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ReviewZ: Sword Art Online

To choose between the virtual world and the real world has always been a tough decision. The limitless possibilities of the virtual world and the warmth and truth of the real world, each have their own attractions. The cold, harsh truth of the real world and the fear of losing yourself in the virtual world repel the thoughts of choosing between them. But what if the virtual world is your reality, where your choices and decision could cost you severe and permanent consequences? A virtual reality so cruel where life and death hangs in the balance.


Welcome all to my first ever anime review. Every review is a first so don’t shoot me down. Today, I’ll be reviewing the anime Sword Art Online, which took the anime world by storm two years ago, 2012. I considered it “Anime of the Year 2012” and some considered it the best anime ever until Shingeki no Kyojin came along and slices it on its nape. But I still have yet to find an anime that I would consider my favourite, so I am still searching for that ray of hope. I realised that there is a review, sort of, of SAO previously but hey, it’s my take on it. It may seem weird to review an anime that has aired and ended for so long. One reason would be that “I felt like it”. The other would be that Gun Gale Online is just around the corner. Next season huh… Just a few more days to go. Since this is a review, there are possibilities of spoilers here and there, so SPOILER ALERT! But seriously, it has been two years since it aired and if you haven’t watched it, you disappoint me. Oh, I just realised I made a reference to the anime. So without further ado, LINK START!

Here we go

Firstly, lets start with the story. If you can pick up on my prologue, the story resembles it quite similarly. The year is 2022 where technology has advance so far that reading the randomness and complexity of the brain became reality. The Nervegear was created as a result from this achievement where the mind is able to dive into a virtual world where the five senses are co-operated in, allowing real time responses, as the virtual has become reality. The anime is broken up into two parts. The first is SAO, on Aincrad and the second in ALO, on Alfheim. It follows our 14-year-old Kirigaya Kazuto or Kirito embarking on the first ever VRMMORPG or Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (that’s a mouthful) called Sword Art Online, SAO, where he was previously a beta tester for. During the first episode itself, shit hits the fan as the game creator and master introduces a particular feature in the game. Players can’t log out until they complete the game, clearing all 100 hundred floors and defeating the final boss. Oh, and one more thing. Dying in the game leads to your death in the real world. Doesn’t that put you in a spot? With no escape, Kirito decided to become stronger in order to survive the jaws of death in the game. Well, if only it was all about the game. If only.


As the story progresses on, new characters are introduced and also various things were taken note of. Beta testers of the game are hated as they are seen to be exploiting all the good areas and quest for levelling up, leaving all the new player to fend for themselves. Many had died and the first floor hasn’t been cleared yet. A mysterious girl in a cloak was introduced, followed by Agil, Kibaou and Daviel, where the two latter seem to have very little airtime. Why? During their first floor raid, Daviel decided to get the last attack on the floor boss, Kobold, but was killed due to an unknown update of the boss’s weapon. 

For goodness sake, just take the health potion!

It was also then where Kirito’s bad appearance to other players was formed. He took the blame and at the same time labelling himself as a beater (beta tester + cheater). From then on, he went solo, endangering his life even further. Best decision ever. Well, that was one third of the first part of the story, SAO. The choices and junctures he comes across of being a solo player and not being strong enough are covered quite well. The ending for episode 3 was really tear-jerking. That episode was amazing to me. They built so much and finish it off nicely in just one episode.

Ah... Episode 3. Best episode ever

The following two thirds of SAO then focuses on how Kirito breaks from his “being alone and no one will get hurt or die” mindset and how his relationships with other characters are establish. It also tells about the encounter with Yui and how him and the main heroine’s, Asuna, relationship progress on from the second episode.

Honestly speaking, the last two parts of SAO was a bit disappointing. I was kind of expecting more on the gaming aspects and maybe some flashback on his past or previous bosses but it turn into a romance anime then. Even though I said that, I did enjoy it like any normal romance anime.

Next is ALO, where we finally get to see the real world again. It is also the introduction of the imouto character, Suguha. It begins with a Kendo sparring match between the former hero, Kirito, and the quarterfinalist imouto, Suguha, which the latter obviously win, as there is no way game experience helps you in real life. It was revealed after clearing SAO, Asuna didn’t die but she hasn’t regained conscious yet, but Kirito visits her often. In that first episode for ALO, the antagonist that I totally despise, Sugou Nobuyuki, was introduced. The story’s motive was then set, where the protagonist is going to save a damsel in distress in an unknown world, quite similar to most Disney shows. But his quest was not without struggles, as he has to face the strongest player in the land as well as real life disputes when he founds out his sister was helping him, unbeknown to his sister that the person she was helping was him. 

How can you not know? He looks similar.

Ah, the tragedy. What cruel fate to have brought this upon him. Well, the ending was quite expected and I felt bad for Suguha as she holds feelings for her onii-chan. It then ended off with a celebration of SAO being cleared and the rebirth of Aincrad. The ending sort of hinted a second season was going to come as the mood was up high with New Aincrad.

<Holy aura>

Moving on to characters.

The protagonist of the anime and the famous Black Swordsman of SAO, Kirigaya Kazuto or the player. Kirito. His character is portrayed as someone who is not very good with communicating with others, which is why he can be quite bold and direct. He is also seen to be enjoying teasing others and getting on their nerves, which are one of the ways, he builds a relationship. His character seems to be calm most of the time handling difficult situations well, not breaking under pressure. But there are moments where he will become fierce and aggressive when facing against tough situations like in a battle for example. This shows that he is not strong, as he tends to let his emotions take control. An example would be in episode 3, where Sachi’s death really tore him apart as he blames himself for not being strong enough (refer to Sachi’s profile a few paragraphs down). Anyway, Kirito’s name has risen up the ranks of being one of the most OP characters in SAO, ALO, GGO (spoilers) and also the anime world itself.

What's wrong Asuna?

Next is the Flash, not from Justice League, but from KoB (Knights of Blood). The female lead, which was in the lead group responsible for penetration as she was the vice-chief for the guild and also the in-game wife to the Black Swordsman or Twin Blade Swordsman, Asuna’s personality changes as the story progresses on. When she was first introduced, she seem as a quiet, mysterious girl stuck in a death game. She also had a mindset of not mind dying as she feels that even if she fights, in the end she will eventually die killed by the game itself. But upon meeting Kirito, her outlook on life began to change. She was later introduced as a tsundere character after KoB scouted her. Due to that, she takes the game very seriously as she wants to clear the game as soon as possible. Her relationship with Kirito became closer and it is seen that she depends on him greatly. She also follows Kirito in letting her emotions get the better of her. Her character changes during the ALO arc where she turned from a tsundere charater to a dere character.

Yui, oishii ka?

When Yui was introduced, the romance life for Kirito and Asuna deepens further as they found more reasons to clear the game as soon as possible. Yui is a Mental Health Counseling Program 001 or Yui-MHCP001, which was created by the Cardinal System in SAO in order to monitor the mental parameters of the players in the game. She is seen to be without fear as she faced The Fatal Scythe which Kirito and Asuna couldn’t defeat or hold back. She is also given the ability to understand the human emotions where in that very same episode, Yui was about to be deleted by Cardinal and she cried tears of joy as she get to be with her in-game parents. 

She was later revive back in ALO as the game adopted the same Cardinal System from SAO. Her form also changes to a navigational pixie to suit the game’s requirements.

The ALO and SAO characters

Other characters were introduced where some were just to increase Kirito’s harem. Silica (the loli-like imouto character), Lisbeth (the tsun and slightly dere babyface) and Suguha or Leafa (the emotional imouto but actually cousin) are the main few additions. There is also Klein, Agil and Argo who has worked together with him from SAO but Argo was no longer seen after episode 3. There are four antagonists that were introduced in SAO and ALO. Kayaba Akihiko the main creator of the NerveGear and SAO and chief of KoB, Kuradeel a prideful twat who’s a member of Laughing Coffin, PoH the founder of the player killing guild, Laughing Coffin, and Sugou Nobuyuki the Game Master of ALO as well as the head researcher in manipulating the human mind. Although he is bad, you’ll definitely respect Kayaba due to the way his character is shown while you’ll definitely hate Sugou for being a whiny and pathetic retard. Sorry, my emotions got the better of me.

In episode 3, Kirito was invited to join the guild Moonlit Black Cats which was a guild containing members from a high school computer club. Sachi is one of the members. Sachi is seen to be a shy and coward girl who fears death and she revealed that she never intended to leave the Town of Beginnings. Her profession is a lancer as she fear battles but she tried wielding a sword and shield before. Kirito and her develop a strong relationship and it was hinted that she might be Kirito’s first love interest. He vowed to protect her but unfortunately he couldn’t keep his promise as the group got caught in a trap while clearing dungeons. Her death is one of the factors that led Kirito to return to being solo and refrains from joining guilds. Even though her character appearance was short, she was one of the characters that had a big impression on me. And if you look closely, Yui bears a strong resemblance with Sachi.

The animation for SAO is quite amazing considering that a lot of work has to be done due to the places changing quite often. Though some of the character’s faces looks similar, their character designs are develop nicely but a bit more should be given to develop the back story of the characters. The scenery there is just amazing. I even used it as one of the models for my oil pastel painting.

Floria Gate Plaza

Hill of Memories

The soundtrack for the anime is astounding. One of the best soundtracks I’ve heard so far. The composer is the great Yuki Kajiura with songs such as “Swordland” and “At Nightfall” that are absolutely amazing. They really match the mood of the anime as well as the setting.

The opening and ending sequences of SAO are brilliant. LiSA with “Crossing Field” and Haruka Tomatsu with “Yume Sekai”, the SAO arc feels complete with it as it compliments the story well. 

Crossing Field by LiSA

For the ALO arc, we have Eir Aoi for the opening with “Innocence” and Luna Haruna with “Overfly” for the ending. 

Innocence by Aoi Eir

Both ALO songs are my favourite for the anime as you can feel the emotions poured into the songs that match the visuals and story so perfectly. The opening screams impact with its mild beat and great build up, while the ending provides a calming and relaxing mood after such an adventure, just like cooling down after working out.

The prominent moment for me in the anime would most definitely be Sachi’s death. It was such a wonderful episode as they could tell so much and build up so much in such little time. When she died, I didn’t notice that I started tearing up . It’s as though I could somehow feel the amount of grief and sadness that Kirito is facing through. It was refreshing to see such an episode, as amazing episodes happen quite rarely and it should be unexpected to create a big impact and leave a deep impression. I find myself actually rooting for Sachi and Kirito to be together rather than with Asuna. I don’t hate her but I also don’t like her. Maybe it’s just how she is portrayed in the anime. Why!? Why must you die?! Sachi, why!? What cruel fate…

Arigatou, Sayonara...

I personally enjoyed watching it, considering that I wasn’t interested in it when it was first release. I only got to it after the anime had aired the end of the SAO arc and I was surprised that I like it. I remember repeating the opening a few times before beginning to watch the episode, as I wanted to sing along. It’s a good anime to watch despite it turning to a romance anime a third of the way through. If I had to choose between SAO and SNK, I would choose SAO as it appeals to me more. SNK just lacks a prominent moment, which is why it didn’t leave much impression on me. Sorry, SNK fans but I am team SAO. Don’t find me.

I should tally up the score for my first review. I have split them up to Story, Characters, Animation, Soundtrack, Prominent Moment and my Personal Enjoyment where the last two serves as one, making it out of five. Each component can score up to 20 points so making it a total of 100 as max. I reward SAO 74.5 out of 100 with its soundtrack and prominent moment pulling the points up. I recommend watching it as it a great anime to watch as it has that “what if” factor on how technology in the future would be like, revolutionising the gaming world as well as our life. I would also recommend playing the opening sequences on osu! as it is so much fun and challenging. Since GGO is around the corner you should definitely watch SAO, marathon it if possible. I am really looking forward to GGO even though I had already spoiled myself (read the novels). I have doubts of it being a 25 episode series as the GGO arc is quite short and if they make it 25 episodes it would probably be more on ALO events or maybe quests that the group does. They might join the Mother’s Rosario arc with GGO. I really hope they continued to Underworld though. Ah, that’s a lot of spoiler-like hints…

Well then time to log out. See you on Gun Gale Online!

Ja, mata ne~

Written by Zwei

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