Yes, I am only writing this because a new season is starting. Gotta get those internet clicks, bra!
Sword Art Online is the anime community’s favorite punching bag. With each season, the show has faced an incredible amount of scrutiny, criticism, and nigh constant attack from every direction! It does have a few defenders, yes, just as all shows do. But the overwhelming majority all align with one opinion: the show is absolute garbage and Reki Kawahara, great guy though he may be, is not a good writer.
I disagree. I believe that Reki is, in fact, a good writer. Not because he can tell a quality story with great characters, mind you. In that regard, he still has no idea what he’s doing. But he does have one important thing that all good writers need: he has a strong drive to improve his abilities!
Reki Kawahara could have been complacent with his writing skills. I mean, SAO became one of the biggest anime of the last decade, and it’s continued to enjoy success with each season! Sure, people tear into his story and characters at practically every turn! But the dude goes to sleep on a bed of Yen every night! He could say “Yup. I’m doing something right!” and remained completely complacent! No one would blame him!
But he didn’t! He took his criticism in stride and has been making an active effort to make his story better! It’s clear that he does truly care for writing!
The question is: is Sword Art Online redeemable? Can Reki, at this point in the series run, turn it around? Or would it be for the best to just bury the series and move on?
Honestly? I do think it is redeemable! It’ll take a lot of work, but I do think that SAO can be saved! While the flaws that do plague the series are massive, they aren’t anything that can’t be fixed!
Let’s quickly go through the list. Starting with the biggest problem:
Kirito: Bringing Jesus-Kun Down to Earth
Out of all the SAO characters, Kirito is easily one of the most problematic. Which is not a good thing, considering that he’s the main character of the fucking series! His personality is flat, he’s far too overpowered, and his sexual abilities are far too high for a teenage boy. He isn’t a character; he’s wish-fulfillment.
Now, to be fair, Reki is already making strides to improve that. Kirito’s overpowered abilities have been greatly curbed in the latest season (though he does still get a bit too powerful too quickly in my opinion), he hasn’t managed to attract every woman within a thousand miles of him (yet), and he’s actually had some charming moments! Sure, he’s not great. But he’s definitely on the right track!
Which I can’t quite say about the following.
Rape: Fucking Why?
Dude. You need to stop.
Rape is a very heavy and sensitive subject matter to tackle in any story. If you aren’t confident in your abilities to tackle it, then you shouldn’t even attempt it. When tackling it, you need to be able to do so with respect for the victims who’ve suffered from it over the years. You’ve got to be super careful and sensitive.
Which Reki hasn’t been so far. I believe he’s been trying, yes. But there’s a difference between trying and succeeding.
At this point, the best solution is to just stop. Stop bringing rape into the story. Just leave it alone. Focus your efforts elsewhere. You gave it your best and it didn’t work out.
No more rape. Just stop. Moving on.
Side Characters: The Pointless Harem
While the main character is certainly the most important character in the story, side characters are undeniably important. Not only do they provide support for the main hero, but they can star in some truly phenomenal scenes of their own! Often times, a good side character can turn out to be a fan favorite!
Unfortunately, the side-characters of SAO boil down to ‘fun man character who does nothing’ or ‘pretty girl who wants to bang Kirito’. They all hang around Kirito, accomplishing fuck-all while he continuously saves the day over and over. All they do is oggle and scream “WOW KIRITO IS SO COOL/HANDSOME!!”
This, thankfully, is a really easy fix. Reki only needs to do two things, both of which shouldn’t be difficult at all. All it should take is a few chapters of time.
One: eliminate the harem. A majority of the supporting cast are all women who want to bang Kirito because Kirito is so cool. All that needs to be done is remove those feelings! You could either write a whole character arc out of it, as they have to accept that Kirito only has eyes for Asuna and move on. Hell, you could be lazy and stop writing them like that all together and no one would care!
Two: give them something to do! Give them a little quest of their own that ties into the current arc! This could be used to flesh out their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, help fix the pacing, and give some more creative and interesting fight scenes starring someone that isn’t Kirito! Better yet, it would help bring Kirito back to earth and make him more relatable, as he would lose his unrealistic harem in exchange for a more realistic love life.
At the moment, SAO may as well be called ‘The Kirito Show’. That needs to change. SAO doesn’t need more new characters; it needs to flesh out the cast that it already has. It isn’t an issue of quantity; it’s a quality problem.
I’m sure I could keep going. But I don’t feel like being here all day. Besides, most points I would bring up would just be more specific criticisms of the three points I’ve already brought up. So I’ll just leave it at that.
Credit where it’s due: the drive to improve is definitely there! I can see it as clear as day! It’s slow, but the effort is there! That’s more than I can say for a lot of shows nowadays! If it weren’t trying, then I wouldn’t even bother writing this!
I don’t think that Alicization is going to be the SAO series that breaks through and becomes the great series that it could be. It’s certainly more enjoyable than any of the seasons that came before it, and I hope to see that continue in this season.
But if there is so much as one rape scene, then I swear to fucking god that I am DONE!!