Sword Art Online II: What the first season wasn’t

Yes, I admit that I am late to the review-hype bandwagon. This was a Summer-Fall 2014 anime though I did take longer than that to finish it; also by taking breaks in the middle since I was watching it only as a continuation for the first season, which I felt was too overhyped. I was also curious – was the same formula going to be repeated, given the wildly popular first season? I figured that it wouldn’t be a real waste of time just to try and see how everything went, and true enough, I am glad to have stuck to the end in time to see the multifarious faces of the world of Sword Art Online.

Story:

Why is Klein still obsessed with 2D girls when he could have the pick of the 3D ones? … oh wait, they kind of belong to Kirito.

The first arc of the story kicks off in in the form of an online MMORPG, Gun Gale Online, set in a world unfamiliar to the fantasy themed Alfheim Online featuring swords and sorcery. GGO is, in contrast, a dark and gritty urban world where the primary mode of weaponry is the use of guns. As Kirito seeks to help the Ministry of Internal Affairs crack the case of the mysterious Death Gun who could apparently, murder the person behind the avatar at the same time he kills off the avatar in the game, his unwieldy maneuvering of this foreign land catches the eye of Sinon, a girl skilled at sniping. Together, they not only help to solve this mystery and apprehend the perpetrator of this serial virtual killing phenomenon, but they also discover the true meaning of strength along the way. In the next mini-arc, we return to the colourful world of Alfheim Online, where Kirito and friends (I really mean harem + the one odd guy Klein) seek out the sword of Excalibur, one of the most powerful weapons in the game. The catch is, the consequences behind the failing said quest could potentially drastically change the fate of Alfheim Online, serving as a motivating factor for Kirito’s team to acquire it with proper means and ‘save the world’ at the same time. Lastly, we finally have the Mother Rosario’s arc, primarily focusing on Asuna for once and her confrontation with her family as she befriends a girl, Yuuki, said to be the strongest (beating even Kirito!) swords(wo)man in Alfheim Online.

Thoughts:

Dem feels.

While I liked the world-building, adventure style of the first season, what particularly stood out to me here is the more in-depth exploration of themes of the impacts, both positive and negative, of technology on our lives. The blurring of lines between the virtual world and reality is a very real issue with the advancement of technology, though arguably still not commonplace currently. We have Sinon, a girl trying to ‘cure’ her past traumas where the sight of a gun has her breaking down and going into a nervous fit by turning to the online world. The realisation of how negative experiences, contrary to holding you back, has the potential to propel you forward, as in the case of both Kirito and Sinon, is also portrayed here. The philosophy that virtual reality is a mere extension of one’s own personality, making online experiences as real as real-life experiences, resounds throughout the series, especially with the beautiful, heart-wrenching tale of friendship between Asuna and Yuuki.

I am personally a big fan of the much toned down pacing. This is so even in the first arc where most viewers were still unable to view SAOII as a standalone and distinct work from the first season. For me, the fact that so little material was stretched out over thirteen episodes did give us time for much needed character development and exploration of the theme of overcoming one’s past. Precious moments like these were rushed out and, I daresay, were sought to be mitigated by the overpowering focus on romance that got the fans going in the first arc of the first season. Moreover, it was entirely unhelpful when the second arc negated all that carefully built up portrayal of Asuna.

Thankfully, the Mother Rosario’s arc restored my faith in the franchise by fleshing her out and letting us get to know the Asuna I know most people adored in season one arc one. I admit that I was never a huge fan of the Kirito x Asuna pairing for reasons unbeknownst to me (I just liked Sachi more >.< ). But. We got to see Asuna taking charge and leading a group for once instead of the damsel in distress role which she had been delegated to for the previous x number of arcs. We saw her confront her unsupportive family and fight for what she wants. Our heartstrings tugged at seeing her bond with a new group of friends and how that revelation of genuine and heartfelt friendship tied in with her personal struggles, enabling her to gain the strength to speak out and tell her mother what she really needs. Kudos also goes to avoiding the gradually tiresome, age old formula of Kirito as the main spotlight who saves yet another girl in distress so that he could add her to his growing harem. 

Conclusion:

There are of course, those who still insist that season 1 was a better season if only because of we got to see Kirito improving his abilities by leaps and bounds, overpowering his enemies, the blossoming romance between Kirito and Asuna, or even by the more detailed exploration of the vibrant and lush worlds of Sword Art and Alfheim Online. However, what season 1 lacked, Season 2 did indeed take care on improving, doing all this without really compromising the gorgeous world-building (I mean, we did have that Exaclibur arc after all). Still, I do strongly believe that it still boils down to personal preferences and what one seeks in his/her viewing experience, with lovers of the adrenaline rush of good visuals and living in a close-to-reality virtual MMORPG world preferring the first season, as opposed to those that prioritise pacing and character development who would find the second season more to their liking. I am an advocate for the second camp, though.

So, which season do you guys prefer? Please feel free to leave your thoughts!

*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me.*

Jan 15 and Feb 15 Updates!

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I am going to list out what anime I have been watching so far and have yet to have completed; and also a mid-way opinion on it and whether I recommend that particular series or not 😀 Gonna split this up into two sections here 🙂

*what I mean by episode count is the current episode I am on, not the number that has been released so far!

Currently Airing (Winter 15)

Aldnoah Zero 2nd Season

Genres: AAldnoah.Zero 2nd Seasonction, Mecha

Episode count: 3/12

Plot summary: Seeking for revenge, Count Saazbaum, a Martian, attacked the Earth. Later on, the war between the Terrans and Martians ended with Earth’s Terrans gaining the victory. However, nineteen months later, the battle between them continues. Martians still continues to invade the Earth and the Terrans to protect it.

How’s it so far: Not bad for a second season. Slaine is shaping up to be a more interesting character than the first season. And who doesn’t like watching Inaho being so calmly badass and smoothly dissecting his enemy’s weaknesses and winning? Its pure entertainment for sure. Watching the harems develop is really hilarious as well.

Recommended if: You have watched the first season. And you like mecha fights. And badassery,

Not recommended if: You don’t like slightly one-dimensional characters or bland dialogue.

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu TV

Genres: Action, Comedy, School, Supernatural

Episode Count: 6/22Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (TV)

Plot Summary: A humorous and action-packed story about a class of misfits who are trying to kill their new teacher—an alien octopus with bizarre powers and super strength! The teacher has just destroyed the moon and is threatening to destroy the earth—unless his students can destroy him first. What makes things more complicated is that he’s the best teacher they’ve ever had!

How’s it so far: Interesting premise, hilarious comedy. Some interesting themes about teaching and education. But I personally don’t see what is the rage about this.

Recommended if: you have read the manga, and you would like to see it animated.

Not recommended if: you have too little time to try something new, and teacher-student dynamics are not your thing.

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! (i.e. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!)

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!Genres: Comedy, Magic, Slice of Life

Episode Count: 6/12

Plot Summary: This is the tale of five unlikely heroes who unite under the name of the “Earth Defense Club” alongside a pink wombat-like alien to defend their world and restore love to all; however, does a sinister organization lurk behind the scenes of Binan High school?

How’s it so far: FINALLY A MAHOU SHOUNEN SERIES. The transformation scenes are totally hilarious; and its a very good parody of the usual mahou shoujo type of anime.

Recommended if: You want to see something that defies typical mahou shoujo gender stereotypes. (Yes, calling all Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki Kun fans here). Or if you would want a good laugh at the end of a long, stress-filled day. Or if … you just like watching bishies prancing around in ridiculous costumes. Oh, and also if you don’t mind the rather strong bromance vibes (Calling FREE! fans)

Not Recommended if: You prefer your mahou shoujo as they are, untouched.

Death Parade

Death ParadeGenres: Game, Psychological

Episode count: 7/12

Plot Summary: After death, humans go to either heaven or hell. But for some, at the instant of their death, they arrive at Quindecim, a bar attended by the mysterious white-haired Decim. He challenges them to the Death Game, wherein they wager their lives and reveal their true natures. Decim himself is the ultimate arbitrator of who wins and who loses, who will go to heaven, and who will go to hell.

How’s it so far: Absolutely brilliant. There hasn’t been a single anime I have encountered that broke me down into a puddle of tears one episode and had me laughing so hard the next. The dark side of human nature is forced to light here so it sometimes comes as a shock that some of those negative sentiments resound within me. For an episodic series, side characters’ backstories are explained so well that enable one to empathise with them and their actions. I personally like the themes explored here, and I have fun thinking about whether Decim’s judgment is morally wrong or correct.

Recommended if: You like your entertainment to be thought-provoking, and you are looking for some depth. You like delving into moral gray areas. I personally recommend this anime to all 🙂

Not recommended if: You are just looking for light, fun anime.

Durarara!!x2 Shou

Genres: Action, Mystery, Supernatural, Urban

Durarara!!x2 ShouEpisode Count: 5/12

Plot Summary: Half a year after the turmoil that rocked the entire city of Ikebukuro – Peace has once again returned to the city and people are living each day normally. The high school students enjoy their days of youth as the strongest and most dangerous man of Ikebukuro works diligently. The informant plots (or plans) a new scheme and the headless rider is pursued by the cops as she rides through the night… But soon this normal will be cut short by the abnormal. Slowly but surely, the unknown will seize the city and face an all new storm.

How’s it so far: Absolutely captivating. This is one series set out to entertain. There may be some confusion sometimes due to its disjunct narrative structure, but it all pays off when the pieces all fall together, like a finished jigsaw puzzle. This series really pulls off quirky, entertaining characters that are unique in themselves. If there’s any cast of characters that I would like to be friends with, its this set.

Recommended if: You have watched the first season. Even if you haven’t, please do give it a try, its awesome 😀 If you are looking for a very unique way of telling a story and you are in love with the idea of one person’s actions affecting another, and then setting off a chain of unexpected events, with an unexpected conclusion.

Not recommended if: You really don’t have brain juice to spare, and you just want a linear plot of sorts. But really, this is NEVER not recommended. 😀

Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus

Genres: Drama, Mecha, Sci-fi

Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor - ExodusEpisode Count: 7/26

Plot Summary: MAL doesn’t provide one, lol.

How’s it so far: About as confusing the first season. There is vast improvement in the action scenes though. Some of them look like they belong to Shingeki no Kyojin except that they are fighting in giant robots. Great exploration of the theme of making children fight to protect humanity.

Recommended if: You have watched the first season, and you like the overall feel of the show. Also, awesome action mecha scenes.

Not recommended if: You hate being confused. I personally still have troubles understanding this show, and there isn’t much help online either ><

Tokyo Ghoul √A

Genres: Action, Mystery, Drama, Horror, Supernatural, Psychological, Seinen

Tokyo Ghoul √AEpisode count: 7/12

Plot Summary: In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear of Ghouls: mysterious creatures who look exactly like humans — yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this matters to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever Ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring Ghoul factions, while attempting to learn more about Ghoul society, his newfound powers, and the fine line between man and monster.

How’s it so far: More interesting than I would have thought. Though Kaneki doesn’t feature much at the start, we see his involvement behind the scenes. Kaneki gets more development and so do the other characters.

Recommended if: You watched the first season, and you personally like how Kaneki develops and deals with all that crap thrown his way. Or you like tortured, brooding protagonists with a kind heart.

Not recommended if: You are looking for a faithful manga adaptation. Or you just don’t like horror and gore in genre. Other than that, it is a pretty good show ^^

Non-airing anime but planning to finish 

Ashita no Nadja (not sure whether I want to continue this, though.)

Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou

Mushishi

Samurai Flamenco (just started this)

White Album 2 (just started this)

Yep that’s all from me! 🙂 Feel free to comment about anything or agree/disagree with me on what I have said so far 😀 I may not be doing reviews for all of these anime even if I have completed them though, it’ll have to depend on whether I have anything much to write about the anime 🙂

*All images and plot summaries were obtained from http://www.myanimelist.net and do not belong to me.*