Content Warning: Sexual Assault
Imagine logging into Netflix and deciding you want to watch an anime, so you click on the first one you see and start watching it. At first glance, the anime is good but that quality drops extremely fast in season two. “Sword Art Online” is an anime that takes place in 2022, where thousands of people get trapped in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The anime features a gaming device called the NerveGear, which links the person’s senses to the game character. What makes the game so dangerous is that if the person was to die in the game, they would die in real life, and the same would happen if someone was to take the game off of the person’s body. The only way to get out is to beat the game. The anime focuses on the main character Kirito and his love interest Asuna.
The first season of SAO is a good anime. I like how it takes place in a game and how the characters are stuck in said game. I also like how they need to complete it to be released. The problem is not with the first season — it’s with the second season. The first season was everything I wanted. The only downside was that there was no magic in the game, but it’s easy to get over that. The plot timing was very good, and it never felt like the show was taking too long. I also felt that while the character development in the first season wasn’t too major, it wasn’t bad either. The script and the graphics were top-tier. The graphics were always so clean and crisp, while the script was funny yet serious when it needed to be. My problem is with the second season, which was totally different. It was in a different game, different plot, different everything. It’s not how you would expect a plot to change between seasons. This plot change was so fast and unreal that it didn’t make sense to even happen in the first place.
The second season takes place after everyone who survived the game is released except for Asuna and 300 people who were transferred from SAO to a new game, ALfeim Online, a game based on fairies and magic. When they get transferred, Asuna finds herself trapped in a bird-like cage at the top of the world tree in this new game. The creator of SAO, Reiki Kawahara said in an interview with Dengeki Online that he likes when the female characters in anime are strong and independent, but in season two of SAO he puts Asuna into a damsel in distress situation. This just doesn’t make sense, especially when she was so independent and strong in the first season. In this new game, the whole reason Asuna and 300 other people get trapped in this new game is due to the fact that her father pretty much sold her via a bet. The person who won the rights to Asuna is Sugou and he links them all to the game. Now here’s my problem. I kind of like the overall aesthetic of the new game but I hate how they used this new setting with such a bad plot.
Sugou is a total jerk. In season two the anime takes a really dark turn by adding human experiments, kidnapping, and graphic sexual assault scenes. I feel like Kawahara did this to separate SAO from other anime. I think he added it to show the intense bond between the main characters and the love interest. Critic Megan Peter notes that “the franchise has used the plot device a few times to spur its male heroes into action, leaving its female leads to suffer for misogynistic silence.” I feel like this doesn’t work great because SAO is a very popular anime watched by people of all age groups; you can’t just directly show SA in a show that a nine-year-old could be watching.
The anime had a lot of potential but due to the rushed feeling and the drastic plot change, it ruined its chances of succeeding. I also have an ick factor when the thought of kids watching this show and they see all these serious topics being displayed. What could have been a great anime, became a show I would not recommend.