In an attempt to get more content on the site and to hold over the anime-criticism until I can get my video series done (still have to post ep. 1 and film ep. 2), I’ve decided to start another text series where I talk about Anime I’m watching in small chunks, giving you all a more specific idea of my thoughts on the series rather than the more broad video series (which will start soon!).
So, to start it off, I’ll give myself more work and do a double feature, two shows I consider brother and sister shows, if not cousin shows: Accel World and Sword Art Online. Sword Art Online was the biggest series of 2012 and, having not seen it before now, I felt like I was missing something by not having had watched it. However, that didn’t mean that I don’t already know spoilers and opinions of it beforehand (none of which made me want to watch it). So I have preconcieved notions on Sword Art Online and I’ll see how they stack up. Accel World, however, got no coverage last year (as far as I can see) and the relationship these shows have interests me. Sword Art Online, or SAO, was originally a light novel series that was published online after it wasn’t submitted for going over the page limit. It was finally published properly in Japan after the author wrote another light novel series, Accel World, that won the contest SAO was written for. But why was one popular and the other wasn’t? I don’t know, but here’s my criticism of the beginning of both series.
SWORD ART ONLINE EP 1-4
So, here’s the premise: an MMO is created called Sword Art Online, which uses a virtual reality helmet to send the players into the game world. However, the game’s creator is sadistic and got rid of the logout option and removing the saftey on the helmets (if it is tampered with outside of the game, the waves the helmet emits will fry the players’ brains). He also programed the safety to be removed if a player loses their HP (if you die in the game, you die in real life). The only escape is to reach level 100, where they will find the creator and discover why the game was made.
The first four episodes are aggressively bad. There are many reasons for this, but the big one for me is the protagonist, Kirito. You can tell that he was written to be a Gary Stu character (flawless protagonist). How? He plays solo in a game that has everyone else saying that THEY NEED TO PLAY IN GROUPS! That’s after the death penalty is revealed that he keeps this selfish and reckless behavior, while being THE STRONGEST PLAYER IN THE FUCKING GAME! He honestly reminds me of Davis from Digimon Adventures 02, AKA the most annoying Digimon character ever, with his mindset of how to approach the game.
However, that’s assuming that the death penalty amounts to anything. The only time that it appears to in these first four episodes is episode 3, in which we have a girl who understands the weight of the death penalty and actually wants to die because of it. But that amounts to nothing as well, since she essentially acts as a “woman in refrigerator” character, suffering (or dying) to get the protagonist to act. And that’s not even with mentioning episode 4, which was loathsome for implying an imoto relationship (which is partial foreshadowing according to spoilers, unfortunately for me).
Honestly, I can see why it was popular, but it isn’t good, at all. It seems to represent everything wrong with modern anime, in that it happens to have the bad trends of other anime of the past few years. It’s fascinating to see most of the worst trends in anime put into one series, but the result is actively bad and very much like a self-insert fan-fic.
ACCEL WORLD EP 1-4
It shows that Accel World was written later. While not great, it does improve off of Sword Art Online, specifically in the character department. While SAO didn’t grab me immediately and grew more loathsome, Accel World got off to a good start and consistently kept my interest for these four episodes.
Haru is a short and fat high school freshman (because this is anime and there’s nothing after high school) in the future. Everyone has a neuro-linker, which acts like a laptop which connects directly to the brain. He’s constantly bullied and looks for escape in online games, where he is the king. When he’s beaten by the school’s student council vice-president, she invites him into a game called Brain Burst, an online fighting game where the rewards are to speed up your brain activity to effectively slow down time to a standstill, but only if he has the points. If he loses all of his points, the software uninstalls and will never reinstall.
The characters are already easy to identify and identify with. While I’d more suspect Haru to turn into a psycho, his low self-esteem makes him a character who has ann internal goal and one which we can root for (since he’s not always running away like Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion). The Vice President, Kuroyukihime, is shown to be objectively better than Haru, but has similar self-esteem issues. Hopefully, that will be explored more later on, but for now, she is a goal that Haru has to aspire to and their dynamic is interesting. Since this block follows Haru becoming acquainted with Brain Burst, it is still Haru’s tale. Kuroyukihime becomes a target in episodes 3 and 4, but it never slogs. It may not be groundbreaking or great, but it is entertaining and I’m interested to see where it goes.