The "Sandwich-kun" scene.
  8. Sword Art Online: Alicization, while it still has some criticism, is a huge improvement over the first two seasons.
  9. Progressive series, Season 1's reboot, had improved the script a lot; GGO's side story is also nice.

Season 1

  1. The premise of being trapped in an RPG world is really interesting and has lots of potential. Sadly, it wasn't executed well and left a lot to be desired. Not only that, but some anime/video games (such as .hack) played with the concept a decade before and executed it better.
  2. The Levels are really creative, and the designs of the monsters, especially the boss, who appears at every level, look good.

Reception

While the original light novel received a positive reception, the Sword Art Online anime has a mixed reception by both audiences and amateur critics, while the show gained a cult following worldwide, some people criticized the writing, the shock value (including the infamous rape scene in the Fairy Dance arc), and the characters (especially the antagonists and Kirito), however, the franchise had great commercial success.

Since lots of Internet users in Taiwan dislikes the franchise and its supporters, some catchy phrases, mainly "Star Burst Stream", the skill that Kirito delivered the fatal blow to Gleaming Eyes, are popular memes on the forums there.

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