Sword Art Online Calibur Review

As I am currently playing through the Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet game, I figured that I should finally go and wrap up one of the spin-off manga titles. This one shot is based on the mini Asgard arc and has always been known as a relatively weak story. Unfortunately the manga makes it even worse by adding in a ton of fan service so you can probably already tell how this review is going to end.

The manga starts off with Suguha letting Kirito know that some players have finally found out the location of the hidden sword Excalibur. The heroes had found it about a year earlier but because they were so slow the rest of the world caught up. Kirito has to form a group of 7 people in order to conquer this quest but it may prove more dangerous than expected. If the heroes don’t complete the mission quickly than the whole virtual game will turn from a happy fairy based one into an apocalyptic ice land. Fortunately Kirito is up to the task.

This is Sword Art Online so I should probably bring up the unfortunate fan service right away since we all know that it’s coming. The manga sets the tone for how this is going to play out right from the beginning as the very first panel on the first page is a fan service shot. The author even mentions at the end that he added more than usual. It is constant enough during the volume where it probably happens every chapter. Some of the scenes are totally made up for the manga and really don’t help the overall case. It really limits what the rest of the manga can hope to accomplish.

At least the general art looks pretty good. The characters are very detailed and this translates well into the fight scenes. The quality here is high so it’s too bad that this artist couldn’t have picked a better arc than this one. Of course, this manga also has to have a quick flashback to a certain scene in arc 2 just to fit that extra bit of fan service in. So, very solid art but it’s used for scenes that really don’t help the overall manga.

Fortunately Kirito is a pretty solid main character as per usual. He comes up with the plan to save the day and even uses a new skill that is game breaking. He is always surpassing his limits so it should really come as no surprise. Even when everyone tries to mess with Kirito like putting him on the spot by asking if he would pay for the meal, Kirito takes it in stride. He was happy to pay and comes across as a solid team player.

Klein unfortunately looks about as bad as ever. He is still a very desperate character who will try to ask out a computer program and he is also super weak. The guy doesn’t even work well as a comic relief character but he does help to make Kirito look even better. That always seems like the real reason Kirito keeps him around. Klein just can’t go one page without humiliating himself.

Sinon gets the biggest role from all of the heroines. Unfortunately the author uses it for the wrong reasons at times but at least her fight scenes are solid. Since her bow and arrow skills are double that of the usual max, her weapon is actually pretty overpowered. Her reaction times are likely second only to Kirito’s here so that is very useful as well. Considering that she has apparently had the account for a day (if I recall correctly) Sinon must have trained a great deal.

Leafa is around just to feel bad for the creatures getting destroyed by the other players but doesn’t do much beyond that. If anything she can be a little on the annoying side since she knows about the Asgard myths but conveniently forgets about them until right after the fight. Asuna, Lizbeth, and Silica don’t actually get to do anything. They are basically just here to fill up the party.

Then we have the main villain who is certainly a terrible character. He’s a very sketchy villain whose goals are terrible and so there is absolutely nothing to root for in his character. There is also the prisoner who has a big plot twist which does not help her character. That’s because her actions up until the plot twist are extremely manipulative and she was basically using the heroes. Certainly not a very nice thing to do if you ask me. Not that it would have been much better without the twist but the character was having too much fun with her role. The plot twist is pretty obvious but the manga does a good job with it since the characters are self aware about it. They all know the twist but decide to play along anyway. Even then they only play along because Klein essentially forced them into doing so.

I think the only positive change that the manga did was give Sinon an extended fight. At the very least I don’t recall that happening in the show. It’s not much, but it shows that the manga did something right. With the artist’s skills he/she should still do well in a future SAO manga provided they focus on fight scenes and not adding anything else that would be tragic for the manga’s score.

Overall, This was definitely not a good SAO volume and it doesn’t do this wounded franchise any wonders. It just continues to make the same mistakes that the franchise has always made. It had great fight scenes, but is bogged down by all of the fanservice. I’d recommend just sticking to the original Sword Art Online manga instead of checking this one out. You’ll thank me for it someday.

Overall 4/10


Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale Review

March has been off to a pretty intense start. Between my birthday and the release of Legend of Zelda Breath and the Wild, things were already going well. This got even better when I won free tickets to the big U.S. premiere of Ordinal Scale. Special Shoutout to Anime Girls NYC for letting me know about the contest in the first place. Winning it was pretty hype although it was still a tough call because it was on at the same time as a class I was supposed to be at. I thought long and hard about it, but missing out on this big event with free tickets would have been a shame so I played hooky and just skipped it. Characters do that on TV all the time right so missing one day shouldn’t be bad…hopefully! Well enough of that, time to talk about the film. It was great as expected and I dare say that it did a better job of getting the concept of virtual gaming better than the show did. Arc 1 of the first season is still the absolute greatest, but this movie has no second half to weigh it down.

This movie takes place after the first two seasons of the show. A new augmented reality game has launched called Ordinal Scale. After the tragic events of Sword Art Online and Gun Gale Online, people are fed up with virtual reality games. This new company took the opportunity to launch their augmented reality game since it is very different. I won’t go into how these genres are different since you can just Google that, but think Pokemon Go, but the more intricate version. You use the new system in every day life to get free coupons and to increase your score. The major boosts are obtained through boss fights and taking down minions. Kirito is sore that nobody is playing his favorite games anymore though so he pouts about it for the first chunk of the movie.

Kirito is so sore about this that he even takes the time to tell his friends that they’re playing games too much nowadays. After all, if you’re not playing his favorite games then you shouldn’t be playing at all. Kirito was such a jerk during the first part of the movie that it was actually pretty funny. He comes across as hypocritical and lying to his future wife’s face for super minor stuff also makes you shake your head. Now you may think that I’m not a Kirito fan based on this, but he’s actually my favorite character and I’m a big fan. His attitude and negative demeanor is part of what makes him endearing. Anyway, Kirito is forced to get on board when the game begins to get dangerous. Asuna is attacked and her memories of Sword Art Online are stolen. On a more minor note, the villain also broke Klein’s arm and injured a group of people, but Kirito’s more concerned about the Asuna situation. He must now get stronger in this game so he can beat up the villains and force them to return her memories. He may be a legend in the video game world, but can he do so well in the human realm? Time to find out!

Part of what makes this a little more challenging is the fact that Ordinal Scale is still in the real world. The illusions don’t change the fact that you have to physically move around and Kirito is supposedly out of shape. The film keeps on saying that, but he always looks like he’s in shape so Kirito’s just that good. He has a quick training montage and reminds us why he is the hero. It was great to see hardcore Kirito return for a little bit as he finally decided to go all out on the villains. It’s something that you don’t see from him quite as much now that he’s gotten a bit more mellow, but in his defense, the stakes have never been as high as they were in SAO. I’m sure the third season should change that once we finally adapt the next big arc.

The soundtrack in the film is easily 5 stars. There are a ton of great themes and I’ve already listened to the soundtrack on Youtube quite a few times. As I always say in my reviews, a good soundtrack can take a film to the next level. It’s safe to say that the film wouldn’t have been quite as exciting with a more laid back set of tunes. We get remixes from the show and even some tunes that seem to be grabbed directly from it. Coupled with the new tunes, it makes for a pretty unforgettable experience.

As always, the graphics are also excellent. The fight scenes really stand out and the choreography for the hand to hand fights are excellent. The best fight is naturally Kirito vs Eiji, but there were great moments all around. All of the fights were a blast with the colorful visuals and great sound effects. You could really hear every slice and clang and that’s part of what will always make going to the theater such fun. It’ll still be around at home of course, but your neighbors never let you turn the volume up quite as much as you would like. The solution is to live in a house of course, but I don’t think I’ll be moving anytime soon. Besides which, I’m just a city kid at heart anyway.

There are some plot elements I have to mention because they don’t make much sense. I’m not gonna go into too much detail on this, but Ordinal Scale just doesn’t work in practice. At least not the way that the film presented it. As one person pointed out on Youtube, one scene has a car turn into a bunch of barrels and later on we see the barrels get thrown around. That means that a car just got totaled and the poor owner is going to sue the game or a player bumped into the car and probably broke his back if we assume that it wasn’t enough to throw the car. There are many scenes like this throughout the film where you try and remember what the real world looked like the whole time. In a sense it almost feels like Boss Baby where the characters feel like they’re doing something intense, but it’s actually a lot less wide scale and epic than you are led to believe.

This may be true to an extent, but the line is heavily blurred. The characters are also immersed to the point where the whole landscape changes and they no longer know where they’re going. Also, their fake weapons seem to have an impact when they have their glasses on, but then it fades once they take it off. I guess you can just attribute this to the AR being that realistic, but it was also a little hard to swallow. Likewise, Eiji’s abilities were also a little intriguing. By the end we can basically just assume that the tech gave him super speed in real life which is pretty neat, but it should be extremely obvious to everyone in real time. At first it was treated like getting level ups in the game just gave you special abilities, but that wouldn’t make sense in context. What I’m trying to say in all of this is to not look at the context too hard as it falls apart under scrutiny.

The film’s around 2 hours, but definitely doesn’t feel like it. The adventure zips by in a snap which is obviously a good thing. It never drags on and it just a fun adventure from start to finish. I don’t have any real negatives here. I was worried that the film would have some fanservice since the show had a big problem with that, but it actually strayed away from that for the most part. There was definitely quite a bit of romance, but that usually goes hand in hand with the series. At least everyone wasn’t trying to get Kirito’s attention for once since he’s made it clear so many times that he’s taken.

I already talked about Kirito. He may not have sounded great, but he really is an excellent character. He’s a little petty at first, but every character has an off day. This was one of Asuna’s better depictions as she got really good at the game and it’s easy to see how she’s more comfortable in this real world setting than Kirito. He was never much of a people person after all. I would have been disappointed if Asuna had decided not to jump into the fray by the end and luckily the film didn’t go that route. She’s a fighter at heart so not including her in the climax would have been a mistake.

The rest of the group members are also around like Lisbeth, Klein, Leafa, and the others. They get decent roles and are around to try and get Kirito to enjoy the game more. They all pitch in and help when necessary. Sinon probably did the most noticeable damage to the boss which was nice since she is more powerful than the others. The fact that she is a long range fighter does make her a little vulnerable to the tougher bosses though. I still think it was a little odd how nobody really cared about what happened to Klein and why he didn’t tell them that Eiji could not be trusted. He didn’t lose his memory of being attacked after all so that was a little fishy. Ah well, that’s why he’s not the main character. As for the new characters in the film, they were all fairly decent. I can’t say that I cared much for the scientist, but I typically don’t care much for scientist characters anyway. At the very least, I could sympathize with his goal. He wanted to bring his daughter back even if it meant destroying the memories of many players and ultimately destroying them as well if necessary. Clearly he’s evil no matter what the justification is, but it’s certainly a better motive than just being psychotic. I’m always more on board with a plan to bring someone back to life because someone who’s special to you should mean more than the rest of the world. If you have to put the world in danger to save someone, then so be it.

The players also made it rather easy. The theater was laughing quite a lot when one of Klein’s friends noticed arrows that led to a dark alley. It’s basically the scenario that you hear about all the time on Reddit, but this guy walked in anyway because he saw a rare item. Lets just say that it did not end well for him. When are these guys going to learn that you shouldn’t go into a dark alley no matter what the reason? I can’t say that I liked Klein’s group at all though as they came off as desperate the whole time. I was rooting for the Sword Art Online monsters to take them down.

The pop idol Yuna is another one of the new characters. Her arc never really went anywhere though. She showed some interest in things beyond her programming which could have been interesting, but I guess the film didn’t have time to delve into it. She seemed like a nice enough person although I wonder if she knew that people were getting injured to deliver the crystals to her. She may not have been as innocent as she looked, but she can definitely sing. Finally, we have the main villain, Eiji. Eiji’s a classic arrogant villain who’s really confident in his abilities and loves picking on the weak. At first it seemed like he was just beating everyone up so he could get the crystals and it wasn’t anything personal, but this facade broke down a few times. Eiji definitely loves being the villain and his design was solid. The scenes with him and Kirito were definitely handled well and I’m glad that Kirito didn’t back down even when he was outmatched. That’s just not how Kirito rolls. I feel like Eiji should have put up more of a fight in his final scene, but I guess he was just too broken by then.

The surprise final boss was also great. I would have liked for that fight to be extended if anything, but they definitely fit in a bunch of action. Every character got to have a big moment in the end and there were a bunch of homages to the TV show. It was great to briefly see everyone and the movie really did do a good job of wrapping up everything from the shows. It was a good way to bridge the gap between this part and the next saga. This review was a little all over the place, but for a movie this hype it’s hard not to just start rambling as I move from section to section. It had a lot of powerful moments full of intensity and then also emotional moments as well. Kirito’s montage was excellent as I mentioned earlier and since it was personal now, I’m glad he threw everything at the mission. He even called in his favors with the government to get to the bottom of this.
Overall, Ordinal Scale is definitely an excellent film. There was never a question about its greatness, only whether it gets an 8 or a 9. As I mentioned there aren’t any real negatives so that makes an 8 the minimum. At the same time, there are some stretches of time with no real action scenes so I’m trying to consider how a re watch of the film would go down. Honestly it is good enough for me to re watch it already so it definitely has a lot of replay value. The theater audience was also very lively which was a blast. The animation and soundtrack are top notch and the plot is good. The dialogue scenes were also solid since I do like the characters. I don’t want to take shots at Naruto too often, but it’s amazing just how much more enjoyable the cast of Sword Art Online is. Seeing them hang out at the mall is more interesting than seeing the Naruto characters fight at times which should be impossible. Of course, good directing does go a long way. Well, in the end I think the film is good enough to pull it off. It’ll join the great crowd of Resurrection F, Yugioh Dark Side of Dimensions, and more. After all, the film’s going to be even more awesome when I get to see the dubbed version of it! I look forward to seeing the series return someday and until then I may get around to reading the light novels. I highly recommend the film and keep your eye out for the Pac-Man scene. It was definitely a highlight moment as Sword Art Online acknowledges that people will still be playing the game no matter how high tech the industry gets. Pac-Man is timeless.

Overall 9/10

Sword Art Online Lost Song Review

Yes, I’ve finally taken down another long RPG! I’ve probably played video games more in these last 2 months than I did for almost 6 months prior to that. It’s been the perfect time to play some RPGs and getting through Sword Art Online was good. I wish the game had kept track of the play time though because I feel like I easily put in 50+ hours on this one. If not, then at least 30+. Ah well, it is what it is I suppose. Unfortunately, elements of the story really hold this game back quite a lot, taking down at least 3 stars with it. So, if you want the maximum amount of enjoyment from this title, focus on the gameplay!

This game takes place after another game which loosely adapted the first arc of Sword Art Online where Kirito and his friends were stranded in a dangerous video game world. They managed to escape so this time Kirito wants to hang out with his friends in the virtual world for fun. Instead of worrying about dying, they can worry about whether or not they will be the first team to beat the game. On their way to the top, they learn of the famous Seven. A little girl who is one of the world’s greatest researchers and also happens to be the number 1 pop idol. That’s a lot of talent for a little kid wouldn’t you say? (We get a big cinematic of her singing and I am not convinced that a little girl could sound like that. Maybe I have simply never heard a prodigy before) Her guild is rapidly making its way to the top and is the only group besides Kirito’s that is doing so well. Obviously something must be up.

Meanwhile, a mysterious girl keeps shadowing Kirito’s group. He quickly finds out about this (He found out instantly because Kirito is perfect at literally everything that he tries. It’s why he is the ultimate main character) She just wants to hang around the main characters to get close to Seven and Kirito’s fine with that. He just wants to have fun after all, but if Seven’s group is going to do anything to jeopardize that enjoyment…well…he may have to take a stand here!

The gameplay is your classic 3D beat em up in a sense. It plays out a lot more like .Hack than Dynasty Warriors for example, but there are still enough monsters for you to not just call this your average Legend of Zelda platformer. One of the coolest parts of this spin is that you can fly indefinitely. That’s a nice spin on the classic beat em up formula. You can choose to attack normally with sword skills and combos or you can opt to use some of your magical abilities from afar. I didn’t use any magic skills at all during the game except for when I was trophy grinding. It is so much more satisfying to go in and take enemies down from up close. That’s how the beat em up genre was meant to be played in my eyes.

When you’re not fighting, you can explore the hub world for all sorts of things. You can enter the Colosseum to have fun in 1 on 1 duels against various opponents and you can also buy items/upgrade your equipment. Upgrading your equipment is very handy and I highly recommend it, but you should certainly be aware of the cost and materials needed. If you’re going to buy a new sword soon anyway, then you shouldn’t upgrade your current weapon. There are also quite a lot of extra story events that you can start while at home. Some lead to actual quests, trophies, and boss levels while others just lead to a series of cinematics so you can learn more about the characters.

The main theme that plays in the opening cinematic for the game is very good and is definitely catchy. This lyrical song also appears at one point in the game. The final boss theme is also very grand and reminds you that the stakes have finally risen a little. Most of the other themes are fairly unmemorable, but two really good themes is already quite solid and the others aren’t bad so I definitely give the game a passing grade here.

As for the graphics, I’d say that they’re pretty good. The cinematics can maybe look a little funny at times compared to the rest of the game. Maybe everyone’s a little too big or something. The sword fight with Kirito and Sumeragi was cool though. I just wish they would have upped the speed a little to make the fight more impressive. From the anime, we know that Kirito’s immensely powerful after all and he’s always fighting at a high level.

There are also a lot of trophies to collect in this game and they’re all fairly reasonable. Keep in mind that while none of them are really all that difficult, they will require a long grind. This game unfortunately does not keep track of your playtime. I’m confident that I’ve spent anywhere between 30-60 hours on this title, but I’ll never know for sure. Either way, some trophies you’ll need include “Reach Level 500, Get a sword spell to level 500, Get a magic spell to level 500 (Or 400) Get someone to a combined skill level of 1600, etc. The grinds are certainly very real in this game and that’s why I always prefer when RPGs have the standard 100 levels system. This one doesn’t even go by EXP and works by damage dealt. I’ve never cared for that style. Still grinding is fun enough. It’s nowhere near as enjoyable as Cyber Sleuth in that respect, but it was good. I did get the Platinum after all and I certainly wouldn’t have done that if I found the grind to be really bad.

I definitely had no problems with the length. You can’t complete Sword Art Online Lost Song in 3 hours You’d be hardpressed to beat the game in 10 hours either. It took me quite a while to beat. Without the extra grinding I’m not sure how long it’d take, but I’d expect that number to easily be in the 20’s to 30’s. (hours) There is also a whole lot of replay value through the trophies, quests, and extra cutscenes that you can activate by talking to people around town. The full experience of this game will last you just as long as any really big RPG.

Great gameplay, lasting replay value, solid soundtrack and graphics…this game must be getting an 8 right? It would have no problem, but the story is unfortunately where things got dicey. I don’t even mind the whole “no stakes” part to be honest. Kirito and friends can hold their own game even if they’re just playing levels for the lolz with no end plot. That being said, the game goes way too far in trying to go for its harem undertones. The TV show (Arc 1 anyway) actually handled the situation pretty well. Kirito doesn’t care for all that stuff anyway and always pulls the friend zone card. That doesn’t change here, but the game does make sure to put him in as many awkward and embarrassing positions as possible.

We’re talking the classic, “walk in while his friends are changing” “grabbing someone’s ears because he couldn’t resist” “getting flirted with by literally every single one of his female partners” “hot springs, festivals, (You have to do the festival with every one of the heroines for a trophy by the way) etc. It goes wayyyyy overboard by the end and it doesn’t help that the only male friend in the group (Klein) is always sure to point out just how crazy these scenarios are. You never get a break from this for the entire game…the entire thing. These plots are always happening and some characters seem invented just for this purpose like an original character who is always hugging Kirito. There’s also the fact that just about all of your partners have a swimsuit costume that you can equip so they’ll be wearing it during the entirety of the game’s gameplay. There are dozens and dozens of other examples that I could give, but you get the general gist. The game is shooting for that angle to appease one segment of the Sword Art Online fans while alienating the rest. Well, I can safely say that this cost the game 3 stars and hopefully the sequel dials this down.

Overall, Sword Art Online Lost Song is technically a great game. Maybe not incredible, but it had all of the tools to be one of the best PS4 games on the block. Instead, the story really played up the harem elements and lowered the quality of the story. As it is, you’ll want to skip all of the bonus quests that you can so you can avoid these scenarios. You can still play this RPG for the gameplay and ignore the story I suppose, but for that you may as well play a better RPG and have fun with both. Final Fantasy XIII-2, Final Fantasy VII, Digimon Cyber Sleuth, and White Knight Chronicles are all far better games than this one when it comes to the plot and have the classic RPG gameplay that I love so much. As much as I love real time, I also reeeeeally like turn based as well. Still, the potential is here so here’s to hoping that the next Sword Art Online game lives up to its potential!

Overall 5/10

Sword Art Online Phantom Bullet

The series is off to a good start so far. The arc doesn’t fall off the rails quite as hard as the previous arc so hopefully the manga can spin this into a decent ending. Either way, it’ll be a while before I finish the series, but I shall have a review up for when I do.

Overall 7/10

Sword Art Online II Review

The first Sword Art Online show had started off as an all star but quickly turned into a trainwreck. This one doesn’t crash and burn in such a way, rather it suffers from a myriad of issues from the get go. The sequel just seemed to have lower standards across the board. I still can’t call the show good as a result, but we do get some nice fight scenes. This series has 3 arcs, but most of the review is spent on the first one, as it is the longest. Get ready folks because there’s a lot to bash here! That being said, this still manages to beat season 1!

Kirito doesn’t really want to go on dangerous virtual reality missions anymore. Why would he want to do this after nearly dying right? Well, things change when the government makes contact with him regarding two pieces of important intel. Someone has been terminating players in the new Gun Gale game. Kirito quickly reminds the agent that it’s impossible to injure a real person from a video game. The agent agrees, but he wants Kirito to investigate a little anyway. Kirito heads into the game and things get personal when he finds out that this “Death Gun” character may be a Sword Art Online survivor. Can Kirito really take this guy down or will his long break from playing shooters come back to haunt him? Granted, Kirito finds a beam sword, which greatly helps him in the battles.

Meanwhile, there’s a new character in the mix. Her name is Sinon and she intends to win the big gun contest so that she can get over her fear of those weapons. It’s an intriguing way to cure her fears although I do see the logic in it. Still, it’ll be very tough to win the contest when Death Gun and Kirito have also entered to complicate the situation rather dramatically. Kirito is and always will be known as the ultimate gamer so he’s not going to just let Sinon win when there’s still a job to do.

One gimmick that the anime decided to use for this arc was for Kirito to be in a feminine designed avatar. Another character makes it clear that it’s still a male one so that’s good for Kirito, but he still manages to look like Lucina and decides to mess with the other characters a bit. It’s rather unnecessary if you ask me and I missed his standard design. Kirito’s normal design is just so cool that you didn’t need to mess with it.

This does lead into the animation angle a little. The first show’s animation was top notch. Some of the best animation in the business and it was at a theatrical level. Every episode felt like a movie. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in this show. It looks good for the most part, but it never comes close to looking like the first show. It still keeps the theatrical feel to an extent, but there are episodes where the budget is noticeably low and the quality really falls. Most of the fight scenes aren’t very exciting and that’s why we always need Kirito to save us. If it’s an action scene from Sinon, you can expect the animation to not be all that great. The anime uses more shortcuts and simply feels a little more like a cash in sequel. It’s rather unfortunate.
As for the soundtrack, it gets completely lolstomped by the original. Disclaimer: it’s not a bad soundtrack. Sword Art Online II still does the world proud and I like the battle theme. It also reuses a lot of themes from the original to help itself out. That being said, you won’t be blown away like you were with the first show. It’s sad since more techno music would have been appropriate for this season, but we only got a few really good tunes. Again, that’s impressive for the average show, but it’s not enough to even come close to topping the original.

While this show doesn’t explode like arc 2 of the original, we get another similar villain. The show seems to be obsessed with this kind of plot. The heroine even gives up once again temporarily and while Asuna had no choice, but to stick around, this other character has no excuse for this brief hesitation and lack of will power. It’s pretty unacceptable. Moreover, the show also has more fanservice than the original. I won’t say that the original completely avoided this trap because it most certainly did not, but this show was more frequent with this issue. Sinon’s costume isn’t terrible and it’s certainly no Satana, but the camera always zooms in on inappropriate angles, which makes it bad.

I’ve always felt that the costume is not much of an issue. You can have a character with Power Girl’s costume and provided that the camera plays it straight and never focuses on the gap, then it’s basically fine. For example, Harribel’s costume never seemed all that bad. Kubo quickly made this an issue by having her super form make it worse, but in the manga there was never any attention drawn to it (Besides the cover) so it was easy to just ignore. The anime completely shuts down that escape option and it’s pretty disappointing. We’ve also got random scenes of Asuna in the bath and the show continues to show why the quality of the original arc will never return. It’s just another thorn in the show’s side.

Finally, before getting into the positives let’s tackle another negative. The show takes itself way too seriously this time around. As a result, the show makes Kirito, Sinon, and most of the characters look bad at different times. Gone are the days when Kirito was completely fearless and picking fights with anyone who crossed his path. He is petrified when Death Gun shows up and constantly freezes up during the series. He nearly cries during a few different moments and while he initially took the Sword Art Online experience pretty well, his personality regresses rather seriously in this title. The show is really trying to appear to be very deep and emtional when it really isn’t. One of the reasons why the original Sword Art Online was so great (Arc 1) was because it was very happy and chipper despite the stakes. The stakes were raised and things got serious in the climax, but it adapted accordingly. The whole plot with Death Gun just feels forced and rather out of place.

Likewise with Sinon. You could have whole episodes about her shaking in front of a gun and reminding us of her origin story. (Which honestly wasn’t even that traumatic considering that she saved everyone in the shop and became a bit of a hero. The whole thing was also super unrealistic since the mother didn’t appear to be pleased, but anyone would be glad to have their life spared and the villain defeated. Sinon should have been looked up to by the masses. It just didn’t make sense) Cut the drama Sword Art Online and let’s get back to what made the show good.
As for Sinon as a character, she was decent at first. It’s quite sad that one of her very first scenes involves a guy trying to hit on her, showing once again how sad this show has become. Still, in Gun Gale, she is a tough warrior who has a great reputation. She wants to destroy Kirito in the competition for betraying her trust and puts up a good effort, but I can’t stand her human form. It’s probably the worst from all of the Sword Art Online protagonists and it makes it very hard to root for her. It was simply too much of a contrast and is basically like Homura’s form from her origin days…if she had no character development and never gained any strength of self or conviction to make the hard calls. Sinon is decently good with a gun, but is virtually useless in close combat situations. There’s no way that she would have done very good had Kirito not been around.

As for Kirito, he’s still the epic character that we remember from the original show for the most part. He manages to drive something that is almost impossible to drive within seconds and constantly pulls off hype moments like nobody’s business. He even beats a speed challenge that had never been beaten in the history of the game. I feel like the author tried to make Kirito as extremely awesome as possible and it was definitely a good move on his part since that’s why I like Kirito. He’s basically the ultimate character and never loses. How can you not root for him? Well, there are actually a pair of reasons that I can think of.

For starters, he finally made the decision to have a girlfriend in the first show. You all know what I think of the many flawed romances in media, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that this is an okay decision. In that case, then he needs to make this clear to everyone, but when introducing Sinon to the gang, he referred to Asuna as being merely a friend. That’s just terrible writing and really seems out of character for Kirito now that he’s not a free agent. He should have stayed as a free agent, but since he didn’t, he’s got to play by some new rules now. Also, Kirito looks uncharacteristically weak during the final fight against Death Gun.

Due to the true identity of Death Gun, we learn that he’s actually pretty weak and that Kirito should own him rather easily. Instead, Kirito is actually getting wrecked in the close quarters fight. Gun vs Sword would be fine, but it’s a sword battle so Kirito should have the massive edge. The fight makes no sense and is just very frustrating as the writers clearly have no idea on how they should handle the show anymore. It all comes down to the author of course and I feel like he’s losing his grip on the show. Correction, he already lose his grip on Sword Art Online and I feel like the anime are going to continue to stay in the negative zone. It’s too bad since the show always has the potential to be an 8 or a 9, but it simply can’t live up to that.

For example, if we go to the pros for a second, let’s look at the technical merits of Sword Art Online. As I mentioned, the animation is still pretty good for the most part. The soundtrack is very good as well and the fight scenes are great. They pale next to the original SAO, but shine when compared to the average show. It still feels like a movie and Kirito makes for an amazing main character. However, the fanservice, repeat of the Fairy Dance Asuna plot, and the uncharacteristic moments from the main characters are what really hurts the show in the long run. It just can’t survive these negatives and I feel like the author will just keep on making these mistakes over and over again.

Aside from the main arc, there are two minis that are included. The first one is a quick mission in fairy world as the heroes try to get Kirito a new sword. The animation hits an all time low in this arc and there’s really no point to it. The heroes face some monsters and then they head home. It’s fun to see the whole team together again, but it also makes them all look a little bad as they have a tough time facing off against some monsters. Still, I’ll admit that it’s a little nostalgic and Kirito’s back to his real design so it wasn’t all bad. Klein also got a bigger role, but it’s not much of a role and he’s just around to make Kirito look good. He wasn’t needed as a result since Kirito always looks cool.

The final arc tries to be even sadder and more dramatic than the Death Gun arc and fails miserably. Asuna meets a new fighter named Yuuki, who is supposed to be the strongest swordfighter of all time. She even defeated Kirito. (lol) Asuna agrees to help Yuuki and her team beat a boss in the fairy/SAO merged game so that their names can be engraved for all of time, but will they be able to accomplish this before another team shows up? Well, this arc did have 1 really good moment. Kirito shows up to fend off dozens of teams of players and manages to slice apart a magic blast. That shouldn’t have been possible and led to a lot of hype moments for Kirito, which is always a blast. They hint that Kirito still lost in the end, but it was still a great entrance and probably the best cliffhanger in the entire show. It was an awesome moment. We also got some good fight scenes like Asuna vs Yuuki and Yuuki vs Kirito. I remember the fights only being all right in terms of animation, but it was still nice to see. There was just a lot of plot hax everywhere and I still don’t buy Kirito getting beat, but I’ll just mark it down as him deciding to hold back to spare Yuuki’s feelings. Yuuki was in a difficult position after all and Kirito’s a nice guy so letting himself be defeated is the least that he can do.

If the arc had been played straight with a lot of action and cool moments, it would have been great. Instead, we get some drama between Asuna and her mom as the subplot and the main plot is also bogged down by the drama. For Asuna and her mom’s plot, you could think of it as a classic case of being in a Star Wars discussion. (Epic way to drag the name into my review for more clickz) While everyone is debating whether or not Episode VII or Episode V should be known as the greatest in the series, you’re off to the side shaking your head since you know that Episode IV is the way to go. Why is this relevant? Well, Asuna and her mom are both wrong in their debates.

I was on the Mom’s side for part of it. I agree that Asuna clearly has no idea what she’s doing and she’ll probably regret not having any aspirations or deciding to play video games for so long while she’s abandoning her real world connections. Video games are clearly epic and should be played for at least 20 hours a day, but it starts to get in the way of the real world. Still, the mom decides to give her more arranged dates and has a very old school way of thinking which is completely outdated and makes her look bad. As for Asuna, she looks terrible in the debate the whole time since her answer to everything is that she’ll be okay as long as she’s with Kirito. It’s pretty naive and sad, but she’s right that being paired up with some random joe is even worse and marrying based on social standings is not the U.S. way unless you’re a celebrity. Still, in the end, it’s hard to be invested in the plot.

May as well put this out there now, Yuuki’s a better character than the rest of Kirito’s allies combined. Unlike Asuna who always wavers and went from being a strong female lead to a character who has literally switched game positions to be more of a healer, Sinon who used to be a strong female lead and then had a dose of the real world, Klein…who is Klein, etc; Yuuki’s a strong fighter who never gave that role up. Her abilities were at a high level and she was a determined character who could have easily been the lead heroine in another title. She has the right attitude when teaching Asuna that sometimes you have to fight back against the bullies instead of letting them step all over you and your politically correct demeanor. It’s a shame that due to circumstances she won’t be a main character. She was also needlessly cryptic about the whole thing, but I suppose that she still made a good decision. After all, otherwise she would have to have a long conversation filled with tears and drama from the other characters so maybe it was for the best. Of course, she didn’t count on genius level Kirito being able to track her down from anywhere on the planet. That’s Kirito for ya though.

This series of Sword Art Online may have been bad, but at least it was still epic. Arcs 2 and 3 weren’t, but they were basically the side show bonus stories in the anime as Gun Gale was the main focus. (Alllllll though, if the series had just been Arc 3 or Arc 2, maybe the show could have gotten a solid 6) The first arc still feels like a nice movie event despite it not being quite as professional as the original. It has sown the seeds for future arcs so I’m sure that this villain organization shall return soon. The laughing coffins (And their recycled flashback that appears maybe even a dozen times during the show) will be back and in full force. Hopefully they end up being good villains and hopefully Kirito isn’t depowered since he should wreck those guys with ease.

Overall, Sword Art Online II feels like a cheaper, cash in version of the original. However, it doesn’t tank quite as horribly as the first show so it still gets the better rating. It’s a bad anime in the end and can’t cross the halfway mark so I don’t recommend it. I’d sooner recommend Attack on Titan actually so if you want a more intense anime with the same English Dub voice actor for the main character, that’s the show to check out. Or Blue Exorcist as well. For Sword Art Online, I’d recommend just watching the first arc of the original show and then pushing the rest of the series to the side. It’s simply not worth the time and who knows how the next SAO show will turn out. It may just be on a downwards slope that will keep on sinking and sinking as time goes on. No matter what else happens though, the series will still have Kirito and that means that it always has a chance.

Overall 4/10

Sword Art Online Progressive

It’s time to head back to Aincrad with this series. Seeing as how Arc 1 is easily the best part of the SAO franchise, it’s good to see it again. Unfortunately, the series is already heading into the fanservice trap, which is regrettable. If the series can stay away from that it should be okay, but if not, it’s game over! I’ll have a review for this once the manga finishes. Overall 5/10

Sword Art Online Fairy Dance Review

The infamous arc has returned as I can now see how it is handled in manga format. That being said, there’s really not much you can do when this is still based off of the same arc that was in the anime. The Asuna subplot still destroys the manga, but either way it was not a solid title. Kirito is still hardcore and one of the more intense protagonists out there, but he can’t hold a whole series.

This arc takes place after Sword Art Online and Asuna never actually made it to the real world. Kirito finds out that her mind has been trapped in another game and he sets off to save her. He has to hurry because it will be too late once the main villain goes through with the wedding. With no time to spare, Kirito must make it to the World Tree and complete this game as soon as possible. To do this, he’ll need the help of his sister, Suguha. Suguha is masquerading as a being named Leafa in the new game and neither one knows the other’s true identity. Drama and tension fill the air as they embark upon the new quest.

Well, this arc basically destroyed the Sword Art Online franchise once it was written into novel format and then adapted into the TV show. Seriously, the author just forgot that the series could have been good and naturally it spilled over into the manga world. The franchise should have ended with the actual Sword Art Online arc, but alas…it didn’t happen. Let’s launch into the various negatives here as it’s a sad read from start to finish.

For starters, the manga thought that it was a good idea to add more emphasis to the fanservice factor in this title. Not a good start. Just about every scene with Suguha has some fanservice in store and naturally the Asuna subplot contains this as well. This guarantees that you will be wincing throughout your reading and we’re just getting started. This is already the sign of a bottom tier title eh? The anime version actually didn’t have too much fanservice for this arc, a few scenes, but not as bad as the manga. I guess we just went from bad to worse.

Another bad subplot is the fact that Kirito’s cousin becomes infatuated with him. The fact that they’re only cousins is supposed to be reassuring, but it’s not as the subplot is still terrible and completely unnecessary. At least Kirito basically just denied Suguha and went to Asuna in the anime, but here he tries to be more open ended about the whole thing. He doesn’t return the feelings at all as Asuna is the only person for him, but he still didn’t just tell Suguha to move on as he should. Either way, it’s just another part of the train wreck.

The biggest problem with the arc though still lies in the Asuna subplot. The villains just go way overboard and it’s too extreme. Asuna is held against her will for quite a while and the main villain is sadistically in love with her money. In the real world, she can’t move so there’s nothing that she can do to stop the arranged marriage and the villain abuses his power in the virtual world. Kirito basically has to watch as the villain messes around with Asuna and that’s when I knew that it was game over for the title. That kind of plot will always be a big no no in any title and the fact that it happened in Sword Art Online is just terrible. It’s the main reason why the franchise is essentially dead to me. I’ll always like the first arc, but you simply can’t wash away a stain like this from the title. Whenever I think of Sword Art Online, I’ll always remember this arc. The main villain isn’t the only one who messes with Asuna as he also has two lackeys who are just as demented.

It’s too bad really since the manga had some promise otherwise. Kirito’s still a hardcore main character and we do get some nice action scenes. Kirito goes up against legions of humanoids in the final battle and he also has a nice fight against the big fire general. He does a lot to save Asuna so he certainly puts in the effort. If we took out the fanservice, the Asuna subplot, and the Suguha subplot, this could have been a really fun series. That being said, you can’t just take those things away as they do comprise a rather large part of the arc and it’s why I have to give this title a fail/10 in the end. It simply couldn’t manage to actually be a good story.

The art is better than the first series for what it’s worth. It’s just not worth all that much since the series was doomed from the start. It’s three volumes long and the final volume is pretty thick so it’s closer to 5-6 volumes in length. The arc doesn’t need to be rushed as a result although a rushed pacing would likely have helped the series in this case as it could have dwelt on the negative things a little less.

There are more characters of course, but not many more and there’s not much to say about them at this point. Suguha is essentially impossible to like and the same goes for the main villain. Asuna doesn’t really get a role at all aside from being a damsel in distress, which is sad. So…yeah, this review’s definitely a short one as are most of my 0 star films. One day, they’ll make a Superman comic/movie/something that will be terrible and thenI may have a long negative review at the ready…or it could still be a short one if it’s just that sad I suppose. Either way, the important thing for these titles is to at least cover the negatives and since the mild positives were evidently not enough, they’re barely worth mentioning.

Overall, if you ever wanted to know how a manga with good fight scenes, good art, and a good main character can end up being terrible, this is the manga to check out. However, I highly advise against checking this manga out. You should avoid it like a Mouse evading a Lion. The positives that the manga has are simply overshadowed and this will certainly go down as one of the worst manga titles out there. At least, from the ones that I’ve read. This rivals Black Bird as they’re both really down there, although this is likely a tad better than Black Bird…maybe. It’s like comparing a double cheeseburger to a Mc double at Mc Donalds. They’re more or less the same thing, just packaged differently. Looks like .Hack will be the big virtual reality series once again. Take a big glass of water and then watch Yugioh 3D Bonds Beyond Time. It’s the best thing to do after reading this manga.

Overall 0/10

Sword Art Online Review

Sword Art Online is one of those Mega titles that we shall never forget. For better or worse, it’s basically ingrained in society at this point. I started the franchise out with the anime before checking out the novels and then the manga. This actually doesn’t bode well for the manga since the designs are pretty different and I consider the anime to have the true ones. That being said, I like to think that I wouldn’t have been crazy about the art either way. It’s a decent take on the show, but I think it could have been better.

In case you are not familiar with the plot, I shall quickly explain it. Sword Art Online takes place in the future and virtual games are all the rage now. One in particular is called Sword Art Online and it is the first big MMORPG. Everyone is hyped and resident computer whiz Kirito decides to buy it. Suddenly, the players become trapped in the game and they can’t get out unless they complete the title. 2 years later, the story begins as Kirito must try to become the best. Can he really do it as a solo player or will he end up joining Asuna’s (Main heroine) group? Only time will tell!

The actual plot always sounds great no matter how many times I write or hear about it. You simply can’t beat a good sci-fi plot like this or not very easily. Being stuck inside of a video game is a concept that appeals to me in part because it sounds like it would be a fun experience in real life. (To an extent of course) I think that it might be a missed opportunity for the series that they quickly skipped the first two years, but we still get a lot of cool moments so it still works.

The main problem with the series is that the art isn’t very good. The characters just don’t look like themselves and it’s like they’re half chibi. If you’re going to make the characters tiny you’ve got to go all the way or leave them in their normal size. It can also be hard to follow some of the fight scenes although the art gets better as the series progresses in that respect. It’s still pretty below average though. It’s hard to say if I would have liked it more if I had read the manga before the anime or not, but it’ll just be one of life’s mysteries. Either way, I doubt that I would have called it anything above average.

The characters are pretty in character since a lot of the dialogue is almost word for word from the novels/anime. Kirito is still as hardcore and intense as ever. Aside from his unnecessary and disheartening one night stand, Kirito has proven that he has what it takes to be the main character. He doesn’t back down from a challenge and he’s pretty confident in his abilities. That’s why the art always gets me. He just does not look tough! He looks like a kid and his serious scenes just don’t come off as cool as they should this way. It’s not the character’s fault, but the art.

Asuna also makes for a good heroine. She’s probably in the top 3 highest leveled players in the game and her speed is certainly good. She is lacking in attack power as seen in the boss fight, but she always gives it 110%. The one night stand also hurts her character development, but luckily that’s pretty much the last that we’ll see of that. Klein is one of Kirito’s old pals (AKA, they met in the game for like 5 minutes) and he’s actually pretty decent. He’s a nice guy and he actually doesn’t hold it against Kirito that Kirito left to be a solo player. Klein ended up reaching a decently high level himself so it makes you wonder how things would have been if Kirito had stayed with the party. He’d probably be a little lower leveled, but Klein’s group would be higher leveled than they were. Ultimately, Kirito made the right decision, but who doesn’t like hypothetical situations.

The main villain naturally gets to appear since he locks them in the game, but don’t worry…he has plans for them! He’s a pretty good fighter even if he cheats sometimes, but he does fight with just his talent in the end so we know that he’s for real. He’s decently cool and easy to root for. They try to play him off as a sympathetic villain by the end, but it still doesn’t work considering how high the casualties were. You can’t really forget that, but he is still a pretty neat villain. His plan was also intriguing, but I think that the final boss would probably be too much for the heroes.

The speed at which this manga goes is very quick, which can be a good or bad thing. You really breeze through the arc since there are only two volumes and they have a whole lot to adapt. Some scenes are simply breezed over while others are long enough to essentially match their alternate (Novel/Anime) versions. The pacing works for this series although I wouldn’t have minded stretching it out to 3 volumes and extending some of the fights. You can never go wrong with longer fights since they just add to the overall epicness of the series.

In the end, there are to real negatives to this story aside from the one night stand. There’s also a dicey moment that doesn’t make a lot of sense where Asuna falls out of a portal and Kirito essentially panics. That was pretty sad, but at least it’s an extremely brief scene thanks to the pacing. Those two faults are there, but that’s not a whole lot so you may wonder why it didn’t crack the classic 7 rating. Well, the art keeps it from that. Art is more important in comics/manga than in any other medium except for maybe TV shows. (It’s just not typically an issue there) Bad art can overpower good writing just like bad gameplay can override graphics in a video game. That being said, it’s still a good manga, it just could have been even better.

Overall, it’s ironic that this version gets a higher score than the anime even though the anime does a much better job with arc 1. Ah well, it is still a pretty fun premise to play around with and the art may have taken away some of the enjoyment that I could have gotten from it, but there was still enough to go around. Kirito makes for a good main character and there are several fight scenes here. Since this is basically two volumes merged into one, it’s also a pretty nicely sized volume that should last you long enough to really be worth the value. I recommend it to anyone that wants to see a classic fantasy RPG or for anyone who wants to see a cool main character.

Overall 6/10

Accel World

Now, I seen Accel World in three mediums. The anime is still the definitive version and the book will likely be more detailed, but the manga is pretty faithful thus far. The art is pretty easy to follow and get into. It’s pretty clear so it doesn’t seem like an early creation for the artist and it holds up well as a tie in. They wrecked Ash Roller’s design, but you can’t win everything. It’ll be fun to see the fight scenes that are coming up! I’ll have a review for the series up once it finishes…which could be a while.

Overall 6/10