Sword Art Online was complete tripe. It took a promising premise but executed it horrendously and populated the narrative with characters who were far less compelling than your average leaf of lettuce. Okay, so in the first series a group of people were forced to stay within the world of an online game with death waiting for them if they died in the game or someone took their head sets off. This was all accomplished using microwaves. Because in the world of SAO consumer safety is just not a concern and microwave radiation works differently. It’s really stupid that way. Moving on, our boring main cast made it out and our hero interacted with his sister, who was completely in love with him because the writer wanted a love triangle and learned how to write those from Love Hina Again. Our hero then went to a different online game where his generic love interest had gone from an action girl to a damsel in distress who was constantly threatened with rape. With some help, she was rescued and able to leave the game world. Supposedly, this is the good series but after the first one, I really doubt it could be. I mean, maybe if they actually give their characters some distinctive personalities beyond the generic, they eliminate the incestuous bollocks, and they figure out how to write a compelling narrative, it could transform into something decent. Let’s see if that happens.
Our adventure begins with our protagonist, Blandon being summoned by the generic authority figure. In an MMO called Gun Gale Online, a player who calls himself Death Gun pointed his weapon at a couple of different players and fired. Afterwards, the players were found dead of heart failure. Has this Death Gun found a way to actually kill people using the newer, safer virtual reality technology? Blandon is almost certain its impossible but he agrees to investigate, just in case and the best way to do that is convert his current account into a GGO account and take part in the stupidly named Bullet of Bullets tournament.
Let’s start with the significant problems with the series. First of all, there will be some minor spoilers here. Just letting you know. Now, let’s talk about the whole GGO thing. During this arc we discover that the player killers from the first series, you know, the ones who banded together to actually murder people during a crisis situation which makes no sense based on actual ways that humans behave. Those guys. Not only were these actual murderers released from the game with no charges brought against them but the authorities didn’t even keep track of who they were. Yes, that’s right. Not only were these actual murderers released from the game with no charges brought against them but the authorities didn’t even keep track of who they were. I have to repeat that because it’s almost inconceivably stupid. How did this series take one of the dumbest plot points from the first series and make it even dumber? How is the future, as represented by Sword Art Online, this stupid? Seriously, if the authorities of this world are this utterly inept and huge numbers of people are just waiting for the opportunity to be sociopathic, how has the human species not Darwinised itself in this world? But lets move on because the more I think about that plot point, the more its idiocy hurts. Not only were these actual murderers released from the game with no charges brought against them but the authorities didn’t even keep track of who they were. Another issue is that, during this arc, we learn that people can sit around in their online games and watch other people play different online games. People don’t have regular PCs any more that they can use for that? You wouldn’t even think that online games would support watching other online games just for basic business reasons of not wanting to do anything to showcase their competitors, but this is the world of SAO where rudimentary logic was lynched.
Next, we have an arc about Blandon and his equally uncompelling friends just playing their fantasy game. It doesn’t have anything as massively egregiously wrong with it as the whole GGO thing. Its biggest problem is just that it’s really damn boring. We have no reason to care about any of these twits and all their accomplishments are in an online game. A general problem with the series as a whole is the “romantic dialogue” between Blandon and Blanda. It is horrendously bad. It’s on the level of Revenge of the Sith.
The final arc is about Blanda, the generic action girl who spent the second arc of the first series as a damsel in distress, joining a small group in order to beat a boss in an online game. There are four major problems with this arc. I’ll get to one of them when I talk about the characters. As for the other three, the first is that the game they’re playing is really poorly designed when it comes right down to it. First off, every floor has a boss that can only be beaten once, ever. Which is going to create a problem with attracting new players. Not only that, but it’s going to cause a lot of players to quit out of frustration. That’s why real MMOs have quests that every player can complete once. Maybe more if they help someone else who activated it. You need that content to keep people invested. Not only that, but this game apparently has a feature where players can physically block access to these bosses from other players. Blanda and her compatriots have to fight through another group of players in order to just gain access to a boss area. First off, why isn’t this against the TOU? In theory, you could have a group of high level trolls just do this for the lols and if it is against the TOU, why don’t Blanda and her group just threaten to tell a moderator to make these guys move and preserve all their HP, MP and healing items for the boss? It’s pretty clear that the group blocking their path thinks that they’re too few in number to win. I don’t think they’d risk moderation. Then we have the second little issue. Blanda and her friends, this supposedly great group of gamers, take a long time to figure out that the incredibly conspicuous glowing jewel on the boss’s chest is a weak point. How do they take a fight and two-thirds of a second to figure that out? Glowing conspicuous weak points are kind of a staple of gaming. The final issue is just that this arc works so hard to be tragic and emotionally manipulative, but tragedy isn’t something you get by using cheap “this is a sad situation that happens in reality” scenarios. In reality, you have actual people who go through this. In a series like this, you have a flat caricature of a person. I’ve been more emotionally invested in Jelly Babies than I was in this “tragic” little story.
Moving on to the positives. I will say, to the first arc’s credit, I do like Death Gun’s secret. After the whole insanely stupid plot element, I fully anticipated it to be something as absurd as using microwaves to kill people. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was actually a pretty good reveal. Even if nothing else about the arc’s writing was.
On the positive side, the incestuous sister doesn’t get much screen time and barely pines for her brother. So, that’s a slight improvement. For new characters, we have Sinon. While she suffers from the most poorly written PTSD since Ms Marvel was terrified of touching men, she’s also the closest the series gets to a developed character. Now, let’s talk about the fourth problem from the final story arc. Blanda is really annoying in this series. We find out that she didn’t mind living in the game where you could die for real because she doesn’t get on with her family. Now, you might think her family must be really terrible for that to be the case, but they aren’t. She’s just a whiny trollop. We get to see her interact with her mum. About the worst you can say about the lady is that she’s over-bearing, doesn’t approve of her relationship with the pathetic pile of excrement that passes as a protagonist and punishes her daughter for being late for supper. Here’s the thing, having a character with a strained relationship to their parents is fine. It’s something a lot of people deal with. The problem is that Blanda’s response just comes across as completely whiny and disproportionate. She’d rather be actually risking her life than living in safety as a rich girl and dealing with her over-bearing mum? That aside, the characters are pretty much the same tired archetypes as they were and the bulk of new characters are every bit as trite. Which is why the tragedy really doesn’t work.
The artwork is the one area where I can be generally positive to the series. The online worlds are vibrant. They’ve got some interesting monsters, although they do forget that Thor was ginger. The action sequences are genuinely good. And this one doesn’t include fan-service of the girl who’s barely in High school. So, nothing to complain about there. It’s kind of sad that that qualifies as an improvement over the first series, though.
They got some good actors for this series. The problem is that they don’t give them material that allows them to demonstrate their skills. Like the first series, we get a lot of listless lines. A lot of exaggerated lines and very few moments where we can hear the actors’ talents. The best performance is probably from Sawashiro Miyuki, since she does get some intense scenes during the first arc. The music is all right. Not good, but it’s okay.
There really isn’t any. Although I’m kind of glad given how terrible the romantic dialogue is in this series.
There we have it. The second series of Sword Art Online. With all of that, is it an improvement over the first? Well, a little. It does have a plot point that actually works. The incest sub-plot that dominated the second half of the first series is barely present here and we don’t spend a bunch of time looking at the breasts and bum of a girl who just started High school. That being said, it’s still bad. The first arc’s plot suffers from a massive bit of idiocy. Not only were these actual murderers released from the game with no charges brought against them but the authorities didn’t even keep track of who they were. I know, I’ve said that four times at this point but it’s just so dumb. The romantic dialogue is atrocious. The characters are dull and Blanda in particular is outright annoying. If you can get past the level to which the future portrayed in this is imbecilic, you don’t care about complex characters and you just want some solid action sequences then you might… might enjoy watching this. Otherwise, I don’t recommend it. My final rating is a 3/10. Next week I’m looking at JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders.