Tentacle-Free Anime: "Sword Art Online II" (2014) Review
- by Kazekun, 27 April 2015
Sometimes I forget how big Call of Duty really is. I certainly don't play it - my CoD was the Playstation Ghost Recon series. I don't have anything against it either, there are just way more games out there, that I would prefer to play first. That being said, when you get an anime clearly based off of you, you know you're popular. And that's exactly what Sword Art Online II is, and it boasts new RPGs and one helluva gutsy storyline. Let's discuss.
Well, it was only a matter of time before I checked this series off my list. I've reviewed Sword Art Online's first series, and ended up recommending it. But how does the next season stack up to its impressive parent? Well, to make a long review short, a lot better. I actually ended up enjoying SAO II quite a bit better than the first series. I really felt the animators had a lot more room to work with, and there was a lot more story to flesh out this time around. No random time-skipping in the first half, Kirito wasn't the hero straight throughout, and there was a true human element added to SAO II that was definitley lacking from series one.
The answer was definitely something I didn't see coming but felt rather organic. It had a nice call back to the days of SAO and showed us that those dark days stuck in a game really did mess with some people in more ways than one.
Sinon, the character we are introduced to during the GGO arc, ended up competing with Asuna as best girl for this series. I ended up just deciding on both as equals, especially later in this series, but Sinon is one badass mother effer. This girl is good with a gun, but what they end up doing with her character is so much deeper. Last review, I put SAO down for not showcasing PTSD very well. This is the series where all that changes. Not only is Sinon given an incredibly intriguing and sinful background, but how they treat her PTSD in the matter is realistic and raw. It feels very genuine and I loved every second of it. Kirito also gets in on the fun, when he pulls back his curtain finally and we get to see just how much being trapped in SAO has effected him. It was really nice to see what made both of these characters tick, and a nice reminder that they are human and not NPCs.
That being said, SAO II has the same problem that SAO first series had, and that's it's pacing - characters can act like something has happened over the course of, like, two days, when that is most definitely not the case. I disliked it then, and I dislike it now. It's most definitely not as in your face this time around, though. No one outright says “this happened then, and this is happening now” like last time. It's all just sort of implied, which is not as grating. And this happens with each arc in this series.
The second arc is a fun little romp which sees all of our main characters, even the ones that usually don't get much screen time, team up to keep Ragnarok from being brought to ALFheim. They battle the king of the Frost Giants and even team up with Thor. Unfortunately enough there is a plot element introduced during these episodes that never came into play later in the series. It is revealed that along with Excalibur there are a series of legendary weapons – one of which is Mjolnir – and it's hinted that we'll see our heroes going on quests to retrieve them. But alas, as much as I would've loved it, that never happens. Even so, this small arc is a lot of fun and Ii wish we had more stories where everyone in the main cast gets to be together. It's a lot more rare in this show than it really ought to be.
The last arc has to be the strongest in the entire series, and that's including season one. Funny enough, it doesn't even feature Kirito as the hero, but Asuna. I remember thinking during Sinon's arc that I'm glad we're getting to really know this new girl, but I also wish we could spend more time getting to know Asuna. Something that was honestly lacking in the first series when it comes right down to it.
It's in this final arc though that Asuna is given the spotlight as she makes a new friend in the form of a girl named Yuuki. A girl that is proving herself to be one of the most powerful, if no the most powerful player in all of ALFheim. Asuna befriends her and her group of friends, they go on quests together, and eventually Asuna unlocks a secret that this group is hiding from her. I won't spoil, but it is one of the most real/surreal experiences I've ever had in an anime. Where real life and fiction smash together so hard, that you can't help but be reminded just how short life really is – even when you're trying to escape it.
While we get plenty of in-game action, and it's really nice getting to see all of Asuna's friends fighting types, as well as Asuna herself getting back into the game of front line fighting – up until now she has relegated herself to support healer – the best parts take place in the real world. These are the human parts where we get to see everyone for who they truly are. It ends up being such a kick in the gut that I'm pretty sure I cried at least twice during these last episodes.
Sword Art Online as a whole does a good blend of mixing the fantasy game world with the real world. Much more so this series than it did last time. I think that's why it did so well this time around, we got to see these characters for who they really are, instead of hiding behind virtual reality visors. This was the season where the visors came off, and it really was refreshing. Plus, there was no sister route in site, and even Sinon wasn't made to be another female route for Kirito. She was treated as just another friend. And both of these things made Kazekun hear a happy boy.
Obviously, the show isn't without its flaws, the first arc with GGO does drag its story out a bit even though I wanted to stay there longer. The dropped subplot of the legendary weapons was disappointing. And there is an unnecessary recap episode dubbed “episode 14.5” in the middle of the series that really doesn't need to be there, but whatever. The problems in this series are simply a lot less apparent than they were last series, and that makes this season far and beyond the better of the two. The animation, as well, is just as solid this season. If not crisper. The fight scenes in GGO are just beautiful to behold, even the moments where Kirito bring a sword to a gun fight and hold his own.
This was good entertainment, and I can definitely recommend it. Now I just hope we get a third series that adapts the currently still ongoing story arc in the original light novels. I've become an SAO fanboy and I never imagined that would happen. I really just want more now.
Final Score: 4.5 Legendary Weapons out of 5
Have you seen "Sword Art Online II"? How did you like it?