Sword Art Online Anime – From Most Popular To Almost Irrelevant
Sword Art Online – that might be a name you haven’t heard in a long, long time. Back in the early 2010s, Sword Art Online was one of the most popular animes available, everybody was watching it, everybody was talking about it, but now it’s the complete opposite. If you search up Sword Art Online on YouTube, you primarily see videos uploaded years ago with millions of views.
THIS is the show now, 150 thousand views after 24 hours on a teaser trailer. To put that into comparison, just look at the other videos uploaded at the same time by the same account. We have reached the point where seasonal animes have surpassed SAO. How did this show once have it all but is now fading away into irrelevancy.
We’ll be diving into the world of SAO’s unparalleled potential, glaring issues, lies, deception and so much more.
The Good and The Bad
SAO originally started all the way back in 2002, a decade before the anime adaptation. It was a self-published web novel series written by Reki Kawahara, but it would slowly gain enough traction to become a fully serialized light novel in 2009. This would also lead to an upcoming manga adaptation. But in 2012, an anime television series produced by A-1 Pictures would be released.
The show was an immediate success, since the premise was actually pretty good. Sure, in 2022, isekai is now one of the most popular genres, but back then, this was something new, unique and different. The plot and themes were dark and chilling, it displayed some mature themes, such as committing not alive and how easily people can fall into the temptation of murder.
This makes us question what would happen if all of us were transported into a whole new world. The premise was good, the romance element didn’t feel forced. The plot had amazing potential with leads and avenues unexplored that could have really made the series better. We see people fighting through the floors, attempting to escape at all costs.
We see people leaving behind their old world and accepting this new one, tired of their old lives and just becoming shop owners and blacksmiths. Sword Art was the top selling light novel series of 2012 and 2013, and remained in the top 5 until 2019. The series has over 26 million copies in print. It’s safe to say that it’s a great success.
But it all went downhill at the end of ep 14, when it wasn’t the end. Let me explain, Sword Art had the potential to be a really good 13 episode series. However, it ended up wasting a solid ending and even its own reputation by continuing down the road.
The story started diverting from its interesting plot and new ideas, instead moving towards dumb scenes purely dedicated to shock value, a way to demand an emotional response of outrage and sadness from the audience. Season 1 consists of 24 episodes, we could divide them into two parts. Episode 1 to 14 is part one and 15 to 24 is part two.
Part two feels like a completely different show, a complete 180 from its predecessor. It changed Asuna from the female lead of the show, to just a plot device. It brought up incest, sexual assault and so much more. It made the plot awkward and the audience uncomfortable.
The plot of part 2 is Kirito trying to stop a sexual predator from marrying his unconscious teenage girlfriend, while also building the romantic focus on Kirito’s adoptive sister. They were also in a whole new game, so that aspect remained mostly the same, except it was heavily watered down. But whatever, right, we were already invested in the show and had to see how this season ended.
Moving past season one, more mature and strange plots began to emerge in the series. Once again, sexual assault kept on happening, mainly as a plot device or to show how evil a character is. Season 2 was more-or-less the same. Issues kept developing and becoming more and more apparent.
More people got tired of Sword Art’s BS and decided to drop the show. After season 2, this was the start of the downfall of Sword Art Online.
The Start of the Downfall
The author noticed how the series was doing. He posted an explanation on why the story has the elements it has, this is what he said: “This may be a bit late, but if you’re wondering why sword art online has so many of those scenes, a considerable number of light novels, epic sagas, and adventure stories I read back in middle school contained those plot elements.
I would cite Gold Spur as a representative title. My writing was bound to that as if it were cast under a spell.” Season 2 was the nail in the coffin, but the story still wasn’t over. While the anime received criticism in western media, the later arcs such as Mother’s Rosario and Alicization, received praise. Sword Art Online Alicization would completely change the show.
It serves as a soft reboot for the series because so much was changed. Overall, it’s way better then season 2, but other than the already established Sword Art fandom, nobody was really interested in the show anymore. The main premise of the arc is that Kirito, while on a date with his girlfriend Asuna, is caught off guard and stabbed to near death by one of the three Death Guns from the previous season.
While in a coma, he ends up in the world of Rath, a system used for a military experimentation project where he must do nothing in particular at no real urgency. There is a story, and there is a goal, but for once they feel entirely separate from the tension. Alicization would be praised by the fan base that remained.
Alice, the arc’s new female lead. While it takes 16 episodes in to actually really explore her character, she slowly becomes the most consistent female lead in SAO so far. As of yet, she’s hasn’t been subjected to an endless supply of fan service, her growth hasn’t been stunted by time skips, nor is her growth entirely for Kirito’s sake.
Her arc of rejecting the corrupt system she’s been brainwashed under, wanting to reconnect with her past life and opening up on her feelings is adequately handled and leads to plenty of the stronger character moments this season. One of the biggest issues the series has is their constant exposition. Yes, exposition is important and essential in every show, but having too much is a way to kill your show.
Characters will abandon the idea of development, world building, etc, to talk about anything that might seem relevant, when in reality it isn’t. While the author’s writing has continued to grow, he has regretted some aspects from the early story. This leads us perfectly to the Sword Art Online Progressive series. It started releasing all the way back in 2012, it covers Kirito’s adventures on the first few floors of Aincrad.
Specifically, the film depicts the story of the encounter between Kirito and Asuna and Asuna’s initial struggle to cope with the realities of her new world. The Progressive series gives us exactly what we needed. It’s set back in Aincrad, the same area the first few episodes take place. It gives us proper character development, stunning visuals, proper fights and anything positive you could think of.
If you enjoyed the first arc of Sword Art, then I highly recommend you check this movie out. It takes place in the same setting and showcases fresh and original content. THIS is what we needed at the very start, but I’m glad we even got it in the first place. A sequel movie will be releasing very soon, so in my opinion, this is the perfect time to get into the show.
Alright, to conclude, it’s important to point out that the series has never really fallen into irrelevancy, but undoubtedly, it’s nowhere near the same glory it once achieved. The story of Sword Art is an interesting one, it started with the author barely having any writing experience. The way the story is heading is not wrong, the author has grown tremendously and he wants to improve his work.
So what made Sword Art Online fall towards irrelevancy when they had it all? There’s a few reasons, throwing away the potential for a great conclusive ending, diverting from the central premise of the show, creating plots only for shock value, and abandoning one of the integral characters by transforming them into a goal.
These are just some points of the greater picture: a general loss in direction for the plot is the reason for its downfall. The fundamental fact of Sword Art is that the series is now majorly screwed up and flawed. If the story focused on the first few episodes and gave us an appropriate conclusion of the show, I’m sure I wouldn’t be writing this article.
The progressive side series is doing something very similar. It’s a reboot of the original, and therefore set in a seperate continuity, meanwhile the original series is still ongoing. The story is still not finished, as books around the Unital Ring arc are still being released. It’s supposed to be the final arc of the story, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to end soon.
That is it from today’s post on What Happened To Sword Art Online? If you do not agree with the points in the post and have some of your own opinions, share them with us in the comments section down below. Keep visiting Animesoulking for more information about Anime and Manga.