[Review] Sword Art Online – Pity the Gary Stu!

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“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.

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 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.

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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.

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  1. One of few series to have not one, but two completely botched climaxes! Four if you count the side stories as well! I’ll definitely be remembering this one for a long time.

    • It’s like watching someone repeatedly trip over the same bump in the road. It’s hilarious!

      • They said we wouldn’t get another Guilty Crown. They said that shows as bad as that only come once every 10 years. But you know what? The anime gods were kind to us this year. We should be thankful!

        • The anime gods were kind to us this year. We should be thankful!

          Oh great wise men of anime, we thank ye for this gift. Guilty Crown and Sword Art Online in the same year?! When was the last time have we had the opportunity to bask in such awfulness?!

  2. Hmm, in my Google Reader the post ends with a Kirito/Yui gif comedic monstrosity, but it seems to be missing here :3

    But yes, I’m 100% with you on this anime. I had such high hopes for it after the first episode, and I really did enjoy the times that the anime actually talked about game mechanics like crafting, monster hunting, and quests, but it didn’t nearly go far enough. There were just way too many questions unanswered, and we were instead gifted with pointless characters and side stories.

    • I had to put it away, sadly. We can’t have anything /too/ provocative here! Only tentacles!

      Ah, the tragedy of Sword Art Online. I would’ve loved overly intricate stratagems and game mechanics, but nooooo they would’ve let me have it. So instead we’re stuck with some half-assed plot and NTR.

  3. I’m always trying to get some of my local friends to watch anime–or more specifically, anime that are actually well-written and enjoyable (you know, like Tsuritama), but they’re almost always lame and say they’re too busy. And then one day everyone starts talking about how they’re all watching this great new anime called… Sword Art Online…

    And telling me how I’ve GOT to watch it. Because it’s SO good.

    ;_; whyyyyyyyyy (dies)

  4. Pro-tip: If you really wanna watch a 2012 video game-themed animated production, you’re far better off watching Wreck-it Ralph than SAO.

  5. SAO is super DUMB. Cheap wench heroine and super-strong-ultra-almighty main protagonist, sound so f***ing appetizing for action-adventure (Wait where’s the action; the adventurer of PRIVILEGED MC is some action? “hahaha”) with romance sub-plot (whoa main heroin get to bed with main protagonist within first 10 episode-SO FUCKING ROMANTIC). Hehehe real ‘good’ anime huh, anyway 2/10.


    July 29, 2013 at 7:57 pm


  7. Sword Art Online is garbage.

    It just premiered here on Toonami, and I had high hopes – I thought it looked good.

    Already on the second episode, and I feel like I want to puke.

    Sword Art Online is like a bizarro Rip-Off of one of the best Animes ever made – Dot Hack Sign.

    Sword Art Online is probably highly over-rated by idiots by now, and I wish I could go into all the things that make it suck, but I’d just feel nauseous having to think about it again.

    You want a real Anime about an MMORPG? – watch Dot Hack Sign.

    Dot Hack Sign is the original, and has everything – a compelling plot, amazing character depth, (healthy) lack of fan service, beautiful artwork (including lots of well-made 3D objects and backgrounds), AMAZING beautiful music and a story that will knock your socks off.

    Dot Hack Sign is a million times more under-rated than this SAO-garbage but I guarantee it’s a better Anime – check it out. ^_^

    By the way, I like this Anime review – it turns out Hachimitsu might just be the best Anime Blog out there – you exposed the truth about Sword Art Online and told it like it is – you’ve earned my respect.

  8. Better late than never, but I have to say your opening line is brilliant. I might add that SAO is especially bad for gamers and, perhaps, anime fans.

    It perpetuates the stereotype that all gamers are the type of people who write and enjoy self-insert fanfiction (like SAO itself), and think that by spending their lives locked in their rooms playing at the expense of their social lives, soon enough every girl on the planet WILL be throwing themselves at them too, and all the guys will be divided between uncritical sycophants, dullwitted “haters” and one-dimensional Snidely Whiplash-esque villains who’ll get killed off soon enough.

    It’s not QUITE the level of badness where the creators should be ashamed of themselves, but it does make me wonder how anyone could come up with this outside of parody.

  9. damn…this article has a point. i used to see kirito as a badass, but now i don’t really give a shit about him. its pathetic that they didn’t give a lot of information about the players and ect.

  10. I’m just kind of lazily watching through SAO right now, so this suddenly became relevant to me again.

    Kind of late, but have you watched Log Horizon? It’s basically the other “MMO becomes your reality” anime, but in the complete opposite direction. (I watched it, and that’s why I’m kinda glancing through SAO.)

  11. I agree. It has too many time jumps, skipping months to years, and missed opportunities to explore let alone explain some of the stuff that happened. There is no character development, and they should have had episodes that focused on the characters relationships with each other. But no it just skips time, doesn’t matter if Kirito’s friends died horribly in episode 3, he’s fine. I highly doubt that kirito would have fallen in love with asuna so soon, and why does only kirito have 2 swords. There’s a difference between badass and over powered. This has so many troops, it’s ridiculous how popular it is. I mean why is it called sao if not even half of it is in sao?

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