And now for the exact fucking opposite.
Wrapping up our little Isekai trilogy (which I didn’t do on purpose, I swear), we’re gonna talk about the tyrannical king of the genre: Sword Art Online. Every anime fan under the sun knows about this damn show. And everything that can be said has been said. Everyone has already torn it apart for the terrible characters, awful pacing, Gary-Stu protagonist, nonsensical game design, and downright insane character actions.
Seriously, why the hell do these kids still play VR games when one nearly killed them?
But what a lot of people don’t talk about is why this franchise is still around. The series has had it all: three seasons, a movie, several video games, and many light novels. All of which are really bad. And yet it’s still unstoppable, being one of the most popular anime series of all time.
That sentence alone made me sick to my stomach.
You’d think that after three seasons, the show would improve a bit right? Wrong. The story only continues to spiral downwards into insanity. But no matter how terrible it gets, it never dies. Why is that? Well, the answer is more simple than you’d expect.
Sword Art Online premiered at the dawn of the Streaming age of anime. With services like Netflix and Crunchyroll among many others, getting your hands on high quality anime was only getting easier and easier. As such, many new anime viewers were getting into the community. But they needed a good gateway anime, something simple enough to follow and prepare people for actually good anime.
Enter SAO. With an incredibly interesting premise, it became super easy for everyone to get sucked in. Remember: no one talked about the characters when SAO first premiered. The talk of the forums was always: “Yo, have you seen SAO? It’s about people who get trapped in a video game, and they’ll die in real life if die in the game! It’s nuts, dude!”
Ah, the simpler times before you could find one of these around every god damn corner.
See, I’m a believer that everyone’s first will, more often than not, be their favorite. Whether it’s your favorite movie in a genre, game, or book in a series, it’s hard not to grow emotionally attached to the thing that introduces you into something. And Sword Art Online was many people’s first anime. As such, many of them have heavily tinted rose goggles of nostalgia when they talk about the show.
Now, not everyone falls into that category. Many people, myself included, went through a sort of evolution. They watched SAO, enjoyed it, than thought about it for more than two milliseconds (unlike Reki Kawahara, apparently) and realized that it was bad. After coming to that realization, they decided whether or not they still enjoy it despite it’s flaws or if the flaws are simply too extreme to enjoy again. Many fell into the ladder, but there are still plenty in the former.
Then there are people who genuinely think that SAO is great. Everyone has their own opinion, after all. At this point, I feel like that doesn’t need to be said at all. Subjectivism should be implied whenever a discussion like this begins. So of course there are still people who actually, unironically, enjoy Sword Art Online.
These are the people who are keeping this show going. They hop aboard the train, the train crashes, and they wait for the workers to fix it and get back on to repeat the whole process. I mean, credit where it’s due, the train is clearly extremely safe considering the lack of casualties with every crash, but that doesn’t change the fact that it just keeps crashing.
Honestly, it’s getting kind of hard to make fun of. Not because it’s getting any better, but because we’re repeating ourselves over and over again. The same flaws just keep coming back, sometimes getting worse than before. No matter how long the show goes on for, the same issues will never be fixed, even if we make fun of the show for them every time.
That’s where I have to give Mr. Kawahara some credit. He’s a resilient man. He writes what he enjoys, and he doesn’t let all the negative criticism get to him. Sure, he could take it and use it to actually improve his story, but it’s impressive that he hasn’t bitten back at the internet at all over the years. While I do hate his work, he does seem like a really nice guy who enjoys what he does and loves the people who read his work.
And thanks to those people, thanks to Kawahara and all his fans, this disaster of a story will just keep going forever. We can criticize, we can bully, and we can tear it apart, but it will never stop. No matter how many times the train crashes, the crew will always fix it, and the passengers will always get right back on.
But hey! It’s not boring to make fun of yet! So for now, I’m actually kind of glad it’s still here. As the title of this post implies: it’s a wreck that just keeps going. And as it keeps going, it just keeps giving. Whether it’s something for the genuine fans or the people who love to rip it to shreds, there will always be something to talk about with Sword Art Online.
Holy shit, I just realized that this is the anime equivalent of the Sonic franchise! No wonder I love/hate it so much!