Starshine: Hello MoarPowah readers! I’m Starshine!
Kaushik: And I’m Kaushik!
Starshine: And we’re here today talk about one of 2012’s most popular anime, Sword Art Online (SAO). Kaushik, what do you think about the show as a whole?
Kaushik: I thought it had a surprisingly strong beginning, but unfortunately fell apart quite a bit in the second half.
Starshine: I would disagree. While I do agree the story may not have stayed as strong as in the beginning, I don’t think it fell apart. Any reason you feel that way?
Kaushik: I thought the shift in character focus (from Asuna to Suguha/Leafa) led to a weaker characterization in general. Suguha is a boring character defined by a single issue (her love for Kirigaya). Moreover, she was never particularly useful in the ALO game other than as a healbot.
Additionally, I felt that the ALO story itself was weaker than the SAO one. The stakes felt lower in ALO (whether they actually were or not is up to debate I guess), and there was a lack of strong characterization that I felt marked the first half of the story. It felt in general like a poorly executed rescue arc.
Starshine: Yeah, I was happy about the whole Suguha-I-love-my-stepbrother/cousin drama because, well, they always do that in anime. It’s the most annoying trope ever. But that aside, I never thought she was boring character, there were genuinely touching moments with her.
And ALO was not as dramatic as SAO, but….FAIRIES. It was just so pretty!!! I’m one of those people who really enjoyed the new atheistic choices in the second arc.
Kaushik: The Suguha drama felt a little ham-fisted and considering her character was defined by that issue, it had a negative impact on my impression of her character. Suguha aside, I can’t argue against the aesthetics of ALO. I personally preferred SAO, but I can see why you’d like ALO. Still, the story of ALO was by and large weaker and less interesting than SAO in terms of high-tension moments and cool side stories/characters. And don’t get me started on that crazy ending.
Starshine: Just for that, I AM going to get you started the crazy ending.
Kaushik: Well, “the ghost of Kayaba Akihiko”? It felt so out of left-field I couldn’t really appreciate it for what it was. Even if it did have a semi-reasonable explanation after the fact, it just… I don’t know. It didn’t sit well with me. Almost like too much deus ex machina.
Starshine: If we were going to sit here and fault every show that uses deus ex machina, we’d have to throw a lot things in the bad pile. All of Supernatural. And the majority Harry Potter. I feel like with a lot of things, I had to rewatch the ending once or twice, but one I got it, I thought it was kind of clever. Yes, they could have done a better job of integrating it rather than throwing it in last second, but sometimes in life, things come out of left field. I can see why you’d be bothered, but I really wasn’t. Maybe I’m just used it.
Kaushik: Mm… Yeah, I think you have a point. It’s not really unique in its use of the mechanic there. I think I was bothered a little bit more since I had enjoyed the show previously, and expected a bit more out of it in terms of an ending.
Starshine: My low expectations from endings may have saved me from disappointed. What I am most disappointed was in the fact that it feels like they sort of gloss over the whole “We kidnapped and killed people with a virtual reality MMORPG” I feel like there would be a huge backlash against them for a while.
Kaushik: It is a light novel series, and only 2 of the novels were animated. I would imagine that maybe some of those issues are addressed in the following novels.
Starshine: Do you think they’ll go in for a third arc?
Kaushik: You mean another anime? It was massively popular, I would not be surprised at all if another season would come out.
Starshine: So, here’s the big question – do you think this show deserves all the popularity it has, or do you think it’s overrated?
Kaushik: I can certainly see why it is as popular as it is. Honestly, I stayed away from the series at first because of how popular it was (anime hipster har har) but I was happy to eat my words when I thoroughly enjoyed the show, at least the first half. I don’t think the SAO is overrated, but there were definitely some issues with it.
Starshine: While I can admit that it’s not a perfect series, I do consider one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, if only cause I think it looks great, it has great ideas and designs, and really manages to grab its audience’s attention.
Any final thoughts?
Kaushik: I was pleasantly surprised how SAO turned out considering my initial impressions, and while I wasn’t satisfied by the ending in the slightest, I do still think it’s a solid series people should watch and enjoy.
Starshine: I couldn’t agree more with that last part. That’s it for this week’s objection. Tune in next time when two writers debate to the death! Or at least to the compromise.
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