**Notes** - While there are only 2 episodes out currently, I felt like this was enough basis to go off of for first impressions and overall to work with for a review. This is the first anime since Bakuman started/ended that I have really been excited for in a long time, so i wanted to share here.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Sword Art Online
Review by: Azure Kite
Reviewed on: 7/19/2012
Directed by: Tomohiko Ito
Music by: Yuki Kajiura
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Approx Episodes: ~25
______________________________________________________________Anime Summary Info:
Sword Art Online or SAO, is a new online world utilizing the latest Nerv Headgear, a headset that utilizes Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR), to create a full breathe-taking world that captures the users into a very realistic Fantasy Adventure MMORPG. Only a thousand were selected for the Beta Testing, and after, only Ten Thousand copies were released into the public on opening day. This was supposed to be the step into the future for video games, merging reality and virtualization together. However, shortly after users found that they could not log out, and not just log out, but the Nerv Headgear makes it so that your nervous system in game and out of game are separated so that you are not able to simply just take off the head gear. What's more, is that the game creator has challenged them to fight for their lives, to reach the 100th floor of the game, and not just reach it, but to do so without dying. Dying in game now means your death outside as well, and removing of the headset offline by anyone means the death of you as well. Now users must either work together, or figure out how to move up the floors without dying. The anime follows the main character Kirito, a SAO beta player, as he attempts to conquer the tower, as well as gaining relationships with others along the way.
_____________________________________________________________Story Concept Review:
Obviously being an ex-MMO player, as well as an avid .hack// fan, I was very excited for this anime to come out. But it wasn't really just that reason, and others seemed to follow this feeling as well, SAO is actually a really refreshing anime that many have looked forward to in an anime in a while. This is the anime I have been looking for, for quite some time. A main character who starts out pretty strong, looking to conquer an end boss, gathering unique party members along the way and forging relationships. Seems like your typical shonen anime, but with all the elements, this one reminds me of the fresh feelings i had when i first started watching anime. I'm so curious to see what "powers" the story will develop since there are magics within the game, so far they haven't really been over-powering, in fact they lineup more like the feeling of a game that one might play today. The adventuring feels like i'm walking through a new game, all while adding depth to the story and how it works. The mechanics may be very quick and brief, but the movement it gives towards the story is very fun feeling.
A very important aspect to any anime, and SAO's is good, very good. Yuki Kajiura was a perfect pick for this anime i think, with experience in creating music for Xenosaga, and .hack// series i think it honestly just felt natural. The music for both Xenosaga AND .hack was extroardinary, and i think added great depth to both anime and game. The music coordinates with both feeling of the SAO world, as well as the emotion of the characters adding much feeling and drama when needed.
Character design is really well done from the bit that I have watched, you know just enough about the character that you always want to know more, who is this person, what can they do, what will they do in the future, etc, letting you the viewer know just enough of what you need to know. Each character holds somewhat of a mystery within them as they are MMO created characters, so you don't really know their offline persona and what they know or are capable of. This mystery makes the characters interesting, and something you want to get to know. The personas fit that of those you would honestly meet online as well (and yes, they differ from offline).
While at first i was kind of skeptical that this would be a .hack remake, i was pleasantly surprised that it was a completely different aspect, and adds in more action packed sequences, and avoids all the long dialogue drama that .hack brought. SAO is very refreshing, and a breathe of fresh air, an anime that honestly i hope turns into a video game, i haven't found myself so interested in an anime since Bakuman, and eagerly await each week while avoiding reading the original novel. I think this anime has a lot of potential to shine, and I think with a lot of stale main stream animes right now that it could possibly catch on, but like Bakuman i hope that it ends (even if it's short) in a fashionable manner. All in all i really like SAO and give it a solid 9.5 / 10.