Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Sword Art Online Ep. 1

Initial impression – beautiful and straightforward

Summer 2012 (25 episodes) (more info)

The big title for this summer that everyone’s been talking about for at least half a year already has arrived.  And my initial verdict? Eh… SAO is definitely cool and plays to a lot of different themes such as mind-body duality, video game rules, fear of entrapment, sinister evils associated with the advancement of technology and illicit sociological experiments.

The central plot and goal are pretty well established, but what makes protagonist Kazuto more special than any of the other players remains to be seen.  He’s certainly got guts and a plan, but everything doesn’t feel very well established just yet.

I was a little disappointed that the main villain would be so hazy with his intentions.  Yes, it’s a good way to create suspense and mystery surrounding the antagonist, but trapping 10,000 people in a video game and holding them hostage seems like it would be better served with a grand manifesto rather than simply telling them their requirements for escaping is to complete the game and leaving it at that.  I don’t know how Akihiko Kayaba, the game developer who created SAO, would fair after pulling this stunt, but I imagine that he’s not very popular.

Inevitably this series is going to get compared to oldie but goodie .hack and its companion series set in a futuristic MMO Accel World, so I think I’ll get that out of the way.  In short, SAO is much more serious and desperate than both, but whether it’s going to be filled with the mind-blowing philosophies of .hack’s entrapment theme or Accel World’s experiment in personal growth really remains to be seen at this early stage.

I’m curious as to what’s happening on the real world and again I find myself making the comparison as to whether it’s going to take the .hack approach and only ever show us the events that transpire in the game or if it’ll be more like Accel World and we can experience the character’s lives both in the game and what events continue to transpire in the real world.

Really, I just don’t feel like I can classify SAO in any way other than basic feelings after its first episode that was filled with a lot of introduction and world building.  How the flow will proceed from here remains to be seen, but there’s a time skip of about one month already at the end of the first episode so what that means for pacing makes me a little worried.


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