One of the most hated (or maybe most loved) series in the entire anime community. Sword Art Online is one of the most popular series that either gets a lot of hate or love for what it is, and that’s what fuels its insane reputation. I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh!, but I consider Sword Art Online to be my first anime since I began watching it for real. Because of this, I hold SAO dear to my heart and can’t exactly bear to criticize it, but I can without hesitation point out it’s flaws and live with it.
The world was amazingly hyped when the anime adaptation of Sword Art Online was first announced. By then, many fans had already read the first volume of the light novel series and loved it. The first story arc covered the Aincrad arc, which the first few episodes later mysteriously skip two years into the future without a clear explanation why, except that Kirito explains that even now, they weren’t even close to beating the game. After that timeskip, Kirito joins a guild and finally falls in love, but she wasn’t even the main heroine. On their first mission, she dies causing Kirito to distrust guilds and play solo until he becomes one of the most overpowered main characters to exist in anime, without any explanation. This development is abrupt, and Kirito becomes nothing but an eyesore who just wants to “beat” the game.
The only person to break that cycle of his is Asuna, the hooded girl that Kirito meets before the timeskip. While it’s romantic that they do fall in love, it’s done because they make a truce to get out of the game and find each other in real life. If they weren’t in a game, and were actually in a fantasy world, then I see no qualities in Kirito that would make Asuna fall for him, except for his fighting ability, in which Asuna can easily match. By the time the second story arc arrives in Alfheim Online, Asuna has been demoted from an independent woman to damsel in distress. Is our main heroine so weak that she has to be subjected to rape as well? She was a commander of one of the most powerful guilds in SAO, and has been reduced to nothing but a game master’s plaything.
It’s also annoying to see several girls gunning for Kirito intimately despite them knowing he’s with Asuna. It was most certainly not a pleasing moment to see Lisbeth’s heart being broken by Kirito after it was revealed to her that her best friend was dating him. While it was a touching moment, Asuna should have been there earlier to clear up the misunderstanding. From several occasions before and after this moment, someone should have been there to clear everything up.
For Season 2, the storyline moves on to the Phantom Bullet Arc approximately two years after the first season finished airing. During this time, only a year had passed since. Our new heroine, Sinon is fleshed out very nicely and her interactions with Kirito through Gun Gale Online have stayed platonic, which is a good thing. While this continuously adds to Kirito’s harem, it still nice to know that Kirito has a female friend who doesn’t have any romantic interests towards him. The story behind the entire conspiracy in GGO connects back to what happened in Sword Art Online, and it’s a genius way to seek out a villain whom Kirito and gang barely remember.
The hype we have for Season 3 is real, and it has been ever since the teaser was shown at the end of the Ordinal Scale film. While it wasn’t a solid confirmation at the time, it’s implied that A-1 Pictures was currently in the process of developing storyboards for the Alicization Arc. Being a reader of the light novels, the Alicization Arc is certainly the most entertaining story-arc of the series. The English releases haven’t exactly caught up with the entire series yet, but I reckon it will sooner or later.
VERDICT – 7/10
The show doesn’t exactly live up to all the fans of the anime community, creating love and hate here and there. Sword Art Online definitely has some flaws regarding story and characters, but its most certainly memorable and makes it a fun ride no matter what.