Category Archives: Anime Review

Anime of Summer 2016 First Impressions – Part 3

My first impressions blogs have now turned into mid-season impressions because of my inability to manage my time effectively and stay on task. The good news is that I have a pretty long blog series in the works (which is where most of my time has gone) and a video series to accompany it (I’m going to start making videos, wooo!). I’m not going to say “it should be out soon” because when I do it’s always like three weeks or more before I get it out, so instead I’ll just say it will be done when it’s done.

Anyways, time to talk about some anime!

Sweetness and Lightning

This is one of the cutest shows I have seen since Barakamon, which was one of my favorite shows from summer 2014. It goes without saying then that I absolutely love this show.

The story is simple yet interesting, as we follow the life of a single father (Kouhei Inuzuka) and his daughter (Tsumugi Inuzuka) as they cook meals and enjoy their time together. Kouhei’s wife had recently passed away a few months before the show begins, so we don’t really have a sense of what she might have been like outside of a typical loving mother and wife. She took care of most house chores it seemed, including cooking meals since Kouhei has no idea how to cook anything besides the basics. With his wife no longer with them though, Kouhei decides to try and learn how to cook so he can give Tsumugi good meals instead of the store bought lunches they had been eating since his wife had passed. They go to one of his students family restaurants once a week to cook a new meal they haven’t tried to make before, and this is where a bulk of the story takes place.

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The show mainly consists of Kouhei and Tsumugi going to his student’s (Kotori Iida) family restaurant, where they learn to cook new meals based off of recipes her mother leaves them. The reason why they go to Kotori’s place to cook food is pretty simple, her mother is always busy leaving her alone a lot of the time, so Kotori likes the idea of spending time with Kouhei and Tsumugi once a week (and it is sort of implied through Kotori’s actions and emotions towards Kouhei that she has a bit of a crush on him, or at least looks up to him in some extent). The show doesn’t get weird though so no need to worry about some cringy relationship forming between recently widowed teacher and student. Kouhei doesn’t seem to be looking for any new partners and instead is focusing all of his energy on making Tsumugi’s life a bit easier and enjoyable. He also is keeping these visits as professional as he can, by staying out of Kotori’s business for the most part and ensuring that her mother is ok with them staying over and cooking meals once a week.  It doesn’t seem like this hint of romance Kotori has for Kouhei is going to evolve into something that makes you want to shake you head at the page as you read it, so expect nothing more than a heartwarming story.

The main reason why I like this show so much is because of Tsumugi’s ability to just put a smile on my face. Its right up there with Barakamon and Non Non Biyori Repeat, both of which are currently on my top favorite slice of life shows of all time. Sweetness and Lightning is such a refreshing and delightful show to brighten up the season, and I recommend anyone looking for a lighthearted show to pick this one up.

Orange

Prepare yourself for the impending feel trip, because Orange is going to try and pull on those heart strings as hard as it can. In vein of other melodramatic shows such as The Flower We Saw That Day (AnoHana), the show tries to engross you in its story and to empathize with the characters by having something tragic happen to somewhat normal and relateable people. The group of characters the show follows are all pretty normal highschool students, so it is easy to get to like the characters for who they are. Once you find out that one of them commits suicide in a few years, and 10 years in the future all of his friends feel nothing but regret for not noticing what he was going through you begin to feel kinda bad for the events that had unfolded.

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Orange isn’t just about trying to make you feel sad though, since it gives hope to the fact that perhaps the past could be changed. Through some unknown means, the main character of Orange (Naho Takamiya) is able to write letters detailing the events that surround Kakeru (the character who ends up committing suicide) and send them to her past self. These letters usually just detail what she wished she could have changed in the past, and some important events in their lives that influenced Kakeru’s overall psyche.

The main crux of the story in Orange revolves around these letters Naho receives from her future self. As she starts to follow the directions (or not follow them) she starts to realize that they are able to predict the future to a certain extent, and that Kakeru’s mind had been in a very dark place ever since they first met. I personally am enjoying the story greatly, as it focuses on Naho’s experience as she tries to save the life of her new friend and overcome her only shortcomings. Instead of just passively sitting on the side lines letting things just play out she now has to actively try and shape the future to avoid tragedy.

All in all, it is a great story so far. I have heard some complaints on how the story never explains how the letters are getting sent back, and why don’t they say tell Naho about larger tragedies so she could stop them. Personally I don’t find a problem with the story not diving into this aspect, as it leave an air of mystery and supernatural elements to the story. For all we know, these letters were just written by Naho’s future self as a way of coping with grief. For instance, she just writes down a diary of everything that happened in her past that is causing her regret, without any intention of anyone ever really reading it. We don’t know, and I am not sure if it will ever try to explain it at this point, which is fine with me. Its not a show about time travel or anything, so explanations on time traveling letters not what you are really watching it for. This is a show for those who want a heartfelt story that is going to try and bring on the waterworks as you root for the characters to move forward.

New Game

The last show I have to talk about this season is New Game, a show about a group of girls who all work at a video game company. The story follows Aoba Suzukaze, a recent highschool graduate and new hire at Eagle Jump. At Eagle Jump, Aoba is a part of the character design team in the art department, where her and various other girls all work on getting their new game looking as pretty as possible. Plot wise, this show is about as deep as a kiddie pool. This isn’t really something that is going to hold the show back a whole lot though, since New Game is a simple slice of life that is largely character driven.

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These types of shows are no stranger to most anime fans by now, and because of that it should be easy to tell if you are going to like it or not from a first glance. The story is almost non-existent, as there is very little plot progression at all. There isn’t really a sense of how long they have to complete their game other than “it will soon be crunch time”. Each characters tasks are not really explained in much detail outside of Aoba’s in the first few episodes (where she is given some small tasks to start her out as she learns a new program). Instead, the show focuses on the day-to-day interactions and activities of the girls that work at Eagle Jump and lets their personalities take over. Like 99% of all other cute-girls-doing-cute-things types of shows, New Game’s characters all have unique personalities and designs that help differentiate each character from one another.

I actually really like these simple slice-of-life shows that are full of cute girls doing fun things. They can really brighten your mood and make you smile when they are done well, and New Game is fortunately done pretty well. The characters are cute and likeable. The setting is fun and unique, and it relates to something that most people that watch anime probably enjoy. It is also a very good looking show, with nice bright and colorful visuals to compliment the girls cute appearances. All in all, a fun moe show that will be sure to keep you entertained. Don’t go into it expecting it to dive deep into video game design or anything though, as it rarely touches the subject. It is merely the backdrop to the show, with almost all focus being on the characters themselves rather than what tasks they are doing.

Anime of Summer 2016 First Impressions – Part 2

Holy crap where does the time go? It feels like it was only last week that I wrote up my impressions to some of the summer seasons latest series, yet here we are almost three weeks later. I guess time flies when your working all the time.

Anyways, here is part 2 of my summer impressions. I haven’t been keeping up with these two series at all, so its essentially still just my impressions on the first episode of both (even though there are about 4 episodes out now I think). The next batch of shows will be a bit more in depth, as I have actually been watching them each week as they come out. Can’t wait to start talking about them! For now enjoy my thoughts on two shows that really missed there mark for me…

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Taboo Tattoo

It seems some people are actually into this show for some reason. From the opening scene all I could do was laugh at the show, and it wasn’t because it was trying to be funny. After a quick fight involving a mysterious female character (who we got to see in the opening) the show opens with our protagonist fighting a couple of thugs. We immediately get to see that our protagonist is one of those “I’ll do whats right and deliver justice!” type characters, and that he is a petty capable fighter. Up to this point nothing really screams “laughably bad”, but it doesn’t make you think it is going to be anything other than mediocre either. So many series will start off with a flashy fight scene in order to try an draw in the viewer that it isn’t that exciting anymore. With no clue as to who the characters are its hard to care who wins or loses, the only purpose they serve is to give us a taste of what the powers or fighting style will be. These first action scenes don’t really show either, just that our protagonist is at least skilled enough in CQC that he can take on street thugs, and that there will be some kind of supernatural powers being used.

Anyway’s, I start to realize what kind of series this will be as soon as the protagonist finishes off one of the thugs and they literally run away crying for their mommy. This isn’t going to be a cool gritty action anime, it’s going to be the millionth action anime that tries to be funny, goofy, have cute girls and have all the normal tropes of every other generic action show. There are going to be maids (as seen from the opening), probably a loli character, fan service and of course, the protagonist is going to have some crazy ability that lets him get out of any tight situation, because plot.

It gets worse though, as the guy he was trying to save turns out to have some kind of crazy secret weapon. Like most rational people who have smuggled top-secret weapons from military facilities, he just decides to give it to the kid who just saved him from getting his ass kicked by some thugs. Yeah. OK. Our protagonist continues the idiotic behavior by accepting the gift from the strange guy, and when it starts to spark and cause pain he just keeps holding it because you know, why not. I would like to think that most people would probably drop the freaking strange slab that a random guy gave you on the street when it started causing you physical pain, but I guess our protagonist isn’t very normal…

So that’s the set-up to the series and how the protagonist gets his powers. I spent most of the scene just laughing at it, cause it was mind numbing to try and figure out the logic of it all. It would have been way more believable to have the random guy just kinda force it on him if he really wanted it gone. Anyways, the first episode pretty much lived up to what my expectations were. We get to see the mysterious girl from the start again, as she turns out to be working for the US military. She too has the same power that the protagonist now has, which manifests itself as a tattoo on their palm. Turns out that they need something to trigger the abilities of the tattoo’s (hers is chalk) and he doesn’t know what his is yet. The mysterious chick looks suspiciously young to be working for the US military, but hey we need cute girls in these battle right?

We get two more fights in the episode, both of which looked alright. The first one is between protagonist and mysterious girl (I really need to learn their names…) and i finally shows off some of the powers they have. Animation wise the fights look cool if you aren’t paying attention, but there were a few times that made me question how they animated it. One moment that really stands out in my mind is when the girl goes to punch the protagonist, and it shows it kinda from her perspective. The way they animated her arm as she is punching him made it seem like it was some crazy noodle arm, something you would expect from Luffy in One Piece.

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Outside of those random moments I thought the fight looked really cool though, and I enjoyed them a lot. Hopefully the series focuses on the fights more than they do everything else, because as it stands its the shows best feature. There is some random fan service thrown in throughout the episode, and of coarse the main bad-ass chick acts insanely cute when she isn’t out to murder you. Its basically striking me as just another generic action anime that is doing all the things necessary to get fans to care about its characters (or at least care about the main chick, I can’t see anyone actually liking the main guy as he is just insanely bland and uninteresting). I can see people really liking the main girl and basically end up loving the show because she exists, but if you ask me the show isn’t doing anything too impressive or interesting.

So far its not a great first impression, but there is time to improve I think. It isn’t as bad as say absolute duo, which was probably the last generic action show I watched (attempted to at least, it was really bad). It is at least interesting enough to keep watching, so I will see where it goes.

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Hanada-Kun

Hanada-kun is the prequel to 2014’s amazing Barakamon, which was a slice-of-life show about a calligrapher who spends time on a remote island in order to grow as an artist and as a person. It was a charming show, full of unique and fun characters. It also featured some of the best child characters I have seen in an animated show, with some of them being voiced by very talented child actors. It was the type of show that could bring a smile to your face through its charm alone.

Hanada-Kun has none of that. Instead, Hanada-kun is a strait up gag anime, focusing on Hanada’s inability to read social situations at all while he was sin highschool. Everyone in his school is amazed by his talent and think he is one of the coolest guys around, but everyone is intimidated by him so no one will talk to him. Hanada takes this as a form of bullying, and thinks everyone is talking behind his back and making fun of him. When Hanada receives a love letter, he doesn’t even open it to see what it says because he thinks it is a challenge letter and someone wants to rip him a new one.

The whole show is crazy and wacky, and it can be easily seen in the character designs as well. One of the girls that falls for Hanada in the first episode is ridiculously large, especially compared to everyone else. Her head is probably 10 times the size of everyone else’s, so she end up looking like someone who doesn’t belong in the series.

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Even though I loved Barakamon, Hanada-kun did not hit the mark for me. The gag’s just didn’t make me laugh, and the running gag of “Hanada misinterprets everything and causes wacky things to unfold” was already not that funny to me. I don’t see myself finishing the series because of this. If you really love gag series, Sakamoto-kun only aired last season, so check that one out. If you already watched it and are still looking for a gag series, give this one a shot. Hopefully you find the jokes funnier than I did.

*BTW: You don’t need to have seen Barakamon to watch this one. They are completely different, and from what I have seen none of the jokes rely on you having seen Barakamon. If you haven’t seen Barakamon however, go watch Barakamon! It’s amazing!

 

Anime of Summer 2016 First Impressions – Part 1

It has been a while since I have dived head first into the wave of new shows premiering in a new season of anime. I pretty much skipped the spring season, picking up a few choice shows at the end when they were finished airing. During the winter season I watched a handful of shows in the beginning before falling off of most of the shows I had picked up. I honestly can’t remember the last time I even went past 10 new shows, since I have recently been just picking out a small handful to enjoy in the afternoons at my pleasure.

For some reason with the new Summer season I decided to kick it up a few notches and go into overdrive with my anime watching. It could be from the fact that I have been having a lot of free time lately in the afternoons, when I am usually in the mood for chilling out and watching some shows. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter because this blog isn’t about that…. its about anime! More specifically, its about what I thought about the shows I have watched so far.

I will be only doing 3 shows per blog, so there should be a few of these coming down the pipeline over the next week. If you like this blog stay tuned for more! Now on with the main dish.

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Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara

See what I did there?… Main dish!… Cause it’s about food!… ok I’ll stop now..

This is probably the most hyped shonen series from the season, so chances are slim that you haven’t heard about it by now. If you haven’t though, it’s about a guy who is so good at cooking he gives you orgasms as you eat his food and he goes to a school where everyone is about as good as him.

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That’s not a very good synopsis now that I think about it, but it should give you the basic idea. Souma Yukihara makes delicious food, and he goes to a school where everyone else makes delicious food (just not quite as good as Souma usually because he is secretly way better than almost everyone). The first season was great, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend doing so. (Also, probably skip over the next bit as I am going to start talking about the first episode of season 2 so just go to the next show to keep reading).

Now onto this episode, which was a great way to kick off the new season. We pick up right where we left off, with the 1 v 1 tournament kicking off. The first cook-off was Souma vs. Alice, a fight of extreme opposites. Souma focuses on making his food taste excellent with minimalist ingredients and techniques. He uses his imagination and skills acquired from working with his dad to make amazing dishes. Alice on the other hand, trained in state of the art facilities and  uses advanced techniques to create her dishes. As we saw with her previous dishes, they are quite out there combining crazy sensations and tastes to create one of a kind meals.

The episode didn’t waste too much time on catching us up to what has been going down. In fact, it hardly spent any time on recapping events from season 1. Instead, the episode went full speed ahead with the cooking showdown, and it managed to wrap the whole thing up in the one episode. It felt fast paced and exciting, but I couldn’t help but feel like it was being a bit rushed. We hardly got to see any action shots of Souma or Alice cooking, and the reactions to each bite of the dishes and the explanations of what they tasted like seemed weaker than normal. Usually each bite of a meal would send the person into a frenzy of emotions. People would freak out over how good it was and what it reminded them of or what it felt like to eat what they were eating. Instead, everyone seemed relatively calm through most of Alice’s dish, and even Souma only got the judges to go into a blissful state for a brief period, near the end of his dish.

Even with the reactions being a bit more tame than usual, I did enjoy the episode overall. I was afraid they were going to go with a slower episode to catch everyone up to speed with what is going on. Thankfully we got an action packed episode to get us excited for some awesome food battles again.

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Love Live! Sunshine!!

Was I excited for the new season of Love Live? Hell yeah! I have been waiting for this for a while now, so I can get to know the new girls and get hyped for when they are released in the english version of the game (I am a big fan of the mobile rhythm game, and if you enjoyed the first two seasons I think you might also enjoy it too).

Not only was I excited for the new characters though, I was also excited for the new songs the group would be performing in the series, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. The opening is super catchy and had me smiling the whole time. The awful CG is present once again for when the group is performing, but it seemed to bother me less this time around (either they were using it less or I am just starting to get used to it). I wish they would just get rid of it by now though, since the series looks beautiful. They definitely brought their A-game with them for this first episode, as it looked amazing the whole way through and really made the characters come to life.

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The character themselves seemed ok to me so far, but none of them really stood out to me. We only get a good look at a handful of the girls in this episode, with some others popping up briefly just to give us a taste of what they might be like. The two characters we got to see the most of were Chika and You, two best friends that seemed to remind me of Honoka and Umi. Chika is clearly supposed to be the Honoka of the group, with a cheerful personality and a determination to set up an idol group at her school. She seemed really fun, and her friend You seemed just as fun and cheerful as her. That kind of makes her nothing like Umi (who was shy and kept to herself, and was practically the opposite of Honoka) but You is supposedly really good at swimming and is a part of that club, which reminded me of how Umi was great at archery and was a part of that club. Personality wise they are nothing alike though, so it is refreshing to have a character like You being around Chika instead of just 1-for-1 recreating Muse. The character that kind of got on my nerves the most was Dia, the student council president. She is basically just Eli, from the way she acts to the way she refuses to let Chika create an idol club. I didn’t like that stubborn part of Eli at all, so now I definitely don’t like it since they are just re-hashing the beginning of the original series. They could of come up with a new obstacle the girls had to overcome in order to create the idol club, but instead we get the same set-up to the original (which I didn’t like much to begin with).

Aside from Dia basically being Eli 2.0, I didn’t have any other problems with the characters. I don’t really have an opinion on them either, since I don’t really have a good feeling of what they are going to be like outside of the few traits we got when they were briefly introduced (such as Ruby’s shyness). Time will tell how well Sunshine stacks up against it predecessor, and I will be sure to give you guys more thoughts on the series in the future.

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Momokuri

Technically this is an old series, but apparently they decided to bring it back. Essentially all they did was combine two episodes of this 26 episode ONA to make a 13 episode tv series out of it. Considering I missed it the first time around, I thought I would give it a shot.

My first thoughts when starting up the first episode was “Are these guys seriously in grades 10 and 11?”. I have a younger brother who just finished grade 11, and let me tell you that kids his age just don’t act or look like that. The characters just seem way younger, like probably grades 7 and 8 (so 12 and 13) or even a year older for both. I just can’t see 15 and 16 year olds acting anything like they do in the show. This weird difference in what I think their age should be and how old they are could be due to the fact that the animation was done in the absolute cutest way possible. The show will give you diabetes if you stare at it too long, I am sure of it.

With that odd thought out of the way, I would like to bring up how enjoyable the show was to watch. I practically smiled my entire way through each episode and I even had a few good laughs here and there. The comedy basically all comes from the main female character character, Yuki Kurihara, who is basically the cutest stalker I have ever seen in anime. (that sounds really weird when I read it back to myself…)

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It is a cute show and easy to watch, but I found myself slowly losing interest half way through the second episode and getting distracted. That could be just me and my ADD like tendencies, but I think the real problem is that the show was meant to be short and sweet. It really isn’t written in a way that can keep your attention for very long, since the only reason I was watching was to see Yuki. The shtick with her being really cute but kinda creepy at the same time just isn’t able to keep me interested for a full 20 minutes.

I probably won’t continue watching this in its new re-formatted series, but I will be definitely be watching it a single episode at a time at my own pace.

Review: Sword Art Online (Anime)

If you enjoy your video games as much as I do, you someday hope to experience a time when full virtual reality technology exists, and instead of just playing video games, you get to live in them. In Sword Art Online, this technology exists thanks to the amazing “nerve gear” gaming system, which puts the user into a “dive” where their consciousness is  transported to the game world. The premise is pretty great, and grabbed my attention right away. When everything goes wrong with the new game titled “Sword Art Online” and the players find themselves trapped inside the game, unable to escape unless they beat the game, I was looking forward to each new episode to see what would happen next. Unfortunately for Sword Art Online though, it does what many great role-playing games can tend to do, and forgets about the amazing story it was building and decides to lead you to side quest after side quest when instead you want to go back to the main plot. Even though the side quests are just as enjoyable to play (or in this case, watch), they don’t let the characters develop or let the plot progress at a good pace, which kind of sucks some of the overall enjoyment out of a series after you finish it. Sure it was good while you were going through it, but when everything is said and done and you look back on it, you realize how much more of the main story you wanted to see and how shallow the story actually was.

Story

The first half of the story follows the ever so amazing Kazuto Kirigaya, otherwise known by his online username Kirito. With the launch of a new Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (that is a mouthful), known as Sword Art Online, players rush to experience this brand new game. What they do not realize is that the game creator, who is also the creator of the nerve gear, has disabled the ability to log out of the game, leaving all the players consciousness trapped within the game. To complicate matters, if anyone were to have the nerve gear tampered with or if anyone were to try an remove the nerve gear from the players, a short microwave burst would be sent from the helmet, killing the person instantly. Also, death in the game results in the same penalty, ones own life. If the player ever want to return home and escape this twisted game they need to reach the 100th floor of the game by defeating the boss of each floor. As soon as the final boss is defeated, everyone will be able to finally log out of the game.

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The story brings this dark undertone to an otherwise light hearted fantasy world. To die in the game means certain death, which is a very scary thought when it comes to video games where death is treated as a simple mistake that is easily fixed with the reload of a previous checkpoint or a respawn. Unfortunately, Sword Art Online hardly ever touches this theme of loss. Instead, the story kind of pushes this theme aside to go full steam ahead with the goal of reaching the 100th floor! That is, until the story gets sidetracked by what I can only describe as sidequests to the main story. I would like to let you believe that this rarely happens, and that there must be some important reason as to why the anime focuses on these side stories instead of actually progressing the plot, but I would be lying. Entire episodes are dedicated to these filler stories, which range from what is basically a fetch quest to gather materials for a new sword with a random chick to a relaxing vacation in a cabin. Sure these side stories introduced new characters who show up from time to time in the future, but the honestly didn’t need to spend so much time following them. Especially when the anime skips entire months of the story in order to fit everything in.

The story has certain moments that really stick with you as you watch it and as you move on, and they usually go back to the theme of loss and how death in the game means death in real life. During these scenes, the impact of the loss of a character is truly felt, and you get to see how it affects the remaining characters afterwards as they realize that they have just lost another person. Strong bonds between people are created and shattered in an instant, and you are left realizing how traumatizing and depressing this world actually is. These moments impacted me pretty strongly on an emotional level, and the easily depressed and emotional folks (such as myself) may find these scenes a bit hard to watch, if not leave you in a depressing mood. Although these scenes were not the most entertaining to watch, these parts of the story are what really grabbed me.

When you reach the second half of the show about half way through, the entire plot is basically changed to something completely different from the first half of the show. Honestly, this is also one of the most controversial parts of the show, as many fans thought that the first arc of the show was all it needed, and the second half only diminishes the quality of the story that the first half was trying to tell. Without going into heavy spoiler territory, basically there is no longer some crazy death penalty that the characters have to worry about, and instead the story turns into what is essentially a Super Mario game, trying to rescue a princess in a castle. In my personal opinion, I thought it would have been much better to end it off at the end of the first half of the story, and to have focused more on the world of Sword Art Online and the events that take place there. If you ever decide to watch this anime, you will probably understand why once you witness the conclusion of the first arc.

That being said though, I did enjoy the second half of the show. Although it lost its heavier themes and moments, the show still had the same sense of a urgency found in the first half, where a goal needed to be reached at all costs. The action scenes are still pretty good, and the love interests are still there for those who love watching Kirito get into these weird half relationships.

Characters

The characters of Sword Art Online are pretty much what you would expect from a Shonen anime. Kirito fits the role of unbeatable hero, and his ability to become insanely overpowered is unmatched by any other character. The story tries to explain why Kirito is so powerful in the beginning by letting you know that he was a Beta tester for Sword Art Online before it launched, so he is able to get all the good quests and level up faster than everybody else. For some reason though, all of the other Beta testers are unable to even come close to Kirito’s power level, even though he goes through the entire game as a solo player. There are even parts of the show where he completely breaks the game and performs actions that strait up shouldn’t be possible, as if his willpower alone could override the games code to let him do the impossible. In the second half of the show he is a complete newbie to the game and yet is still able to destroy everybody, even when he basically has no idea what he is at.

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 Asuna takes the place of the lead female protagonist, and although starts off alright as a character, she is later left on the side lines so that we get to see more Kirito, and his countless internet girlfriends. Being introduced as a new player who has some serious bad ass points already, she had potential to become a powerful character in the game and a well developed character with hardships of her own. Instead, she just becomes Kirito’s girlfriend who is pretty much completely useless compared to her boyfriend. In the game she is one of the highest ranking officials of the games most powerful clan, but the show never lets us see this side of her. Instead she is about just as generic as the other characters in the show and is left behind to watch Kirito save the day. What could have been a very cool and powerful female lead turns into a cardboard cutout of a typical Tsundere character who is completely useless without her boyfriend around to back her up.

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Earlier I mentioned Kirito’s internet girlfriends, which make up about 90% of the characters in this show. For a guy who has spent his entire life playing video games and being a shut-in, he sure knows how to pick up chicks. There is not much to talk about these characters other than the fact that they are pretty generic in personality and they seemed to only serve the purpose of flushing out the cast so that Sword Art Online actually feels like an MMO instead of a game in which only Kirito exists in. Each character ends up falling for Kirito for some reason or another, and continue to follow him around later on in the show as his own personal harem. Even his cousin ends up falling in love with him, which brings a whole new level of uncomfortable scenes and cringe worthy moments to the show.

Presentation

If there is one thing that Sword Art Online does right throughout the entire series it would have to be the presentation. The soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura is stellar, and it really brings out the intensity of the battles and action scenes. The first opening theme, “Crossing Field” by LiSA, was probably the stand out theme used in the series. It has a certain epic feel to it, where the song starts off rather slow and generic sounding, but than suddenly breaks out into this awesome song. The second opening song, “Innocence” by Eir Aoi, is also quite good and pleasing to hear. As for the ending themes, they both are quite good to listen to as well, and they end off each episode perfectly with some relaxing music to help unwind after each episode. They are not as memorable as the openings, but still a treat to listen to.

The animation is top notch as well, and there is not much to say here. There was not a single moment where the I was generally displeased with the quality of the animation or the art style, as it was pretty amazing throughout the entire show. The animation shines during the action scenes, where animation perfectly captures the fast paced movements of the characters, and it really made you pumped up as you watched it unfold.

Personal Enjoyment

Although I felt Sword Art Online dropped the ball on how it handled its own story, and failed to reach the full potential shown in the early episodes and the ending of the first story arc, I ended up somewhat enjoying Sword Art Online. Even though I realized the flaws in the plot and characters, I was just drawn in each episode to see what would happen next in these fantastic virtual worlds. I did lose interest at certain points during the story, mainly when nothing was really happening plot wise and Kirito started doing random side tasks and met a new female character to impress.

Final Thoughts

Sword Art Online starts off with a really great story to tell, but it loses its way somewhere along the road and it never truly reaches the full potential. With the ending of the first story arc, I was honestly pretty shocked at the conclusion the story had taken, but I was also somewhat pleased with the outcome as I felt it really showed the impact of this game world had on our main characters. When the second story arc starts up though, it kind of forgets about everything that made the first arc really enjoyable to watch and just continues the story like it didn’t matter. It still has that “fantasy mmo” feel to it, but it is clearly not the same.

The overall ending to the show was also pretty good and tied things up nicely, leaving room for fans to want to watch future seasons or for someone to just drop off here and still feel like they got a complete story.   My overall feelings of the show are somewhere in the middle of “enjoyable” and “why did I watch this”, making it a tough call as to how I felt about the series as a whole. If I were to use just one word to describe how I felt about it, I would use either “medium” or “mediocre” as it just wasn’t a show that I would really ever sing the praises of, but at the same time I don’t feel like it was all that bad either.

 

Final Score: 5/ 10

Recommendation: Try It

 

If You Liked It, Also Try:

No Game No Life: Similarly, the main protagonist is unbeatable. The story revolves around the fact that the protagonist is unbeatable at games though, and it has some exciting games to showcase.
Log Horizon: Characters are trapped in an MMO, a plot that should sound familiar. I haven't actually watched all of it yet, but from what I have seen I think it is a safe choice for those looking for  another take on the "trapped in a fantasy mmo" story.