Anime Review: Why Did Sword Art Online 2 Receive So Much Hate?
Did you like Sword Art Online? Did you enjoy the action and drama and the high stakes of a cast of characters trapped in a video game where they could die for real? Did that tension keep you interested even through those really boring episodes with the stupid lake house?
While you were enjoying Sword Art Online, did you ever think to yourself, ‘you know what’d be awesome? These fairly-bland-when-they-aren’t-fighting-something characters dealing with the tragedy of a teenage girl dying of AIDS in the normal world with no fighting or actual possibility for heroically saving her – you know, she just has normal AIDS and dies in a sad way. Also I would like to know more about Asuna’s relationship with her mother. That’s something I would love to see.’
If you did, then Sword Art Online 2 was the show for you! If you didn’t and are normal, it was bloody dreadful.
The first part of SAO2 didn’t quite plumb the depths of misery that the latter arc, Mother’s Rosario did, and still sort of felt like part of the franchise. There was a new game, this time with guns, a wafer thin reason for Kirito to be involved in it, and secrets to be revealed. Of course, it was patently obvious given there were only about three new characters in the thing who the killer was, but it did have some action and was at worst ‘meh’. The addition of the new character Sinon annoyed me. We had just spent all of the original story invested in Kirito’s pure and true love for Asuna (and their irritating virtual reality adopted daughter, who I am sad to say is one of the things they did keep from the original series), and here he is adding yet another girl to a harem that already includes his own sister (obviously, not his real sister, as is always stressed in animes with slight Lannister undertones). This would have maybe been a point of drama, but nope, Asuna is somehow cool with it just like she is with all the other female characters fawning over her man, and wants to be BFFs. The writer of the original Sword Art Online light novels reportedly admitted to not being very good at writing female characters, and finding it easier to just make them love interests. This explains why Asuna went from being mysterious, then badass, to suddenly being boring as fuck as soon as Kirito fell for her. But if you need to make all your girls love interests, why not have like, more than one male character for them to be the love interests of? Like that red haired guy Kirito knocks around with – can’t Kirito sling some pussy his way? If we are meant to be invested in Kirito’s relationship with Asuna, who he did all he could to save from tentacle rape and possibly the most illegal looking coma marriage conceivable, it all just seems a bit odd.
Once the Gun Gale Online arc is out of the way, there is some brief weirdness that I don’t even want to go into with Thor and god knows what, set in that camp elf game from the second half of SAO. If they don’t win, the game will be deleted and everyone will lose their saves. Considering the stakes in all previous arcs, especially the first, were more on the ‘life or death’ side, it is very hard to in any way care about this, but at least there’s fighting.
Then we get to Mother’s Rosario. Remember that stupid damn lake house that was the setting for the lame episodes in SAO where Asuna and Kirito had just got married in game? Well, it’s back, and is the setting for nearly every conversation, many of these conversations revolving around just how lovely the stupid damn lake house is. Kirito is hardly even in this arc, so hold on to your hats for a thrilling adventure starring Asuna and some new girls you only have like, one episode to convince yourself you care about before they start sledgehammering you in the actual face with misery.
Yep, those new friends with their guild and whatnot? All terminally ill. That girl nobody can beat in a straight fight? AIDS. And it’s not just that she is dying of AIDS, her whole family are already dead from it. We are kind of used to orphans in anime, but hell’s teeth.
It’s not that a story about technology helping terminally ill people live an interesting life in their last few months in a virtual world couldn’t be interesting. It’s not that lovely friends having lovely parties at a lovely lake house isn’t nice. It’s just that what the actual b’jaysus? SAO wasn’t a show you got into for feels, and to be frank, Asuna is not well rounded enough to have her own ’emotional’ storyline anyway. Sure, we know she’s ‘nice’, but that is all. I kind of felt like I’d slipped a DVD of Die Hard into my DVD player and by some weird alchemy, it had started showing me The Notebook instead.
The trouble is, I will watch SAO 3. I hated SAO 2 and couldn’t wait for it to end, but just like Star Wars 1-3 or the sequels to The Matrix, out of some stupid loyalty based on the first part of the first season, I will watch the shit out of anything with the SAO name on it and then whine about it on the internet if there isn’t any sword fighting or freaky looking bosses and nothing much is at stake. Well, I guess it’s a hobby.
Photo by Bleach Zzone