A quick reminder. Sword Art Online has been around for ages, and yet this is the first time I’m seeing all of it. So what did I think of season 1? Overall, I have mixed feelings. The idea itself was good, and felt much more ‘believeable’ than Accel World (saying that, Accel World is set further on in the future). I just didn’t think much of the protagonists. Kirito might have all the skills, but he is actually a very dull person, meanwhile Asuna was pictured as a strong heroine, but the second half of season 1 totally shattered that. I had read briefly about the new storylines in season 2, and I was quite excited, to be honest. I thought Leafa/Suguha was the strongest character in season 1, and while I’m glad that she’s returned, I was excited to see a character like Sinon take the center stage.
My first impressions:
A new season, and a new game: Gun Gale Online. It doesn’t really look that much different from any of the others, which almost says something about the state of MMOs now (in that they do almost all look the same). We begin with the story/urban legend/school rumor about the death of a pro gamer whilst playing GGO. Because Kirito has the connections with the government now (*sigh*), he is influenced into solving this case, while his waifu Asuna is still sort of recovering from her coma. Along with a new season, a new character comes into light: Shino Asada/Sinon.
I think that she is the most well-written character in the show; a girl using an MMO to help her trauma of an incident in her childhood. Asuna is pictured as strong, but in real life, she is incredibly shy and fragile, and Leafa only started MMOs to try to understand what her cousin saw in SAO. Sinon, on the other hand, operates alone, as a highly competent GGO player. It is she who is “Kirito’s girl” in this arc, where Asuna and Leafa had those roles in season 1; the other girls are simply made as cheerleaders for Kirito’s quest.
Changing story direction:
The first half, Phantom Bullet, acts more like a mystery than the kind of action-adventure show we had in season 1. At first, I thought that this decision was a bad one, but now I look back, I accept it more. In real life, Sinon is a girl that is always one step behind; playing GGO makes her the person we all know…very reminiscent of what made Kirito and Asuna the people they are (they wouldn’t have even met if it wasn’t for SAO). As he investigates this case, Kirito ends up getting a more feminine-looking avatar, which is the butt of several jokes…all of which are predictable. And it’s not like any of the unnecessary fan service that was everywhere in season 1 has disappeared either, but he finds himself slightly out of his element in GGO; having been so used to a fantasy MMO, suddenly being introduced to guns in GGO comes as a shock to him.
Phantom Bullet ended rather predictably, but I was also very satisfied with how Sinon’s own story had closure; she ended up meeting a past employee of the post office, meaning she was capable of saving a life, after all.
The arc in the middle was rather pointless, I thought. If anything, it was more of a group of 3 shows to reaffirm the friendship between Kirito, Asuna, Leafa, Klein, Silica, Lisbeth, and now Sinon. Move along…
Mother’s Rosario, and poor Yuuki:
Yet another change in direction for this half, but this time, the focus is more on Asuna than on Kirito. She finds that the real world around her is becoming more of a cage, and that the lives she led online have more freedom. Soon enough, she finds companionship in Yuuki, a player who ends up besting Kirito in an amicable duel. Yuuki only has one goal in the game, and that’s to beat a raid, but it’s not long before Asuna discovers the truth: Yuuki is terminally ill.
The focus of the show is taken away from action and adventure in this arc, and more towards emotional drama. With Asuna feeling so constricted in the real world, finding someone who wants to burn out brightly in the virtual world, and shows her that not everyone in an MMO is a psycho. Going deep into this, you could say that this is a reflection that Asuna wants to remain in the virtual world for as long as she can, for it is that who has carved the identity we have seen in Sword Art Online; the same can be applied for Kirito too.
Yuuki’s final moments are weepy moments for the fans and the weebs, but a tear did not go down this guy’s cheek; I think it was because at this point, I had had more than enough of watching this franchise. The movie would almost be the cherry-on-top, and even though I’m sure they will all be back for another season or another movie, I’ll just stay away.
One thing I will give this show is that it can almost operate on its own. Sure enough, characters from season 1 return, but the introduction of a new main character (who is well written) and a more ‘mature’ tone almost make it a show on its own. I’m just going to say it: I actually quite liked this season. The pacing is still off, fan service is unnecessary and cringe-worthy in places, and super-Kirito is still being super-Kirito, but I won’t fault the story-lines in this season…except maybe that Calibur one, which seemed totally pointless.
Before my review on Ordinal Scale, I’d like to say one thing: Reki Kawahara and Tomohiko Ito have not painted online multiplayers in the best light whatsoever. I was actually meaning to return to Final Fantasy XIV this week after so long playing Overwatch, so this SAO-fest is making me a little hesitant (even though I know too well that no-one on FFXIV is a douchebag).
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