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SWORD ART ONLINE #1 -- Special Review

This isn't some game! I mean, it is a game, but it's also real life! Which isn't a game!

I think that Tom Pinchuk's "Anime Suckitude Being Inversely Proportional to the Grammatical Complexity of Its Title" Theory should probably have a corollary—that being if a title contains the word "Online" in it, it is approximately twice as likely to suck.

But that's just likelihood, not certainty, and any quantum physicist worth their quarks will tell you those are very different things. SWORD ART ONLINE similarly exists in a quantum state for me.

The premise of SWORD ART is that after a rather exclusive beta test phase a new virtual reality MMORPG is released. And by virtual reality, I mean you jack in MATRIX style. All the lee7 gamerz think this is the coolest thing ever until they realize they can't log out, and the megalomaniacal lead programmer explains that the only way to return to the real world is to beat the game.

I have to hand it to the creators, though—they really earn the ART in SWORD ART. The architecture, the colors, the character designs... it's as immersive as a good video game. When characters just sit back and admire the view, you understand why.

But what haphazard storytelling. Half of this first episode is an exposition dump by the mysterious robed villain with no face. It's like they were already trying to cut the budget—you don't need to animate the face on someone in a hood, after all! Even the "tutorial" section between our protagonist (an experienced betatester) and a newbie player is more about explaining gamer terms than it is showing us about the characters.

If the show keeps up the speculative fiction bent about how we interact with fantasy worlds, I might consider this a watch. As it stands, I think I'd rather play a video game instead of watch people play it.

Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.

SamJazon Dec. 27, 2013 at 7:50 a.m.

After the exposition in the first episode, it gets really good for another ten episodes or so. Then one of the most badass characters has an attack of the damsels in distress disease.

To be honest, it still stays good. Except for that one huge gaping flaw. Imagine if Mikasa lost all ability to do anything on her own and hid behind Eren in every fight.

Tron39on Dec. 27, 2013 at 9:12 a.m.

Actually when they get out of Sword Art Online, that is when the show got bad, I actually liked it when it was just in Sword Art Online, but they tried to follow the manga too much and that proved to be its problem, especially having read the manga and light novels, when it was actually in Sword Art, this was great.

Marshal Victory is online on Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.

@SamJaz: Ya i think thats fair on the seires.It suffered alot from peoples expectations than what it was to.For me the time jumps hurt it a bit.

It is one ill eventualy own on dvd/blueray next year some time im sure.As a mmorpg player my self it does some good things that represent ongoings in a online masive rpg. It was compaired to .hack alot an now Log Horizon is compaired to Sword Art Online .Which is odd that people dont comapre western movies like this or Space operas but online game gene its alwasy a comparison. oddly Accel World always gets left off the comparison list to.

SamJazon Dec. 27, 2013 at 11:34 a.m.

@Marshal Victory: I love Accel World, but I agree that there is a lot more weight to SAO. I actually loved it when they left, but it was handled so clumsily. What I feel they should have done, instead of a timeskip and alfheim was focus on Kirito's physiotherapy and coming to terms with Asuna not waking up. Actually, an episode of him asking for Asuna and wondering where she was and why she didn't try to contact him would have been great. If there had to be a second game, then play it while Kirito's in rehab, and have the FINAL battle as a testament to Kirito's complete recovery, having him drop the cane and fight with strength we did not know he had, as opposed to showing his real world strength beforehand.

Not gonna lie, that actually would have been a much better than what they actually did.

Marshal Victory is online on Dec. 27, 2013 at 1:10 p.m.

@SamJaz: I rember some complaing to on SAO that the sword fghting seemed stiff.Which was silly in a way.Think most of those that said that never played a mmorpg.While it wasnt a perfect representation of all things sword an sorcery rpg it did a fair job of it.Crafting an raids were well represented.

The time jumps felt silly even more so when you look at the whole of the show.But maybe now they could go back an fil in those jumps.Few shows pull that off tho an keep it entertaining. not seen this yet.But they have done quite a few manga stories as well so perhaps they will be more later on.

SamJazon Dec. 27, 2013 at 1:13 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: That would be cool. I felt a bit cheated having those episodes with the blacksmith and the dragon girl and then never doing anything with them afterwards.

takashichea moderator on Dec. 27, 2013 at 1:33 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: @SamJaz:

You guys are having SAO discussion without calling me over. I'm just kidding with you. When I first saw the first episode, I thought it would one of the greatest shows of 2012. My expectations fell because the romance was so superficial and rushed, the antagonists, and the characters'. I didn't give a damn about Kirito or his so called harem. You notice that Klein and Egil show up less because SAO features mostly girls for the audience. The best parts of SAO was really the fight scenes and fluidity of the animation, Sakuga. Most folks say season 2 was bomb. I actually enjoy season 2. Maybe, I'm a sick person who ships Kirito and Leafa despite being cousins. I felt their relationship was deeper and believable than Asuna and Kirito. It's just season 2 lack action. My pet peeve was the antagonists and their ambitions.

SamJazon Dec. 27, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.

@takashichea: Say what you want about SAO's villains, especially in S2, but I struggle to remember another villain who so consistently think to myself: "This could all be solved with a dark alley and a copper pipe."

That final battle was immensely satisfying.

Marshal Victory is online on Dec. 27, 2013 at 5:27 p.m.

@takashichea: For the 1st 10 episodes it felt to me fairly solid an i to thought ti would be the greatest anime of the season.Stil its good dont get me wrong its just got some flaws.But Maybe this extra editon will clear some things up.

@SamJaz: Ya season 2 villian just had that needs to be curb stomped aura you so rarley see in villians.Few others like that generaly its in the master mind catagory for that reaction.Red Mist from kickass ( both comics an movie) had that as well.

SamJazon Dec. 27, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: Actually, comparing to Accel World, there was also that one dude who was all "IMA TEIK YO WINGS AN FONDEL YUR GURL LOLZ!"

That was another guy who seriously needed a copper pipe in the dark alley, but he was more of a legitimate threat due to his Real World abilities, despite his inability to actually kill people.

DocHauson Dec. 27, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.

I watched some of this during its run on Toonami and all I can really remember is how Asuna was introduced as this badass swordswoman for like one episode and then she became a housewife sometime after that shortly before being locked up in a tower caged-bird style. Also, the show ruined A Midsummer Night's Dream for me.

Somebody spoil me here: why did the admin guy set up his game to literally kill people? Was he trying to send a big message to nerds to quit gettin mad over their precious MMORPGs? Was he trying to collect battle data for some evil corporation? Did he just get off on having that power over people? Or did they just leave the question open and never bother to answer it?

Marshal Victory is online on Dec. 27, 2013 at 7:55 p.m.

@DocHaus: Err wow i forgot why he set it up .I know the original idea was preversly changed tho by the villian in the second season.Also Nerds of all shades get mad over their presious ____ .Fanboys get mad over tv ,shows, movies ,singers etc etc..MMORPGs are just a hobby like any other.Tho one aspect of them is the people in the game can make it worth playing.So it shares that with other group activites.

@SamJaz: Yeah but he had some skill an cheated to get ahead.Usualy i reserve the copper pipe in a dark ally to some one who could be defeated easy .Even by a guy with breathing problems like me.But they talk the big game thus the master mind type villians.In Accel i knew that guy would get his.Where as in SAO i wasnt as sure.

This kind of reminds me of conversation with my brother about how difrent morels an thigns are taugth.In the states we have purpal dinasaurs an pupets go on about how were suposed to love on another.In Japan anime like Detective Conan teachs kids if you steal , are mean or hurt people... some one can an will kill you!

takashichea moderator on Dec. 28, 2013 at 10:26 a.m.

@DocHaus: @Marshal Victory:

In episode 14, Kayaba states that

He comments that he dreamed of creating a world and that someone will surpass his laws. He wants to escape the real world to reach the castle.
Stevemagegodon Dec. 28, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.

I thought Sword Art was okay.

Marshal Victory is online on Dec. 28, 2013 at 2:34 p.m.

@takashichea: Thanks man that fits. Also theirs a echo of him at the end of the seires to tht talks a bit .So 14 may have been fore shadowing a bit.

LordTerminalon Dec. 29, 2013 at 12:18 p.m.

@SamJaz I blame that more on the villain being so poorly written and overpowered then anything. I say this everytime some one talks about it: What the fuck is Asuna supposed to do to this guy when he can literally just pull the plug on her life support at any time? And it's not like she can attack him in-game either because he's the admin and can disable her avatar's abilities to boot. Oh and let's not forget one of the first things he tells us when we first see him is that he's experimenting on altering peoples' memories and can attempt that on her too. Yeah I can't buy that there's any logical method for her to use on him to resist. Which is why I'm not going to be able to believe Kirito will be able to beat him when it comes time for Toonami to air those episodes.

It's a shame really because I actually like the MMORPG that Season 2 takes place in a lot more. It's not every day some one takes fairies and turns them into essentially Tolkein style elves w/ wings.

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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