Review: Sword Art Online
The best way for me to describe Sword Art Online (SAO) is to compare it to the food industry. You walk in, grab the menu and take a look at the beautifully taken pictures that gets your stomach grumbling in anticipation... before filling it with disappointment when the food arrives looking completely different and miserable.
SAO is a Virtual-Massive-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Game based anime that, with the help of a gear, allows players to mentally enter a virtual world of gaming, like a advanced form of Oculus Rift. However, gamers were trapped in the virtual world by the game developer, who made it so that dying in the game, or having the gear removed by others in the real life would cause them to die literally, forcing players to complete the game in exchange for release.
I do have to praise SAO for being among the first light novel and anime to acknowledge the popularity of video gaming, especially within the anime viewers.
But that's also one area where I find SAO rather frustrating. Personally, being a former MMORPG addict, I find barely anything I can relate from SAO to a simple MMORPG. Sure, there's a menu screen, skill levels and health bars... but other than that, it's exactly the same as the other battle-genre anime. Characters would shout out loudly, swinging their swords around and, at time have their swords glow to give it more power.
Another example of disappointment? The characters. There's a few things wrong with the characters of SAO. Firstly, the main character, Kirito, is supposedly a "lone wolf" player who is basically portrayed as being more powerful than anything. In many cases, he simply fight a enemy much weaker than he is, and the power levels of different characters isn't even clear. Even the mechanics, for example "heatlh regeneration" that is shown at one point of the anime, is completely forgotten in any other battle he participates in. Furthermore, being the socially awkward person, somehow he manages to seduce each and every female, and it all has to be female except for one, into liking him, acting as a walking chick magnet. And the rant continues! The game developer made it so that each player in the game will have the appearance of their real life body... and yet, Kirito just has to meet a hot, busty female again, and again, and again...
The second protagonist that infuriates me at times would be Asuna. Portrayed as the mysterious new player who's surprisingly good at the game, the anime did very well building up the tension and power of this character on the first few episodes... until it decides to push her aside completely and turn her into a Princess Peach of anime later on to the show. Becoming a loving couple, the romance between Asuna and Kirito felt like something from Twilight, with barely anything making any sense.
Other characters' involvement with Kirito just seems irrelevant to the main story. Especially Lisbeth and Silica, two characters considered as important who appears in exactly 1 episode during the Aincrad arc, not counting the short appearance at the end of the arc.
To its credit, the anime has managed to emphasis on the notion that "dying in the game would kill you in real life" extremely well. At least, at the start. But then, thinking about it once more, what difference does that make to a fantasy-genre anime, where "People die when they are killed" (Thanks Shirou Emiya)?
Skipping that part, when the anime began with the emphasis on how popular SAO as a game was in the world (Japan), why is the main goal of each and every character within SAO is to get back to real life? "Real life is just a crappy game" (Thanks Sora and Shiro).
But why do I still enjoy this show so much? The artwork of SAO is outstanding and, at times, completely bewildering. The music too, composed by Yuki Kajiura, reflects each and every possible atmosphere required by the situation. Both, combined with the great animation of fighting scenes, made this anime famous