Countless times have I been subjected to seeing a plot rushed to the finish line, the moment it gets away from the starting post. A hero should be triumphant, they say, so they give you fifteen thousands of hours of hero development, but what about the protagonists of the developing world? I think rushing a story for the sake of a hero to save the day is one of the worst things a story can do. Here’s some examples of what I mean and how we can remedy this.
When the name of the show you’re watching gives you a major clue as to what the series is going to be about, without telling you the names of any of the characters, generally it’s pretty clear cut what you’re getting yourself into. Not in this animes case, as I expected to be fronted with a highly adult, ultra smarmy cheese-fest of a guy chasing down his dream girl by saving her inside of some big dungeon. I expected that she’d have been screaming “My hero!” and falling into his arms, whilst he sauntered away with the girl and made it apparent that he was the man. Thankfully, we didn’t get that, but rather a much more touching tale!
When Tim asked me to do a piece for GeekOut, I wondered what to do. This is a guest post, so I should do my best to out-geek them as much as possible, to make the contribution memorable.
Then it hit me: Light Novels. I’m a big reader and I’ve had the fortune to read several light novels that have inspired many outstanding anime. Some of them even have ties to role playing games, both of which are Joel and Tim’s domains.
It’s the perfect topic.
This is the review that I will possibly look bad for. This is just my opinion, so I am not right, but it is how I feel.
What is it?
Sword Art Online (SAO) has one of the most fantastic background stories I have ever heard. Honestly, quite something. SAO is a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (VRMMORPG) in this anime of the same name. People in SAO pick an avatar and off they go. Able to feel the fight (minus pain) for real via their NerveGear, a Virtual Reality Headset.
The NerveGear works by being worn on the head and needing to be plugged into you (ooh err). So that’s cool, the people play a game in this anime. The bad guy decides that he wants a world he can watch over, see people go about their lives, etc. So basically, the bad guy made SAO. Not very original but it is a great idea for an anime, so no points off there.
The main character, Kirito, was an SAO beta tester. He is also a ‘solo player’. So, he is pretty powerful. In one episode a whole group attacks him who come off threatening, but he kind of ignores all damage by regenerating faster than their Damage Per Second (DPS). Whew, with his gear too, you kind of believe he is this powerful, great player! I know I found him relatively believable. For those who’ve played an MMORPG, you would know someone at the max level being attacked by someone who’s only level 1 is just laughable to watch. It makes the max level player nearly invincible in comparison.
(Yup, this is exactly what it looks like in the anime.)
So slowly, Kirito’s limits as a solo player are revealed. That’s nice. He now needs to buddy up with someone, forming a party.
In enters our protagonists buddy and– WAIT! This will spoil everything. So, I won’t do it. Just know: Kirito gets less and less impressive as the series progresses, getting ridiculously close to death to too many things. The story of SAO is then finished about halfway through the series and they move into a new game. You heard me right: SAO itself is finished and the series continues.
But wait, what about the visuals?
Oh, blow me out of the water, this is one of the nicest looking anime I’ve ever seen. With fantastic character design (Except Kirito in the white gear he wears at one point, that’s just a no-no.) some fan service (There’s only so many times I can look at a screen where the “camera” is behind a girl who’s bending over, shouting at Kirito and NOT call it fan service.) beautiful scenery and overall impressively immersible world, SAO is one of the nicest looking anime I’ve seen.
If you want to know about music, it’s good. I’d not go running to home about the music, but that’s fine. It serves it’s purpose and you know what’s going on with the music adding some extra atmosphere nicely. Very nice opening theme, however.
For all of SAOs strengths (amazing art, nice music, great back story), this series suffers with some (for me, heavy) plot weaknesses. I would recommend this series to people who want to ‘continue their anime viewing path’, but certainly not to people new to anime.
I give this show: 3.5 out of 5. As I say, this is merely an opinion, which may not be popular. I would still give this a watch. Especially for those into fan service or really lovely love scenes. The first 6 or 7 episodes to me were spot on and perfect. From then on, it sorta quickly goes from what it was to a full love story which wasn’t what I bought into when finding out about the series.
What (for me) should have been quite an impressive “End Boss feeling” ending with tactics and stuff (Hey, this is what happens in MMORPG final bosses) ends up being about this one guy, a love story and inadequacies abound, then overcoming all odds for love. But the series itself is not bad and I’ll probably re-watch it some day. As mentioned: Not a bad anime. Give it a try at some point. Maybe you’ll like it more than I did?