Given how little my patience for this show was, I decided wait out until the end of the first half before posting anything.
Just a heads-up, this post covers my thoughts for every episode since then, so I’d suggest skipping to the end if you want my overall thoughts.
Episode 8 begins the main story. YAY. Good points: from the very beginning, it’s evident that Kirito and Asuna have great chemistry. Asuna’s sly, feisty, and just full of fun. Plus, it’s blatantly obvious that two are into each other. Let’s not forget the pretty cool (if inconsistent) battle scenes. Bad points: two words; FAN-SERVICE. And not the good kind, either. The accidentally-grabbing-girl’s-chest-only-to-be-smacked scenario is NOT FUNNY. The episode automatically loses points because of that. (I did laugh at the “Immortal Object” part, though. ^_^) Perverted humour is never funny, so please stick to dirty jokes instead. And don’t get me started on Kuradeel, who’s nothing more than a creepy, one-dimensional scumbag.
Ah, Klein; our man, our brother. This dude’s seriously too awesome for words; it’s like the moment he pops up, the anime becomes good again! Combined with Agil, the anime-original appearance of Liz, and the incredible boss battle, I really enjoyed episode 9. And honestly, Liz’s 30 second appearance here was actually better than her actual episode due to the simple, subtle nature of her character.
As for the boss battle, there were a few liberties here and there, and Kirito’s Dual Skill was some major Deus Ex Machina; but for the most part, the animation held up and was nothing sort of spectacular. Best of all, the short reappearance of Sachi when Kirito woke up automatically makes this my favourite episode yet.
Which is sad, really, when you take into account the quality of the later episodes. Of course, this one did have a few problems, like the plot-induced stupidity of The Front players just waltzing into their doom; it’s hard to feel sympathy for those who’re too dumb to live. Also, Asuna’s reaction to Kirito almost dying – the original novel had her stuffing a HP potion into his mouth instead of only crying “BAKA BAKA BAKA!” And this is only the start, my friends.
Episode 10 had some lousy development, although I can’t blame them; the only parts worth animating during those events from the novels was the Heathcliff vs. Kirito battle, and the proposal scene with all that naughtiness after. Well, not really – I don’t even know if that chapter’s canon at all. Anyway, the pacing was all over the place, ultimately coming off as rather dry & tasteless.
Yeah, yeah, it was probably the best move on the studio’s part, but surely there could’ve been a MUCH better way of handling it. KyoAni can do it. Future Diary did it. Director Nagai of Toradora does it all the time. But alas, Itou-san didn’t, and instead we’re given a sudden romantic revelation that wasn’t nearly as heartwarming as we hoped it’d be. Kirito’s rushed, cut-and-dry proposal lacked any real emotional weight (Tomoya’s proposal from Clannad, and Ryuuji’s from Toradora) whatsoever, mostly because it’s something we’ve seen countless of times before in B-grade romantic movies/novels/anime stories. By that standard, the magic was utterly lost for me.
Lemme be perfectly honest here – I’m a lolicon. Therefore, anything with lolis in it would automatically warrant my dying love. Disgusting, I know… but that doesn’t mean I can simply look past problems because of it. Now I realize that as I go along, it’s becoming harder and harder for me to analyse these episodes. Kirito & Asuna’s relationship was just over-the-top dream-fluff; apparently, SAO weddings are actual weddings, domestic lovey-dovey and rings and all that. I normally adore romance, but here it just doesn’t work. And this is before Yui was introduced.
The three playing house was adorable and all, but last time I checked, wasn’t this an anime about a deadly virtual survival game? This doesn’t match up with the show’s plot and atmosphere at all. When they do move back into the plot, they end up having to save a bunch of kids from a retarded group of tax-collectors- whoa-whoa wait, TAX-COLLECTORS? I thought this was a game. I don’t care what stupid reason they have, it makes no sense whatsoever given the context of the plot.
After Yui goes berserk for no reason, episode 12 rolls by. As expected, buckets of tears and forced melodrama rain across the episode like a gushing wound, and it hurts (but not in the emotional way). Continuity with Kibawhatshisface aside, the pacing of the story was all over the place… again. The events were rushed and some parts/details from the novel were omitted – the episode never bothers to explain how Yui got her memory back, only that she pulled off a Deus Ex Machina at the last second.
They never delve into the trama of the children at the church, only slightly touching on such ideas… again. Instead, the story goes for a more melodramatic, romantic story… again, while skimping on the action scenes… AGAIN. Yui disappears, only to be saved by Kirito’s Star-Trek typing skills… WAT. Just when did Kirito become a computer genius? Honestly, this is so japanese, it hurts.
Oh look, a fishing episode. YIPPEE, because this is why I watch SAO; for the fishing, an old man I don’t care about, a bad Shakespearean romance, and watching Marty & Mary Sue making out and talking about their FEEEEEEEEELINGS! WHOA, WHOA, WHOA- yay, I’m losing brain cells from watching this. Go me.
What pisses me off the most is how the epic boss-battle against Skull-Greymon was reserved for the last 4:04 minutes of the episodes, excluding the ED theme. THIS was what I came into SAO expecting; THIS is why I watch as anime like this. So… why is it that we hardly get any of… THIS?!
And it ends during the first few seconds if episode 14. Taking about a frustratingly anti-climatic end to what could’ve been a totally badass boss battle. And then the main antagonist is revealed. WAT. Even if I haven’t read the novels, I still would’ve seen that coming from miles away. It was so stupidly obvious, I was flabbergasted they actually went with it. How about making Kayaba someone we never expected?
And the final battle, oh man was it badass! Especially the end where both Kirito & Kayaba stabbed each other to death. (*stabby-stab*) The conclusion, it was so mushy & lovey-dovey; it wasn’t rushed or unevenly paced at all! Let’s not forget our favourite Mary Sues kissing at least five times! And how inspirational watching Kazuto struggling down the hospital hallway without meeting a nurse once – for a minute and a half – was! It was all so very LAME.
…Okay, I kid about the last part. It’s always nice watching someone struggle towards what he/she cares for no matter what. He’s a true Determinator ’till the end, and I can admire that.
So, SAO: An enjoyable MMORPG survival anime? Sure… if your idea of “enjoyment” includes shooting yourself in the foot over & over again, ’cause that’s what watching this series felt like these past weeks. I can’t blame the original author as the light novel came out back in the early 2000′s; it was revolutionary for it’s time, and for many it worked. People loved it since there was no story like it, and I get that. However, it’s been over 10 years since then; the standards for story-telling have upped, and as a result, SAO’s story just doesn’t work with the modern audience.
That could’ve been remedied if the studio and director focused on making a well-crafted adaptation rather than merely “paying tribute” to the original material. The best examples are “Toradora!” & “Future Diary“; the staff & director for both anime adaptations focused on creating the best anime possible through cutting out all irrelevant & pointless parts, and expanding on the original story. Even if it meant derailing from what the original author intended, they took their chances and were rewarded for it. Those behind SAO played it safe, creating a less-than-average show that – from my perspective – mocks the original material. I’ve dropped the novels as a result, and – in all honestly – I’m getting sick of writing on a shallow, uninspired show with so much missed potential.
Dropped. Don’t bother expecting a full-series review.