First Look: Sword Art Online II

SAOII_title

Light Novel Adaptation by A-1 Pictures
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise

Nearly one year after the Sword Art Online incident, the government recruits Kirito to help investigate a series of mysterious murders. To find the killer he must enter Gun Gale Online, the only MMO in Japan with professional players.

Jel’s verdict: Longshot

I never joined the bloodbath that was our coverage of the first series, so full disclosure: I do not like Sword Art Online. Even at its best the writing is amateurish and juvenile and some aspects of the original felt downright degrading towards its female characters. If there’s one bit of hope I held onto for the new season it’s the fact we have a new game to play. That means new rules, new characters, and a relatively fresh start.

Having seen one episode, I’m not terribly confident the show is headed in the right direction. Not too much happens as we are info-dumped into understanding Kirito’s latest gaming adventure. Throw in some painfully immature romantic scenes with Kirito and Asuna and this was not the most auspicious start. I’m willing to overlook some of the silly logical leaps the show has a habit of taking, but I did think the ultimate reason for involving Kirito in the investigation was kind of dumb. Had DEATH GUN simply been a mysterious character no one could trace that might have been a cool setup, but its kind of a stretch to believe that they can’t actually find the company that made the game… GAH! I promised myself I wouldn’t nitpick at the details. Moving on…

Overall I do like the latest premise as the idea of investigating a murder within a game that uses real money could be interesting. It kind of makes me think of some of the crazy EVE Online stories that pop up every now and then. Sinon looks pretty cool too, I was disappointed we didn’t get to see more of her. Maybe, just maybe, we can get more mystery and intrigue and cool action and less Kirito turning into an Anime Batman Jesus Jedi Knight and breaking the game till he wins while girls throw themselves at him? What can I say? I’m an optimistic person.

SAOII_01_2

Marlin’s verdict: More of the Same

Sword Art Online is not a good series. I have always had two big problems with this show, and they haven’t changes here. First off, there’s just not enough substance to its characters. Kirito and Asuna have shown almost no development since their days in Aincrad. They are generically nice people in a generically tame relationship, which is kind of funny considering all that went down in season one. As always, the villains are over the top cartoons of men,from the oily government agent to the laughable “Death Gun”. Seriously, that name sounds like something I would have made up back when I was 13 and still made self insert fanfics. The only thing that would bring me back to this show is if it turns out the Miyuki Sawashiro character is really Inaban from Kokoro Connect. Something tells me that’s not happening.

Life’s verdict: Romantic

Obnoxious MMO gamers in love with themselves are a reality in the end game of MMO communities. Those types of players get attention for being good players. They also find themselves hated for their obnoxious personality. Our story launches with such a person getting murdered. Kirito getting asked to investigate is not without a bit of irony. It was an exciting way to learn the context of Kirito’s new MMO adventure. The theatrical nature of Sword Art Online’s villains has always appealed to me. A crazy murderer who calls himself Death Gun was exactly the type of thing I was hoping to see in this new season.

I find myself intrigued by the murderer’s methods. This idea of data in the real world is a neat concept. It questions creating virtual reality that is applicable in the real world. It was especially cool to see how this universe is building up to Accel World. The way the technology works in this universe is not always the most realistic. People sticking their heads in microwaves to play a game is questionable at best. I find myself forgiving of that in favor of the romance in it all. The way Reki Kawahara’s stories romanticize technology is something I like. We see this in Kirito’s date with Asuna and taking about bringing Yui to life in the real world. I suspect we won’t be seeing much of Asuna while Kirito plays GGO. I find myself okay with that after their date. I love the way it reaffirms the strength of their relationship before sending Kirito off on his next adventure.

There is a lot more I could say, but I think I’ll save it for later. I love this series and I’m super excited to see it return. I can’t wait for next week!

SAOII_01_4

Zigg’s verdict: Bad Habits

It was probably a bit too much to hope that Sword Art Online had managed to rid itself of some of its more infuriating tendencies over the break, but I was startled at how true to the formula this opener felt. The focus on tedious MMO systems that add nothing to the overall story, the obvious lack of chemistry between Kirito and Asuna, the pandering to Kirito as an irreplaceable figure (seriously, that government guy gets on his knees and begs!) – they’re all problems which dragged down the original series and robbed it of much of the inherent power of its core idea.

This time round that idea doesn’t seem so fresh, and strains occasionally at the bounds of belief (how the hell are these games still allowed to exist?). Still, the idea of a whodunnit occurring inside virtual space is pretty cool and could be a great storyline if handled correctly. Unfortunately, I have my doubts about the scripts ability to deliver. Meanwhile the overwhelmingly brown, grim environments of Gun Gale Online rob the show of one of its chief strengths – its excellent visual quality, which did so much to keep the ALO arc watchable. Oh and just so we’re able to take our new heroine seriously, she’s introduced by lingering butt shot in a crass reminder of some of the more unsavoury aspects of what came before. As before, SAOII has many interesting ideas, and a viable platform on which to build them. But after one go round, to say I’d be pessimistic about the likely outcome is an understatement.

4 thoughts on “First Look: Sword Art Online II

  1. I get that it’s a sequel. But for Madokami’s sake does it have to be Kirito, again? He himself, even in the show points out that he is not bloody qualified to be a government spy in this new game. Self-conscious writer knows the problem but can’t shake of Kirito because it represents himself in this fictional universe perhaps?

    • Well, more likely it’s brand power. Kirito is the hero, he’s the boy every boy reading can imagine themselves to be. Thus, it might be bad for sales to bring in a new hero the boys might not latch onto, even if Kirito himself doesn’t have a whole lot going on in the first place.

  2. Let me guess; all the girls in Gun Gale Online will be going after Kirito’s d, Kirito will be super OP, dues ex machina thing thing will happen to make Kirito more OP, generic and/or eye-candy characters will be introduced, facepalm-worthy story will unfold, and this anime will be the most popular anime of the season because it looks pretty and it’s Sword Art Online. Two.

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