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.