Sword Art Online II First Impressions Review
Despite the absolutely terrible final 10 or so episodes, I rather liked the first Sword Art Online series. I remember my favorite story arc being the murder mystery. It had its problems, sure, but I thought that trying to solve seemingly impossible murders by examining how the mechanics of the game they were stuck in worked was a really cool idea. Given enough time, it could be a great series. And from what I’ve read about Phantom Bullet, the arc this anime series will be adapting, that’s kind of what we’re going to get. It’s a bit unfortunate then that the first episode wasn’t particularly great for me.
It’s about a year after the events of Sword Art Online I. Kirito and Asuna are still dating, hanging out in Alfheim Online with their daughter, and doing all that shit. And there’s a new incredibly popular VRMMO out on the market called Gun Gale Online. Unlike Sword Art and Alfheim, this is a shooter MMO set in a bombed out dystopic future world. In said shooter, a man calling himself Death Gun has started hunting down the top players in the game and killing them. This somehow kills the players in real life. Kikuoka Seijirou, a member of the government who’s been working with SAO survivors, gets in touch with Kirito to try to talk him into going into the game, becoming a top player, and drawing Death Gun out.
This is a great idea for a story, especially in the SAO world. With the AmuSpheres as the standard VR headset everyone uses, the old NerveGear problem of having microwaves fry everything is no longer a problem, and there is no conceivable way for the AmuSphere to kill somebody. So how is Death Gun doing it? It’s a really cool idea for a murder mystery and reminds me a lot of the first season’s mystery.
We also got our first look at Death Gun, the antagonist for the series. I’ve heard some people, including some people who work on this website, that the name is kind of stupid. And I agree, it is kind of stupid, which is why I think it’s a great name. Have you ever played an actual MMO? How many people actually have really sick avatar names that totally fit into the world the game is set in and feel like they would be character names in a story set in a world like the one in the game? Hardly anybody, because people don’t usually think up those names. They think up names that are kind of stupid and take them all before anybody else can. So Death Gun is the most MMO name I’ve seen in the series so far. I just did a quick search of some MMO player names and I can tell you that Death Gun totally fits.
But back on topic, I really like the design of this guy. It’s a very simple design, with a black cloak and bandaged up arms with a mask that reminds me of a cross between Corvo’s mask from Dishonored and that ninja mummy guy from Hellboy. It’s a simple, menacing design that I think works with what they were going for with the character.
The animation is pretty good in this episode, too. We don’t get any real action so we didn’t get to see how the animation team handles that stuff. It was mostly characters walking around and talking, and it looked fine. It looked like SAO, and I liked the look of SAO. We’re probably going to have to wait until the next episode or even later before we see anything in that department.
With all that said, this episode didn’t really have a lot in it for me. It was basically entirely setup for what’s going to be coming later in the season. In total, we got maybe 2-3 minutes of in game footage in the episode, giving us barely a passing glance at where the series is presumably going to be spending the majority of its time. What we did see of it was a dark bar and an empty field. This is a real shame because of how different this game is from the previous two. SAO and ALO were both fantasy RPGs, with swords and monsters and shit. But with Gun Gale, it’s a shooter set in a future world. Plus, it’s more of an eSport type game, with players joining the game in an attempt to earn money by being good. They have regular tournaments in game, and people can get very famous and rich playing it. So to barely see any of it is a real shame.
What we do get is mostly exposition and weird interactions with Kirito and Asuna. It’s been a year since the events of SAO, in which Kirito and Asuna got married and adopted a kid. Since then, they’ve been going to school together, spending time with each other IRL and in the game, again, with their daughter. So why, in this episode, do they act like this is their first date? They are so awkward around each other it’s like their entire relationship got reset in between series. It’s really annoying seeing this characters act like this with each when we’ve seen them be so much more natural together. Hell, we see them more natural together later in the episode. Sure they’re waxing poetic about their weird existentialism things what with them having a virtual daughter, but still. So why do they act the way they did?
The exposition comes from Kikuoka, who apparently was introduced in the episode thing that was released between the end of season one and the beginning of season two. He brings the case up to Kirito and convinces him to go into the game and investigate it. This makes up the majority of the episode. Almost half of it by my count. I know that it is necessary to give the information we need to know about the plot, but it takes so goddamn long and gets boring after a while. There had to be a better way to get this information across than a 10 minute info dump with two people sitting in a cafe.
Finally, I have to address this. The first teaser for this series was a pan across the ass of Sinon, the new female lead. She’s in this episode for a total of 30 seconds and that same pan is in here. Only it’s slower, showing more ass cleavage. This is just a personal thing, but I really don’t like looking at Yoko’s younger sister’s ass when I literally know nothing about other than she has a gun and an ass. We learn nothing about her personality in this episode. We don’t know a fucking thing about her, and it bugs me that she’s getting this treatment right out of the gate.
Sword Art Online II does not have a great opening. It sets up an interesting idea for the season with a new game and really cool villain with a stupid name. But since they have to get so much information out, nothing sticks with you and any investment you got from the opening bit is almost completely washed away by the end of it. Plus with the weird relationship between Kirito and Asuna at this point and the objectification of a main character we know nothing about almost ruins this episode for me. It had enough interesting things set up that I will keep watching, though, but I’m very skeptical moving forward.
Despite introducing a villain I like, a new world which is completely different from the previous ones, and a plot that I can get behind, this episode doesn't particularly grab me. It has too much exposition and bizarre character interactions for me to really recommend this season.