Sword Art Online Review

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At first glance, I figured Sword Art Online to be a sort of .hack copy of sorts. However after watching the initial episode, I quickly realized its potential. A simple fun idea that quickly has a wrench thrown into it that will have you at the edge of your seat.

Story
swordartonline1The story follows a kid named Kirito who seems like a sort of shut-in. For a while now, he had been beta testing a new Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. Mouthful right? This VRMMORPG named Sword Art Online is later sold in limited quantity to the very eager mass public. Once in the new virtual world, Kirito parts from the initial crowds and party centered battle system to level on his own. Since he knows all the best places to level. Later, after being talked into assisting a new player, they attempt to log out only to find the Log Out interface is missing. Being as the VR headsets lock into the brain, trying to take off the headset is impossible without someone outside the game removing it.

After realizing this, everyone in the game is transported to a courtyard where a mysteriously cloaked man informs them that they are part of his new world. He tells them that the only way to leave is by beating the 100 floor dungeon at the center of the game’s world.  Also that if someone dies in the game or if the VR headset is attempted to be removed, its battery will overload their brain and kill them.

That’s all in the first episode! Quite a bomb dropped right off the get-go. It’s a foundation for an amazing series that, for the first 14 episodes, leaves you on the edge of your seat. Oddly enough, the fact that there were so many innocent lives hanging on the balance inside a video game made me feel so much more for the characters. I wanted them to live. I fell in love with them,I ached for them, and I cheered for them. It was amazing character build and attachment.

Sadly though, episode 15-25 was a bit less gripping. The second arc they went with had less of a feel of fear and anticipation. However it was still a fun watch, and had some good points.

Animation
swordartonline2The animation was pretty well done. I personally enjoyed the character design and animation style. It was very colorful and fluent. As I said earlier, I ended up falling in love with these characters, and the animation only did better to solidify that. I also enjoyed a lot of the action scenes as it really got you into the action and didn’t jar too much with still shots. The environments and settings were beautiful and created a immersive experience.

Sound
Watching this in Japanese with Subtitles, I very much enjoyed the feel of the voicing. Characters had a lot of emotion and their pain came out in great acting. While none of the music seemed memorable for me, it helped to create a good ambiance for the experience.

Overall
Sword Art Online is the first anime I’ve watched in a while that had me truly at the edge of my seat. While the second arc was less enjoyable, the overall story was amazing. The characters are lovable, the action is intense, and I enjoyed every minute of it. If you want a gripping action/drama RPG, you need to watch SAO. If you’ve played an MMORPG, it’s a must. If it weren’t for the arc change, this show would get 5 out of 5. It was just too jarring and the feel was way off from the original arc.  Again, that’s not to say the second arc was bad, just too different.  I’ll be crossing my fingers for a second season none the less.

Family Friendliness-SAO is in no way gory, most bloodshed and stabbings are depicted with pixels and light. However the gist of the story is very dark and tragic with death often confronted. There is some chest bouncing and focus now and then and a couple of partial nudity scenes including a character in nothing but underwear.

Verdict: 4.5 / 5

Pros:

  • Lovable Characters
  • Gripping Plot And Progression
  • Solid Conclusion

Cons:

  • Second Arc Loses A Lot Of The Flame
  • Later Love Triangle Is Awkward
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Co-Founder of OtakuSpirit.com and Co-Host of the OtakuSpirit Animecast. A huge fan of anime since the early 1990s, consuming over 800 shows. While he's late to the collecting scene, he's found a lot of joy in filling his DVD/Blu-ray collection as well as collecting figures. Once a week, he posts unboxing and feature videos on anime goods to YouTube.