What one finds so interesting about this show is that it could tie into “Accel World”, so it may be recommended to see “Accel” first or at least the two of them together.
It is the future (it’s ALWAYS the future, don’t let the garb fool you). Now, it is the year 2022 and the Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPGLSMFTOMGTTYL), “Sword Art Online” (SAO), is released. With the Nerve Gear, a virtual reality Helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain, players can experience and control their in-game characters with their minds.
On November 6, 2022, all the players log in for the first time, but since only 10,000 copies of the game were distributed, this is all who can join on, and it’s one game per console (damn that Nintendo!) Our hero, Kirigaya Kazuto (known by his handle of Kirito) is not only a beta tester for the game, but is also known as a beater (beta tester and cheater). He shows the ropes to some of the newbies, but when it’s time for dinner, he, and others, subsequently discovers that they are unable to log out. They are then informed by Kayaba Akihiko, the creator of SAO, that if they wish to be free and log out of the game, they must reach the top floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss, a mere 100 levels away.
Some players are against this and try to forcibly eject. This causes microwaves in the helmet to cook the brain and they die. And if their avatars die in the game, their bodies will also die in the real world. You want out? Beat the game.
Kirito decides to go solo, choosing not to join any guild or party. He does befriend Asuna (yon fair maiden), who joined the Knights of the Blood Oath. They fight on the front lines to clear the floors of bosses to get to Level 100. But they do have an affection for one another.
This show is more than merely watching someone playing a video game, beating boss after boss. The people here have to make real life-and-death decisions and some use the virtual world to do things they could not do in real life. One scary component is player-killers: members whose sole function is to destroy other players by any means possible. Some have chosen not to play the game, becoming a profession, like blacksmith, hotelier, farmer. When the last floor is cleared, all are to be set free. The two questions: how long will that take and can I survive that long?
Once you get past the medieval flavor of the show, you see some real fine story-telling in here. You see genuine consequences of the choices you make and you see how the game changes people. Now, the show is not officially over, but I have taken the ‘mid-course correction’ to give a review at this point. It is slated for a 25-episode run.
I call this as a tandem or companion show to “Accel World”, as there is a point in “AC” when Haru is looking at the history of all this brain linking devices and comes across a photo of equipment pretty close to what is worn by Kirito.
I am not a big fan of MMORPGs, but this is a good show that allows one to not only look into the mind of a person who does this type of gaming, but what one has to do when there is only one way out. There is a good balance between talking and fighting and that this virtual world is just as real as anything you find in the ‘real’ world. I will give a ‘second season’ review when that part concludes.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Good artwork, but some folks look strange)
Plot 8 (Very straightforward)
Pacing 8 (Can turn frenetic when the fights come around)
Effectiveness 8 (They tend to jump around a lot)
Conclusion 0 (We haven’t reached the full conclusion)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okami”)
Overall 8 (Hitting on all cylinders)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. What do you mean I can’t log out?