A Review of the Whole Series!,
This review is from: Sword Art Online Part 2 (Episodes 8-14) [DVD] (DVD)
When it comes to series that are set inside a video game world they always seem to be a bit boring for numerous reasons, but Sword Art Online is different from those other series. For one thing this series is based on a series of books, or light novels, so there is only so much that could be done with it because of that.
I will say this now; if you are not a video game fan, let alone an RPG (Role Playing Game) or MMORPG (Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game) fan, then it is unlikely that you would enjoy this series. Some video game fans might not like it either. This is a series that you will either like or hate depending on how much you like RPG, or MMORPG, video games.
Set in the not too distant future of 2022 technology has advanced to the point that Virtual Reality (VR) technology has come around, and is used to transport people to the world of a VR video game. On the launch day for Sword Art Online the creator of the game traps people inside it, and makes it so that if you die in the game then you die in reality. If people want out of the game then they need to beat all one hundred floors and beat the final boss.
That pretty much sums up the basics, but there is more to it than just that. Through out the first half of the series it does like to focus on death, survival, and various other themes. The only problem I actually had with the first half is that there are a lot of time skips to the point that you'd wish that there would be more, so that when something happens you have a better reaction. The first half could have been at least double in length since it does span over two years of the players life.
If I start talking about the second half of the series it'll massively spoil half the series, so I'll just skip it.
(If you don't want to read any form of SPOILER's, even tiny ones, then skip this paragraph) What I will say is that at there is no real explanation to why the creator of the game did what he did, but it does leave you with enough information to speculate. Though you could sum the guy up within five minutes of seeing him on screen. There is only two words to describe him: god complex.
The series spends a good number of episodes trying to develop the main character, Kirito, and Asuna. Kirito is a solo-player and wants nothing to do with being in groups. He spends his time hunting and occasionally helping those in need, Asuna on the other hand is a bit more likable, if you are not that fond of Kirito in the first half that is. Asuna starts off, like Kirito, a solo-player but grows a lot faster than Kirito and becomes a member of a guild. Sadly she kind of gets side-lined after the second episode, then returns for a certain amount of episodes, but then get's side-lined for the remaining episodes. I can't say too much, but when she's on-screen is either an awesome character or just a casual anime girl.
The series does like to use Kirito's emotional drive a lot as the series goes on. It is because of this that the first half is so good. It is because of Kirito's fear of getting close to people and, accidently, sending them to they're deaths that really puts the viewer on the spot in certain situations.
I will say this now; there is a lot of character's in the series. Most of which only appear in one episode and are then side-lined, but have significant role to play in terms of developing Kirito. The only problem with this is that when Kirito meet's a new single female character there is a high possibility that she will end up having feelings for him by the end of the episode. The reason why this is a bad thing is because it happens in a lot of anime's for no real reason, apart from the fact that he is the main character.
I'll stop with the characters since if I talk about it too much it'll go into spoiler territory.
ANIMATION & SOUND
If you've already seen clips and trailers for this series then you'd already know that the animation is awesome. It is really high budget animation that you'd expect from the same studio behind Blue Exorcist. There's not a lot to say about it apart from the fact that the show looks beautiful, but awesome at the same time.
The sound on the other hand is really good. The dub is good and the cast nail their roles. The soundtrack on the other hand isn't as good. The soundtrack differs from awesome opening theme songs, to dull standard orchestrated music, then to interesting stand-out tracks, but then back to dull. The soundtrack is only good in certain parts of the series, but when the music get's going it really does set the scene well. This is most noticeable in the second half of the series.
For a series set around video games it's a good one. Though the show does have the tendency to side-line characters that aren't the two leads it still delivers well, though the first half could have been longer so that the emotional impact is a lot bigger. Either way the show does deliver well, despite a few nit-picks you could go into detail in.
Normally I would give a buy or rent/stream option for when I'm reviewing, but this time is a little different (ish). Each part of Sword Art Online contains five to seven episodes per set, so to recommend a buy wouldn't be the best of recommendations. Heck this series would look amazing on Blu-ray. I recommend that if you are an anime or video game fan to give this a try and to stream it. If you enjoyed it as much as I did then I would, one hundred per-cent, recommend a buy, once there is a complete series version available.