Sword Art Online II

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38 / M / SF
Posted 8/14/14 , edited 8/14/14
Sword Art Online. As one of the most popular titles in recent years, the name alone conjures a lot of feelings in a lot of people, both positive and negative. On launch day of the popular VRMMORPG (virtual reality massively-multiplayer role-playing game) Sword Art Online, veteran MMO players Kirito and Asuna are among the thousands of people who are suddenly trapped in this lush virtual world, a world where dying in the game means dying for real.

Even after miraculously escaping that nightmare, Kirito enters yet another game--Alfheim Online--a high-flying magic-battle game where he has to forge new alliances and face new enemies to save Asuna from a fate worse than death. Now, two years after the first series aired, Kirito enters the fierce, post-apocalyptic world of Gun Gale Online to tackle another virtual-game murderer. Check out what CR's Newsletter writers have to say about the hotly-anticipated Sword Art Online II!

by Nate Ming (Anonymooo)

I'm in the small crowd that has a bunch of good things to say regarding the original Sword Art Online--from sleek, memorable action scenes to genre-savvy heroes and villains to actually portraying the complete arc of a relationship between two people, the first storyarc did more than people tend to give it credit for. Things kind of crashed and burned in the follow-up arc, but hey, no show is perfect. The action-heavy crowd-pleasing MMO adventure returns in Sword Art Online II, once again thrusting Kirito into a violent virtual world that's being terrorized by a ruthless assassin named DESU GAN DEATH GUN.

I was a little surprised to see that Asuna wouldn't be joining Kirito in the military otaku heaven Gun Gale Online--Kirito is now joined by the lithe, lethal Sinon, a sniper who has quite a few issues to work through both inside and out of the game. So far, it's all been setup--Kirito learning about his mission, getting into Gun Gale Online and learning how to fight and protect himself--but after six episodes, the story's finally starting to gain some momentum. Will Kirito stop Death Gun's nefarious plans (whatever they are)? Will Sinon ever put on a real pair of pants? Will Kirito accidentally and hilariously dismember himself with his lightsaber, because he has to use a freaking sword in a gun-based game? Check out Sword Art Online II to find out the answers to these and other pressing questions!

by Eclipsed_Oblivion

The biggest anime of 2012 was undoubtedly Sword Art Online, so it’s no surprise that it’s back for a second season, Sword Art Online II. This time, in a game called Gun Gale Online (GGO), rumour has it that players killed by a user known as Death Gun die in real life, so the government hires our protagonist, Kirito, to investigate this by playing GGO. Certainly, many aspects of this new season are fantastic. GGO’s primary weaponry consists of various guns, and it’s obvious how much effort the animation studio put into designing them. In combination with such high quality animation, the intricately detailed guns make for fantastic battle sequences. GGO’s grim setting of a post-apocalyptic city also generates great contrast from the fantasy lands of the previous in-series games, and this makes Sword Art Online II different enough from its first season that it doesn’t feel like a complete rehash. As well, the new character that helps introduce both us and Kirito to GGO, Sinon, is a competent female so interesting that, rather than just existing to generate interest in the new season, she feels like a wholly necessary, worthwhile addition to the series.

However, Sword Art Online II’s attempts to correct the problems from last season backfire. One of the first season’s main problems was being too fast paced, so season two tries to compensate by being exceedingly slow. While the plot does start to pick up around episode four, until then very little plot progression occurs to the point that what should be meaningful character revelations feel like filler. Part of this stems from the first few episodes focusing so intensely on Sinon that it seems like the series is trying too hard to make her appeal to viewers. Most uncomfortable, however, is how the series acknowledges the unwarranted sexualization of female gamers in real life, which would normally be acceptable, except that Sword Art Online II neither offers solutions nor disapproval of this. Rather, it verges on this unnecessary sexualization itself, which is jarring and negates having complex female characters in the first place. While this undeniably taints Sword Art Online II, it still is visually excellent with a captivating environment, and it does have intricate female characters at its core. While it’s debatable whether Sword Art Online II is as good as the first half of Sword Art Online, it’s certainly intriguing enough to be considered better than the somewhat infamous second half.

by Zerogouki

Let's get this out of the way to begin with: If you liked the first season, there's very little chance that you won't like this as well. The fundamentals are all the same, and they're hitting all the same conventional buttons they did last time around: Nice character designs and effective animation with the occasional cool effect, fight scenes that are just long enough to be enjoyable without overwhelming, Kirito simultaneously being a comically perfect unstoppable badass protagonist (he even has a motorcycle!) and a hapless "nice guy" harem lead, and pretty girls fighting other people in a video game. If that's all you need, then rest assured, the recipe is still firmly in place.

For the rest of us, it's a little lacking. Nothing about it is all that bad, but conventional and sometimes even cliche (the bullying scene in episode 2 in particular feels like the product of someone dusting off a 30-year-old script and changing the names) material, even done excellently, can only go so far, and this is just slightly above par. What does stand out are the visuals, as always: The world of Gun Gale Online has a much more exciting look than the previous two game worlds, and just feels different, both in visuals and dynamics. Unlike the other two, it almost seems like something that'd be interesting if it were a real game (not to mention, the costumes and the backgrounds look rather similar to two of Mamoru Oshii's live action films about video games, Avalon and Assault Girls, a pleasantly surprising bit of inspiration for a series like this). New character Sinon is a welcome addition, although it's yet to be seen how much she'll really add to the series. All the little things that work well add up to something, but if you've watched the first season -- or just about any middle-of-the-road light fanservice and action show from the past ten years -- you've already seen it.

by Koda89

I'll be upfront, the first season of Sword Art Online was very polarizing for me. I had issues with the pacing, the writing, the characters, and especially the treatment of its female characters, particularly in the now rather infamous Fairy Dance arc. I eventually resigned myself to just enjoying the spectacle of it all. The great character designs, the fluid animation filled with various little visual effects, the amazing soundtrack, and above all else the captivating action scenes. So far Sword Art Online II has fixed many of the issues I had with Sword Art Online, while maintaining everything that I did like, even improving on them. Whereas the first season had pacing issues out the wazoo that more or less contributed in some way to every other issue I had with it, this season is actually taking its time to properly build the characters and the plot. While the female characters had simply awful treatment in the first season, Sinon, a sniper who shows Kirito how to play Gun Gale Online, has been amazing as a character to this point.

On top of that, Gun Gale Online looks like a much more entertaining game than either for the first season's games, trading in the fantasy worlds for a cyberpunk hellhole. And the guns look amazing, with the majority of them being based on real life firearms. Of course, seeing how Kirito is nothing without a sword, he manages to find a knockoff lightsaber to use as his primary weapon. So far the animation and action scenes have been top notch like always, but it is never like that is ever a bad thing to have. However, not all of my problems have been addressed yet. Chief among them is Kirito is still the lord and savior of this series, showing up people every chance he can get. Unfortunately at this point I think that's something I'll have to just live with because I don't think it'll ever be changed. All in all Sword Art Online II has been a vast improvement over the first season in nearly every possible way. And while the jury is still out on what the entire season's quality will be, Sword Art Online II is one of the standouts of the Summer 2014 season and a must watch for fans of the first season and I recommend even those who didn't like the first season all that much to at least give it a shot. [Ed. Note- GIVE IT A SHOT, GET IT]

by Dingofist

Two steps forward, one step back. Such seemed to be the entire production philosophy of 2012’s smash-hit Sword Art Online. SAO was a walking conundrum, presenting viewers dazzling animation and surprisingly dark/interesting themes just as often as it shoved flat characters and lackluster stories down its audience’s throat. For everything it did right, one could bank on the notion that a negative turn was just around the corner.

With all that in mind, it is a bit depressing yet mildly comforting that the sequel series (imaginatively dubbed Sword Art Online II) continues on its path with this same uneven pace. The setting is completely new this time around, eschewing SAO’s fantasy role-playing world for the grittier, grimier online shooter Gun Gale Online. For some, this may be a welcome change of pace, but for me it’s overall an inferior world to move the characters into. Some of the original SAO’s best moments came when storylines reinforced the idea that every character was still just an avatar in a videogame, and thus far SAO2 fails to do that for me. GGO rarely feels like a game as much as it does an excuse for the action. Also left behind are much of the original’s cast members, benched in favor of newcomer Sinon, a rifle-toting badass with a shockingly tragic backstory. Her character itself is somewhat interesting, and it’s nice to have a new pair of eyes showing us around this new game, but I don’t find her especially appealing or likable, and the camera has an unfortunate tendency to linger uncomfortably close to her crotch and rear-end for an equally uncomfortable amount of time.

Still, SAO2 is a sequel, and in that respect I think thus far it’s been a successful one. The show's strengths remain intact, and the new main conflict of player-killing is definitely something to sink your teeth into. Unfortunately, the aforementioned flaws continue to rear their ugly heads and hold what would otherwise be an excellent show firmly in the muck of mediocrity. But then, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t having fun...even when I’m burying my face deep into both palms.

by cardboard_shark

Sometimes a small change can make a big difference. I had trouble getting into the first season of Sword Art Online, mostly because the subject matter was outside my interests. I’ve never finished a fantasy RPG or put any significant time into an MMO of any kind, so the “game becomes real” premise simply didn’t appeal to me. Having never really played the games the series took inspiration from, I frequently felt a step behind the story. It was like being back in high school, when some of my friends constantly argued about character builds in World of Warcraft. With the new season’s introduction of Gun Gale Online, however, things have changed a bit. As a big fan of the Mass Effect and Borderlands franchises, I suddenly felt like the characters were speaking my language.

That, I suspect, is both the strength and weakness of anime set in a virtual world. If you’re familiar with the series’ chosen game genre, it’s easy to picture yourself in the main character’s shoes. Your brain quickly goes to work critiquing the tactics and equipment on display, which helps immerse you in the show’s world. (Sniper rifle? Please, Sinon. DMR and shotgun for life!) On the other hand, if you don’t know the tropes and jargon being tossed around, the show can have the opposite effect and put a wall between you and the characters. For me, the new season of Sword Art Online is far more approachable, and I have a much better time sitting back and enjoying the impressive action sequences. Your mileage, however, may vary if your stack of Halo games doesn’t outnumber your Final Fantasy collection.

by Peter Fobian (Onymous)

Sword Art Online has been a series that always defied my expectations. After years of .Hack// and its multitude of spin-offs, I was prepared to say that everything that could be done with the “trapped in an MMO concept” had been done. The fact that it was so undeniably great was a welcome surprise to me. The granularity with which the series approaches the smallest intricacies of player interactions with an immersive MMO was fascinating. Likewise the single and apparent antagonist and mortal consequences of the characters being trapped in a game brought a new edge to a plot device which usually only provides a vague sense of mystery. The addition of a strong female lead in Asuna and a romance between the protagonists which skipped much of the protracted awkwardness of many anime pairings was an unbelievable breath of fresh air. As my expectations rose, however, a new arc dropped many of the features of the series which I felt made it truly unique to be replaced by a number of narrative tropes. Now on the decline, the new season has once again experienced a huge paradigm shift to make the story anew.

Sword Art Online 2 has given me some cautious optimism. Some tie-ins from the first story arc which I was really hoping would happen have finally emerged which promise to finally conclude some unresolved plot lines. I was initially displeased with the original supporting cast taking a back seat in this season, especially when it may have provided Asuna with another opportunity to show her individual strength as a character. Instead, Sword Art Online 2 has introduced the character Sinon as a total reboot of the strong female role in the series. Despite some severe stereotyping in her character, I’m hoping to see some good development that allows her to last where Asuna was denied. Despite my initial apathy regarding the new, gun-focused MMO setting, I’m starting to see the same attention to detail and player-game interactions which originally drew my interest to the first arc. Once again we find the story dropping everything it has established to build it all anew. The new season presents the series with an opportunity to grow back into its original strengths so long as it avoids its previous missteps.

by edsamac

The Sword Art Online universe as conceived by Reki Kawahara (under the pen name Fumio Kunori) spans several arcs that introduce a world transitioning between the boundaries of virtual and augmented reality. It is this concept that drives the whole series forward as a conducive setting for an immersive story, which I akin to something along the lines of the Matrix. That said, I can't help but feel that the mixed sentiments received by the series, as a whole, is but a reflection of how people would have liked the series to have progressed. The third arc (Phantom Bullet) dubbed second season revolves around Gun Gale Online as Kirito is propelled from gaming hero to commissioned detective. It's a large change of pace that derails from the originally omnibus format of the initial arc (Aincrad), as well as the overly dramatic hodgepodge that was the second arc (Fairy Dance). That said, it makes sense to believe that each installment (not to mention each novel) was decidedly unique in terms of presentation and pace of storytelling. To assume the series should have a uniform presentation all throughout is nothing short of bland and monotonous, but comes at the expense of a rather disjointed series sum total.

Regardless, Sword Art Online II is perhaps the most estranged of the bunch, discarding the full color palette and tossing aside the careless abandon of adventure in the grand frontier in exchange for olive drab, high-tension, trigger-happy mayhem. Snow capped mountains and forests of green are replaced with post apocalyptic cityscapes and barren wastelands. All the girls in the previous arcs take a back seat while Sinon, the new girl, comes front and center - even to the point of ousting Kirito as the central player in the whole story. At present, SAO II probably suffers most from two clashing plots that are equally dominant but not nearly as submissive. Wrestling between the (heavy) backstory of Sinon on top of Kirito's mission of uncovering the secrets behind the deaths attributed to playing Gun Gale Online, the story seems as battered as it is confused. Regardless, the show can be appreciated for its bold attempt at being sufficiently different from its predecessor, yet accommodating to fans of the show. Don't get me wrong - the story is still fascinating, but the critic in me longed for a more careful, thoughtful execution. There's still much to look forward to, however, so I wouldn't recommend giving up on the series just yet.

by SlayerNatsu

Sword Art Online is finally back! I owe SAO for sparking my interest in the MMO genre. I loved the first season so much so that I bought a subscription to Final Fantasy XIV. Sword Art Online had a fantastic story, lovable characters, stunning visuals, and amazing setting; that I quickly became addicted to the show. That being said, it's understandable that I had high expectations for Sword Art Online II

Now that Sword Art Online II is being simulcast on Crunchyroll, we can lose ourselves again. Understandably, the first few episodes start off annoying slow, but picks up after episode three. The new setting is so-so, it's intriguing with the whole gun aspect for sure, but Kirito using a light saber replica is eye rolling to say the least. The art style, music, and story are all top notch, which is a welcome comfort. Villain-wise, Death Gun is extremely cool/menacing, and (without giving spoilers) he has connections to the first season. I recommend giving the new season a try for those unfamiliar with SAO and highly recommend it to series vets!

by FloydYoder

Sword Art Online was a huge surprise coming out of the gate. The animation was crisp, the MMO they were trapped in was interesting and the characters were fun. Sure its second arc was lackluster but overall it was a new take on the trapped-in-an -MMO concept and absolutely worth the time watching.

So when I became aware of the second series I was excited to see what direction they'd take the story. So far my reaction has been mixed. On the positive, there are interesting concepts that are present in the MMO of this series, Gun Gale online. It's fairly refreshing to see a setting that is based off of firearms and cover instead of fantasy swordplay. The introduction of predictive lines add to a lot of suspense since there is a real tension when a major character, like sniper rifle wielding Sinon is caught off balance and the predictive lines appear on her body. In moments like that you know there are only 2 ways it can go, they are either dead or someone has to hit the shooter quickly to throw their aim off. Sadly the sequel isn't without problems. One of the things that made the first Sword Art Online so interesting was that the game itself was perilous. The stakes were so high since even farming rats could get you actually killed if you were not careful. In the case of Gun Gale Online the only real threat is the mysterious Death Gun, who kills people in real life via the game. But the biggest problem is it is so slow . The first episode is dominated by Kirito eating dessert with some guy and the fourth episode is mostly Kirito shopping.

So here's my verdict: There is a lot of potential for Sword Art Online 2 but it'll never reach that potential unless it picks up the pace. It has all the ingredients to be great: Good animation, interesting world to discover alongside the protagonist and some good characters. All it needs is a push in pace.

by hanachan

I've always enjoyed MMO's, and I have a few friends who play them hardcore and practically live the games, so when Sword Art Online came out I was pretty excited. I loved the fantasy world and the characters, as well as the story buildup. Kirito's main character win powers have always been pretty hilarious, and they've never gotten irritating the way similar things have in other series. Other than the unfortunate nerfing of Asuna and disturbing incestuous undertones of the second story arc (sorry, but that's gross and they were still cousins, even if not actual siblings), the series has been really fun and engaging. And Sword Art Online II continues the momentum, starting with a new shooting MMO, Gun Gale Online, a new female main character, and a new super villain.

I have to say, so far the buildup in the new season has been pretty slow, but the more I watch the more intriguing it is. They've given new main female character, Sinon, a pretty intense backstory that's definitely going to affect her actions throughout whatever happens. The villain, DESU GAN Death Gun, has ties to the original SAO game. Also, Kirito has a light saber. Win all around. I'm really interested in seeing how Sinon and Kirito work together to defeat DESU GAN Death Gun, and I'm even more interested to see if Asuna actually gets to do anything useful in the story, since so far she's nothing but a minor side character. T_T Even though it took a little while (okay, it didn't get super good until, like, episode five) to get into this season, I'm hooked now and dying by inches as I wait for each new episode. You can totally see why Sword Art Online II gets enough views to crash Crunchyroll every time a new episode airs, and I think we should all join in breaking the site every Saturday at 9:30am PDT!

Are you currently watching Sword Art Online II? How do you like the direction the story is taking? Just what is DESU GAN Death Gun up to? Let us know what you think!
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Posted 8/16/14 , edited 8/17/14

Anonymooo wrote:

Sword Art Online. As one of the most popular titles in recent years, the name alone conjures a lot of feelings in a lot of people, both positive and negative. On launch day of the popular VRMMORPG (virtual reality massively-multiplayer role-playing game) Sword Art Online, veteran MMO players Kirito and Asuna are among the thousands of people who are suddenly trapped in this lush virtual world, a world where dying in the game means dying for real.

Now this is probably just me but I read it as if they were veterans from day one.

Kirito was probably a veteran in MMO's and slight veteranish in VRMMO's games, he had knowledge of SAO caused from former knowledge and participance in SAO's Beta, only 1000 people were allowed into the Beta if I remember correctly. He also showed to be highly knowledgeable in a computers deeper workings considering how fast he seperated Yui's main program from the Cardinal system thus saving her.

Asuna on the other hand was the opposite of a veteran when she joined she was more akin to a slightly knowledgeable noob forced to gain the skills and knowledge needed to survive after joining SAO.

I just wanted to be kinda derpy and say this cause why not (It's not like I have much of a life anyway *sob sob*)
I love SAO though xD But I feel as if SAO2 could take things a little faster... like... at least a little faster.
9182 cr points
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Posted 8/20/14 , edited 8/21/14
I LOVE SAO! I have used it to pull so many of my friends into the anime fold! It is great, the feels are so real, and the animation is beautiful. Not all reviews have to stretch to find negatives, or present problems. Don't be that guy that has to always find something wrong to feel credible. We all know that this series is a masterpiece, and is creating so much buzz worldwide towards anime and mmos. Thanks SlayerNatsu for saying what we all feel!!!
9082 cr points
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Posted 8/20/14 , edited 8/20/14
I find myself continuing to watch the SAO II series because I want to see where it leads me, but not because I'm actually invested in it interest-wise. I feel like the potential SAO had and the direction they take it never meet each time. I'm starting to accept that nothing will be as daring as the first arc of the series as well as that this series is a watered down action series and more of a drama/romance series. It comes across on the surface as an action series because of the main characters clear circumstances, but at the heart of it all the writers want you to care more about pairings and the progression of friendships/relationships between people. The first arc displays this when they could ACTUALLY die in that world, we're on a honeymoon with Asuna and Kirito, though they remain to act awkward with each other. The second arc, with the "sister situation" and the child they adopt….aaannndd now this season. Sometimes the potential of plot outweighs the delivery of the actual show and that's exactly what this show has been.
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Posted 8/20/14 , edited 8/21/14
I believe the team wanted to try a different approach in reviewing the series. Given the popularity of the show, we wanted to be a little more critical so as to balance out the reviews and not make this look like a praise fest.

I honestly think that the SAO franchise should be appreciated along the lines of the ecosystem that it creates. The whole series is actually in continuity with what will eventually bridge out to the story of Accel World (read up on the UnderWorld arc and how this introduces time-lapse differences as experienced in Accel World). In that regard, what's most fascinating about SAO is how they brought up the concept of a virtual world, its impact on human relations, and the human response in the contrast brought about between an individual's perceived "online self" and their own personal reality and historicity.

The magnitude of the theme is huge, making way for multiple interpretations. This is why I likened the themes presented in this show to the Matrix. It's a profound topic and it tugs at the heart strings (feels) of many people because they can resonate to it. Because of that, there will be a lot of criticisms regarding the manner of executing such themes and whether or not SAO actually does justice to it. It's a little ironic, but that's what's happening at the moment.

I agree with crudevigilante when he says that certain cliches like "character pairing" in a pseudo-harem set up (I'm assuming Kirito is faithful to Asuna) is typical of most shounen shows. Not to mention the strangely heightened fan service towards Sinon in her *ahem* shorts - it seems a bit askew from what I'm used to in the first season. Sure, there was fan service here and there before - but the current iteration seems to be making up for the bleak color palette with a little Sinon-camera-love. But meh, YMMV.

TheKrister2 wrote:

Asuna on the other hand was the opposite of a veteran when she joined she was more akin to a slightly knowledgeable noob forced to gain the skills and knowledge needed to survive after joining SAO.

If I'm not mistaken, they ARE both veterans in MMORPGs. Asuna is quite versed in playing video games, and she even uses gaming terms quite fluently. The person you're describing is more of Silica who actually gained her skills from partnering here and there with, er... fans. :p
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