(Minor spoiler warning, you can still read it even if you haven’t seen SAO )
Look, there will always be controversial animes either regarding the story or regarding the whole anime if the anime was good or total shit, but don’t let the controversies fool you because some of them might be legit, but most of those are just annoying fan base that either hates or loves the anime. Sword Art Online is one example I tried to avoid it thinking, screw this I won’t be part of haters or lovers, rather, I will not watch the anime at all and thus I will be free of either supporting or hating it. This is the reason I didn’t watch SAO when it first came out. But, as time passed, I ran out of collection, so I had to go on with something, this is where I met SAO. Oh boy was that a controversial experience!
SAO’s story revolves around a latest virtual mmo called, sigh, SAO (duh) which is to be played by wearing a nerve gear connected to your nervous system which has the ability to transports your conscious to a big game multiplayer server. The story doesn’t focus on random gamers rather, It focuses on the shows main protagonist Kirigaya Kazuto aka Kirito (ign) who learns about his family that he is not the big son of the family rather adopted relative and thus falls into depression and focuses himself keeping away from them by staying away or by spending hours on online stuffs and playing online games/mmo’s. One day he steps in to the latest mmo SAO and after login, he finds out that the creator of the game is a sadistic psychopath who designed the game in such way that, only by beating the final boss of the game, they can finally log out of the game. And if they die in the game, they will die in real life as the nerve gear will fry their brain as a result of their dying. This is where the anime starts, showing how Kirito manages to survive the game and how other players are trying to cope up with the situation.
Interesting enough, the beginning of the story was promising, it had great set up, great starting plot, and great mysteries. My fingers were crossed, but then, as I kept watching the series, my sixth sense kept tingling, pointing out; there was something wrong with the anime. It didn’t take time for me to notice that our Kirito senpai is a nothing but gamebreaking bug (no, not really) who has leveled up beyond any other players and is overpowered cause he plays solo (in a multiplayer! sigh) and, the girls in the anime has a tendency to fall for him for no good reason at all. Most of the episodes went this way without explaining why in the earth they get attracted to Kirito or, even if they were, they didn’t justify if the reason was legit. There were some conspiracy episodes in between and some fillers but, those were just, ok I guess. But the real plot starts to grow up as we are introduced to our princess peach, Yuuki Asuna, I call her princess peach cause that’s what she becomes in the latter half of the show (sigh, spoilers). Asuna’s portrayal was interesting, at first she was portrayed as strong independent woman but I have seen enough anime’s to know that, the starting portrayal has nothing to do with how the character will be for next all episodes (*coughs Sakura! *cough), although, I will be honest, Asuna’s character was not as broken as I have imagined and she did have some badass moments (just like Victorique of Gosick) before getting locked up high in….(again, just like Victorique!), she in the course of the story meets Kirito and as the story progresses, they become love interest (obvious) and things thus gets more complicated. Other major plot character includes Kirito’s cousin Suguha Kirigaya. I could write a bunch of essays and para’s regarding this character and how she was portrayed but anything I write regarding her falls in the spoiler category sadly. I could say some though, the love triangle that is created revolving Kirito, Asuna and Suguha (yes Suguha eventually falls for Kirito senpai, nope, not awkard at all) isn’t unique, but is not complete shit. It actually makes kind of sense if you consider Kirito’s and Suguha’s past, but at the end of the day, was unnecessary in my opinion. (Honorable mentions: Recon, Akihiko Kayaba, Yui) As for other characters, there is none worth mentioning cause this is where the show makes its mistake. You see, the show portrays lots of characters in conspiracy episodes and filler episodes but, none of the characters makes any reappearance in any of the final sequence of the story neither none of the characters has any development throughout the course of the story, that’s just wrong. It’s like playing mass effect where commander Shepard recruits all his loyal crews but at the end none of them makes any worthy appearance in the final battle. This is not fair to be honest. In the latter half of the show, they did make an appearance (some), buts that’s negligible in comparison to all the characters that are shown previously.
You know a show has great if not great frigging awesome soundtrack when you download some of them the very first moment you hear it (well, that’s what I did.) I will be honest, Sword art online has some epic soundtracks and I would definitely put aside everything only to hear the tracks once more. For example, the first intro ‘Crossing fields’ is just beyond gorgeous, and the second ending, ‘Overfly’ just increases the immersion of the story to next level. There are other bunch of great sound tracks which I don’t know the name, but, oh boy aren’t they just eargasmic. One of the track that plays when major fights between Kirito and wannabe villains occur, yah, that one is just epic and reminds me of the epic track that plays on background when Saber and Shirou prepares to fight major servants of fsn (trace on!). These sound tracks are awesome and worth downloading.
SAO is colorful, its art design is stunning! I hate the pointy cheeks and jaw designs though, I hated these types of art design in code geass, I hate it here too. But that doesn’t mean the characters look shit, they rather are beautiful, I really liked the blood of the knight oath portrayal of Asuna, she looked gorgeous back there. The show is beautiful when it shows landscapes, game design and and when it focuses solo characters but it looks bad when it focuses on crowd. Crowd designs were lazy artworks. Credits to the show as at the end of the day, it looks beautiful. Overall review and final rating: Sword art online showed promises but it soon failed to deliver most of them, rather it included a lot of fan service and plot holes. But, it on the other hand, didn’t fail to deliver a good story. The story was good, it had plot twists, romance, surprises (like Kirito’s dual sword outplay), and tension. The story had a lot of unnecessary things, for starters, Asuna getting locked up in the tower for the second half of the show, other characters getting minimum screentime and no role in the main plot, a weirdo mommy and daddy family section for Yui and of course Kiritos sister Suguha falling for Kirito. All these were unnecessary yah, but, here is the real question, were they making the show uninteresting? The answer my dear, is, absolutely not, it was stupid but that didn’t make the show stupid rather, I fucking enjoyed the sequences and was eager to know where it ends, and at the end of the day, that’s something that keeps you going and makes you want to see the next episode. So, to sum it up
1. Visuals 2. Absolutely awesome soundtracks 3. Story 4. Good Ending
1. Fillers 2. No character development 3. Heavy sexism and focus towards male viewers.
Either Pros or Cons (depending on viewers):
1. Fanservice 2. Romance 3. Love triangle.
So, considering all of the above and considering my personal enjoyment, I rate the show a 6/10 and it earns the approval of being a good show.
Recommendation: Should you watch it? Yes!
For alternate recommendation, I would suggest Fate Stay Night as it has the similar action, romance vibe and a good story, but also, it doesn’t make the portrayal of women weak rather, it does the opposite as Saber till now is one of the strongest female protagonist I’ve ever seen in anime. Thanks for the patience, let me know what you think in the comment section. Peace!