Neomo takes the time to catch the show for the first time before the movie is out in his homeland.

Now, there’s one thing I’d like to make clear before I carry on: I have never ever seen Sword Art Online. I don’t know any of the characters, or the story, or any pairings the show has. I’ve never read the light novels, or played the games. I genuinely do not know why so many anime fans love this franchise. Yet, I discovered not so long ago that my local cinema was to show the movie, Ordinal Scale, for one night only. So I figured that this would be my one good chance to watch the whole thing…both seasons…in one go. This will be more entertaining if you’ve watched the show and you’re a big fan, then you can laugh at how I attempt to make sense out of it all.

My first impressions:

I was not totally impressed. Don’t get me wrong, having people trapped in a VR game is a rather novel idea, and something that is very fitting for this generation (wow, that makes me sound old!). I could also see straight away how people would flock to this, but if I were to become the philosophical type, I can’t quite see this mirroring the several millions of people who spend hours in MMOs themselves. I used to be one of them myself, until my fellow players got too good for me to catch up with them.

Kirito gives off the “git-gud-or-git-rekt” attitude initially, but you could clearly tell that after hearing the news that he was trapped in the game he wanted out as soon as possible. After beating himself up for putting other guild members in mortal danger, he eventually settles down with that girl who every weeb calls a waifu.

Honestly, I really did not see anything that was outstanding about Asuna. Yeah, she’s a hardcore player just as Kirito is, but there was just something missing. It wasn’t like in Accel World where Kuroyukihime was this mysterious unknown, or in No Game No Life where Sora and Shiro were bursting with personality.

Come to think of it, not even Kirito had much about him that was bursting with personality…

Almost halfway through:

Seven episodes in, and I still wasn’t feeling anything. The next sort-of regular character (I think – could be way off) Lisbeth, had made her first appearance, and I honestly couldn’t see how she could fall for Kirito. I don’t see how anyone could fall for him, in fact. Moving on, the action that I had seen so far (boss fights, dragon-slaying and dealing with villainous players) was pretty standard and seen in a lot of other action-fantasy shows, but there was still this great hole in the show (so far). Kirito’s character didn’t give me any satisfaction, and wasn’t a very thrilling protagonist. Asuna could defend herself, but she was by no means the kind of female MC that I was anticipating. I think that the thing that was bothering me was simple: the hype. So as I finished the first half, I kept asking myself one question:

“Why do people love this show?”

…and I couldn’t answer it.

Were there meant to be any hidden messages or metaphors in this show, and if so, had I missed them? Maybe the value of life? Or the strength of working together rather than working alone? These are the kind of metaphors that crop up in hundreds of shows so nothing too special. Please, if you’re a huge fan of the show, I’d love to know what hook this show had for you?

By episode 10, things finally started to get more interesting, and someone actually told me that the entire show wasn’t going to be set in Aincrad, which relieved me immensely.

Heathcliff, and leaving Aincrad:

So Kirito and Asuna have one of those online marriages. It isn’t a weird thing…in fact a lot of MMOs do online marriage (Second Life, Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Rift, even Ragnarok Online lets you ‘adopt’ another player as a child!). Asuna then leaves her big fancy guild, they both encounter an AI who sees them as ‘their parents’, and the game developer, Akihito Kayaba, reveals himself when the two of them complete all 100 levels of Aincrad.

I’ll tell you something: it was when Kirito actually logged out and woke up when I thought “Oh, does this show have a purpose anymore?” I mean, they could have just left it hanging there and let the viewer interpret what happened next, but no…the story had to go on, and thus we learnt who Asuna really was in real life, and that she was still alive ‘somewhere’. Kirito’s crusade to see her again was a little contrived and very unoriginal. Is that another hook for the masses of fans?

Alfheim Online, and finding Asuna again:

Well Kirito is so lovestruck that he has to go and rescue Asuna from another game she is trapped in, Alfheim Online, with a fellow player, Leafa, who turns out to be Suguha, Kirito’s cousin. We all feel much more comfortable with this game, knowing that they can actually log out this time…although if this game was designed by our next antagonist, some greedy little creep who wants to marry Asuna while she’s still in a coma, it would have made much more sense to remove the log-out option, and for them to stay in-game just as they were in SAO. Something else that doesn’t make sense to me.

It seemed like an awful lot was packed in the final few episodes, but despite that, I am happy that it ended the way it did. Both SAO and ALO were shut down, the creep was sent to prison, and there’s a fighting chance for the gaming genre to still live, thanks to the program Kayaba gave to Kirito. I guess that I could call that some kind of redemption for the crimes he did.

Final word:

I was glad that this show is over, but I’m also glad that I can cross this one off the list. I certainly won’t be watching this again, although I know that I still have season 2 and Ordinal Scale to watch.

I do feel that I ought to apologise to the hardcore fans of Sword Art Online, and I’m sure there are plenty of them. This show didn’t inspire me in the way it probably inspired you all. As I said earlier though, I can easily see how this show became so popular, and why so many people like it so much. I just don’t understand why people flock to Kirito’s ‘outstanding’ personality…or why so many people want Asuna as their waifu.

Maybe I’ll get some kind of better idea why they do when I get onto season 2. With both SAO and ALO shut down, there’s clearly another shady game that the pair of them will get themselves involved in.