The story focuses on the release of the first MMORPG for the NerveGear system, "Sword Art Online" in the year 2020. Kiriyaga Kazuto (Kirito) is one of the beta- testers for this game and was able to easily get his hands on one of the limited 10,000 copies sold in Japan. But things take a "deadly" turn when the video-game's creator, Kayaba Akihiko, forces players to keep playing until someone manages to beat the game. In order to do so, players must defeat 100 "bosses"; each on it's own level in the game and each more powerful than the other. If players die in the game, or someone in the real world attempts to take off the NerveGear, the NerveGear's micro-wave safety system will turn off and it will fry their brain, killing them in real life.
The first three episodes were absolutely incredible! You automatically become drawn into the story, the characters are all so diverse, and the incredible action sequences have you hanging on the edge of your seat! There is so much at stake, and everyone is sacrificing so much to ensure that the game will be beat. The series also grows tense as trust between people grow thin, and players even start to kill one another to ensure their own survival.
Each of the characters was completely unique because they all had their own strengths and weaknesses, forcing everyone to work together in order to survive. One of the most notable side characters is Asuna, an attractive and shy girl who really knows how to wield a sword. She manages to help Kirito defeat the first boss as if they both did it before. I didn't have a doubt that she would be a very strong character that would help Kirito throughout the series.
The train started to move really fast, and everything was going fine. That is, until episode four. That's when the series completely "jumped the shark" and became what I hoped it would not become; a harem romance series with a worthless male protagonist.
Starting at Episode 4, the series starts to skip a lot of levels, so you miss-out on a lot of the story and action. And it's starting at Episode 4 when it starts to slowly sink in that Kirito isn't all that much of a nice guy.
Kirito may be strong, but he only cares about himself and becoming the most powerful character in the game. He hides secrets from his allies which lead to their inevitable deaths, he puts the lives of strangers on the line just to get a more powerful sword, and often uses other people as a means to help him grind his way up the rankings.
What makes this character even more despicable is how many girls are attracted to him and how he treats those girls.
It is a given fact that girls are attracted to strong, independent and cute guys, even if they are completely heartless. I have no idea what these girls see in Kirito (besides how he's one of the strongest characters in SAO). Rather than this, once a new female characters is introduced into the series, they are completely forgotten after the next episode.
In other words, not only are there far too many side-characters in this series, Kirito doesn't care about a single one of them. Not many people who watch this series notice this, though, and that's why this show is completely over-rated (because a good story doesn't really matter, right?)
But that's okay, at least we got Asuna to make the series worth watching, right?
By the time the series ends, Asuna goes from being a strong and independent heroin to a damsel-in-distress who can do nothing without Kirito around. The writers completely ruined Asuna's character just to please the large crowd of fan-boys, and that's unacceptable!
As for the action, it's still there, but only in a couple of episodes for short periods of time. The music and animation is still as good as it was in the beginning, however, there is no good plot to make watching this series worth it. And by then end of the series, nothing is explained.
There is no motive to why the game creator trapped people inside SAO, or how Kirito managed to come back to life for a short moment in time only to somehow kill the final boss (which was suppose to be immortal) with ONE STAB.
AND THEN THERE'S THE SECOND HALF OF SAO, which is when "Alfheim Online" gets introduced. It's as if the writers made the second-half of the series just to please the fan-boys and further throw SAO's potential out the window.
This section of the anime is even hated by the most die-hard SAO fans for a reason; the suspense and action from the first part simply isn't there. The second-half just throws cute girls in your face and the series becomes extremely awkward and annoying, especially once Kirito's sister gets introduced (and if you've watched enough anime, then you know where this is going).
If I were to compare this show to another television show, it would definitely be the series LOST. It started off with incredible potential, then it just went downhill and never came back up.
In conclusion, "Sword Art Online" had incredible potential as an action series, and the first three episodes proved that. Yet it ended up to be another version of "School Days"; pathetic love story, hardly any plot, despicable lead and a lot of cute girls to keep the targeted audience interested.
I honestly despise this anime with all my heart, despite what the large crowd of fan-boys have to say. Not just because of the terrible character development and the worthless plot, but what this series could have become.
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