“Hello, my name is Kirito and I live a hard life. It turns out that I’m just too perfect. If only I weren’t so good at playing MMORPGs, me and my virtual waifu wouldn’t have to suffer! Also, check out my big, hard sword!”
Let me get this straight, Sword Art Online is bad for you. I don’t care if you’re a real gamer desperate for an anime that caters to your tastes, your world, your dreams. Sword Art Online is bad for you.
The series starts out looking like a mixture of Battle Royale meets .hack//Sign: a survival story set in a well thought of RPG environment. But as the series went on, the more I realized that there was no way this was going to end well.
Kirito was established as the flawless hero, and Asuna went from a powerful, independent female player to the quintessential love interest devoid of any real character development. People were introduced, only to be set aside until they were necessary to the flimsy plot. The villain’s motives were unclear and were never delved into. Kawahara Reki, here’s something to mull over: If you’re more than willing to trap 10,000 people in a game where they’re most likely to die– you better have a fucking good reason. But no. Sword Art Online couldn’t care less about these silly cardboard cutouts labeled as ‘characters’.
And yet– even as it ended its first arc in a catastrophic way, I was more than willing to forgive Sword Art Online’s shortcomings by calling it a mediocre show. Then, the Fairy Clusterfuck happened. Kirito is out in the real world and we find out that his little sister (who happens to be his cousin!) wants to have a loving incestuous relationship with him. Asuna is now trapped in the fairy world because a creepy CEO wants to make her his waifu.
In the meantime, Kirito creates a harem for himself. Asuna who?
Apparently virtual reality games are still legal despite what happened with Aincrad Online. Why? Don’t ask me. It seems like everyone in this show is willing to play MMORPGs that could kill them. The fact that a CEO spends most of his time playing this dumb fairy game says a lot about Sword Art Online.
Sword Art Online gets really stupid from here on. We get tentacle molestation, Kirito’s unexplained hack powers, poor game security, creepy incest, rules that are broken by Kirito’s Gary Stu armor– At one point near the climax, players Kirito previously knew pop up just in time to play support for the gallant lone wolf fairy Kirito. We could go on and on about this teenage boy fantasy masquerading as a action shounen with a so-called plot but that would require more effort than what Sword Art Online deserves.
This arc also has one of the the most laughable villains in a very long time. If you’re meant to project yourself unto Kirito, then Sugou is the one you’re supposed to project all your frustrations to. He has NO redeeming traits. He’s just supposed to be an asshole you wants to rape your girlfriend. What compelling characterization!
Episode 24 is a true spectacle of horror. Sugou molests and nearly rapes Asuna in front of Kirito. Kirito is forced to watch. The whole scene plays out like a bad hentai doujinshi. Kayaba magically appears, gives Kirito a big Deus ex machina and viola! Our hero tortures our bad guy and cries on Asuna’s naked virtual breasts. Notice how Asuna’s own trauma is set aside in favor of Kirito’s own woes. After all, who cares about how Asuna feels? There’s nothing worse than getting NTR’d!
This is a true example of a good premise wasted on blatant wish fulfillment. Sword Art Online never truly explores the possibilities. What about players forming parties and developing tactics? What about characters shown leveling up or looking for the best equipment? What about looking into who the characters are BEYOND the game? What’s happening in the outside world? Were the police actually doing anything? Sword Art Online scoffs at all these questions and goes on to produce one skeevy Asuna merchandise after another.
In short, there are so many better ways to waste your time, and Sword Art Online is not one of them.