Honestly, I dont dabble much in making own reviews, English is not my primary languaje and mostly if something has already been said I dont feel the need to say it myself. In this case I felt the urgency to cast a stone because: all good reviews I ve read are fanboyism and all bad reviews seem from college graduate anime critics who seem to have been somehow personally aggravated by the producers. I really cant understand if bad reviewers hate this anime so much how come they made such an effort?? I ve read two pages bad reviews of SAO!! An from people who admit to have watched it twice!!! Come on!!
I dont think SAO is perfect, no anime is (except for FMA:B, of course) I wouldnt put it in in a top five but IT IS IN MY TOP FIVE, I think thats the poblem with the great difference in opinions about this show, that peoplo who like it, reeeeally like it and people who dont think their main purpose on earth is to discredit the series and its followers. And the reason why it is in in my top five is because all the things thar are clearly wrong about this anime dont care to me, and the things that might be wrong about this anime (things that you wont like, but thats your personal taste) in my opinion contribute to the strong points. So I will list 3 categories, clearly wrong , relative and strong points
Clearly wrong: the villains, the are either to short seen (the creator of SAO), confusing and unconvincing (Death Gun) or honestly a joke (elf dude in Alfheim)
the passage betwen SAO and Alfheim, its a letdown, definitedly. I can dig the borderline incestuous onee-chan, that feels so Japanese, but going from certain death to waste-time-having-to backtrack actually feels like the wiped something in a hurry to go on with the show
Mother´s rosario arc: the actual story behind the knigths is gritting and emotional, but upfront it just seemed dum.
Relative stuff: Harem: I personally dont like it, if this was a harem show I wouldnt like it, but as a shounen with harem, specially where the harem does not hurt the main strong points, I simply dont care. Yes, Kirito is the ladies boss, so what, in real life hot girls are the bosses everywhere so its a match
Combat system: When you have a 900 episodes series like Naruto yo expect to understand the mechanics behind every move and jutsu, SAO is a anime for gamers, as Warcraft live action movie is for WoW fans, if you dont know the subject you might come to like it but you wont have as many details laid in from the start. For example, a gamer would know from the start everything related to an MMORPG, classes, skills, weapons, party formation, strategic and battle tactics, items, quests and side quests, etc, etc. Obviously you dont get an explanation of oll this in the series. In fact, Warcraft movie also has the same haters/lovers mixed reviews, maybe its common to all shows aimed to a specific segment, thats what we get after GOT mainstreamed high fantasy in cable TV.
bland characters, this is tricky, I reckon characters in this show ARE bland, and not only side chars, but mains as well. I could have put this in clearly wrong section but again, having bland characters (specially inside the games) is a part of the critical condradiction that for me is the golden heart of the show. there may be more but Im tired of typing
The strong points: Evasion. This is an anime about teenagers living in a world where they can escape their reality, do things they cannot do in the actual society. This is of course no new topic and is also very Japanese like since you can see that phenomenon actually there; but in some way modern society outside Japan is also turning into that. People are transforming human relationship skills into social networking skills; now is more important the selfie you took than the things you experienced visiting a place, peoplo have more friends and are most times more sociable online than in real life. The characters in this show (I mean the actual humans) are anti social, traumatized, repressed whilst their avatars are popular, strong, loved-all-around. If you hadnt "bland characters" you wouldnt get that yuxtaposition. And the silver lining is that in the end, this boys and girls that went to a digital world to evade their sad reality made friends and found love and brought that love to their actual lives. To me is like the endind in "Neverending story" where the boy tries to bring to his stranged dad the water of life but it vanishes as soons as he leaves the fantasy world and as his tears roll down his face his father reckons he actually brought back the water of life. For me thats powerfull, maybe because I see myself there, bu then, when have you actually felt something if you dont see yourself in that place.
Emotions: Emotions in this show are real, characters may be bland, but their backgrounds are well stablished and their emotions as events unfold are visceral. The confusion when they cant log out of SAO, thats brilliant The horror when they find out they find out abuout perma death, the mixture of bravery and stubborness of kirito of fighting front line in spite of the danger, the crush between kirito and asuna may not be very elaborated but the loving relationship they describe afterwards is actually touching, the digital parenthood of Yui and their pain when they loose her, kirito´s sister forbbiden and hopeless love for him, shinons trauma (epic). The sad story of terminal patients in mothers rosario arc. All these may be ill connected between each other but no one can deny they are deeply touching.
The music: Again, not in my favourite 3 (SNK and FMA) but i had never seen two intros as good as Crossing fields and Ignite son close to each other. Most series have one outstanding theme, FMA has maybe two or three scattered in the two version but SAO is a two shot seasons anime with epic intros to begin each of them....."Untill my voice reaches you, Im going to keep calling your name·."Aim at this contradictory world, and press the trigger without hessitation", daaaamnn
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