Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sword Art Online

easily set to become the most popular series both here and in Japan in recent years, Sword Art Online is a 25-episode, multimedia-spanning franchise beginning life as a web novel in 2002. it follows a teen known as Kirito, and his adventures in various VRMMORPGs (Virtual Reality Massively-Multiplayer Role Play Games), starting with the titular Sword Art Online. over the course of his adventures, he meets various friends, including the girl that would become his wife (well, in-game) and his sister.
Rule #1.
boasting many of the same themes seen in anime past, this series could have easily been just another throwaway. what sets SAO apart is easily its passion, its dedication to taking all the elements it borrows and making them its own. while the "i can't log out" idea was used before in .hack//SIGN, SAO took it a step further, making it game-wide (and even sniping SIGN's composer for the anime's soundtrack). also refreshing is the series unwillingness to cater to EVERYONE; for example, while the main character has a little sister, it isn't taken as far as in other series.
His sister's character ends up being a help, but she stays his sister, which is a good thing.
also to the series' benefit are its characters. unlike way too many anime out there, Kirito ISN'T a spineless wimp, instead establishing himself firmly as the hero right off the bat, being cool under pressure and commanding in battle. the girls have more substance than just being tropes, and Kirito's friends have enough personality to them to be likeable as "real" people. people he meets on the first day end up becoming lifelong friends, while characters that are the focus of entire episodes stop there. making sure not to expect the typical from this series is a wise idea.
the artwork in this show is stunning enough to be plucked from the screen and hung on the wall. such is to be expected from A-1 Studios, despite them being fairly new on the market. churning out such titles as Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji) and Blue Exorcist (Ao no Exorcist), the animation is more fluid than water and the characters shinier than the gleaming swords they wield. the expressions of the characters as they go about their lives really help bring it all together, and even the most mundane of aspects are given the royal treatment (Asuna has a hair gradient. hair gradients, man!!!).
Look at this. And this is right before one of the most traumatic scenes in the entire show.
every moment of this series was perfect. the flaws are superficial (it takes the couple 24 damn episodes to kiss), the voice acting is excellent, and considering the novel series is still going, there is always more material to be had, despite the anime ending roundly. A-1 pulls no punches anywhere, with emotions flowing as freely as swings of the blade. you will laugh, you will cry, you will cheer, you will hiss. and you will love every minute of it. and the kicker is that the fanservice is so few and far between that you could easily show this to almost any crowd (just be VERY, VERY wary of episode 24...and it's not because of the kiss). the series has no need of fanservice. it has so much else going for it that it doesn't need to cover up for anything.
Strong AND Beautiful!
SAO is one of two anime series i'd actually PAY for, but just in case it's available from EveTaku, Commie Subs, HorribleSubs, Hatsuyuki Fansubs, GotWoot?, Hybrid Subs, Deadfish Encodes, Hadena Subs, Tekeremata! (Spanish), Taringa! (Spanish), FXSubs (Spanish?), Atarashi Anime Fansubs (Spanish), Fallen Subs (Spanish), Hoshizora (Spanish), PuyaSubs (Spanish), Kanari Anime (Spanish), Bakemono Subs (Portugese), Nippart (Italian), Wax Fansubs (Italian), Chinurarete Subs
(German), Naruto-Grand.Ru (Russian), Стрела (Russian), Sekai Kotonoha (Russian), Sick Fansubs (Greek), 3arbya team (Arabic), AnimeAddicts-UraharaShop (Hungarian), Our Subs (Hebrew), and many, MANY more.
Might be a bit spoilery, but we all knew it was coming. It was also a great part of an amazing ending to a spectacular series.

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