There’s Something Wrong with my Ideal Anime: Sword Art Online

Holy sh*t guys, has it been two months again? Sorry ’bout that.

So, Long time no see fellow anime enthusiasts. I know I said I’d try being more consistent lately but then school rolled around and physics decided to wring what small amount of life was left in me, but more on that later.

Anyway, back on topic. I’m sure some of you may be aware that as of today I am in search of my ideal anime. It’s a grueling task, one that – more often than not – leaves me depressed, like a sodden dish cloth that has no chance to dry. It’s probably a fruitless endeavor, after all finding an anime that satisfies every single criteria that is marked down on my “Ideal Anime Checklist” is near impossible. Actually, I think the only way that would happen is if I wrote it myself and we all know I’ve got about a snowball’s chance in hell.  BONES isn’t exactly looking for a down and out wannabe artist/writer college student to join their crew of experienced hardened individuals.

However, last season an anime called Sword Art Online aired, and after that rather famous episode 11 where our main couple actually ties the knot, I thought, “It couldn’t be… Has my dreams finally come true?” The thing is, despite that this show has two of the most important criteria of my checklist signed off, there’s trouble in paradise.

“There must be something wrong with me,” I thought. I’ve got action and romance all neatly tied up in a box labeled Sword Art Online, and while the main romance took a bit to get started (waste of perfectly good romance if you ask me) it still makes me grin ear to ear every time my OTP gets the screen time they deserve. It’s just there’s something off about it. Sure, the Asuna and Kirito moments make the romance fangirl inside of me as giddy as a schoolgirl with her first crush, and when they go all badass on me and destroy monsters with their super-duper sword skills it’s just icing in the cake. So, why am I not enjoying it as I should be?

Don’t get me wrong, the first thing I do when I get home from work is plop down in front of my computer with a tasty sandwich and  prepare myself for the awesome action and/or romance that’s about to commence. It makes me happy that I can have two of my favorite things all wrapped up evenly in an anime. However, the thing is I feel like the quality is missing.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s kind of like having this gorgeous human being that doesn’t have a heart. Everything looks great, but everything below that feels just a bit off. Perhaps I’m nitpicking (or just being a greedy elitist twat), but I want to really get into the heads of these characters. I want to know everything about them, I want to know so much that I could hear the heart that supposedly beats inside them or at least be a little less cliche. Maybe then this show can be the one I’ve been waiting for.

Don’t Let me down…

Random Stuff:

  • So I’ve been thinking about doing more episodic posts for a particular anime this season. They probably would follow the same kind of jist as my earlier ones with Mawaru Penguindrum, plus it would give me incentive to post weekly and be active. It’s mostly going to be between Robotics;Notes, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun or Zetsuen no Tempest. I won’t be able to do them all (I was serious when I said physics is kicking my ass) but I think it would be fun to try episodic blogging again.
  • After watching SAO, I went on and tried my first MMO. It’s a bunch of fun, but there goes all my free time.

About Nishimura

An anime enthusiast who finds time to blog when she has no time to spare.
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15 Responses to There’s Something Wrong with my Ideal Anime: Sword Art Online

  1. Justin says:

    You want to know why you feel this way? Because everything is happening too easily…the character is so cool…but wait, he doesn’t have any flaws right? Oh that’s right — he’s the Gary Sue of the anime >_< And thus, why you wonder why doesn't it feel like it great is solved.

    Ok that's just one of the problems but for me, it had a lot of potential, but A-1 Pictures either screwed things up with the side stories or Reki Kawahara's works just aren't adaptable for animation, because it's just's been a show you watch just to watch it. It's not a bad show, but it has no good villains, doesn't have a lot of logic when it comes to the SAO setting, and has characters that aren't explored in depth. Hence you get a show where you question its quality.

    Anyways, well I'm hoping my rant doesn't send you away from blogging again, so advice — Go check out Ginta — I mean Kintama. It's a funny show. Some other shows: K and Shin Sekai Yori. Now get back to blogging xD

    • Nishimura says:

      Yes Sir, I’m on it! I just watched K today and I have to say I am intrigued and Shin Sekai Yori is also another show on my must watch list (episode one was very subtle scary in an awesome way). Who knows, if their contents strikes my fancy I may end up doing some specific blog posts on them, but until then we’ll just have to wait and see.

  2. Marow says:

    As Justin pointed out, SAO simply doesn’t have a soul. We have Gary Stu and his pretty girl, a nonsense plot and cardboard characters. Many others call it wish-fulfillment, and I wouldn’t disagree with that, however sad it sounds.

    At least it had a good first episode. And a decent start of the second arc too.

    • Nishimura says:

      I’m actually a bit disappointed in the second arch, though in a sense I knew it was coming. Asuna deserves better than being stuck in a cage somewhere. She’s losing baddass points at a frightening rate and its making me worry.

      • Marow says:

        She lost all of her baddass points almost directly after the second episode anyway… at the end of the first arc, she didn’t amount to anything. Which is a shame 😦

  3. Otonashi says:

    It really is a hit or miss show from what I’ve gathered from friends’ opinions. The character depth may be a bit shallow, but I would never go so far as to call them “cardboard”. I would say that most character focus was put into Kirito (Kazuto), and to call him some kind of perfect character is far from the truth of the matter. He is rash and quick-tempered, which leads him to commit serious lapses in judgement that are shown in certain points of the light novel (which were omitted during the anime due to episode constraints). I honestly compare his personality to that of Edward Elric from FMA Botherhood, and it truly is not much of a stretch to compard the two because they share the same faults. Kirito believes he is capable of anything, a prodigy of the VRMMO universe just as Ed was a prodigal alchemist. But the problems stack up where the characters realize that the power they have is not enough to conquer all the challenges put befofe them. This is what leads to their growth as characters. SAO certainly follows this pettern, so calling it shallow or the characters paper-thin is a bit much, though that’s just one guy’s opinion.

    • Nishimura says:

      I think its not so much on how Kirito himself acts (though it is an aspect) but how he treats others. He’s the be all end all that takes care of others and he isn’t really properly treated for his mistakes simply because the mistakes he makes don’t hold much value. Ed had tons of things to learn during his travels, be it about the world he lived in, the people he thought he knew and the inadequacies he found within himself. Kirito doesn’t have much to do but fight the bad guys and get the girl. Heck, once the second arc starts he technically has cheats codes that grant him easy levels and as a result he hardly grows in any significant way. While Ed believes he is great, he beaten down time and time again, proving that he isn’t all that. Kirito doesn’t have that, no is there to tell him that he isn’t a super badass, so it makes him appear shallow. While you are right, he can’t really be considered cardboard given that he does have a bit of a personality, I wouldn’t put him much higher than plastic.

      • Otonashi says:

        True, Ed certainly has many aspects where he is beaten down time and time again, allowing him to grow as a character and progress. While Kirito lacks a lot of these points, the comparison can still be made due to his continuous trial. He was more or less thrown into a world where he has an absolute advantage (his love of VRMMO’s, the fact that he was a beta tester, etc) but that doesn’t stop him from progressing as a human being. He experiences death firsthand countless times with the death of Sacchi and the guild he joined. That experience is supposed to show why he acts so kind to most everyone he meets, but never goes so far as to get attached to them. Asuna is the exception as he falls in love with her and she is gradually able to open his heart again to being with other people. Just as Klein is the type of person Kirito wishes he could have been as shown is episode 14 when he apologizes for leaving him in the Town of Beginnings. Kirito’s progression is less about his growth internally in the maturity aspect, but more of his social growth. He is a secluded teenager with little interaction when it comes to others; both in the virtual and real world.
        Skipping further ahead, in the ALO arc his growth inside the virtual plane is transferred to real life as he begins anew his relationship with Suguha. He becomes a more outward person, growing up from his introversion during his early teen years. While he may seem like a shallow character at first, he really shows progression throughout the second season with the introduction of Leafa/Suguha and a genuinely evil “bad guy” in the form of Sugou. With an ultimate goal that, unlike the first arc, stayed in-site almost 100% of the time, we were able to focus on the growth that Kirito not only had to make in the virtual realm, but in the physical realm as well. While his growth physically in the second arc was miniscule at best (because as you mentioned, he had sort of a running start in that his data carried over from SAO to ALO), his internal growth was much more so than it was in the first arc. He had to come to grips with the concept of losing, of being beaten down to the point of no return (when Sugou tells him about the wedding, before he learns of Asuna being trapped in ALO from Agil). He realizes his own weakness, that the difference between the virtual the the physical is so great a thing, being the hero of a game does not make you the hero of the real world.
        Now, I may have been rambling for the last few sentences, but my point remains, while Kirito may not be the diving well of a pool in terms of depth (like Ed), he certainly get’s into the deep end.

      • Nishimura says:

        I found that Kirito’s growth as of the second arc was minuscule at best. Sure, apparently stuff happened (like how he treated Sugu like the plague), but the audience has no way of knowing thanks to the way they decided to reveal information. I honestly had no idea they were on bad terms until Sugu came out and said it. It felt tacked on to be honest. Perhaps my gripe with the anime then is with its direction.

  4. Otonashi says:

    Well the fact that he was on bad terms with his sister was revealed in episode 4 of the first arc; the episode involving Silica to be more general. He mentions that Silica reminds him of his little sister, then goes on about how they are actually cousins and how he has distanced himself from her. While it is only briefly touched upon in that episode, it stood out in my mind (though I’m a stickler for the details that don’t seem to make much sense in terms of character development, so I was curious as to why the information was in the anime at all, which made me pay more attention to it). So while it may have seemed tacked on, in reality it was touched upon as early as episode 4. While that did not resurface until several episodes into the second arc, to say that “apparently stuff happened…, but the audience has no way of knowing” is inaccurate. Now, I’ll admit that it is rather hap-hazardly delivered; definitely not clear as day, however, it is information we were let know early on in the show. Indeed, there was actually an entire section of the light novel that was missing from the anime; a whole chapter and a half of adventuring that Leafa and Kirito went through was just left out of the production. If I had to gripe about the production or direction aspect of the show, it was that they made key moments generally too short, failing to capture the emotion of the original work (moments such as Kirito’s near-death experience in episode 11, or the final act of the first arc when Kirito battled Heathcliff after the 75th boss). The emotion was just not portrayed as well as it could have been. My disappointment lies in these aspects alone, but in terms of an anime that has both romance, action, and overall well-thought plot, I can’t say any more than that I genuinely enjoyed it. If you enjoy the show, then I think it served its purpose.

  5. Rin Suyokia says:

    I would suggest you read the visual novels…
    I read the novels before the anime and enjoyed the anime much more.
    The anime version of SAO lacked a lot of character development because it’s so rushed.
    And the ALO arc did suck. It was the worst arc in the novel as well.
    However, the author wrote a book of side stories for ALO which kind of filled up the much needed character development there.
    And yes, Kirito is a very near perfect character. But I think it’s kind of refreshing to now have douche bag or weak main characters for once.
    SAO is a series that is more about the plot line than the characters.
    ———————–Spoiler------------------------
    A lot of the arcs pose different but important questions about the future of man kind.
    The Alicization Arc, which is currently still being serialized, asks whether or not it is humane to use Artificial Intelligence as soldiers in the future in the place of humans. The arc indirectly questios whether it is our conscience which makes us human, or the fact that we have a physical body.
    Overall, I would suggest reading the light novels, as I enjoyed them more than the anime.
    Also, the GGO arc after the ALO arc is by far a lot better and way more interesting.

  6. Nenad says:

    Question: Is at least the first season any good? I watched the first couple of episodes and left it on-hold. Don’t know should I go on, but I don’t like to start something and not finish it…

    Anyway, you really got me wondering if there’s an action-romantic show that blends well. My thoughts are that Kaiba could be something like that. It’s not perfect, I don’t think I know a perfect action-romantic show that also explores the characters in depth. But I wanted to try to remember some. Read about Kaiba here: http://guriguriblog.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/kaiba/
    Also, Berserk *might* be an another contender. It’s more on the action side and the romance is a weird one(s). It’s hard saying much without spoiling. I thought it’s rather subtle, the anime is a great user and example of the “show, don’t tell” principle. This article clears things up, but only read it if you finished The Golden Age Arc (the anime covers it fully): http://www.twilightvisions.com/griffith.htm

    There might be on par or better examples in the book world. The Wither book series, especially the second book “Sword of Destiny”. Kinda like Berserk, only more explicit thoughts, more emotion and more questioning. Adult fable perhaps.
    “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” is “just” a romance novel, but it’s the only thing I know that explores *both* of the lovers and their thoughts, feelings, and psyche in such depth.

  7. Pingback: Free Sword Art Online Episodes | Japan Realm

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