Throwback Thursdays: Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online began airing in 2012 . I was really excited for the show, but I wasn’t quite ready to get my hopes up after I had been so excited for Guilty Crown, which though pretty, wasn’t very good. I started watching the first episode. It was a bit slow until the climax, but I was really excited about the potential. And ultimately, Sword Art Online was amazing. I was blown away at how good the story was. Then the second story arc started, and I almost didn’t watch the second season because of it.

Sword Art Online is an anime adaption of a light novel series (it is the same universe as Accel World). The anime is currently two seasons long, and each season has two story arcs. They are Sword Art Online (SAO,) Alfheim Online (ALO,) Gun Gale Online (GGO,) and then the fourth arc that doesn’t take place in a new world.

sao 2

Spoilers to follow.

The first arc, SAO, is my favorite. Basically, the main character Kirito gets stuck inside a virtual reality game that can’t be exited and will kill you if you die in it. It is all about his struggle to beat the game and help everyone return to reality. In this arc we also get to meet Asuna, who becomes Kirito wife in the game.

The second arc takes place after Kirito and Asuna defeat SAO. Kirito is released from the game, but for some unknown reason, Asuna is not. Kirito finds out via different sources that a person who looks like Asuna is being held in a game called Alfheim Online. Kirito goes into it the despite trauma from SAO and tries to beat the game and rescue her. He also works with the police to find the culprit in the real world. This is the one arc that I really do hate.

The second season begins with the third arc, Gun Gale Online. In this arc, Kirito is recruited to go into a game and find someone who is killing people from within the game.

The fourth arc is my second favorite. Asuna is recruited by a mysterious player, to help her and her team capture a dungeon in order to get their names forever listed as the first to clear the dungeon. She willingly helps, but is unsure about their means and motives for doing such a thing. It is later shone that these kids are part of an experimental medical treatment that allows them to function in a visual space even though they are severely debilitated.

End of Spoilers

The SAO arc has an intensity and epic-like feel. The second arc I severely dislike mainly because the primary antagonist is one of the most annoying and evil characters I have ever seen. The third arc is quite good. I really like the change in setting and environment. Also, the characters play off of each other very well. Then finally, the last arc made me cry. It is really well done, and the newly introduced characters are an amazing addition to the story. It is also nice to see a storyline that doesn’t revolve around Kirito.

Even though I do like Sword Art Online, it is difficult for me to recommend. The first arc and last arc are amazing. I love both of them, but the ALO arc really traumatized me. It killed a lot of my excitement for the show. Also, the show is set up as a harem style show, which I also disapprove of. There is also a substantial amount of perverted creepiness that bothers me as well. Overall, I like the show, but I will definitely skip the last part of the second arc.

Lastly, this is a very divisive show. Their are a lot of different opinions on it. If you can handle the stuff I listed above, and are curious, go for it. SAO is a great show to start up conversations about anime with. Nearly everyone has an opinion on it. Give it a shot.

12 thoughts on “Throwback Thursdays: Sword Art Online

  1. I was halfway through watching SAO when SAO II came out, so I said “screw it!” and skipped Alfheim to watch the second season instead. Kinda scared to head back, having heard the rumors I have about the infamous “rape scene”.

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  2. Silvachief and I a did massive analysis of this series trying to pick out everything wrong with it, arguing whether or not the problems are relevant or just nit-picking, During the conversation I was asked if I thought I could do the same premise better, which I am now attempting to do in a web novel on my blog XD.

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  3. I thought ALO with the second arc was okay. Not nearly as good as the first and last as you mentioned, though. And I take it I was one of the few who enjoyed that random Calibur side quest? Yeah, it’s probably better to be forgotten about anyway lol. Oh SAO, the wonderful and controversial memories!

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  4. I agree completely; SAO is hard to recommend because it’s a hit-or-miss for most people: either it’ll make you love anime or never want to watch anime again. It was my first anime, so it holds a special place in my heart, but I will admit that Season 2 is a lot better than Season 1.

    I did like the ALO arc, despite it being WAY slower that the first arc. For me, it had a lot of input about the relationships between family, what happens when those relationships are rocked by a loss of boundaries, and the way relationships force us to look at ourselves. So I could take the slowness and creepiness of Sugou, who united all sides of the fandom in rage against him. XD

    What still amazes me, however, is that SAO came to be as a result of Reki Kawahara winning a short story contest. The fact that his short story managed to become an immensely popular anime in a fairly short time is pretty amazing, and it helps me to overlook some of the choices of the first season, like little character development and the Cliffs Notes style of the first arc, because it was his first story, and you can tell that he got better at writing by Season 2. Looking forward to Season 3! 😀

    (Also, I too enjoyed the Calibur side quest. It was just fun getting to see everyone – and by “everyone” I mean “everyone-except-Agil”, who is almost criminally underused in most of the series. XD)

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  5. This was my first anime too, so it also is very special to me. Sometimes, I don’t understand why people hate it so much. As a swordsman myself, I was drawn to the art of how they animated the blades and the fighting. The power of the fighting matching the tone of the story is why I kept watching.

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  6. I would love for you to have gone into more detail about the morals, implications, and your insights of this series @Zeroe4. I think there’s a lot of gold to mine from it, despite the flaws.

    I have mixed feelings about SAO because on the one hands it’s very well done and enjoyable, but I can’t help but see it as dotHack clone. Although, SAO was a lot more relatable than DH due to its inclusion of life outside the game. This is one aspect which I really liked about SAO.

    In that same vain, I handle the mature content of SAO differently. Are we only happy to see “polite” depictions of reality? I mean, I’m in no means condoning violence, sexaul immorality, or any other such thing, but shouldn’t these realities be depicted realistically? There’s a difference between glorifying these things and depicting them, and if they are depicted it should be done accurately. We live in a dark world and the dark aspects of it have to be shown for what they really are. SAO is by no means hentai, and I think it handled the mature content realistically.

    Could you really classify the love elements of this as harem? I wouldn’t say so. There were some perverted people depicted, but the whole thing was a rescue mission to stop that.

    Just my thoughts.a

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  7. The basic problem with harems so far as SAO goes is Kirito himself. Essentially: (a). Kirito is depicted, although he has human failings periodically, as a no-holds-barred badass who still manages to be eminently relatable as his personality develops. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing independently, but…(b). Kirito meets countless beautiful women, and it is implied that every beautiful woman he meets falls in love with him, and so (c). He could theoretically have sex with any of them, but chooses not to and (d). to a certain extent only three of the women depicted have enough personality to be anything more than eye candy. They’re also constantly depicted in sexualized body language and positions throughout the show.

    A lot of viewers have a problem with this….Japanese James Bond type plot, and actually find it (Along with James Bond) vaguely sexist. It’s not an egregious flaw or anything, and the show actually handles it pretty well, but still…

    “In that same vain, I handle the mature content of SAO differently. Are we only happy to see “polite” depictions of reality? I mean, I’m in no means condoning violence, sexaul immorality, or any other such thing, but shouldn’t these realities be depicted realistically? There’s a difference between glorifying these things and depicting them, and if they are depicted it should be done accurately. We live in a dark world and the dark aspects of it have to be shown for what they really are. SAO is by no means hentai, and I think it handled the mature content realistically.”

    On this point I agree with you. It creeped a substantial number of viewers out that the previously strong Asuna could basically be reduced to a damsel in distress, but the villain himself oddly comes off as depressingly realistic. I.E. People like that guy really DO exist, and that’s part of why everyone was so substantially disturbed by him. And I’m pleased with the way the original SAO addressed how easy it would be to become corrupt in the context of this game, I.E. Actual murderers in SAO being easier to breed because of the place’s game-like structure.

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  8. But then again, it may just be a case of intended audience. Shows like Fushiji Yuugi and many eroge games and manga are designed to be the same sort of entertainment with a female audience in mind, and in that respect Japan is a weirdly progressive culture. Most Western movies, shows, and books with a specifically female audience as the primary target for the fantasy, with the fantasy actually being relatable anyway, didn’t start showing up until the mid-2000s. SAO may just be a case where it was created to be a fantasy for a male audience, and I’m…kinda fine with that. XD

    In other respects Japan is a miserably un-progressive culture. Very confusing place….

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  9. Check out my view for my thought *shameless self promotion*

    actually I’ll just sum it up: SAO is either great or it a bleck. I can’t seem to find the in between. IMO the GGO arch is the best one of the entire series regarding pacing, character development, and antagonist interest. The original SAO arch is also pretty good but the Alfheim stuff falls flat and drags the series down a great deal.
    If you judge mostly on enjoyment then yes SAO is pretty good- but dive into the technical parts and the series seems to fall apart pretty fast 😛

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    1. I would tend to agree with your assessment. SAO is certainly a polarizing series, and I think that has to do with those that think it’s good because of pure enjoyment and those that judge it by other means.

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