The anime that sparked such an intense hatred among anime fans has returned for a second season. Sword Art Online has been one of those shows that received a lot of hype and gained mainstream popularity, but many bashed A-1 Pictures for their paltry adaptation of the series. Many stated that in the original SAO, it was pretty good up until the ALfheim Online arc when they all sprouted wings, turned into faeries, and went off on another magical adventure. So could Sword Art Online II redeem itself and come back to be the quality anime that we all hoped it would?
Let’s find out!
Just like the first season, the story is broken down into arcs. While the first season covered the Sword Art Online and the ALfheim Online arcs, Season 2 focuses on the Gun Gale Online, Excalibur, and Mother’s Rosario arcs.
The first half of the show features the Gun Gale Online arc. Essentially, the Virtual Crimes division had its attention called to a player in Gun Gale Online, going by the name of Death Gun, who has been killing people in the real world from within the video game. All Death Gun has to do is fire his handgun at an opponent and they will disconnect and die of a heart attack in the real world. This puzzled the virtual crimes division because when the Nerve Gear from the first season was outlawed and banned, the Amusphere that replaced it couldn’t harm a living being and was manufactured as such. There had to be another way.
Enter our hero and god of video games, Kirigaya Kazuto.. or Kirito for short. They want him to enter Gun Gale Online and investigate. Kirito does and ends up getting to the root of the problem, discovering Death Gun’s real identity and how he’s able to pull off real world murders from within the game. Kirito does get some help, but I’ll cover her when we get to the characters.
The approach they took to this arc was a bit different and people who were not familiar with the source material were a bit surprised that Kirito was a girl this time around. Essentially they copied his data from Sword Art Online/ALfheim Online and the game automatically generated a new avatar for him. Well a flaw in the system caused him to be female, rather than male. I believe this was done as a way to poke fun at the people who play MMORPGs under the guise of a female, but are actually male in real life. In fact, it’s not the first time this anime ran that joke. It happened in the very first episode of the first season when they used the Mirror of Truth and their real identities were exposed.
Personally, I had no problem with Kirito being female and yes, as expected of Japan, they had some fanservice moments with Kirito.. such as the scene of him (or her in this case) swimming naked in a river. They explain it as a means of stealth to avoid showing up on the map during an area scan during the Bullet of Bullets Tournament, but we all know what it was truly for! If you can block out that sexually confused moment, then the Gun Gale Online arc was exactly like the Sword Art Online Arc… pretty damn interesting, but not as filler-ish, meaning that it stuck to the story, didn’t trail off, and was more enjoyable to watch as it kept you wanting to come back to see what would happen next.
The fights during this arc were pretty short, but what was there was pretty good to damn-near awesome. Kirito’s ability to dodge and block bullets using nothing but a plasma saber was pretty amazing to see and it was well animated to bring out the epicness of the moment. This arc caused quite a bit of a quandary for me as I can’t decide if I like the GGO arc the most or the SAO arc. Both are pretty much tied for the best arc out of the whole series thus far!
In the Excalibur arc, it was essentially filler, but not really because it happened in the Light Novel. We’re back in ALheim Online, only now it’s merged with Aincrad from the SAO arc thanks to the wonderful and magical world seed created by Kayaba at the end of the SAO arc.
Kirito’s goal here is to obtain the Excalibur Sword, which has now become a quest reward and yes… it is the same Excalibur Sword that Kirito summoned when he used Kayaba’s access code to grant himself Game Master-level powers during his fight with Fairy King Oberon during the ALO arc in season one. This kind of makes me wonder.. if he had the power to summon it.. why not just take it right then and there? That way we wouldn’t have had to sit through this arc, which was, pretty average to below average.
The arc only lasted three episodes and got its own opening. It was a standard MMORPG quest as in enter a dungeon, pick up a side quest, kill the boss, get the sword. I wish I could say more about it, but that pretty much sums it up. The only tie in was the sword itself and the small reminder of the ALO arc in Season One… outside of that, it was just put into this season to help the pacing since the final arc couldn’t fill the remainder of the series.
That brings us to the Mother’s Rosario arc. If you’re a sucker for sad moments, then get out your Kleenex for this arc. While it wasn’t better than the GGO or SAO arcs, it was still really good. Basically, there was a rumor of a fighter who would show up every day at 3pm and challenge people to duels. This person went by the name Zexceed. Kirito even fought and lost to Zexceed, but many who witnessed the duel said that Kirito went easy on Zexceed and didn’t have his heart fully into the fight. They encouraged Asuna to challenge Zexceed and she did, becoming the first player to ever go toe to toe with the skilled fighter.
We then realize that Zexceed is actually a girl named Yuuki Konno and that’s why Kirito went easy on her. Konno is so impressed by Asuna’s skills that she stops the duel and reveals the reason as to why she was fighting every single day. She was looking for someone strong enough to help her guild, The Sleeping Knights, defeat a boss. Their guild is very small and well under the required size needed to kill a floor boss, but if you do it under a certain amount of people, instead of the person who lands the killing blow, everyone apart of that group gets their name etched on a wall as the ones defeating that boss. They said that because of real life reasons, The Sleeping Knights will be disbanding soon and they wanted to create this one memory before they split up and have it immortalized on the wall.
Asuna agrees to help them and they end up beating the boss. Can’t really call that a spoiler because them beating the boss was shown in the opening credits. Congratulations to A-1 for the blatant spoilers!
However, the true reason behind killing the boss is what hits home the hardest. That is something I will refrain from spoiling, but it is a rather sad and depressing moment.
Overall, there were some nice tie-ins to the first season while keeping things fresh. I really believe the second season was executed a lot better than the first. The only big shocking thing that came out of it was the ending and it’s the fact that A-1 went with an anime-only ending instead of the big cliffhanger that everyone was expecting. Despite not going with the cliffhanger ending, there are rumors that there with be a Sword Art Online: Extra Edition OVA that will include the cliffhanger… especially after the creators sent out a cryptic tweet the day the season finale ended, hinting towards a Sword Art Online III.
I really hope there is an SAO III because the arc they have left to write is going to be awesome. I know what is to come if it is, indeed, animated. All I will say is that it will conclude what they touched upon at the end of the Gun Gale Online arc. Let your imaginations run wild!
We are already familiar with Kirito, Asuna, Leafa, Klein, Lizbeth, and Silica from the first season. They are all back and most of which, even Kirito during the Rosario arc, end up being supporting characters in the truest sense… they are there to support the anime by filling time with petty dialogue. With the exception of the three-episode Excalibur arc, they are (save for Kirito and Asuna), for all intents and purposes, useless. So let’s focus on the new characters they introduced.
Or as I call her… Ms. Buttcrack. Sinon is introduced to us in the Gun Gale Online arc. She has a mental disorder brought upon by a traumatic experience. She inadvertently got caught up in a robbery and she got a hold of the robber’s gun. She shot and killed the robber and now she suffers from severe anxiety whenever she sees a handgun, so she uses Gun Gale Online as a means for therapy and, ironically, while in the game world, she’s one of the world’s best snipers and well-respected.
The character has a lot of duality to her. It’s basically symbolic of turning internal conflict into strength, but what differs with this type of character is that when Sinon exits the game and re-enters the real world, that strength is completely gone. It’s some kind of mental block that she has going on and it’s only by meeting Kirito that she eventually finds the strength to begin to overcome her phobia and her anxiety in the real world. It’s because of this that Sinon is a very relatable character to a lot of people. It may not be over guns, but there are a lot of people who suffer from anxiety and do things, like play games, to escape reality and bring a peace of mind to themselves, but as soon as you sign off, all that anxiety comes back.
Sinon serves as a good role model and symbol to show that you really can overcome your fears and that’s what makes her so relatable. Personally, I really enjoyed the character and not because of the prominent buttcrack or the fact that lots of girls are beginning to cosplay as her, meaning there will be some real life buttcrack happening all over the country soon, but because her personality was well-balanced. In the game she acted like a boss, but outside she showed how human she could really be. The one flaw that happens to Sinon is also the one flaw that happened to Asuna.
Here we have a strong female lead character and she’s all fine and dandy until Kirito shows up and goes into “overpowered main character mode” and steals the spotlight away from Sinon. The longer the arc went on, the more and more we saw Sinon’s strength as a character disappear only to play second fiddle to Kirito and having him call all the shots. They also tried to build up this rivalry between the two of them, but that never even comes to fruition as Sinon just becomes another random girl to be added into Kirito’s pseudo-harem.
At least she got SOME screen time during the Excalibur arc, but then she completely disappears during the Mother’s Rosario arc. Farewell Sinon, thanks for stopping by and I hope that you and your buttcrack enjoyed your cup of coffee.
He’s the main antagonist of the Gun Gale Online arc and they did a very nice job tying the original season in with his character. So… as I mentioned before, Death Gun seemingly has the power to kill people in the real world by shooting their avatars in game and causing them to log out and have a heart attack. Kirito is sent to investigate him and while I will not reveal how Death Gun is managing the murders, I will state that he is revealed to be a Sword Art Online survivor… and more importantly, a member of Laughing Coffin.. the PK (Player Killer) guild in SAO.
Once Kirito realizes this, he decided to investigate Death Gun by fighting him. In fact, Kirito, using he plot-induced powers of deduction, figures out, on his own, how Death Gun is committing the murders and once he realizes this, Kirito no longer fears him and challenges him to the fight.
Overall, I enjoyed Death Gun a lot.. mainly because he’s been the ONLY main villain that wasn’t completely asinine (like Fairy King Oberon), and actually gets a satisfying conclusion that didn’t make you want to put your head through a wall (like Kayaba). His design was pretty nice as well.. I rather enjoyed the cyborg grim reaper look and his pre-kill ritual of giving the holy cross was a nice touch to add to his overall character.
Death Gun also shows that he is more than just fear.. he is a pretty skilled fighter with some pretty overpowered weapons… such as a sniper rifle equipped with a silencer that can fire darts which grant the paralyze effect to your character. That kind of weapon seems like he’s cheating, but it really ties into the whole motif and atmosphere that Death Gun brings to the table and I think it’s the perfect fit for someone who is supposed to bring paralyzing fear to the gaming community.
This is the final new main character introduced to us during the Mother’s Rosario arc. Zexceed is a master fighter and swordsman who possesses an unheard of skill that can deliver 11 strikes in a row. Not even Kirito’s dual wielding skill, Star Burst Stream, can deal that man consecutive hits in one turn.
It’s really hard to talk about this character without spoiling anything, but she does befriend Asuna and the two of them bond pretty well. The confusing part about this character is she calls Asuna “Onee-san”, which is Japanese for “sister.” Both of them share the same name of Yuuki, as well, but the names are Asuna Yuuki, and Yuuki Konno, but because of the way the Japanese operate within their culture, unless you’re considered a really close friend or family member, you should always call someone by their last name. Asuna keeps referring to Zexceed as Yuuki, so many believe that she’s calling her by her last name leading many people to believe that they may actually be sisters, but Yuuki is actually her first name and Asuna calls her that because of their bonded friendship.
I absolutely loved the seiyuu (voice actor/actress) that did Konno’s voice. She was rather unique to listen to and during the back half of the arc, she was absolutely perfect in driving home the emotion. Also, if you really want to make things even more confusing.. the seiyuu’s name is Aoi Yuuki. Right now, I’m envisioning Oprah with the “And you get a Yuuki.. and you get a Yuuki… EVERYONE gets a Yuuki” meme.
I would go through each of the members of The Sleeping Knights, but there really isn’t a point in doing so. They hardly get any backstory and are just there to add mystery and mystique around the reason the guild is breaking up. Outside of the fact that they all seem to be close with other in real life, they really don’t add all that much to the show. They really felt with throwaway characters and that’s a damn shame because some of them had pretty good personalities.
Art and Animation
The artwork was as you would have expected from Sword Art Online and nothing has really changed since the first season. The backgrounds are where everything really shined as, along with the enhancement of CG, they all looked absolutely gorgeous. The characters designs we’re pretty great, too as Sinon, Death Gun, and Zexceed all had very unique and interesting character designs that really made them stand out as main characters. All of them were pretty detailed as well which enhanced the overall experience with the characters.
Plus their outfits were designed to reflect the type of characters they were. With Sinon being the sniper, her outfit was minimalistic to allow for easy movement. Plus it had some army green mixed in which helped paint a good picture for the sniper role. I’m sure the low-cut hot pants, however, was merely fan service, but hey… I’m not complaining!
The cybernetic grim reaper look for Death Gun fit his character to perfection. When you’re emulating death itself, there’s no better outfit than the Grim Reaper himself. The spin they took with the Death Gun character kind of made it resemble a reaper, but at the same time, gave him his own unique identity while still producing that “oh shit” reaction when you see him because just his look alone lets you know that something serious is about to happen.
Konno’s look also suits her as well. She’s very lively.. her animation is made to look “bouncy”, and her outfit accentuates that. Plus you don’t get to see a lot of happy-go-lucky characters in all purple, either. Usually purple is saved for more serious character types.
The CG used throughout the show was what you would expect from SAO and can be summed up in a single word: SHINY!
Yes… all of the CG is very shiny… from the crystal-like swords in the opening, to the spells beings cast, it’s all very bold, vibrant, particle effects of a multitude of colors. Purples, blues, greens, oranges, reds… everything that just looks good in HD illumination is present and it’s very eye-pleasing. There’s a couple of times where the CG does tend to stand out from the rest of the animation, but it’s not a huge glaring problem like some other shows where one minute it looks choppy and hand drawn and the next it looks fluid, computer generated, and accomplished on a million dollar budget…. or in some bad cases, by a college undergraduate.. or in one case.. like a 3 year old (I’m looking at you Naruto Shippuuden, Episode 167).
All of the animation looked good and nothing felt out of place. Everything seemed to fit and have a purpose. Even during boss battles, the animation budget really shines as the characters look very fluid and the attacks look pretty good. As aforementioned, Kirito’s bullet dodging was probably some of the best animation I’ve seen in this entire series.. and possible, others as well.
I really enjoyed the second season of Sword Art Online more than the first. There was better action, better story, and emotional moments throughout. The only decline in quality was the Excalibur arc, but then again, if you are a fan of MMORPGs and ever wanted to see a side quest animated, then you got your wish and that arc is the perfect fit for you, but since it only took up three episodes, I thought that it really wasn’t needed.
I was disappointed with the anime-only ending because it would have set up a third season, but despite this, I believe that there will be a season three. Sword Art Online is just too popular not to finish the story.
If you’re wondering, if there is a Season III, it will cover the Alicization arc. Go ahead and Google if it you want to know spoilers ahead of time, but if you’re not a spoiler-ish person, I will forewarn you that the show will get pretty dark and grim during that arc, should they choose to A) decide to animate it and B) not butcher it.
I would still recommend watching the first season because even as bad as some parts were, they do tie into the things that happen in Season two and you get a more harmonious flow of the series that way. I believe that the franchise has redeemed itself rather well and I’m going to give this an overall score of 8 out of 10 because of it. It was definitely above average and the action/story kept me wanting to come back and see more each and every week.
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Until next time,
Sword Art Online II
It redeems itself from the first season, though not perfectly. It still offer better action and better story arcs than season one.