First Impressions: Sword Art Online II

Aaaaaaahhh……..Sword.  Art.  Fricking.  Online……… Who would’ve thought that, after watching Sword Art Online more than a year ago, I would be sitting here on my favorite couch spot on a warm summer night with a cup of french vanilla and a bunch of Jammie Dodger while writing a first impression of its second season.

I sure as hell didn’t.

Despite the hype it garnered prior to its release, Sword Art Online, generally, was a bit of disappointment for most members of the community.  It had a nice start, a promising premise, a wonderful Yuki Kajiura soundtrack, and impressive actions scenes; it had everything going for it.  However, by the time the second arc happened, everything just-

Wait a sec……..

Oh.

That was my draft for my Sword Art Online review.

Meh, whatever, it works.

You guys get my point.

Now that SAO 2 has been released, and with 4 episodes already out (by the time of this first impressions), hype has been garnered once more.  However, since season one, along with that hype came….well….the opposite of hype.  People are already judging the show before it has even started.  So the question of the hour is:  where does SAO 2 stand after 4 episodes (by the time of this first impressions)?

Does it provide promising potential, like the first half of the first season?  Or does it fall as flat and generic as the second part?

And, most importantly, what do I think about it?

What’s up everyone, and welcome to my First Impressions article.  My name is Ken, from prince_kouhii’s Anime Reviews, and today, we are taking a glimpse onto the initial few episodes of Sword Art Online’s FPS successor:  Sword Art Online II.

Now, before I carry on, I must put a disclaimer that these are MY opinions and only concern what I think of the FIRST FEW EPISODES AS INDICATED.  Therefore, if you have any opinion or complaints about my opinion, or this show, my opinion of this show, or if you just wanna rant about guns, generic characters, phallic weapons, cameras with a primary intent to pan to the rear end of a teenage girl, campers, sunsets, rocky wastelands, steam-punk cities, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Halo, Borderlands, or any other FPS games out there in the market for all your murdering needs, then please direct them to the comments section down below.

Alrighty, I think that does it for the intros.  It’s time to allons-y into this first impressions.

Shall we begin?

First off, the premise:

 A year after the events of the original SAO (you know, players were trapped in the game and got killed in real life), Kirito is approached by a representative of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Department “VR Division”.  The representative requested that Kirito should lead an investigation of the “Death Gun” incident that occurred in a VRMMO called Gun Gale Online (GGO).  This particular incident involved a mysterious entity known as the Death Gun, who has the ability to kill people in real life by killing their avatars in the game.  Skeptical about this, Kirito reluctantly agrees and dives into the realm of GGO.
 
Kirito wanders in an unfamiliar world in order to gain any clues about the “Death Gun”.  He encounters a female sniper, Sinon, who then proceeds to help him in his mission. With Sinon’s help, Kirito decides to enter the “Bullet of Bullets,” a large tournament to choose the most powerful gunner within the realm of GGO, in hopes to become the target of the “Death Gun” and make direct contact with the mysterious avatar.

For the premise, I would say it has both its high points and low points.  On one hand, the classic VMMORPG is still interesting, and the added concept of more jeopardy to the game in the form of Death Gun pumps up the danger level without necessarily taking away the whole “game-style” concept.  However, the problem is the length of the series and how it would coincide with the actual plot.  Slated at 24 episodes, that’s quite a lot of time to develop such a concept.  Fillers are definitely imminent.  Now, I’m not saying that fillers are necessarily bad, but with a premise as interesting as this, having fillers only serve to irritate viewers who are expecting good stuff out of the plot, especially for seasonal viewers who patiently await every week for an exciting episode.  But so far I am content with what’s going on so far, which isn’t saying much since I went into this show without much expectations.

For as for the soundtrack, it’s Yuki Kajiura; it’s bound to be at least above average, and for SAO II, it does a pretty solid job.  Although sometimes I can’t help but think that some tracks were heavily inspired by the first season’s soundtrack, but meh, you don’t fix what’s not broken, right? Also, the OP and ED themes are AMAAAAZIIIIING.  Ignite, the anime’s OP theme, sung by Eir Aoi, is a perfect fit for a sure like Sword Art and reminds me a little bit of Crossing Fields, in the sense that they both portray the show brilliantly.  The ED theme, Startear, by the amazing Luna Haruna, is one of those rare ED themes that made me emotional, even more so when I look up the lyrics.  Take a listen to it the next time you watch this show if you haven’t seen it yet.  You owe it to yourself to do so, trust me.

Animation is pretty nice as well, being from A-1 pictures and all.  Nothing much has changed prior to the standard VMMORPG aesthetics, but 2 new aspects were also introduced, and those were the actual world of GGO, and the firearms (both the exterior look and the actual system of how the firearms are used), and to be honest I was impressed.  The guns and rifles in the show looked pretty damn solid and realistic, and the shooting mechanics interfaces look exactly like what you would find in most FPS, so I have no complaints about that.  The actual world of GGO looks amazing.  It kinda has that futuristic, cyberpunk look to it that just brilliantly blend in to the game itself.  Another featured landscape is a certain canyon-wasteland area, which looks fantastic in the sunset.

If I have any complaints, its in the minor character design details.  Other GGO players don’t really look that remarkable.  Sure, you can argue that they may be people who just happen to have bought the same armor at the local store, but still.  Aren’t these games a little more, you know, character-customizable? But, overall, I’m impressed with the animation of the show so far, and I look forward to how the longer battle-scenes would look like.

Now, probably the aspect that I care about the most:  the characters.  And by CHARACTERS, I meant CHARACTER, as nobody really changes except for the newly introduced Sinon; Kirito is still the same Mary Sue character who gets all the bitches, Asuna is still gushing over her husbando, you know, the usual.  Now, how does Sinon make up for those two being all generic and stuff?  Why, by being a character that we can relate to, understand, and actually care about.  So far, SAO II did a great job at developing Sinon’s character; they gave her a rational backstory, a purpose, and a brilliant personality that has a load of potential.  Unlike OTHER FEMALE CHARACTERS IN THIS SHOW.

Yeeaaaaahhhh……………………..no.

Now, with all that in check…

What I want to happen:

  1. Develop Sinon’s character more.  

    Make her the focal point of the series.  She has a lot of potential as of the moment and the series should revolve around her and her internal struggles.

  2. Develop the central story arc.  

    24 episodes is a lot.  SAO II should somehow equally spread out the plot onto each episode carefully so as to not overly saturate some episodes and leave the others with pointless filler.

  3. Keep the soundtrack, but also add new stuff.

    No complaints about the soundtrack, just add a bit more, Kajiura-san.

  4. Keep the other characters out of the limelight.

    And by “the other characters”, I am of course referring to Asuna and Silica and Liz and all the others.  They would just provide useless drama fodder at this point.

  5. SETTING.  

    I love what they did so far with the landscapes and the designs for the various stages in GGO.  Please continue that.

In essence, SAO II has exceeded my expectations so far, which isn’t saying much really, considering that I didn’t expect much from the show anyways.  But the thing I thought about having low expectations about a show is that it can only go uphill from there, and SAO II, so far, is pressing the right buttons and hitting all the targets.  Well…most of them anyways.  Hopefully it doesn’t fall flat on its face by starting off really promising and exciting and ending like total shite……..

I’m looking at you, season 1…..

If I have piqued your interest in this show, you can fortunately stream it on Crunchyroll, although premium subscription to their site is required to access the newest episodes as soon as they arrive at the time of this first impressions.  Nevertheless, it still pays to visit the site, as they have a wide selection of anime, streamed legally for your viewing pleasure.

As per usual, leave a comment down below pertaining to your thoughts on this topic, on the show itself, or if you would like me to review or make a first impression about anything.  And, speaking of liking, give the review a thumbs-up if you enjoyed it.

With that, I leave you, and until next time, ladies, gentlemen, and others, this has been Ken, and I’ll see you guys in the future.

 

One Comment

  1. I watched the entire first season of SAO and it was honestly a let down. Personally, I think the series as a whole, not just the anime, was a mary sue author self-insert. I’ll probably check this one out at some point for the action and I guess what plot it has, but after Sword Art Online(I just prefer to call this Gun Gale Online instead of SAO season 2), it’s not too high on the priority list this season.

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