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SWORD ART ONLINE #1 - - Special Review

Not actually a fan site for katana replicas. Not yet, anyway.

Look, I don’t play MMO’s, and I’m generally even less interested in sci-fi plots centered on MMO’s (SUMMER WARS notwithstanding). The prospect of one, to me, is not only about literally watching somebody else play a video game, it’s also about listening to somebody freak out about the notion of “cyberspace”… some 20-30 years after the fact. And I guess that isn’t so bad when half the stuff NUEROMANCER and SNOWCRASH predicted in the 80’s has basically come true today, more-or-less rendering speculative fiction into topical fiction.

Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m unexcited by the sub-genre of MMO sword & sorcery that’s emerged in anime over the past few years, and that I approached a title like SWORD ART ONLINE with trepidation. (Seriously, the title sounds like the domain name of some outrageously amateur website from ’94 run by somebody who’s really into the HIGHLANDER TV show).

And the first half of this pilot more-or-less supports that trepidation. A transcript of my internal monologue would have choice quotes like...

Oh no… they’re seriously going to farm XP in this, aren’t they?”

Please, please don’t let them make good on the threat to go to the forums.”

However, once the digital sky starts bleeding and the eerily satanic dungeon master lays out the hostage situation rules to these hapless participants... things start picking up for me. (Just as they were taking a horrible down turn for the actual characters - - ay-oh!). Hell, I even appreciated the ominous undercurrent running beneath the otherwise banal surprise about - - GASP! - - the users’ menus not having an exit button!

The premise of these innocent gamers having to scale 100 levels of challenges to reach the big boss at the top of tower sounds exactly like a gameplay map, certainly. However, the combined offer of a satirical, BATTLE ROYALE-style death game and a questing venture into this unknown digital world that actually seems like a legit fantasy landscape… well… it’s actually kind of interesting.

I don’t know if it’s interesting enough to get me watching this over other shows currently out there, but it did counter my prejudice against this sub-genre a bit. So +50XP to SWORD ART ONLINE for that.

Watch this episode, "The World of Swords" here and decide for yourself.

Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk"The World of Swords"

jj_jacksonon Dec. 11, 2012 at 1:14 p.m.

At least watch until episode 2 or 3.The first boss battle is ridiculously cool. The fight scenes kind of won me over for this anime. It does trail off sometimes later on but the starting episodes of this anime are really cool. The animation is beautiful.

metalsnakezeroon Dec. 11, 2012 at 1:17 p.m.

It a pretty solid show and makes good on it MMO idea with a human factor to it. However, it has some cliche moments later on and some very rough spots and shortcomings so it wont be something you don't want to continue Tom.

Petiewon Dec. 11, 2012 at 1:34 p.m.
Yeah, I'm not sure how you'd feel about this show Tom. It looks really nice, good artwork and animation. A few decent musical pieces too. The story and characters are lacking though, and the pacing is a little weird. The second half of the series also took a nose dive. The original premise is really interesting, even if not too original, stuck in a virtual world where if you die in the game you die for real. The MMO aspect could have been done better I feel.
There is a lot of love and a lot of hate for this series right now. I'm about in the middle.
Marshal Victoryon Dec. 11, 2012 at 2:56 p.m.

Great show .Also SNOWCRASH was a great cyberpunk read.That said For what ya lack in MMORPG knowledge it will not hurt your enjoyment of the show.

@metalsnakezero: I agree with ya . its almsot like filler here an there.But over all its a solid anime .Good animtion some intresting ideas.But in fairness it has about as many ruff spots as say Tiger & Bunny.An over all its at least the same quality .

Donwunon Dec. 11, 2012 at 6:22 p.m.

There's ALOT of hype following this show. After seeing HxH Green Island, .hack SIGN and Tower of Duraga i'm wondering if this series has anything new to offer to the internet-gaming sub genre....well a couple of episodes in it now and so far it's pretty okay.....i guess time will tell if it has something new to offer

Halberdierv2on Dec. 11, 2012 at 8:30 p.m.

I watched up to episode 3, and caught the rest of the first season in the manga, and started back watching at season 2 (ep 16 onwards). the show starts off pretty strongly, and reminds me of Btooom! ,another show ongoing with a similar plot, but in the real world. the show goes on a lot longer than just this MMO, though.

takashichea moderator is online on Dec. 11, 2012 at 9:05 p.m.

@Donwun:

It doesn't give you much new stuff. (I'm up to speed with the anime).

@Halberdierv2:

How's the manga? I heard folks telling others to avoid because the art style is pretty ugly. I haven't seen it.

@metalsnakezero:

I agreed that the cliches can be a bit annoying with Asuna and Kirito.

@Petiew:

The story and characters are lacking though, and the pacing is a little weird.

Also, the romance part was too rushed. I don't want to go in spoilers for the second season. I feel like it did a better job than the first season in developing characters and their relationships giving them more attention. @No_name_here:

If you want Battle Royale like anime, you should check out Btooom!. It's like Hunger Games, too.

Sword Art Online Rocks!
Sword Art Online Rocks!
Halberdierv2on Dec. 11, 2012 at 9:49 p.m.

@takashichea: I find the art to be fine. what's updated is up to season 1, and I'm on ep 19 or 20, catching up at my own pace and desperately trying to avoid spoiers which seem to come from all directions :S

Elfenlied1012on Dec. 11, 2012 at 10:06 p.m.

My feelings on SAO are fairly negative. Aside from changes in scale, I don't feel like it's done anything that .hack franchise alone hasn't done better. The writing and in cannon explanations are at their best is alright if you don't try to think about it too hard and at it's worst childish, self contradicting, and often flat out idiotic.

The Animation is very good the action can be pleasing and some elements in the earlier half are fairly cool ideas just not well thought out, original or exposed. The most honest truth about SAO is it's not horrendous, its actually functional, just boring. That's probably damning in and of itself.

takashichea moderator is online on Dec. 12, 2012 at 10:14 a.m.

@Elfenlied1012:

I heard from fans complaining about the fights. The animation is spectacular, but they say it's lackluster because it is just Kirito wailing the sword around and screaming. I go rewatch the battles, and I totally see where they coming from.

Elfenlied1012on Dec. 12, 2012 at 10:21 a.m.

@takashichea: agreed, but that's kind of what duel wielding with long swords is.

metalsnakezeroon Dec. 12, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.

@takashichea: Oh no, the cliche with Asuna and Kirito wasn't what I talking about since there relationship was touching and it want away with the falling love with seeing them after the confession like MGX did. Cliche I was talking about were the bad guys, a few plot twist, and the sister falling in love.

takashichea moderator is online on Dec. 12, 2012 at 10:46 a.m.

@metalsnakezero:

Oh, I see! Don't get me started on the bad guys. They are so pitiful. This franchise needs to have better villains. God, no wonder is this series is boring to fans.

thekokapellion Dec. 12, 2012 at 12:11 p.m.

It's pretty entertaining to start with, even though the premise is a worn-out cliche. It does, however, become a complete trainwreck later on, but it's an entertaining trainwreck nonetheless. So...guilty pleasure for me, I guess?

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 12, 2012 at 9:25 p.m.

@Donwun said:

There's ALOT of hype following this show. After seeing HxH Green Island, .hack SIGN and Tower of Duraga i'm wondering if this series has anything new to offer to the internet-gaming sub genre....well a couple of episodes in it now and so far it's pretty okay.....i guess time will tell if it has something new to offer

Um kinda can see a link on Hack but it just did not do much for me. Tower of Duraga i loved from a old pen an paper rpg stand point.i will own that series eventualy.Fair bit of parody in that one to. SWORD ART ONLINE has a few filler episodes it feels like that just slow things down.

@Elfenlied1012: Agreed on the dual weild of long swords.Felt tho as series progressed got a bit more parry thrust or parry slash.

Ace20Aon Dec. 13, 2012 at 1:41 a.m.
Seriously, the title sounds like the domain name of some outrageously amateur website from ’94 run by somebody who’s really into the HIGHLANDER TV show

What do you expect? Regular Japanese hardly know English.

bettywhitechanon Dec. 17, 2012 at 3:46 p.m.

Interesting. I am curious.

takashichea moderator is online on Dec. 17, 2012 at 3:55 p.m.

@bettywhitechan:

Awesome! It's a good series just with some minor flaws to the story (like Fairy Tail in a way). If you're into romance, it has a sweet looking couple who my fellow teammates call Mr and Mrs Mary Stu.

Dig Deeper into Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online, a popular MMO which require device called Nerve Gear, enables players to enter the video game world like real world. The fun ends when people are trapped insides and gets killed in real life.

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