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Anime: Sword Art Online

06 Jan

Trying to write 1000 words every day. Later in the year I’m hoping to have them be primarily on future works of fiction to work towards publishing more stories, but at the moment it’s more important that I simply get into the habit of cranking out words every single day. Need to build the habit before I can really use it productively. Today I am going to write up another thoughts/recommendation for a anime series since I haven’t done that in a while.

Sword Art Online is pretty popular, so once again I won’t exactly be shining light on a obscure show. Basic premise is the first completely immerse Virtual Reality online game captures the ten thousand players logged in on the first day. They can’t log out, and if their avatar dies in the game the VR helmet will fry their brains. The only way out they are given is to beat the entire game, all 100 levels of dungeons. Somewhat of a contrived setup, but it is presented well in the first episode and works pretty well. It’s a premise that I really like. The idea of people trying to actually live in a online rpg. One of the things I really like is that there is a time jump between when the story starts and when the series really picks up. It’s not a show about how they spend the next week breaking out of the game. The first jump is from that first day to a month later, when it turns out that fear of death and the game being too hard leads to it taking a month to clear the first dungeon and defeat the level boss. Once that is done (in the second episode, or maybe the third) things jump forward again about two years. So the survivors are trapped in a online rpg for two years.

The story does a good job, in my opinion, at showing how people would adapt. Either falling into routines, or simply returning to the habits of players in a online game. It isn’t a situation that comes and goes, but everyone in the game has to get comfortable with the fact that they are living years of their lives in a video game that could kill them if they make a mistake. The show is based on a series of light novels, which I’ve also read. The books do a better job at explaining the world, but the show is much better at showing action. The author of the books can’t write a dramatic action scene to save his life. So I recommend watching the first half (or so) of the anime, then reading the first four books, then watching the rest of the show. Well, the first season of the show. They just announced the next season of it will be coming out in a year or so.

Along with pretty good animation and visual character designs, I also really liked the romance in this one. It wasn’t exactly original, but it was certainly less cliche than a lot of anime series manage. Sure, it was no Toradora!, but I found it to be sweet and fairly believable. The show also had a pretty neat twist at the halfway point of the first season, which is one of the few reveals I try hard not to talk about. I’m pretty casual about spoilers, but this is a show I like and I feel like the spoiler has the potential to take some of the drama out of the preceding episodes. Which is also why I don’t plan on commenting on the second half of the first season, except to say that it wasn’t as good. The first half was better than the books because it knew what to leave out and what to make better with flashy visuals. The second half didn’t have quite as good visuals (in a really subjective sense) and left out a bit too much that helped the story in the books.

I’d highly recommend this series. It has a really cool concept that has above-average execution of that concept. The character designs, both visually and personality-wise, I enjoyed. The exploration of how people try to live in a video game world gets downright subtle sometimes. I also recommend finding a translation of the novels if you really like the show. Reading them adds some depth to things that are only skimmed past by the show.

Sword Art Online on Crunchyroll

And it looks like the site I got the fan translated ebooks has changed, and that the author is re-writing the original books. Glad I saved the ebooks for when I read them on my kindle. Might be fun to see what’s changed in a few years when the rewrites are finished up.

Hmm… Was hoping more for a recommendation, but ended up doing what I’ve been doing for stories I’ve read. Will have to read my older anime recommendation posts, see if I can do closer to what I remember I did for them. Or find out that my memory for them is flawed.

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4 Comments

Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Anime

 

4 responses to “Anime: Sword Art Online

  1. Present Perfect

    January 6, 2014 at 9:02 am

    It’s setting off a couple red flags for me, but probably just for me. Given your review, it sounds like they dodged the Inu Yasha trap. They could have easily gone, “Okay, 100 dungeons to clear, let’s go through every one! Oh, but it takes a month to do! Well, sure they’ll get better at it, so let’s devote four episodes to each dungeon. That’ll set us up for years!”

    That said, it still sounds a lot like .Hack, which was incomprehensible as all fuck and definitely not something I want to get back into.

     
    • Griffin

      January 6, 2014 at 10:16 am

      It is a lot better than .Hack. I only got like two episodes in that show, and I devoured this one. It’s also a show that is pretty easy to try. The first episode or two shows off the show really well. So I’d suggest checking it out. If you like the first episodes, you’ll probably like the show. If not, then you probably won’t.

       
      • Present Perfect

        January 6, 2014 at 7:59 pm

        In that case, I’ve put it on my “anime I will probably never actually watch” list. :B

         
      • Griffin

        January 6, 2014 at 8:13 pm

        Fair enough.

         

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