(Note: this “first impresssions” post covers both episodes 1 and 2.)
Karen is a college student who has quite the complex over her tall height. She takes an interest in VR games since they allow her to live a different life, but as she tries out various games, their randomly-generated avatars are all tall girls or otherwise distasteful. Eventually she ends up with an avatar of a cute, pint-sized girl that she likes, in the gun-slinging world of Gun Gale Online. There, she dons a cute pink outfit, hides in the pink sands of the desert, and ambushes unsuspecting players with her pink submachine gun. Eventually, she finds herself befriending another female avatar who promises to meet her offline if she can beat her, as well as participating in the team battle royale event Squad Jam.
I neither hate nor particularly like Sword Art Online; the main series’ first season did some things that are interesting and others that are aggravating, and I still haven’t gotten through the Gun Gale Online arc of the second season (moreso out of laziness than disinterest). That said, this spinoff, based on material written by the author of Kino’s Journey of all people, is different enough that I can approach it with a clean slate. The first episode drops right into the action with no story background, making it fun to watch but leaving little to go on for story potential. Episode 2 picks up the slack, though, introducing our main heroine, her height complex, and how GGO allows her to be someone she otherwise cannot be. This spinoff’s potential lies greatly in whether or not it can follow up on these themes of contrast between online personas and real selves; it highlights a more personal aspect of these MMO games that I’ve always found interesting and worth exploring. With no Kirito (or any of the cast of the main series) in sight and no signs of anything threatening real lives, this spinoff is worth looking at even if you hate the SAO main series. Of course if you’re a fan of SAO, as long as you’re okay with the separate cast, this spinoff should also be right up your alley.
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is streaming on Crunchyroll.