Sword Art Online: Japan’s newest and greatest VRMMORPG in the year 2022. Kirito logs on the release day only to find a bug in the program, preventing him and the 10,000 other players from logging out. Turns out that the game is not as harmless as he originally thought.
For a show with such colorful and bright art, Sword Art Online is stupidly heavy and dark. Or at least, that’s how it feels, as it’s got that dystopian, dysfunctional aura to it. It’s actually really creepy, although I don’t know if that’s the original intent. Honestly, it reminded me of the Hunger Games trilogy though it aligns more closely with Battle Royale. But instead of a systemic societal problem, it’s just a maniac with a crazy God Complex. Having only one person responsible makes it much more personal and that much creepier. And the stakes in this game are ridiculous, so that it’s as much a mind game as a virtual one; it’s hard not to be Machiavellian about the characters’ decisions. The fact that people die and they tell you how many die (2,000 in the first month) makes it much heavier than I thought it would be. It doesn’t help that the narrative didn’t lighten the mood any. So when people joke about how Legend of Korra or Gravity Falls aren’t kids shows, this actually isn’t a kids show. This is messed up in a way that only teenagers would find it entertaining.
The show’s layout itself is pretty cut and dry; it was purely exposition and talking heads for the last seven minutes or so. In fact, it was so boring I doubted whether I wanted to stay with the show. All throughout the show I couldn’t help nitpick at most of it either. Usually, the first episode starts out with a bit more punch than that, but seriously, that was really setting the bar low. I don’t really get the concepts behind the game either, though that one may be an issue of poor translation. The game itself sounds pretty interesting, with the added bonus of being a fully functioning VR system. And having a fantasy MMORPG without magic does sound interesting, so much so that I would definitely try it out except for the whole “stuck until you die” thing. So the world setting has enough pull for me on its own. The story is going to have to pick it up, though. If this slow, dry pacing and tell-not-show type of narrative is going to be the basis of the anime, I’m not sure I want to stay on and watch it.
This is pretty much what the .hack//Sign franchise sounds like to me. The hype for this show is probably the biggest I’ve seen for an anime series in this Summer Season, but so far, it looks unwarranted. I’m intrigued, but only barely. We’ll have to see where the show goes from here.
GO Rating: 3/5
Continue to Watch? - Yes.
Continue to Review? - Yes.
(Editor’s note: Sword Art Online was the highest vote-getter in our Summer Anime Poll, therefore we will be reviewing every episode this season.)