Sword Art Online sort of ends

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More specifically, the Sword Art Online anime series hasn’t ended but the story arc about the “Sword Art Online” game did end. It fact it ended so abruptly that many fans seem frustrated, let down and angry.

I’ve been pretty critical of this show in the past (though obviously not critical enough to stop watching it.) Still I’m going to stick my neck out and say a few words in its defense.

I felt that the writing in the first half of the series was not very good and probably reflected the immaturity of the author. However in the last few episodes I think it has become noticeably better (though it still isn’t at the same level as Accel World which is based on a later work by the same author.) Much of this is due to the fact that Asuna has changed from a bit player to a major character. She’s a much more engaging character than Kirito and their interaction makes him seem less shallow.

The ending did feel abrupt and it wasn’t exactly the ending we had been led to expect. Actually I have no problem with this. There’s no rule that says an author has to provide exactly the ending that the audience expects. I think ending it with an unexpected twist is a point in his favor.

Other complaints:

  • “The final battle wasn’t exciting enough.” Maybe so, but in fact none of the fights in SAO have been particularly thrilling. They all were brief and confused and had much less drama than the fights in Accel World. This may be partly the fault of the studio but I think it’s mainly because Reki Kawahara hadn’t really mastered the art of building up dramatic tension when he wrote this.
  • “The ending had plot holes.” Meh. It didn’t seem any worse to me than any of the other episodes. It’s probably more accurate to say that it left some details unexplained. But that’s pretty typical of anime and of Japanese writing in general.
  • “They should have spent more time on the details and mechanics of the game.” I think Kirito had the answer to that: “There’s nothing more boring than watching someone else play an RPG.”

So apparently next week Kirito is going to log into another immersive role-playing game, this one involving fairies. Okay…that seems a rather stupid thing for him to do. You’d think he would have learned his lesson. But we’ll see…

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