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Sword Art Online: What makes it SEEM so bad?


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Lobokendo



Joined: 04 Jan 2016
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Location: Salmon Arm, BC Canada

PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 5:17 am Reply with quote
I would just like to preface this with two things. First, I am not some SAO fanboy looking to start a fight. I am honestly looking to discuss the flaws with SAO so I can help better understand that view point, because I do like SAO. Other than a few very specific instances, I have not been able to properly pin down what makes it so terrible.

Of course I realize this is all subjective, so I'm just looking for an honest discussion about SAO because I want to believe I'm not crazy for liking it so much.


{I slightly edited the title for clarification purposes. ~nobahn}
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DuskyPredator
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 5:55 am Reply with quote
A first point for why it is criticised so much is because it is popular, this does not mean it much more negative than a lot of other series, but that it leave it open to a lot more scrutiny. All anime fans, not just those who might like the genre, will have an opinion on it.

One of the most common complaints I see levelled at SAO is in calling its hero, Kirito, a Gary Stu, which means that he is a character written as too perfect. I am someone who personally argues against it, although I see where people get that opinion. There is probably the mistake in some writing in putting more focus on Kirito's non-stu qualities like because the writer was relatively inexperienced early on. From a focus on problems with groups, him being dragged around by the female characters, things he might be inefficient at, and focus on real challenges and trauma he faces.

Again personally, I think the story with him and Sachi pushed him out of the Stu area. Although another problem people complain about, specifically in the first season was the treating of heroines, especially how Asuna got pushed from being an active character into being relegated to a damsel in distress in the second half. I do also go against this in pointing out that Asuna despite her situation does actively try to work for her escape. And Leafa was a pretty cool character (I got a model of her).

I can't say if it was a consensus, but I think the second season did some pretty good work by having Sinon, a really flawed yet great heroine involved. And this was also worked with Kirito having also having some strong trauma, although there are complaints that this comes out of nowhere, but he also some what I would call goofy moments. And there is also an entire arc that barely has Kirito and focuses on Asuna, and has a lot of positive reception. Which kind of gives the feeling that the creator got some ideas of how to fix earlier problems.

You will in general find a lot of complaints against the series, I practically got into a fight about multiple points. One in particular was about how Kirito apparently used an illusion spell and went giant, that it did not make sense of how he was doing things with a giant body if it was supposed to be an illusion, which I really tried to explain that he had an avatar change with the same stats as a simple representation of the supposed illusion magic which probably would have broken with the right counter.
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nobahn



Joined: 14 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:12 am Reply with quote
Just to emphasize a point made by the OP: Keep it civil. This is not a request. Thank you for your cooperation in this regard.
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Lobokendo



Joined: 04 Jan 2016
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Location: Salmon Arm, BC Canada

PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:16 am Reply with quote
I agree with a lot of those points but I have heard all of those before. It sounds like you, as I have, read the light novels as well. Specifically about the illusion magic. What I think this problem stems from though is unfortunate direction decisions. The scene itself is written fine in that context, but the problem with SAO as an anime is that it doesn't properly explain why Kirito suddenly transforms like that. So in a sense you can't blame the writing for the show other than its adaption because the novel explained the situation very clearly.

As for Kirito being kind of OP, that is one of those general ones that I can't entirely disagree with, but at the same time I can't say that that's a trait that sends a series right into terrible territory.

As for why Asuna went into a sort of damsel in distress in the Fairy Dance arc, it stems from what the author wrote in his afterword in that arc. He said he wanted to write a story that didn't involve death, but still had a serious story, so instead of death being the thing the characters needed to worry about, it became instead the scenes with Asuna being held captive like that with all of the gross things happening to her, but in that context those are serious moments that just didn't come across right in the anime.

Also, thank you for the title edit nobahn, I am looking for a civil discussion on this matter.
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DuskyPredator
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:33 am Reply with quote
Lobokendo wrote:
It sounds like you, as I have, read the light novels as well. Specifically about the illusion magic.

Actually, I haven't, I have only seen the anime. I like to think that in general I am a bit more open minded and could feel where the writing was often coming from. I play a good amount of games, illusion magic is a personal favourite with games, and also some interest in game mechanics, so I could reason why the particular event.

Lobokendo wrote:
What I think this problem stems from though is unfortunate direction decisions.

I do think that there are some direction problems in places, and it seems to create things for people to dislike. The forum for the first season of SAO went for over 200 pages, the second season I think was about half of that.
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Vaisaga



Joined: 07 Oct 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:15 am Reply with quote
The complaints leveled against SAO are fairly common ones. But due to its popularity it becomes an easy target, something that embodies "everything wrong with anime" to some. They can't stand the idea that it's popular because if it's popular then more things like it will get made instead of works they consider 'good.' So they make it their mission to inform the masses about how much it 'sucks' to try and sabotage its reputation. On a more Freudian level, they're also trying to convince themselves and others of how 'superior' their tastes are.

Obviously this doesn't apply to all detractors. But I'm talking about the sort who must harsh on any and everyone who says anything positive about the show, which results in never ending back and forth arguments that go nowhere. It's those people that causes the negative reputation to persist.

Basically it has things most people would normally just write off and move on like many light novel adaptations out there. But its popularity makes it stick out and you know what happens to the nail that sticks out.

I'm not a huge SAO fan (though there are parts I love more than the whole) and just think it's a pretty good show. Certainly nothing worth getting so worked up about.
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Chiibi



Joined: 19 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:59 pm Reply with quote
Dusky and Vaisaga have pretty much said all of my thoughts on this. Anime hyper

Good job, guys.

A lot of people who put SAO down are just 'Anime Elitists', otherwise known as "snobs who think their taste makes them smarter and won't let people enjoy things'.

I like SAO very much (both anime and novels) and get harassed for it a lot online. :/ It's quite ridiculous....though complaining about this makes me a hypocrite because I can't tell you how many times I've put down Twilight fans. Anime hyper (IT'S CRAP THOUGH!!!)
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12skippy21



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 5:05 pm Reply with quote
I think it is hard to call SAO a 'bad anime' anyway, from an animation and music standpoint it is excellent. Storywise it is above average with the main issue really being the fluff episodes, though few anime do not have fluff in some format, as a Monogatari fan I know the show would only be 10 minutes long without the conversational minefields.

To me the show falls on characterisation, and as it is good in other areas, it makes its flaws more obvious. Leaving the Gary Stu stuff aside, the issue is that the show focuses too much on him (even to me by lead character standards), everyone revolves around him, and leans on him to be Ex Machina character too often. I feel the same way about Touma in the Index franchise. However it is the lack of development, and general fawning of female characters, over him that bugs the hell out of me, Asuna being the damsel in distress is only part of it. They have interesting characters but they are just not utilised as they could be.

With the Rosario arc though (my favourite arc) I felt that the characters being dealt with were more interesting and really grounded. I think trying to make characters to badass just distracts from the situation they are in, especially when characters do die. To draw the Index comparison again, I prefer Railgun to Index and feel the same way about it.
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Lobokendo



Joined: 04 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:42 pm Reply with quote
While I agree with everything said here, it still doesn't really shed too much light on the situation. I agree that some people will just hate on SAO because it's popular, but I've heard a lot of anime critics (who's opinions I trust) say similar things so I can't just write it off as "Haters gonna hate".

Of course the "fluff" episodes will not be very strong and I think that is a problem with the anime, I believe that stems from the decision to animate things out of order. For those not aware, the first SAO novel actually starts at the 2 year mark with only a flashback to the first episode, everything in between was all short stories. I can't say for certain, but if those episodes had been done as flashbacks instead of just having random time skips it may have worked better.

Also Dusky its cool if you haven't read the novels. The way you explain it works perfectly. Basically Kirito's stats were unchanged when he transformed, it just mattered that his stats were crazy anyway so the extra reach of that form plus the fear it put in that group lead to him winning.
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Dessa



Joined: 14 Jul 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 10:00 pm Reply with quote
I'm not an SAO fan. I won't say I hate it, because I do watch it, and find it mildly amusing, but I'm definitely not a fan.


First off, the biggest plot hole in the series, that you could fly the White Base through, if filled, would PREVENT the entire series from happening.

Products go through many rounds of testing before they're allowed to be released to the public. These include safety testing. Then they have to be signed off on by a government agency. You cannot convince me that the Japanese government would allow a product to be released to the market, especially one aimed toward young people, that has the ability to fry people's brains. There's just no way that it would ever be released. And if it can't be released, the story can't happen.

My second problem is with Kirito. Saying he's a "Gary Stu" is the easy way to explain it, even if it's not complete. He very much has that "too perfect" feel. He just happens to be the best player in the game. He just happens to earn a one-of-a-kind skill. He just happens to have a bunch of "hot" girls fall for him. The list goes on.

My third problem builds on the second. Kirito can "do the impossible." It's clearly stated that if you die in the game, you die in real life. Yet... he dies in the game, vs. Heathcliff. And he gets to come back. I would have accepted it if it was presented that Klein had held onto the one-time resurrection item and used it, but he didn't. Both he and Asuna died, and both got to come back. Why didn't all the other players who died get to come back? Oh, that's right, because they're not the "special snowflakes" of the author.

Problem four I probably should have mentioned earlier. I cannot stand series that lay out the entire plot in the first episode. Which is exactly what this series does. "Oh, hi. You're all stuck here. If you die here, you die in real life. Go make it to the top of the dungeon and fight me, and you're all free."

Before I move past Aincrad, I should probably address the pacing problems. I understand that most of the early episodes are flashbacks in the novels. Not even that, but more a separate novel of short stories. You can't really say, though, that this excuses the pacing problems.

Attack on Titan, also, has a similar format. In the manga, after the initial introduction, it skips to the end of their training, and the attack where spoiler[Eren first becomes a Titan]. Throughout the first few volumes, we get flashbacks to their time training, meeting the other main characters. In the anime, like with SAO, the events are presented in chronological order. Yet, unlike SAO, the pacing doesn't feel wrong. So you can't say that it was because they reordered the presentation of events that the pacing is off.

Now we come to Fairy Dance. Fairy Dance had potential. Honestly, I don't even feel that the Kirito/Leafa relationship is incestuous (once they find out who each other is, Leafa distances herself, and is obviously uncomfortable and squicked that she found him attractive in the first place).

However, the treatment of Asuna was ridiculous. Yes, she had one attempted escape, but overall, she was very much relegated to "damsel in distress." It wouldn't have bothered me so much, except Asuna had been presented as having a very strong personality, and none of that was showcased here.

My second problem with Fairy Dance was the spoiler[attempted rapes]. This happens in real life, I know that (I've been threatened with it), but it has to be done right in fiction for it to work and not just be something sensationalistic. The fact that you have a formerly badass female character, who has been reduced to a damsel in distress, that this happens to, makes it sensationalistic.

My third problem with Fairy Dance is that a lot of it repeats the same basic storyline as the first arc. We're presented with our problem (logging out/rescuing Asuna). We're told there's a solution (getting to floor 100, getting to the top of the tree). We pick up random helpers along the way. We do the impossible. We save the day.

Add to that how quickly it took. Yes, Kirito carried over his skills, but even so, the entirety of Fairy Dance takes place over the course of a single week. That's a very short time for how much was accomplished.

Now we move onto Phantom Bullet (I'm skipping the Extra, it was useless filler fluff that annoyed me and I hated). Even more than Fairy Dance, I was looking forward to this. I'd heard there was an awesome female character, that the story was much smaller scale...

For the most part, I enjoyed Phantom Bullet. Kirito's "ambiguous" gendered avatar bothered me. It wasn't needed, and it was done purely to have guys hit on him instead of girls for once. Sure, it led to an amusing set of scenes where Sinon was mad at him for not telling, and amusing scenes where he pretended he was female, but overall it wasn't needed.

The other big "bother" of PB was how quickly Kirito picked everything, up, and the fact that they found a way to give him a sword to show off. It's a gun game. Why do swords exist in the first place? Oh, right, so Kirito can be Mr Perfect within hours of starting the game.

Oh, forgot about my third "bother" of PB: the fact that the government is sending a CHILD into a dangerous situation. Regardless of his past experience, there's nothing indicating that they got his legal guardian's permission for this, which would be required for a minor.

Other than the three bothers, my big problem with Phantom Bullet comes down to repeating the end of Fairy Dance. "Hey, let's take another formerly badass female character, reduce her to a damsel in distress, and have Kirito play Big Damn Hero and save her from spoiler[attempted rape]!" Hey, it's exactly what we saw in the LAST storyarc. I hated it then, and I hated it even more here. Honestly, it's past being sexist, and feels extremely misogynistic and offensive.

Calibur was entertaining, but it felt like filler. And all of the "accidental" near-sexual jokes bothered me. But it was only, what, 3 episodes? It was fluff.

And this brings me to Mother's Rosario. I'll ignore my problems that come from translation impossibilities (referring to Yuuki as "him" when English has no gender-ambiguous pronoun, and you're trying to keep gender a secret), and that it felt on the rushed side (they should've skipped Calibur, use it as a special or movie instead, and given those episodes to Mother's Rosario). The characters could've used more character development, and parts of the B-story with Asuna and her mother felt off, but overall it was a good story arc. The best the series had. Due in part, I believe, to how little Kirito was in it. He's by far the weakest developed character in the series, and when he's gone, stronger characters are given the chance to shine.

The final episode, especially, was incredibly powerful. It was beautiful, and a wonderful send-off to a strong character. I refuse to watch it again, for personal reasons, that I've explained elsewhere.



You know, it's petty, but I should probably point it out before I post this: I'm a huge Log Horizon fan. Yes, the anime came out after, but the web versions of both series started out about the same time (IIRC, it's about the same time that the original .hack stuff started coming out, so all 3 are really about the same age). Regardless of my own opinion of LH (IMO, LH does right a lot of what SAO does wrong), I freely recognize that LH isn't for everyone (it's a much different type of series than SAO, closer to .hack//SIGN, and I know even fans of .hack don't like SIGN!). Still, because the anime came after, I'm sick and tired of SAO fans bashing LH without even watching any of it, because "Oh, it's obviously just a rip-off of SAO".
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DuskyPredator
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 11:50 pm Reply with quote
Dessa wrote:
Products go through many rounds of testing before they're allowed to be released to the public. These include safety testing. Then they have to be signed off on by a government agency. You cannot convince me that the Japanese government would allow a product to be released to the market, especially one aimed toward young people, that has the ability to fry people's brains. There's just no way that it would ever be released. And if it can't be released, the story can't happen.

I remember that there was a children's toy that could turn into drugs when consumed, back in 2007. There are probably other toys that turned out to be dangerous. True nothing yet that fries brains, but nothing yet really is made along those lines. You do have things that might burn, poison, crush, pull out hair. Computer systems where laptops were hackable where perverts could spy on teenage girls through the camera. It has even been shown that some modern cars could be hacked in ways that remove control from the person driving and its safeties.

Dessa wrote:
My third problem builds on the second. Kirito can "do the impossible." It's clearly stated that if you die in the game, you die in real life. Yet... he dies in the game, vs. Heathcliff. And he gets to come back. I would have accepted it if it was presented that Klein had held onto the one-time resurrection item and used it, but he didn't. Both he and Asuna died, and both got to come back. Why didn't all the other players who died get to come back? Oh, that's right, because they're not the "special snowflakes" of the author.

But you said so yourself, there is a restoration item that can be used within a set time period. That means the brain is not fried after in game death for a grace period of 30 seconds or whatever it was, the game simply finished before that grace period was up so that their brains did not fry. And don't characters do the impossible all the time in anime, his brain managed to overwork the system to keep his body from disappearing for a short time, is it more of a problem than Goku going super saiyan or many other climax's.

Dessa wrote:
My third problem with Fairy Dance is that a lot of it repeats the same basic storyline as the first arc. We're presented with our problem (logging out/rescuing Asuna). We're told there's a solution (getting to floor 100, getting to the top of the tree). We pick up random helpers along the way. We do the impossible. We save the day.

Isn't that just a basic story structure, like "The Hero's Journey"?

Dessa wrote:
For the most part, I enjoyed Phantom Bullet. Kirito's "ambiguous" gendered avatar bothered me. It wasn't needed, and it was done purely to have guys hit on him instead of girls for once. Sure, it led to an amusing set of scenes where Sinon was mad at him for not telling, and amusing scenes where he pretended he was female, but overall it wasn't needed.

It was amusing, it changed up his character model, aren't those things that can help a story rather than make it feel too samey?

Dessa wrote:

The other big "bother" of PB was how quickly Kirito picked everything, up, and the fact that they found a way to give him a sword to show off. It's a gun game. Why do swords exist in the first place? Oh, right, so Kirito can be Mr Perfect within hours of starting the game.

Halo, Destiny, Fallout, it really is not uncommon for swords or melee weapons to be in primarily shooters since the choice to go against the usual flow and get in a range that would leave most weapons ineffective is intentional. Quite often these swords carry some level of panic when facing them, although often limited in some way, which seemed here to be reaction time.

Also, I like your avatar Dessa, it looks like an 8-bit sprite of Linkle for the new Hyrule Warriors game/DLC, which I am really looking forward to playing.
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Chiibi



Joined: 19 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:40 am Reply with quote
Yeah, everyone complains about how Kirito surviving is a "plothole"......but in shounen anime, the protagonist almost never "dies when he is killed" so I don't see the big deal about this. Anime hyper

Quote:
"Hey, let's take another formerly badass female character, reduce her to a damsel in distress, and have Kirito play Big Damn Hero and save her from spoiler[attempted rape]!" Hey, it's exactly what we saw in the LAST storyarc.

Actually, Sinon saved herself AND Kirito. She was the one who hit her attacker over the head with.....whatever that was. Kirito was getting his ass kicked. But it was teamwork. He got the attacker off her and she finished him. It was a very defining character moment for her, where she discovered her inner strength at last.

Quote:
The best the series had. Due in part, I believe, to how little Kirito was in it. He's by far the weakest developed character in the series

I don't agree. He developed a lot. He used to be a social outcast who hid in his room. He didn't have any close friends. While he did help other characters survive, he kept them at arm's length. He didn't really let anyone into his heart until Asuna paired up with him and he learned it was okay to trust her. In the Fairy Dance arc, his lack of power as just Kazuto is really empathized by how helpless he feels against Sugou. It makes him break down. The first time he goes to rescue Asuna, he's positive he could do it without help and he was very wrong. This was a turning point for him to realize you must rely on others for strength and that's okay to do. And had Kayaba not been merciful, he still would have been screwed.
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Lobokendo



Joined: 04 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2016 1:24 am Reply with quote
So far the complaints I'm registering are Kirito being a little OP at times and the pacing issues, though I believe the pacing is a direction decision not story related. I can agree with the rapey scenes being pretty bad, but I would say it is very different between both cases. While Asune was certainly a damsel in distress in that moment, Shino wasn't. She chose to fight to save herself and if she hadn't have fought (Because she was thinking of giving up) the door would have been locked when Kirito came to help and she would have died. I'm not saying the scene itself was done well, but Shino definitely saved herself in that moment.
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GrayArchon



Joined: 28 Feb 2011
Posts: 314

PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2016 11:15 am Reply with quote
Dessa wrote:
You know, it's petty, but I should probably point it out before I post this: I'm a huge Log Horizon fan. Yes, the anime came out after, but the web versions of both series started out about the same time (IIRC, it's about the same time that the original .hack stuff started coming out, so all 3 are really about the same age).


You recall incorrectly. .hack's Legend of the Twilight Bracelet manga started publishing in serialization at the end of 2001. Writing on the original SAO novel started at the end of 2001, and completed in April of 2002, with the intent of being submitted for the Dengeki Novel Prize. Well over the page limit for the contest, and a with a week before their deadline, Reki Kawahara did not submit it. .hack//Sign started airing in April 2002, and the first .hack game was published in June 2002. Reki Kawahara put together a website for SAO and posted it online in fall of 2002. Receiving positive feedback he began writing side stories and sequels. He continued that until 2008, when he tried again for the Dengeki Novel Prize and won it with the first Accel World novel. Upon receiving a publishing deal for Accel World, he inquired as to whether his publisher would be interested in SAO as well. They were, and editing/publishing processed started for SAO, with it's first volume being released in April of 2009. Meanwhile, .hack continued to release various games, manga, novels, and anime series as Kawahara published SAO as a webnovel, then as a light novel.

Finally, after all that, Log Horizon started publishing as a webnovel in April 2010. You can see for yourself here if you like, the author still publishes new chapters there first before editing for publication.

So, no the three aren't the same age. Sword Art Online and .hack are both a good decade older than Log Horizon.
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Chiibi



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2016 11:21 am Reply with quote
SAO for me was what I wanted from .hack//sign. I'm sure I'll get yelled at for this but sorry; the pacing was slow as molasses and Tsukasa's emoness got on my nerves after a while...and I didn't care about the romance between Tsukasa and Subaru.

Sora was the most entertaining character. And the music was very cool. But sign was so freaking boring sometimes. :/
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