The most anticipated anime of Summer 2012 is here! Sword Art Online, or SAO for short, is the anime pretty much everyone was eagerly awaiting, old fans and new ones alike. I normally prefer slice-of-life comedies since good action-adventure anime is really hard to come by. But let’s see if SAO changes that.
The only way to escape is to ‘clear’ the game. Death in game means actual ‘death’ —-
The ten thousand who have logged onto the as of yet mysterious game ‘Sword Art Online’ using their Nerve Gear have been forced into this perilous death game and are trapped inside.
Protagonist Kirito, one of the many gamers, has greeted this ‘truth’.
He plays as a solo player in the giant castle that is the stage for this game —- ‘Aincrad’.
To meet the conditions of clearing the game and leaving this twisted virtual world, he must get through all 100 floors. Will Kirito have what it takes to clear the game, or will he die trying? – My Anime List
Can’t say I was hyped up for this anime. I knew nothing about the Light Novels, so my expectations were normal like for any other anime. I was then subjected to my brother’s criticism, which lowered said expectations. And learning that the original creator also wrote Accel World did not help things. I felt uneasy about watching the first episode, given that so many people freaked about how awesome it was (just like with Guilty Crown), until I found it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it wasn’t that great either.
The introduction to the world of SAO is well-produced and with more show than tell than in the novels (from what I heard), but is still rather dry, boring and uninteresting. Kirito’s explanation on how to play is nonsensical and meaningless; nothing but pure exposition and talking heads for seven or so minutes. The game itself sounds pretty cool, though, being a working Virtual Reality and a fantasy MMORPG without magic. Everything changes when Kirito and his new friend Klein finds out there’s no logout button.
Much of the media – movies, animation, plays, novels – sure loves to wonder what it would be like if role-playing games became real life or vice-versa. SAO asks the very same question, and the answer it comes up with is more of a nightmare than a dream come true. The psychopathic game creator’s – Akihiko Kayaba – announcement throws over not only the game’s world, but the anime itself. There’s no logging out, no lying about your appearance, age or sex, and no escape except through clearing 100 insanely hard levels. Any attempts to disconnect will fry your brain. If your HP hits zero, your brain gets fried. You either win or literally die trying. As expected, all hell breaks loose.
“This is a game, but it isn’t something you play.”
If you ever played an MMORPG, death happens alot. But think how differently you’d play if your life really was on the line. MMORPG events in SAO suddenly have real, flesh-and-blood consequences; Kirito and his fellow gamers go from having the time of their gaming lives, to prisoners forced into a deadly quest for survival by a God complex maniac. And that’s where SAO hits hard – for all its colourful and bright art, it reeks of a deathly, dystopian aura that’s almost disturbing. Plus, the fact that one person is responsible – rather than a twisted government or group – makes it much more personal and all the more creepier. Sure there are many illogical loopholes and inconsistencies (like how in hell a game like this made it through the safety checks, or why governments aren’t responding fast enough), but the heavy atmosphere makes it hard not to take this anime seriously; lives will be at stake, and that’s no laughing matter. SAO is a mind game as it is a virtual one.
The animation is great, as expected of A-1 Pictures (Blue Exorcist, AnoHana), and the backgrounds are lush and beautiful, being perhaps on par with Tari Tari. The soundtrack is dramatic and atmospheric when the situation demands, adding a sense of either epicness or eeriness to the story. What bugs me is the character designs, making Kirito look way younger than he actually is. I don’t care if the story describes him as “cute-looking,” that’s not how a teenage boy should look like in anime.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for what’s next. Despite the weak start, it picks up with a story and concept that opens up many, many possibilities. The fallout of the creator’s announcement sets the right emotional charge and sense of desperation missing in most shounen anime, and lays the foundation for a story we can relate easily with. The cast is minimal, but we might actually care about what happens to them at this pace. I don’t know what’ll happen next episode, but the ending sequence looks to have adventure, a cute girl, and plenty of action. As long as it isn’t planning to walk through a pile of clichés, I look forward to enjoying what promises to be a decent show.
Thanks for reading!