Sword Art Online Season 2 Review

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Sword Art Online was quite a hit when it released its first animated season back in 2012.  Creating hordes of fans craving more from this world with its interesting take on virtual reality meets reality.  With the arrival of the second season fans were able to rejoice, although it wasn’t all pretty.

e6swordartonlineii9Story
Even after the citizens escaped their captivity in the world of Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online, it seems that Kirigaya Kazuto is far from retired from his days in the virtual world. After spreading the code throughout the internet, unique worlds began to spring up from multiple servers, creating games of their own.

While he begins to move on with his life, attending a school created for kids that were trapped in the SAO world and seeking out his dream job of enhancing virtual reality technology, he is confronted by an agent with the VR investigation department from the government. According to him, real murders seem to be occurring through use of an online shooter game called Gun Gale Online.

While the main arc of the series seems to be during Kazuto’s time investigating the Death Gun murders in Gun Gale Online, the second season consists of three total arcs. Gun Gale Online, where Kazuto enters GGO and goes up against Death e8swordartonlineii1Gun; Caliber, where Kazuto and his friends seek the legendary weapon Excaliber; and Mother’s Rosario, where Asuna joins with the Sleeping Knights to take down a boss with a single party.

The major flaw in the series remains in its attempt to be a harem.  When everything important is pushed to the side and the team takes a break, it tries to be funny and cute with its cast.  Which quite frankly does not work well as Kazuto is already established in a relationship and the remaining girls look like pathetic lost puppies.

This is mainly due to poor character development in any of the side characters.  All but two of which have a single episode in the first season worth of development.  They have nearly no interactions between each other, rather they just drool at Kazuto and Asuna’s relationship.  Its pitiful looking and isn’t entertaining.

e15swordartonlineii8That annoyance aside, the show keeps a good deal of entertainment forth.  If you ignore the drawn out segments of repeated discussion during the Gun Gale arc and toss out the very unenjoyable Caliber arc, the rest of the series was solid.

The Gun Gale arc managed to rekindled the element of fear and death within the gaming world that hasn’t been present since the first Sword Art Online arc.  There was a real sense of loss and danger within a game that people were playing without worries.  Including in that the powerful backstory and development of the new character Sinon and you have a great addition to the franchise’s best moments.

Though nothing within this season can stand up to the franchises best arc thus far.  The Mother’s Rosario segment, while sadly only 4 episodes long, took the show in a direction that I was not expecting.  Providing solid character development to Asuna and proving to me that Sword Art Online can indeed pull e19swordartonlineii11off something emotional and powerful without death being a factor within the gaming world.  Thus assuring me that it is indeed not a one trick pony.

Animation
A-1 Pictures returns to provide yet another visually solid-looking series.  The character designs and world stand out as great as can be expected, without pushing the boundaries.  Though that’s not to say I’m not impressed at times.  During some of the early episodes, I was blown away at some of the details thrown in the world before it stepped into a more comfortable pacing in quality.

Sword Art Online has been known for some emotionally charged battles that do well in conveying some intense moments, and they certainly repeat this here and there.  Though I won’t claim that it remains solid throughout the series as some moments, especially in the Caliber arc, as they resort to black screens with slashing lights and enemies falling over in defeat.

e22swordartonlineii02Verdict
Despite its many flaws in pacing and useless content, Sword Art Online Season 2 managed to rekindle the spark of its early first season arc.  Both entertaining the viewer while also playing on emotions of loss, danger, and bonds of friendship.  Even though I feared the direction the series could go, it’s nice to see that the author isn’t completely out of ideas.

The introduction of a new well-built character, the long-awaited progression of Asuna’s character, and a truly epic arc in Mother’s Rosario makes this season well worth its investment.  With the light novels continuing beyond Mother’s Rosario, I can’t help but be excited for the future of this series.  Even with its bumpy missteps.

Good

REVIEW VERDICT:
Good

Goods:

  • Mother’s Rosario arc was amazing
  • Gun Gale rekindled SAO’s gold
  • Moments of suspense and tears
  • Moments of animation brilliance

Bads:

  • Caliber arc was terrible
  • Dragged out and repetitive dialog
  • Some cheaply done battles and boss fights
  • Many side characters remain underdeveloped
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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.