Sword Art Online
In 2022 a new virtual reality fantasy online RPG was just launched, and 10,000 lucky people got in for release day. Kirito is enjoying the game until a guy he's grouped with notices there's no button to log out. That's when the game's creator reveals troubling details about the final release that wasn't in the beta. No one can log off, and since the device allowing them to connect to the game intercepts their brain waves, they can't move their bodies. If the device is removed it will fry their brain. That aside, if they die in-game they die in real life. The only escape is to get through all 100 dungeon levels of the main tower. After months, the beta testers had gotten to level 17.
Kirito always felt more alive in game than in his actual body, but when you can't log off, you might wish for the normal boring days that were at least safe. Once he falls in love with a girl, escaping to reality becomes much more important.
Sword Art Online is the latest title the Japanese go crazy over and I have no idea why. I can usually see a quality that appeals to others in shows, but at sometimes it's just a mystery. Sword Art Online isn't anything new, even if it has an interesting topic with a cool setup. It has great points about RPG gaming early on; like loot drama. Yet, it doesn't dig far enough into these topics as I would have hoped. Then again if it reflected the reality I've seen in these games, people would say that's "unrealistic" because you can't believe some of the stuff people do in them.
Unfortunately Sword Art Online fails to get much mileage out of anything, in part due to characters which are generic, uninteresting and uninspired - especially the lead characters Kirito and Asuna. The two get "involved", and that part drew me in. Death is one thing, but once they fall in love, the fear losing each other becomes pretty compelling. As their real bodies waste away, eventually they'll be out of time, so they have no choice to fight and risk everything. It touches on interesting nuances about in game marriage too. Similar, but different. Possibly even more scary from the standpoint that when you marry someone in game, you're bank is shared between characters - the potential for getting completely screwed over requires an exceptional amount of trust even real life probably doesn't require. It hits on few points like this which works well with the twist that losing in game means you really die. Then the game is over and we move into the second phase of the anime involving a whole new game.
In this new game you can jump really high, shoot fire, hold down the controller button to move really fast, and basically the goal for Kirito is to rescue his princess. It takes Japan until 2024 to reinvent Super Mario Brothers? Anyway, at this point the anime totally lost me. The first part had high stakes with the consequence of true death. The second half doesn't have that, and minor annoying points start to show. The same old Kirito who is amazing at everything, and invincible in battle. And every girl that talks to him for more than 2 minutes falls in love with him; one of which is his real life "sister" but not really sister related by blood, and fail to recognize the true identities of their game avatars (oops, forbidden love). That sister part especially didn't need to happen. The ridiculously evil villain makes the second half more of an eye rolling experience, which is a pretty big letdown compared the first which was compelling in key points.
Sword Art Online was losing me even before the sister (but not sister) stuff began. It threw a ton of drama on her, to the point where I kinda felt bad for her. I thought perhaps her role was put to good use in this part of the story. But Sword Art Online should really know when to keep its mouth shut.
Kirito says he doesn't know how he feels about Suguru, and he won't know until he rescues Asuna and he can put the game behind him. That felt like a comment in passing, but noticeably the ending was really ambiguous as to which girl he would be with - like Suguru was an option. That betrays a lot of what I liked about Sword Art Online. Kirito and Asuna had committed their hearts to each other and even married in the game. That level of commitment is haphazardly tossed aside for more typical harem theme crap? Ugh.
As a side note, Kiroto actually loses a fight in later in the show and reflects on his level of arrogance; believing his willpower could make things happen in a game. Which makes sense, but not Sword Art Online. I'm like, dude you've been doing that for like the last 20 some episodes, why stop now?
Overall Sword Art Online isn't bad. It has good and bad points, but is mostly mediocre. I think the real problem here is that the awesome concept of an online multiplayer game where you could really die and couldn't log off, gets heavily blunted when molded into generic anime stuff. At 26 episodes, the show is kinda long considering what's accomplished.
Asuna: Even in a world like this he was really living. He wasn't losing a day in the real world. He was gaining a day here.
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