Sword Art Online 2 Review

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By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

In the world of anime, there have been a number of series and movies that have become cult phenomena in and of themselves. Bleach, Naruto, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Robotech (for the old school fans) are just a few, but in recent years, there haven’t been many that developed a fan base like those previously named. That is, until the summer of 2012 when Sword Art Online (SAO for those hardcore fans) was released. SAO was a world where people logged into an MMORPG using virtual reality technology to play a Final Fantasy 11/World of Warcraft type of game. But the stakes were raised when players couldn’t log out and should they die in game, they would die in real life. With the success of the anime, it was inevitable that a sequel would be forthcoming. Finally, two years after the original, we have Sword Art Online II.

Picking up some time after the first series has concluded, Kirito and Asuna are back in school living their normal lives, getting online to play Elfheim Online with their friends. But a new game has emerged called Gun Gale Online (GGO), and one particular player has shown himself to have the ability to kill a player in game with the end result being their death in real life. Kirito is recruited into the game to confirm whether this is actually the case, or if it is more of a prank and circumstantial. GGO is much different than his previous MMORPGs, as GGO focuses on guns and ranged weapons. Will Kirito be able to master the skills needed for this game and find out the truth of the player who is purportedly killing players, or will Kirito become a victim himself?

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Sword Art Online II is a direct sequel but feels much different than the first. As with any sequel, SAO2 has an elevated bar to live up to and one that is, in all actuality, unobtainable. What set SAO apart from other anime, or other stories of this newer genre, are the stakes that were in play. At any moment, a player could die and they would die in the real world as well, so it was truly a battle for survival and a fight to defeat a game to have the opportunity to return to their normal lives. SAO2 differs. While the first arc (first 12 episodes of the series) focus on the GGO story arc, the story takes place within a battle arena set in a desert-type environment. Gone are the lush colors and interesting settings, gone are the various floor boss fights and necessary character growth. Gone are those stakes that made the first so amazing. After the GGO arc follow three smaller arcs, the last of which brings back some of that emotion and intensity found in the first SAO. However, with the lackluster first arc focusing on GGO, Sword Art Online II felt like a tremendous step back. But again, it had big shoes to fill to begin with.

One of the big things that made the first series so great was the journey of Kirito and Asuna. Of how they both began as new players, of how Kirito made friends and lost them to the realities of the game. We were taken on this adventure of peril, of love and loss, of personal growth and suffering. We laughed and cried, yelled and cheered, and it was always fresh. Unfortunately, we don’t necessarily have that build-up with the characters this time around. In GGO, we’re introduced to a new character named Sinon. While she is the principle character alongside Kirito, after that arc, she’s more of an afterthought, despite joining Elfheim Online with the rest of the group. The only real feelings we have for a new character are toward Yuuki, who comes in during the final arc of the season. If only the rest of the season could have had the intensity and emotion that this arc had, it would have ranked at the top with the original.

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Sword Art Online II is disappointing on some notes and successful on others. Some may say it isn’t fair to compare the two, but they are a part of the same series, so yes, feel free to compare. It should be noted that the Sword Art Online story is a continuing series and it is quite possible that a third series will be made into an anime, so maybe the third season will redeem itself after the second tended to sputter and lose its focus. Not to say Sword Art Online II was bad, because it wasn’t, it just didn’t live up to the lofty expectations that were set with season one. Sword Art Online II can be streamed on Hulu and Crunchyroll.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


    2 Comments

  1. PikaChanAugust 10th, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Hi I am PikaChan
    And I am the biggest fan of sword art online because I want to live with sword art online forever.

  2. PikaChanAugust 12th, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Hi my name is PikaChan
    I am the biggest fan in the world of sword art online because I want to live with sword art online forever.

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