Seven Coloured Compass

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Sword Art Online

Buying the latest game and delving into it can be fun, but when you’re trapped in it with your life in the balance? That can be a nightmare.

Sword Art Online logo

Name: Sword Art Online

Japanese Name: ソードアート・オンライン

Air Date: July 7 2012 – December 22 2012

Studio: A-1 Pictures

Episodes: 25


In the near future, a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online, or SAO, has been released where players control their avatars with their bodies using a piece of technology called Nerve Gear. One day, players discover they cannot log out, as the game creator is holding them captive unless they reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. However, if they die in the game, they die in real life. Their struggle for survival starts now…

[via Crunchyroll]

I’ve been looking forward to this series actually. A friend of mine watched this recently and now she’s obsessed with SAO. Oh dear god please help her. But she showered this series with loads of praises so I take it that it’s really good?

After watching SAO, I will be on hiatus for at least two months in order to do some serious revision for my final exams starting in May. I’ll publish seiyuu posts and short stories every so often, as well as the news I find interesting but I won’t post any anime reviews until my exams are over. Now I feel guilty leaving my blog alone, but my education comes first. It’s not like I’ll be gone forever! I sound like a real nerd…where are my glasses? xD

Apart from the hiatus, I’ve been alright recently in terms of motivation. Well, my motivation for watching anime! School work has been pushed to the side for a while and I really need to get it done but I’ve always been like ‘leave it and do it later’ sort of person. It never gets done though so it’s no wonder I’ve been getting detentions lately, haha!

First Impressions

Oh ho ho ho! No I’m not acting like Santa if you’re wondering. I’m actually quite interested in how events will turn out. Suddenly being told that you’re trapped with no way out, except to complete each floor and defeat all bosses? Heh, I would like to try that! But with your life on the line, in and out of the game? No thanks, I’ll pass. I actually cherish the one life I have so I won’t be wasting it on a video game it’s crazy! YOLO reference here, I’m fitting in with the crowd (-___-)

Game aliasKirito’s game alias. What he looked like before reverting back to his true appearance. Damn, it’s a good looking guy. Why couldn’t he stay like that?

I like Asuna. I literally have a girl crush on her…like my love for Scarlett Johansson! She’s only been in one episode but she’s a girl who kicks ass the hard way. Heck she’s even better than most of the male players! Whoo! Female dominance at last \(^o^)/ it’s good to see female characters with guts who can actually fight to defend themselves, rather than relying on others to protect her. I’ve had enough of these damsels in distress. They’re good for nothings in a nutshell ( ಠ_ಠ) I feel like screaming at them “GROW A PAIR!” hahaha xD well, we all know the likelihood of that happening! Asuna is stern and goes into things head on plus she doesn’t back down without a fight. Stubborn too. This is a girl with personality people! Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

But you know who’s even more badass? More badass than every single character put together? Kirito. He’s a high level beater (cheater and beta). A beta is someone who test played SAO before it’s release. Kirito is so awesome though, he’s known as the Black Swordsman and he works solo. I’d call him a lone wolf since he’s always strolling around with a depressed face, like “watch out peeps, I is the boss here!” I wish I was this guy because he’s so strong yet caring and kind. He can be quite manipulative though but you don’t notice it which can be…strange. Also, I think Kirito is taking a more laid back approach to the situation since he didn’t panic when the announcement was made. He just got on with it. How can you be so relaxed about this situation Kirito?! I’d be running around like a headless chicken with no flipping idea on what to do! Note to self: do not buy electrical goods that sound too good to be true. I may end up like them (O_O) with no way out too. Scary.

The opening and ending songs are really nice and calming for me to listen to. I feel at ease and I can let my worries slip away. Maybe because I’ve been revising for exams non-stop and I’ve been blaring UVERworld and GRANRODEO out of my speakers for the last week or two ? ( ̄^ ̄)ゞ I do like my rock music but my parents certainly don’t. They claim it’s not ‘proper music’. Do they really expect me to listen to Mozart everyday? Me out of all people? Sorry mum and dad but that’s not how I roll. They just don’t understand the awesomeness that is Kisho Taniyama. He’s like a rock king. Gone a bit off topic, but yeah I like the music this series uses; I thought it would have been more serious but I stand corrected.

Midway Impressions

That was unexpected. Who would have thought that the famous solo player Kirito would settle down with a partner, a female one at that? Well it’s true because he proposed to Asuna (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧. and she accepts…SCORE! Managed to tough out the competition since every guy wanted Asuna. Who blames the poor, unfortunate lads? She is practically the coolest and cutest girl I’ve ever seen! Heck if I were a dude, I would marry the girl but nope. She’s been taken. Damn you Kirito! Damn you! I am now heartbroken because of you, it’s all your fault (-_-) Asuna was my pride and joy in this series and now she’s been swept off her feet by her knight in…black drapes. Charmed I’m sure.

Kirito and AsunaAw geez, how adorable do they look together?

I’ve only just realised that Kirito’s real name is Kazuto and that the name Kirito was created by taking the syllables of the first and last kanji of his real last and first names. Facepalm. I should have noticed that earleier but I never bothered. Laziness much?

Now SAO has moved on and a new game has been introduced which is similar. Alfheim Online has nearly the same functions as SAO except that all players have wings and they can fly. It’s a large world, divided into separate homelands for each fairy race. In Alfheim’s centre is a very large tree called Yggdrasil, the World Tree, and the goal of the game is to reach the top. Very similar to SAO, hmm. Am I meant to think that the plot has moved on to a second arc? Because that wasn’t exactly the most obvious thought that crossed mind. I am as dense as a brick when it comes to these things! Trust me, we all knew that!

Overall Opinion

Sword Art Online’s first arc succeeds well despite its writing rather than because of it. The details do wonder off in many places, but the broad story themes and arcs – two youths finding supportive love in the midst of a life-or-death game, a young man growing to care about others rather than just look out for himself, people building lives for themselves in an artificial environment when they cannot access the real world – join the exhilarating key battles and exploration of game mechanics in carrying the series, and without having to depend on bloody violence or extensive fan service. Though the plot seemed to waver from time to time, all of this was completely necessary for the story to make a smooth transition into the second arc.

The second arc of Sword Art Online is definitely not without significant flaws, and the seemingly reduced threat level and transition to a more cliché plot structure may have cost the loss of some viewers. However, it does add in some stronger interpersonal drama, comes to a satisfying conclusion, and still delivers on enough of the grand heroic spectacle that made the first arc entertaining to virtually assure that it finishes as 2012’s biggest new hit series. Consistent quality writing may be required to make a good series, but it is not necessary to make an entertaining one, and the second arc just reinforces that.

Art and animation not a problem as A-1 Pictures managed to maintain the same quality standard for art and animation seen from the first episode to the last; in fact, the visuals are arguably even a little sharper in places during the second arc, as the flight capabilities allow for neat perspective-shifting and top-down views. The animation also continued to hold up well in the sometimes- very-involved action scenes and is further enhanced by sharp magical effects that this new game features. Overall, the art is visually stunning and appealing. The colours draw the viewer in and the scenery is beautiful as expected of a virtual world. The entire landscape of Aincrad is a feast for the eyes. On the downside, some of the fight scenes were choppily done in comparison to the beauty of the backdrops. They seemed shorter than they should be, but that’s likely because of Kirito and his superior skills. The boss details, especially the Skull Reaper, were phenomenal and several shots were created in a very different and unexpected perspective, adding additional interest to the series’ events.

Kirito and LeafaAlright, who used up all the glitter?

In terms of character, Kirito is your typical hero destined to save his love interest and destroy a corrupt system. Sure, seems pretty unoriginal. However, I connected and understood Kirito. The episodes that seemed like fillers served as ways for us to get to know Kirito and his imperfections; teaching to accept Kirito as he is despite all of his bad points. The series utterly fails in terms of side characters such as Klein and Egil, but the main characters are given enough spotlight to give a general consensus on their personality, actions, and values toward the system of SAO. Asuna is a fantastic heroine at the beginning, immediately winning all the hearts of all male viewers and becoming a role model for young women. But as Sword Art Online progresses, the series took a completely different direction in her character. While Asuna possessed the much needed strength and leadership for the dire situation, the series failed to show this as it continued on, letting her slip into the hated damsel in distress role, especially during the second arc. Whilst I felt the connection between her and Kirito and their desire to protect each other but their characters, as well as their love story, needed more depth. It seemed a bit shallow and too good to be true.

SPOILER: Kirito finally returns to the real world after enduring Alfheim Online and rushes to the hospital to see Asuna, but is attacked in the parking lot by Sugou – creator of Alfheim Online. After disarming Sugou, Kirito spares his life and meets up with Asuna. They have a tearful reunion. Kirito and Asuna have returned to school, attending a school for students who were trapped in SAO. Kirito reveals that Sugou had been arrested by the police after their fight and the crimes he committed were exposed by one of his employees. The players trapped by Sugou were freed but his experiments on mind control shocked the public. Due to the scandal, Asuna’s father and others resigned and shut down ALO with other VRMMORPG following it. Later, Asuna, Kirito and Suguha heads to Agil’s bar along with Liz, Silica, Yoruko, Kains, Sasha, Yulier, Thinker, along with Klein and his guild where they have a party to celebrate for clearing the game SAO. Agil analyzed ‘The Seed’ to be a program that allows anyone with a server to create their own VRMMORPG and transfer players to other VRMMORPG easily. ‘The Seed’ is uploaded to the internet which revives the VRMMORPG genre. Later that night in Alfheim Online, Kirito meets up with Leafa where they share a dance and a heartfelt conversation in the sky. Directly afterwards the floating castle Aincrad from SAO is brought into Alfheim Online which Kirito then declares he intends to finish clearing all 100 floors of.

Sword Art Online has to be one of the smartest series in recent years. It has deep insight on the psychological aspects of virtual reality on the human psyche and its sociological views on creating a realistic economy and society in a massively multiplayer online game setting which is shown very well. The romance between Kirito and Asuna is explored bringing definition to exactly what love is like in a virtual world. It is not one of the year’s most popular new series to date without reason and putting all of this together, you have your reason.

I’m off to revise now so I’m going to need all the luck in the world. Three more months and then I’ll be free of secondary school, moving onto college! I feel…old. That’s what we get for growing up then eh? So no more anime reviews for a while, just pure revision and torture. Oh the pressure of it all!