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Anime Reviews: Sword Art Online II

Updated on September 8, 2016
2014; Director: Tomohiko Ito; Studio: A-1 Pictures
2014; Director: Tomohiko Ito; Studio: A-1 Pictures

CAUTION: Contains spoilers. (Like I care.)

History has proven time and again that popularity is not always an indicator of quality. Just because a lot of people like a thing doesn’t always mean that it’s a good thing. Just look at a few examples: boy bands, reality TV, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign…the list goes on. And on the anime front, we have Sword Art Online, one of the worst, most intelligence-insulting pieces of drivel ever made, which despite its terribleness has garnered a big enough fan base for A-1 Pictures to make another season of it. And for Aniplex of America to release it stateside. And for Toonami to broadcast it on basic cable.

Once upon a time, in the realm far removed from reality known as male otaku wish fulfillment, there was a young overqualified swordsman named Kirito. Kirito was a brave lad, and one of those brave lads who are rare outside the confines of fan fiction—a Gary Stu, who is unbelievably awesome and wins every battle without so much a breaking a sweat. Two years ago he was among thousands of MMORPG players who were trapped inside the virtual reality game “Sword Art Online” and had to fight his way to the top level and beat the final boss to escape. This of course was no trouble for Kirito, who with his uncanny swordsman skills and incredible deus-ex-machina luck led the survivors to escape the virtual realm.

And ALL the girls loved him. Literally, every girl within a 50-foot radius, from his future wife Asuna to some random characters who names I can’t remember. Even his own sister loved him. (But that, boys and girls, is called incest, something which despite being a thing in recent anime is actually frowned upon in most civilized nations.)

Kirito is dragged back into the virtual realm when reports are coming in of a mysterious player named “Death Gun” who is somehow killing players in real life through an avatar in a video game—a video game known as “Gun Gale Online,” where players pretty much run around shooting at each other—and he is charged to investigate and put an end to his reign of terror. It is in this game where we meet the newest member of Kirito’s harem: a young lady named Sinon who is even more of a tsundere than Asuna, is an experienced sniper despite being a high school girl who is justifiably terrified of guns following a traumatic incident she had as a child, and who just like Asuna last time, starts out a strong character but ends up needing to be rescued many times by the Gary Stu.

Also, Kirito’s game character is a girl now. I don’t know why, it just is.

Okay, first the good news: there’s less rape this time. Apart from a cringe-inducing moment in episode 12 where Sinon is attacked by one of the players behind Death Gun (who, by the way, is so obvious it’s not even funny), there aren’t as many disgusting moments for the perverts in the audience to gloss over as there were last season. Not that they don’t get enough fan service already, since the people who make this show are all too eager to give us shots of Sinon’s butt every so often. In fact, she and Kirito spend an entire episode holed up in a cave doing absolutely nothing, and I swear that every other shot in that episode gives us conclusive evidence that she has an area of her body designed for the purpose of sitting down. It’s no less distracting here than it was in season one.

Also, much like season one, the main story ends halfway through, and SAO II overstays its welcome YET AGAIN with two stories this time. The first one is a three-parter where Kirito, his harem plus Sinon, and Klein return to “Alfheim Online” for some weird Norse mythology/Arthurian legend mish mash of a quest regarding a sword named Excalibur and some albino Cthulhu Snuffleupaguses. In the second story, Asuna takes center stage when she joins a guild known as the “Sleeping Knights” and befriends a mysterious young lady swordsman named Yuuki who actually does NOT become one of Kirito’s concubines.

But THAT’S only because of a reason that I dislike this show enough to spoil—she’s dying of AIDS. Because AIDS. And she’s dying. Boo freaking hoo.

Suffice to say that just like last season, the first half proves to be more interesting than the second, albeit for different reasons. Whereas the Fairy Dance arc was agonizing to sit through and even robbed me of my innocence, the second half of season two is just…boring. I couldn’t bring myself to care about the Excalibur arc since it was poorly written and confusing, and the rest of it is too busy using Yuuki, a girl character we’ve only just met and barely even know, to jerk the viewer’s emotions around that the action slowly grinds to a halt. At least it introduces us to Asuna’s mother, who despite being stubborn in wanting her daughter to go to a decent school and find a husband actually questioned her still playing virtual games after nearly dying in one. The only character in two whole seasons of this crap with any sense, who feels the same way I do about everybody’s unhealthy obsession with these games, and they cast her as the parent who just doesn’t understand.

Sword Art Online’s second season makes the wise decision of not intentionally grossing out the viewer, and the artwork is about on par with its predecessor. But while it didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out (as much), it is incredibly boring to sit through, and it copies all the other mistakes of season one—poor writing, lack of characterization, forced sentimentality, and the feeling that it was made by a creative team who would rather give you close-ups of a teenage girl’s rear end than advance the plot.

It also doesn’t help that you have to watch season one to understand most of what’s going on in this series. And I will not go down that road again.


Looks about the same as last season with fewer attempted rape scenes
Again, everything else, ESPECIALLY YUUKI

Sword Art Online II: awesome or crap?

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