About Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online is a light novel written by Reki Kawahara, he is also known as the person who wrote Accel World which was adapted into an anime earlier this year by Sunrise.
Sword Art Online began airing in July (the summer anime season) and is animated by A-1 Pictures. The story is set in the year 2022 where the main character Kirito (which is his nickname online, his real name is Kazuto Kirigaya). Kirito is introduced to the audience as a loner gamer, that doesn’t appear to have any friends and if he does they aren’t mentioned at this point.
We are told that a new state of the art game is coming out called Sword Art Online, which is a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing game (or simply known as a VRMMORPG). It’s called this because in order for a person to play the game they are hooked up by `nerve gear` which is basically a helmet which stimulates the five senses making people feel like they are actually inside the game. At this point in time I’m instantly reminded of .Hack an older game/anime franchise which involved characters wearing headsets and being `inside` of the game.
The audience is told that there are only 10,000 copies of this game being sold and so we are shown footage (this is being aired on TV) of people getting the game as well as lining up just for a copy. Kirito however doesn’t have this issue as he is a Beta tester for the game and therefore not only has a copy of the game already but has had much experience in how the world of Sword Art Online functions.
The picture above shows all the Sword Art Online players gathered at the start of the game
Of course players begin to sign into Sword Art Online and instantly begin to level up and start doing all the various tasks and activities that the game has to offer. Though it isn’t long till the true plot of the story begins to show and the players are all gathered and told that they are in fact trapped inside this game and none of them can log out. They are also told that is they die in the game their body also dies back in the real world, they are also told that if their nerve gear is forced off (by for instance a relative) they will also die. The only way they can escape the game uninjured is to make their way to the 100th floor and defeat the final boss.
As I’ve explained before Kirito is a somewhat loner type of character even in the game he is described as `solo` player meaning that he he plays alone. Another reason for this is because he is somewhat of an outcast for being a beta player, the other players who weren’t betas hate him because they believe that he is a cheater and have branded him a `beater`. If I were to go on and describe Kirito more he’s quite the Gary Stu character. He’s a kind person who wants to help everyone in anyway he can. I find it interesting from the get go how even though this character comes across rather plain there are still strong fantasy inducing elements to him.
For instance the whole loner thing is easy to relate to while him being a beta tester before the game begins already puts him in a more desirable position than normal players (I say this knowing that the game had around 700 – 800 beta testers stuck inside as well). He already knows everything about how the games works and also gives him a higher superiority over the rest of the players even though he never does act that way. I like to refer to this anime as `pandering towards nerds with escapism` and this is one of the ways in which it does so. Kirito is seen as the cool, experienced, nice guy that is effortlessly good with the ladies.
Our hero Kirito!
The heroine of the series is a girl called Asuna. Firstly Asuna has never come across to me as anything special or different that has been done in anime before this. In fact her personality is copied and pasted from many other females characters I have seen in anime before. We never really seem to see her do anything useful either, the only time she does do something useful involves saving Kirito and even then instantly afterwards she needs to be saved herself. The main reason for the Asuna character is so that there’s a main love interest for Kirito. Looking back over the beginning of the anime Kirito and Asuna do not really have that much interaction, the first six episodes or so are actually side stories taken from the light novel most of which do not have Asuna as a main part at all. After this in which she saves Kirito and then in return he saves her their relationship takes a rather large jump and even though it isn’t shown they sleep together.
Kirito and Asuna’s relationship begins~
In no way did I feel a connection between these two characters, this romance is sloppy and has no shed of realism in it whatsoever. The writers try to give the impression that the characters are close but I don’t feel anything coming off them, it’s like we’re being told “These two characters are in a deep and loving relationship” when they’re obviously not. There’s a difference between showing and telling and even though the anime has scenes of them doing couple like things the writing of this relationship is terrible!
Other notable characters include the rest of the female cast who are truly forgettable and are just there so that they can fall in love with Kirito, enforcing the fact that Kirito is a desirable person in that sense. Also the author doesn’t appear to be able to write compelling `bad guys` as most of them are obvious villains, they are rather plain people with not much motive apart from to do evil and horrible things. They are rather text book if I’m honest.
Animation and art
The overall animation of the series is okay. Since this is an action anime there are fighting scenes however they aren’t terribly exciting. The way they’re directed is rather boring and seem rather sloppy. One of the best things about Sword Art Online are the backgrounds. They’ve done a really good job designing the world of Sword Art Online and adding little details here and there and it makes you understand why people would like to play a game like this. They are a pleasure to look at and really brings the world of Sword Art Online to life.
Look at all the scenery porn~!
The characters have got basic designs but they are easy to recognise and it’s easy to tell characters apart. The outfit designs are kinda standard for the role playing games but they stand out and aren’t over complicated. Which is quite odd in a role playing game since everyone is always out to get better and flashier equipment but everyone just looks like they’re cosplaying rather than getting better stuff to raise their stats.
I’m only really looking at the first part of the anime as it’s still airing and I feel it would be unfair to discuss the second half because it isn’t finished. Though if I were doing a weekly dissection of this I would be able to find loads wrong with it, every week I watch the newest episode and question a lot that occur. For instance I had no idea how the players survived living trapped in a game for 2 years, until someone who had read the light novel told me that the players are all in hospitals being fed through tubes (and yeah it kinda shows you that at one point but it would have been nice to be told earlier . The anime has so many holes that really bothers me, there are potions that heal people in Sword Art Online, however we have been told there is no magic, so what are these potions?! I may be nit picky things but they all add up and I can never take this show seriously.
It may be true that these details may be covered in the light novels and not in the anime however, I believe an adaptation shouldn’t have to rely on the source material to make up for what it lacks in it’s content. It should be able to stand on it’s own.
It’s because of all these holes in the plot and other general character behaviour that even though this anime is supposed to be taken lightly and be nothing but harmless fun, I can’t help think of this as an extremely over rated and terrible adaptation.
- After the players are told that they are stuck in the world of Sword Art Online they are then shown as their actual selves instead of their avatars, I have no idea how the nerve gear is able to scan the whole human body reproducing a complete and correct image in the game.
- The relationship is quite shallow and unrealistic.
- Even with 10,000 people stuck in a game the head sets were still being made and they kept making MMOs to play Wouldn’t there normally be a huge thing about these kinda of games?
- Opening and closing credits are boring and forgettable.
- Kirito’s skill or power to use two swords isn’t really that impressive at all. It’s the same as being ambidextrous