The Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Sword Art Online II
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
Rating: oh, kirito-kun~
I'll be upfront. I really disliked Sword Art Online.
But I did watch the whole thing, which means I should probably take a look at the sequel, right?
Okay, so there's a new VMMO and it's called Gun Gale Online, so instead of swords and shields, we have guns. The episode opens with a talk show where one of the hosts is explaining how the balance in the game has changed and dumping skill points into agility won't work as a catch-all strategy anymore when a cloaked guy walks up and shoots the screen, killing him! DEATH GUN is his name, which is also the name of his gun!
THE DEATH GUN!
I wonder if someone's like "Hey, Death Gun!" and he's like "are you talking to me?" and the guy's like "no, I was referring to the gun".
Smash cut to our heroine Asuna, freed from her fanservice damsel-in-distress cage at the end of the last season, meets up with Kirito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, where Kirito spouts a bunch of Wikipedia facts about the place and the two discuss their future. Kirito wants to design an all-new man-machine interface to replace the one currently on the market and become a "creator" himself, and Asuna wants to marry him and be together forever and make him sandwiches and probably have his babies. Oh, to have Kirito-kun's babies. They'd be the best babies in the whole world, although nobody could really explain why if you asked directly.
Anyway. Kirito meets up with the guy who came to see him in the hospital when he woke up in the first series, and he explains that the guy DEATH GUN shot in Gun Gale Online was found dead in his apartment from acute heart failure that occurred exactly when he was shot in the game! The two agree that there's no way the virtual death could've caused the real one, but they'd better send in Kirito to meet with Death Gun just to make sure. After all, some reactionary jerkoff might try and use these deadly incidents to slow the unrelenting march of commercial technological progress, and that can't be allowed to happen. Kirito's on the case!
Then there's a gratuitous ass shot of the new female sniper character inside Gun Gale Online taking out some dudes. Will she fall in love with flawless Kirito?! I didn't read the novels so I have no idea but based on this show's history I'm gonna guess "yes". I assume I'll be corrected shortly.
So this is more Sword Art Online. The production values are handsome as expected and the gang's mostly all here - this episode is pure setup, and if I didn't know what I knew about the way this franchise operates I'd probably say "hey, this could be good! What potential!" but instead I'm going to sit back and see just how dumb and potentially gross it gets. Sword Art Online II might be the first anime I legitimately hatewatch every week. If you feel the same way I do about this massively successful juggernaut of dubious anime entertainment and want to see where it goes, there's no shame in diving down that rabbit hole again, right? Right.
Sword Art Online II is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Daisuki.
Review: There's a new VRMMO sweeping the world in 2025, one year after Kirito, Asuna, and the others woke up after their time in Sword Art Online. This game is firearms-based and is known as Gun Gale Online, or GGO. Kirito doesn't have much interest in it – apparently he and the gang are still playing ALO – but something strange has been happening: people appear to be dying while logged in to GGO. Kirito is approached (or rather, bribed with expensive pastries) by the government agent he met when he escaped SAO in hopes that he'll log into GGO and try and figure out what's going on, or more specifically, how someone could die in real life after being shot in the game. They know it isn't the Amuseshpere headset frying brains, so what could it be?
Unlike the first episode of the first series, this is one is mostly talking. We do see inside GGO at both the start and the finish of the episode, but the greater part of it is either Asuna and Kirito talking in a park or Kirito talking to the agent in a restaurant. There's a lot of information and some of it is fairly interesting, but its delivery could be improved. One of the most entertaining moments of the show is when Kirito is imagining how a virtual bullet could kill a real person, with the accompanying imagery of a bullet flying out of a wall jack being kind of funny. Otherwise there's a lot of explanation – people are dying in a shooting MMO – and other conversation that will clearly be important later – Kirito wants to become a VR programmer when he graduates, focusing on improving how the senses are experienced in VR – but not a lot of action. While things will undoubtedly pick up, this is kind of slow, particularly when compared to the previous season.
Thus far what we've seen of GGO is very different from either of the other game worlds the series has gone into. This one has a very post-apocalyptic feel, with deserts and ruins, and definitely has a resemblance to the world in Accel World. There hasn't been much movement to judge animation on, but the color palate is much more somber, giving this a decidedly different feel. It's a little disappointing to hear that thus far Asuna's future plans consist of “being with Kirito forever,” but it's early days yet, and hopefully she'll be a more interesting character as the show goes on. Long story short, this isn't an especially promising start, but there are enough small hooks to make it worth pursuing, even if you're more interested in the fantasy games of previous arcs or have some doubts about how this is beginning.
Review: The original Sword Art Online series ended pretty conclusively, so where can the story go next? A problem in a different VRMMO, of course!
Unlike the original series, which started slow and gradually ramped up to its stunning revelations, its successor starts with a bang (almost literally) and then goes low-key for the rest of the episode. Gun Gale Online is a VRMMO centered on being a gun-focused shooter. It is made unique by being the only MMO for professional players – i.e., top players can actually make a decent living playing the game. The game is shaken up by a strange incident whose ramifications no one realizes at first: during an MMO-focused talk show featuring the winner of a recent tournament in GGO, a player in one of GGO's bars who calls himself Death Gun starts making speeches and then shoots the image of the top player, one XeXeed, on the screen. He disconnects, but nobody knows until days later that he actually died of heart failure. As Kazuto is later informed by friendly agent Seijiro Kikuoka, at least one other such case of a top player dying under similarly odd circumstances has been reported, too. No one believes there's anything to it, but since GGO's management is rather clandestine, his superiors want to be sure, and so Kazuto is being offered a job to infiltrate the game and try to make contact with Death Gun. That gives him a lot of food for thought while he's out on a date with Asuna. Meanwhile, on the GGO battlefields, female sniper Sinon leaves her mark.
The hook offered in the first couple of minutes hits hard; even those who are not SAO fans might get reeled in by it, as natural curiosity demands to know, how the hell did Death Gun pull that stunt off? Most of the rest of the episode it pretty much fan service for established SAO fans, who get to delight in seeing Kazuto and Asuna together more. Their conversations turn remarkably philosophical, something that the original series showed a slight penchant for but never in as concentrated a form as seen here. No other established character except Kikuoka (from the Extra Edition special) makes an appearance except in very brief flashbacks, but the presence of some of them in the closer suggests that we may see at least cameos of them eventually. The veritable co-star of this season, Sinon, does not appear herself until the final scene, so we will have to wait until episode 2 to learn more about her.
Technical merits for the episode are pretty good, but the organization of the content in the episode feels a little awkward. Overall, though, it is a solid and intriguing set-up for the new season as well as providing a good connection to earlier content.
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