[Review] Sword Art Online episode 2 (hate rant warning)

Call me an anime hater, a emo gothic… darkness lover or whatever, but I was really fricking disappointed to see that SAO isn’t even close to handling its concept to full potential. Yes, it is because there weren’t enough dark aspects shown, which there should have been more of. Hear me out.

In other action animes, we usually assume the characters would manage through their huge fights one way or another, and we’re usually not worried that the characters would die. Heck, the characters aren’t even worried they’ll die most of the time, because they’re trained and they trust in their abilities. No one panics before a fight, nobody ditches the team in a moment of selfishness, no one backs down from a risky battle… no one does anything other than charge on with their swords high with perfect morals and no worry about death.

Sword Art Online took that path right down to heroic, inspirational final words. Is that necessarily wrong? No, but there is one big difference that sets SAO apart that I almost forgot about in this episode. The characters in SAO are not slaying monsters out of justice or some other idea bigger than themselves; they are fighting for survival, and for SAO to be handled like a typical heroic anime despite that makes me pissed.

Two thousand players have already died. Sure, people screamed when they were told dying in the game means real death, but now when they’re going up against a boss, nobody gets scared? Nobody considers the idea that hey, maybe it’s better to just live in the game and give up trying to beat it since that seems beyond impossible? Why is every single person here a perfect hero?

There is a character that died trying to get some bonus item, and he died with encouraging words and a smile on his face. Are you kidding me? If I were that character, my final words would be “I shouldn’t have tried to take the bonus!” followed by every single cuss word I know. That guy was as average as you and me. Every single character is as average as you and me (unless you’re not actually as average as I assume, in which case it’d just be me). They were normal people trying out a new game, then suddenly BOOM, they’re fighting for their lives, and nobody was equipped with the mental fortitude that it takes to do that. However, when you watch this episode, you really don’t feel any of that, which is my issue with SAO.

Now I feel like I need to take a step back. This is not a bad anime; I was just extremely disappointed that it has neglected a large part of what made its concept so interesting: the threat of death. Regardless, I am still curious to find out how they beat this nearly impossible game, but my hype has lowered considerably.

To finish off the review on a better note, here’s something that I did like about the episode: the rift between the new players and the beta testers, which was realistic and very well carried out. Know what, if SAO can address at least one serious issue each episode, then I can bear through its overly-optimistic mood.

Episode rating: 5 / 10 (Average)

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[Review] Arcana Famiglia episode 2

After getting some info on a huge tournament involving everyone with Arcana powers in the last episode, I thought we’d jump right into it. Turns out, we don’t really see any action in this episode, not unless you count the bit of action they do jumping to grab a kitten.

I’m Nova. I gotta look cool and serious even when I’m saving a fluffy white kitten.

Yeah, a kitten. That’s the focus of this episode, first capturing a lost kitten, and then trying to find its owner. It’s exactly as slice-of-life as it sounds, and even the comedy in this episode felt like one out of a slice of life anime, which was a direction I never expected Arcana Famiglia to take. It’s really simple stuff, like Liberta holding onto Felicita’s hand for too long, Nova and Liberta crashing into each other when they leap for the kitten, and Luca getting left up in a tree with no way to get down. The first episode made me think that this would be a much more serious anime, so this episode was a really big surprise. It’s not exactly what I wanted to watch, but it did help us understand Felicita and Nova better.

Also, this episode showcased some really great background art. I loved the Victorian-style dress on the lost kitten’s owner, and Felicita’s dress was cute. I hope there are more female characters in the story so I can see more of these styles. 😀

Am I the only one who’s really creeped out by Debito? For some reason, he reminds me of a big, scary wolf, and the fact that he calls Felicita “Bambina” doesn’t help the fact that he always looks at her like his prey. (Bambina… Bambi… deer… wolves eat deer… ) I hope Felicita doesn’t end up with him, though it doesn’t seem like she has romantic interest in anyone right now, not even Liberta.

No hidden meanings at all, nope.

There was still some information-cramming that happened in the beginning of the episode, but hopefully we’re done with that now, even if next to no one bothered to remember who has which Arcana power and who’s in charge of which division. I don’t care much about these little bits of information, since it doesn’t seem like they’ll be a huge part of the plot, but I want to know more about Liberta. Why does he have such difficulty managing his Arcana powers? Is he’s undisciplined? Is he inexperienced? Or are his powers extremely powerful, but hard to control? There’s been a huge focus on him, so I’d like to get the basics answered.

Hopefully, the big tournament will next week and we’ll see some action.

Episode rating: 5 / 10 (average)