In the year 2022, the Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), Sword Art Online (SAO), is released. With the Nerve Gear, a virtual reality helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain, players can experience and control their in-game characters with their minds.

On November 6, 2022, all the players log in for the first time, and subsequently discover that they are unable to log out. They are then informed by Kayaba Akihiko, the creator of SAO, that if they wish to be free, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. However, if their avatars die in-game, their bodies will also die in the real world. The story follows Kirito, a skilled player who is determined to beat the game.

And so Sword Art Online finally ends.

I’ve decided to not do individual posts for episodes 18-25 and will most likely do this format to finish the rest of my summer series up before new years.

Sword Art Online is one of those series I don’t like to talk about, but at the same time it is one with a special place in my heart. This isn’t a discussion on the light novel series, which is by-far better, but rather one more focused on the anime and its own merits. From this point on, I’ll be taking a more unbiased perspective (i.e. not comparing the source with the anime) and will be writing based on that.

10,000 players are trapped in the virtual world, and they die for real if they die in-game. That’s basically it. This concept is the main plot this anime starts off with. From just a glimpse, the story really does seem quite simple and similar to the .hack franchise, but it actually incorporates some of its own nuances as well. Even though it starts off looking like this will be a survival, adventure type anime….It’s not. Instead it is mainly just time skips of character interactions that give you an episodic feel to it. So is that a bad thing? Well, that’s based on someone’s opinion. For me personally, I don’t mind it. Every episode gives you something important, and contributes the development.

Even though they feel out of place, and the characters act differently in many of the episodes. Take note that the time skips aren’t just a couple of weeks, they can be months. So if a character is depressed, 6 months later, it is unlikely they will still feel depressed. An example is the transition from episode 3 to 4. I don’t blame the author for taking this kind of approach, since it would be very boring just to watch them grind EXP by killing little creatures and beating each floor 1 by 1. The concept of the story is mainly just an attraction, but underneath, there is as much adventure to it as daily life with weapons, monsters and small quests. A lot of times in an MMORPG, the main game isn’t an adventure, it is the suspenseful boss fights you have to work hard to prepare for that keeps your heart pounding. Most of the time, it’s all about teamwork and society. This is the concept people forget, and is a factor of why this anime has so many mixed opinions.

When the real plot started, it felt great. The story just flowed very nicely and allowed us to catch up to where everyone stands at in terms of leveling. The most legitimate problem with this series is definitely the pacing. At times, the anime rushes through the plot which disorganizes the story and development. Although the pacing was a bit rushed, the only times I really felt annoyed was during the Aincrad arc, which lasted the first half of the series.

Another thing to complain about is how the story revolves a lot around miracles, or in other words “Deus ex Machina” such as the power of love being able to override the program. Other than the pacing problems, and the big focus on miracles, the story is very good.

I also love how they incorporated things like society, and adaption to the new virtual world that players must adjust too. When you think about it, this virtual world is just another world similar to that of the previous world they lived in. It was a world that was difficult for players to adapt to at first, so they were extremely eager to escape this world. What was very intriguing was the concept of people adapting to the new world over time. When players feel more comfortable in their new society, they begin to sway from their original goals of going back to reality, and accepted this world. In this situation, people will see that risking their lives to escape the world they took 2 years to adjust to is not worth it, so fewer and fewer players are fighting in the front lines and instead just enjoying their time due to the lack of motivation to escape. Little do they know that there is also a back story to this new world. People are adjusting to virtual life, and don’t have the motivation to leave, but behind the scenes, there is a factor that they had forgotten, which is that their real bodies can’t last for very long in a hospital bed, and that if they don’t escape in time, they will die anyways. It relates to real life how normal people don’t tend to understand what they can’t see with their own eyes.

I don’t like how people think of the story as just some kid’s wet dream. If this kind of anime didn’t exists, there wouldn’t be so much variety. It is the fact that people are viewing this anime for the wrong reasons, and not for what it is.

Overall, I really enjoyed the series, though I will note that the Accel World adaptation was leagues better. Judging by the popularity of both series, I think chances are rather swell that we’ll be getting sequels. I can only hope that they give the sequels either more or longer episodes to work out the pacing issues plaguing the first.

The beauty of this story is not drawn from the characters, story, art or sound but it is the clear presentation of a fantastic virtual world. The onset of nostalgia which many will experience is an alluring factor, but the introduction to this new world and it’s system is so clearly explained, one does not have to have experienced previous MMORPG to fully enjoy this series. SAO plays on our dreams and fantasies while at the same time question the obsessive nature of games and whether our actions in games reflect upon real world situations as well.

Fictitious worlds where nobody really knows each other. Where we can be anyone and do anything. Those places feel like home to gamers and we easily lose ourselves in them. But what we are constantly reminded of within this series, is that there’s no essential difference between the real and virtual worlds. No point in wondering who someone really is, because the person that you come to know is who that person really is. Sword Art Online is certainly a dream for every online gamer of the early 21st century.

With that said and the scores I’ve given each episode here.

I proudly give Sword Art Online a 94/100.