Flashback: Sword Art Online

saoIn the wake of advancing technology, we follow a group of youngsters who are trapped in a virtual world and have to fight their way out. They face different hardships with their skills and morals are put to the test.

Sword Art Online faced a lot of criticism during its run. In some way it was to be expected. After a very strong first episode, the show spiraled down into mediocrity. The studio, A-1 pictures, had a lot of room to play with. Instead they choose the safe route and exploited multiple trending topics, even tentacles. Despite all the downsides of this series, I want to focus on the positive side of things, and explore the potential of the show.

Sword Art Online took place in a virtual world where many people gather to conquer many different quests. Little did they know that before they entered, that they would become a test subject for the original creator of the game. The only way to escape was to defeat all enemies and reach the last stage of the game.

Of course not everybody was ready to reach the end and died along the way. Resulting in death in the real world. With this element, playing games got a new meaning. Life, death and entertainment were mixed together.

In the virtual world many people choose different sides to reach the finish. Players would conquer quests to boost their skill and others would rob other players to gain experience and weaponry. In games people get the freedom to choose a side to their liking. Giving the player a possibility to fulfill an evil fantasy or become a savior in a digital environment.

sao 2Sword Art Online showed a development in which games become more and more immersive. Giving players the possibility to move a digital body with their thoughts, becoming one with the virtual characters they move with. Interacting in a world with others on a much more intimate level that resembles the real world, fading the borders between reality and fiction.

Sword Art Online used a lot of cliché story elements such as; a strong main character, a young girl who accompanies the main character and an evil entity responsible for all the horrors that had befallen the players of Sword Art Online. Still Sword Art Online explored a lot of elements present in gaming. Building your characters, interacting with other players and creating clans and teams to win the game.

Because Sword Art Online focused heavily on the online gaming element, it could have done more in explaining game physics and the fading line between reality and fiction. The impact on the daily lives of the characters in a world with advanced gaming possibilities was kept unexplored. This gave great possibilities to tell a story in which youngsters have trouble coping with their normal lives, because of the overwhelming and immersive virtual worlds available at their homes. Sword Art Online could have done a lot more story wise, still it delivered a decent story with too many cliché elements that ruined the overall feel of the show.


7 thoughts on “Flashback: Sword Art Online

  1. skycells says:

    I was really looking forward to SAO before it aired; I even went ahead and read the light novels. Sadly it disappointed me when it aired and was rather forgettable in my opinion.
    In addition to all of the cliché elements, it just seemed really rushed since they wanted to cram Aincrad and Alfiem into the first season. Wasted potential, as you said.

    • ninetybeats says:

      I think they wanted to make it a cash cow. Something that would please the readers, because the novels sold very well. So the most important audience would be the novel readers I believe.

  2. milesvibritannia says:

    I actually enjoyed SAO a good deal, though I definitely agree with the points you made. SAO started off pretty strong (I for one loved the Sachi episode) but it didn’t act on its potential nearly as much as I wish it did. The character development disappointed me since it felt like a lot of the characters didn’t grow a whole lot and there were a bunch of deus ex machinas that bothered me. In particular I really disliked episode 14 because of how rushed it was and just how many plot-induced things happened for the sake of ending the arc. ALO, while not as awful for me as it seems to have been for many others, also disappointed me because it lacked the intensity and seriousness of Aincrad because of the lack of the death element. Felt like it could’ve done a lot of things better but in the end I still enjoyed it, though not as much as I had hoped I would. But if nothing else, I can say that I LOVED both of the openings to SAO. Fantastic songs in my opinion and I listen to them all the time.

      • milesvibritannia says:

        It’s a strange thing, I had fun with it all the same but there were definitely areas I wish it expanded on. I heard the novels were a good deal better though so I want to check those out. Perhaps those might explore the mechanics and details behind the game world a bit better?

      • ninetybeats says:

        I heard they indeed explain a bit more. I considered reading them, but the anime was as I said disappointing, meaning I lost interest:p There are many other manga and novels out there that can also be read. But if you feel like reading it, heck give it a try.

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