Review: Sword Art Online
Yes, I know I’m a lazy blogger. I supposed most of you are used to this by now. Normal shoujo programming will be back soon – my Kimi ni Todoke entry is progressing…slowly.
Now, I know that this isn’t shoujo by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the first anime I’ve watched in years. Apart from Sukitte ii na yo…which I haven’t been keeping up with at all…=_=
Anyway, SAO is pretty good! Let me tell you all about it below! Just let me turn on my Clazziquai playlist before we get started…. ^0^
Summary: In the year 2022, the virtual reality MMORPG “Sword Art Online” is released to a select 10,000 gamers. Upon entry into the game, the denizens of the online universe realize that they are all unable to log out, and must climb to the 100th floor of the in-game castle, defeat the boss, and clear the game in order to escape. Among these gamers is Kirito, who decides to go solo despite the dangers of playing alone – if he dies in-game, he dies in the real world too. Parallels between the real world and the microcosm of society SAO embodies ensue.
This anime is really good. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Let me start off by telling you a story of how I started watching this – a lot of my real life friends who watch anime (many of them male) have been spamming (well, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but still) my news feed with their “OMG, SAO is AMAZZIIINGGG”s and whatnot, so I decided to give it a go. And I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it this much, but I did.
This anime has a really interesting take on video games in anime, and what I liked was that everything just seemed so fresh, and yet so relatable to my own gaming experiences. I’ve never experienced fishing in a MMORPG before, but I can totally relate to the struggles in dungeons. I was genuinely interested in the universe that was being established here, unlike other gaming-related anime like .hack, which didn’t really do anything interesting with its universe.
I also really like the sociological perspectives being shown here as well. The community of SAO isn’t just a bunch of teenagers and twenty-somethings, but there are fifty-year-old adults, and children even. It might be great to be stuck in a video game forever if you don’t have any professional obligations, but what about adults that lead their own companies? How are they supposed to live when they get back to the real world? As for the children, how do they cope with being separated from their parents for two, even three years? It was really interesting to see how the anime dealt with these themes, which isn’t something I’ve seen another anime take on before.
Even concepts familiar to many MMO players like PK and in-game marriage take on a new meaning when people are stuck together in a game for an extended period of time. PKing other players takes on another perspective if you factor in the idea that people die in real life when they’re killed in-game – it would seem that people would give up PK if people would die in real life, but there are a certain percentage of PK out there who are sociopathic enough to keep it up. As for in-game marriage, it brings up a variety of problems – you’ve been together with a given person for an extended period of time, so what happens to that relationship when the game no longer exists?
As you can see, I really liked what the anime was doing. Now, let’s talk about the characters.
I generally liked the ensemble. I like the fact that Kirito isn’t a sterotypical otaku – he’s physically fit and he can take care of himself. I also really like Asuna, since she has certain tsundere aspects to her personality, but not to the point where she becomes an exemplar of the character type. I liked most of the characters of the game as well. On another note, Sugou is officially the villain I love to hate – he’s just such a deplorable guy, but he just fills his role so well while being believable. I really do like it when psychopaths are depicted in a believable way! ^_^
I didn’t really care for Suguha or her friend, but they weren’t too annoying, but I really didn’t care for Silica at all, really.
What kind of annoyed me is that I didn’t really get Akihiko’s motivations for creating SAO – I know he loves the universe itself that he created, but why trap the players in? Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but this was one plot point I never really got.
The art was pretty top-notch, in my opinion. The art of SAO was really beautiful, and I liked the character designs in general as well. As for the world of Alfheim, I didn’t care for the art or character designs of the game at all – I know that’s the point of the art of that arc, but I still disliked it. Ngh…
The BGMs are by Yuki Kajiura, although it took me a while to guess. This is because there are these two BGMs that STRONGLY REMIND ME of .hack//SIGN. while many of the others sounded significantly different from her usual style. It was really nice to hear a different sound from her though 😀 The opening and ending themes didn’t really grab me though – they weren’t bad, but you won’t see me putting them on my mp3 player either. As for the seiyuu work, I thought it was good, and didn’t really have any complaints with any of the cast members.
Overall, I really recommend Sword Art Online! While I wasn’t as impressed with the second half of the series, the first half and the overall themes really make it worth your while. Go check it out!