The only way to escape is to 'clear' the game. Death in game means actual 'death' ----
The ten thousand who have logged onto the as of yet mysterious game 'Sword Art Online' using their Nerve Gear have been forced into this perilous death game and are trapped inside.
Protagonist Kirito, one of the many gamers, has greeted this 'truth'.
He plays as a solo player in the giant castle that is the stage for this game ---- 'Aincrad'.
To meet the conditions of clearing the game and leaving this twisted virtual world, one of the players has to reach the 100th floor and beat the boss. Will Kirito have what it takes to clear the game, or will he die trying?
"Sword Art Online" or SAO takes our younger generation's fantasy into reality. A virtual reality world. One filled with excitement, beauty, and opportunities to always get stronger. An MMORPG that's more real than reality.
If you play games at all, you'll probably feel an attachment right off the first episode. That dream where you sometimes wish you could've been in another world as we..
The story gets a 10 from me, I hope the story progresses in the same way as episode 1. Being attached to a show is important to enjoy it, and I think this story does it exceptionally well.
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It’s a decent plot. Bunch of people eagerly play a game only to discover they’re trapped there. Not only are they trapped there, but they’re forced (most of them) to play a game against their will and complete it. Dying in the game means dying in the real world as well! This may sound very interesting at first glance, but let’s think about this for a second. We are literally watching a teenager play an MMORPG. And it’s not playing the game on a grand scale. It’s not a title of revenge (Code Geass), tragedy (Clannad), savetheworld (Fate Zero), or any of those iconic animes. It’s simply playing a video game. However (before you suddenly quit this series and decide this review is a waste of time to read) – what Sword Art Online does remarkably well is its execution. A key example is in the first episode. Can anyone seriously watch that first episode and not feel incredible nostalgia watching Kirito and Klein kill those boars? Every single gamer has experienced the same feeling of being weak at the start, not knowing what to do, admiring the scenery, and just wandering around. Sword Art Online executes this perfectly, ranging from the music, the environment, and the feel of the scene. Why do I mention the execution? Because although on paper it’s a pretty weak plot, it’s written in a way that makes you forget how mediocre the plot is. Action happens, and it happens constantly. One scene smoothly flows into the next, so that we are constantly engaged with the story. I’d even argue that proper execution of a plot is more important than the plot itself. Key example is Clannad: we literally watch hours upon hours of how Okazaki helps various girls. Was it boring to watch? Sometimes. Was it kind of pointless? At some parts. Was it still enjoyable? Yes (asides from Fuko…that character seriously annoys me). That’s why I feel like the plot is still solid. It’s not an incredible plot, but the execution pushes it from average to worth watching.
One of the main problems with any anime is its time constraints. It makes sense of why it has to happen: animes are all made on a budget, and the goal is to make an anime that is profitable. Thus, I can promise you 100% that the anime is not going to follow the light novel exactly. Scenes will be cut, and as we can see from episode 2, Aria of the Starless Night, they're going to cut quite liberally. I don’t like the decision, but from a business standpoint, I can see why they did it. However, I’m willing to argue that only people who have read the light novel will notice anything missing from the episode, and thus, if you’re watching this anime for the first time, you’re fine. You probably won’t notice anything. Something else to bring up is the different pacing. Instead of taking the light novel/manga approach of time skipping two years to bring us straight to the main plot and then adding in the side stories, the anime will be following a chronological approach, which means it will likely be the side stories coming in before the main plot arrives. I actually agree with this approach, the reason being that putting in the side stories as a bunch of OVA’s would be a waste; however, those who are diehard fans of the light novels may be severely disappointed.
CONSENSUS: 8/10, the plot is solid but not profound. Fans of the light novels may feel like the anime is missing a lot, but first-time anime viewers likely won’t notice anything. Anime is rushed, and this is a problem. Hopefully the anime will slow down its lightning fast pace when the real bulk of the anime arrives. Are they trying to cram the thing into a season? t.t
A minor gripe I have with the anime is the art. I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed this, but in episode two, the anime took some shortcuts with the animation and art and added a few still frames during the fight sequence. It's barely noticeable, but enough that it may slightly detract from the quality of the anime. I'm really hoping that this gets fixed up in time for some of the more epic battles, especially the PvP dueling fights. In episode three, the anime takes an even lazier approach. They just skip the battle completely (LOL). Faces and proportions are drawn rather nicely (a nice contrast to the crazy facial expressions in Fate Zero and the stick figures in Code Geass), but, even so, could be done slightly better. Asuna, for instance, looked a lot better in the novel. Kirito looked older as well. But for the most part, everything is done to a high enough standard. As for the scenery, it looks great, but it seems kind of budgeted? If you carefully look at the background, you'll see that the anime sometimes takes shortcuts and simply uses a static background. Background still looks gorgeous though, so whatever.
CONSENSUS: 9/10, Shortcuts are taken, but not enough to be noticeable. Faces are done well, but the scenery could be animated more.
Sound is great. It's going to be developed by Yuki Kajiura, the person who did Madoka Magica and Fate Zero. Trust me on this: she does some GREAT music. Right now, the OSTs fit the anime's mood and setting really well and help add a feeling of "epicness". As for the OP/ED, I really like the OP. It’s generic, it’s standard, and I’m pretty sure LiSa has done like half of the OP/ED’s in existence by now, but for some strange reason, after listening to it for a bit, it’s really growing on me. The ED is pretty standard as well, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It fits, unlike some animes (I can’t help but think how much better Clannad AS would’ve been if it had a more appropriate ED!). This is reinforced in episode 3 -- a shot of Kirito crying smoothly transitions into the somber, yet strangely upbeat (paradox?) ED.
CONSENSUS: 10/10, Music is great and going to be developed by one of the best. OP/ED are generic, but that’s not a bad thing.
The characters, on the other hand, are amazing. They are VERY memorable and definitely serve as a strong point. Unlike two other very similar animes, Accel World and Guilty Crown, the protagonist this time around isn't some whiny child with an inferiority complex. He's a complete bad***. Key example is in episode one: instead of being consumed with shock and fear, he immediately realizes the situation and goes ahead to the next town in an attempt to clear the game. Asuna, on the other hand, is hard to define really why she's awesome. Let's just say that after a bit of the anime her actions speak for themselves. As for the side characters, they probably won't get that much time in the anime, but they have a tendency to remain in your mind for a long while afterwards.
CONSENSUS: 10/10, Main character Kirito isn’t absurdly annoying like A LOT of other animes. I really like Asuna, and the supporting cast of characters are distinct and play important roles in the anime.
THE BREAKDOWN: People who have seen my review before will likely be appalled at me changing the anime from a 10 to a 9. I loved the light novels, but unfortunately, it seems like budgeting is going to turn this anime from one of the best animes ever made into simply a great anime. I still highly recommend watching this series, as it’s definitely going to be enjoyable, and definitely worth a watch.