Dispelling the False Narrative That “SAO is Good Now” - Or why i'm Dropping SAO Season 3
Originally posted on the r/anime subreddit
As i have stated in my previous posts, this season of anime has been amazing. With great shows such as 'SSSS. Gridman', 'Tonari no Kyuuketski-san' and 'Uchi no Maid ga Uzasigiru!' the season has been a good one for both moe, comedy and action. However, one show which has gotten a lot of undeserved attention this season is season 3 of Sword Art Online, titled 'Alicization'. If you tend to participate (or at least lurk) in the weekly discussion thread for the show, then you'd see that it has gotten an overwhelming amount of praise, with the most common thing i've heard being that "this is when SAO finally becomes good". Ignoring the fact that if something needs fifty twenty minute episodes and a movie just to get to the good part, it's probably not that good, I do have to say that I did in fact agree with this statement. Its currently got a MAL score of 8/10, and during those first few weeks i probably would have agreed. Around when episode three and four came out I was really excited. The animation was really detailed and the use of bright colours in
most scenes really set it apart from the previous season, which was all dark and gloomy in not onky its tone, but also use of colour. Seeing something with this much green and yellow in its scenery in an action show is not very common these days, so it was definetely something I greatly appreciated. The new characters we were introduced to were also really cool. Euego definetely felt real and interesting; his natural sense of wonder and dream of exploring the world around him contrasted well with the fact that he was also bound by his given destiny. It made him a well rounded character with both motivations and a proper goal, something which isn't that common for side characters to have nowadays. However, it has now all fallen considerably downhill.
It began with episode [insert later]. Now matter how interesting your story is, spending twenty minutes purely on exposition is never a good thing. Season 2 had this same problem with the infamous cafe scene from episode [insert later], and apart from change of location, it doesen't seem to be a trend in his writing which Reki Kawahara is interested in changing. Because no, just because the show condensed the info more easily doesn't change the fact that it's a badly written scene. Exposition should be given in teaspoons, not buckets. The only exception would be if its during the closing chapters of the story and it needs to tie up its loose ends. It would have been way more interesting if Kirito slowly deciphered the true nature of the world he's in, and if we learned it with him. Instead, we as the audience already have our questions answered, but the lead characters are still in the dark. This is a common annoyance in anime, and plagues other shows, such as 'Cardcaptor Sakura' for an example. But the problems with this season extends beyond just one horribly written episode. Since this is being written on a Thursday, this weeks episode hasn't aired yet, and I am therefore not going to be talking about it. However, I will be talking about last weeks episode.
Episode [insert later] is one of the few episodes of anime which I feel it is apt to describe as "garbage". There is no merit to anything presented within this episodes. The characters we are bing introduced to feel extremely flat, and their personalities don't go any further other than simply "I'm rich so therefore i'm an asshole to those "commoners" over there" or "I'm a mentor with no interesting backstory or qualities except for i've never beaten that guy who you're so obviously going to fight during the episode". But missing character depth is not the worst thing to happen during the episode. So let's move on to the thing that is. The fight scenes which takes place during the middle of the episode is utterly detestible. There is no tension, and I mean none. What am I supposed to feel? I know that Kirito isn't going to die, he's in a sparring match with a higher up! I don't know how status works in this world, but i'm pretty sure that killing a trainee isn't exactly going to look good on your resumè. Kirito is also a good person, so we know he isn't going to kill him either. Because of all of this, there is no tension. It's even revealed that strength in this world is literally gained by how much you believe in yourself. Just what the heck. First you do a two year time skip and then you canonize plot armour. To add to the list of things wrong with the fight scene, the background characters. It is so apparant which characters are actually going to do something in the story, and which are just "random stock fantasy character #237". The fighting istelf is also horribly coreographed, with it seeming more like dancing than any form of actual combat. And unless the swordsmen in this world somehow started practicing capoeira, there's no excuse for making the fighting seem so unnatural. This also annoys me a lot on a personal level, because we got to see earlier in the series that A1 knows how to make interesting fight scenes where an actual sense of danger is prevelant, and where the combat blows feel heavy and realistic. Instead, we got this trashy fight scene, with no stakes and no conclusion.
However, there's one thing more I have to mention before we reach the conclusion. The two "rich kid" character who are so prevelant in this episode. In the weekly discussion thread I saw someone defending these two characters, claiming that the only reason they appear to be bad is because the archetype wasn't as prevelant back when Alizication was first written. The only problem with that statement? It's not relevant. Those two characters aren't bad because of how overdone they are, they're bad because they're horribly written. I'm not going to claim that they have no depth, because so far, they've only appeared in one epsiode, and basing my conclusion on so little would be unfair. However, that doesn't change the fact that all they do during the episode is act smug, grin a lot and talk down to Kirito and Eugeo. During the end of the episode, we find out that those two characters messed up Kirito's flowers, which he spent a lot of time cultivating. Kirito then completely breaks down, and ends up crying for like ten seconds. But through his sheer force of will, he somehow recreates the flowers, and suddenly, all is good again. Just what. If you want your character to go though some tough stuff, please make it more than just "rich kid messed up my flowers". I feel nothing from this scene, I have no connection to the cause of the distress, the topic is so laughably petty that it's pretty much impossible to care, and the conflict is resolved in seconds. All this does is leave you wondering: why? Why was this created? Why did I waste 16 hours and 14 minutes of my life on this show, when I only enjoyed the first arc of it? Why did i constantly lie to myself, telling myself that yes, it might be bad now, but the next one is going to be better?
I have no answer for that question. Wether it was the action scenes that looked good back in 2014 or the underdeveloped but still charming romance between Kirito and Asuna, all I have now realized is that Reki Kawahara has wasted my time. In conclusion, the eight episodes which have so far been released of SAO season 3 are filled with unneccesary exposition, boring characters and uninspired characters design.
And this is why i'm deciding to drop SAO. Good riddance.