Or should I just replay “dot Hack”?
Those were my first thoughts going in, but never judge a book by its cover. Let’s give this a shot.
The series is an adaptation of Reki Kawahara’s Sword Art Online light novels, which currently has quite a few books under its belt. Due to the source material, you may note many a resemblance to Accel World, which is to be expected. Anyway, the plot of the show talks of the new game Sword Art Online, where players are fully immersed into the game via virtual reality headsets called Nerve Gear. On day one of the game’s release, the shocking twist is dropped, you can’t log out of the game. The developer has trapped 10, 000 players within the game and as expected, if you die in-game you die in real life. And of course, forcibly removing the headsets causes death too, so yeah. The only way to be freed from the game is if the players clear all 100 floors of the game-encompassing dungeon.
Premise alone, to be honest, I’m not too compelled, it feels so cut and dry, and kinda boring. Knowing the first episode only sets up this exposition isn’t really knocking my socks off. But perhaps we can surpass the premise quite easily? We’re also introduced to Kirito, our main hero boy, a natural gamer in strict sense and one of the lucky beta testers. Kirito’s personality is a “loner” type and rejects most friend invites from regular players not named Asuna (the main heroine chick) so it seems two episodes in. Granted we’re not necessarily going to see why Kirito has such a reclusive nature from the get-go, but could we at least get a sign as to why? He was visibly regretful when he rejected he new friend Kain’s invite on day one after hitting it off well for an afternoon, so it’s not like he’s a loner because he’s a jerk. Some kind of context would be nice to shade in inklings of say a troubled past (which he probably has) or some other context to explain why he felt so torn abandoning Kain and walking off into the night alone.
As for the leading lady, Asuna, you know she’s got problems to solve from the moment you meet her. When the players gather to party up and slay the first boss, she sits idly by until Kirito invites her. As expected, being a main heroine and obviously the love interest, she’s quite good at the game for reasons unknown. Mysterious for sure, but mysteriously interesting as a character is more up in the air. She’s not all that vocal two episodes in but at least we know she’s gonna get some development I hope.
Then there’s the end of the second episode where after a losing a leader of a major party to the first boss, accusations fly regarding the “unfair advantage” the beta testers of the game had (even though their knowledge was handed to all players and that the testers never made past floor 8). Instead of diffusing the situation, Kirito nobly boasts about how he was above all the other testers and ventures off with Asuna following him. Again, there’s not much compelling in this scene. You don’t see the party leader for enough time to really even care about him and there’s no real scaffolding for the logic jump for Kirito to say, “time for me to be the fall guy to diffuse the tension”.
After doing some homework, it turns out that the novels chronicle more than just the time our heroes and their friends spend in SAO. Eventually their adventures will lead to other MMO games and other escapades, but at this point it’s too early to say if the anime will cover more than just the SAO arc or if the arcs past this one are more enticing stories than the one we’re dealt. So far, though, I’m not feeling engaged, not because of the whole virtual reality concept, but because the anime just lays everything before you like a list of bullet points. Viewers should have pages to mentally color in regarding character motivation, but at least with a coloring book in the first place instead of a blank sheet of paper.
Maybe it’s just a rough early game, and on the bright side there’s not too much to complain about animation and the voice acting fits. True that we are only two episodes in and now that the exposition demon has hopefully been slayed, we can get some meat going. If it picks up, I might full review it, but for me to do that it’s gonna need to engage the audience more and in a big way. If you really like the premise or are a fan of the novels or Accel World, it could be your cup of tea so I suppose. Well, join me next time when I interview the loveable fairy Puck.