Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sword Art Online: A Realistic Fantasy Anime

It seemed that the MMORPG anime genre has evolved yet again. It has been years since I last saw another MMORPG based anime, or animes based on Massively multiplayer online role-playing games, but I could tell when a genre evolves. Here is a little recap.

The first MMORG based anime (is that a genre? Well I'm going to call it that) I became aware of is Ragnarok online.
Photo credit: Google

First aired in 2004, the show is based on a very popular MMORPG, the anime gives no indication that it is a game in the first place. All the characters live in a fictional world and only live for that world. These characters do not have another life in the "real world" like many of my classmates who played the game.  Instead, the characters truly live on this fictional world presented on the anime.

The first evolution of this genre is .Hack
Photo credit: google

Like Ragnarok, this anime is based on a very popular MMORPG series. Yes, I know there are a lot of .hack animes out there but I am only using this anime as a reference on this review. Anyway, in this anime all the characters are aware that the "world" they live in is just a game.

Quite frankly I only watched one series and I already forgot about the plot but I am pretty sure that the anime characters could log out whenever they like.

Lastly, here comes the focus of this blog post and the latest incarnation of the MMORPG anime genre: Sword Art Online.

A friend of mine introduced me to the anime and I thought nothing about it at first. However, when I watched the first episode I was hooked and I finished the entire series in a little over 24 hours. To read about the summary of this anime, link here and watch the anime here.

Okay, lets break down the differences as well as the pros and cons of this series.
  • The anime involves more than one MMORPG giving the anime a more realistic feel to it. Seriously, people would not be playing the same game for an extended amount of time and this anime uses it to its advantage. 
  • Like .Hack, the characters are aware that it is only a game.
  • Unlike .Hack however, the anime is not based on a MMORPG, instead the anime is based on a manga. None of the games mentioned here exist in real life.
  • The anime incorporates a lot of things that are common on "real life MMORPG games" if that makes sense. There are guilds and online marriages to start with.
  • The anime ends in a very satisfying conclusion. I don't think that people who are going to watch only the anime would feel "high and dry". Sure, there might be some questions here and there but not enough think "What the fuck? How did this end up like that?"
  • Warning for all the guys out there: there is a lot of romance here. In fact, there is about two episodes dedicated to relationship development. 
  • When I learned that the manga goes way farther than the anime I went to look if I could read it online or in store and found nothing. Those who would want more would have to wait a long time until they license it in the US 
  • There is fan service. Not as much as some animes out there (coughHighSchooloftheDeadcough) but it is enough. 
  • Series drags a bit on things not pertaining to the overall plot. 
  • It has the stereotypical male lead and the stereotypical female lead found on every anime out there. I guess that's why I am not in love with it. 
I am personally not in love with the series.  It is not Death Note or Code Geass but it is a very interesting anime on its own right.

The title of this blog post dubs the anime a "Realistic Fantasy Anime" because the anime does not revolve around one game only. The gamers were not the only ones affected by their entrapment in a game, but we see the effects on their families as well. You see people from the "outside world" struggling along with their loved ones. Another part what makes this anime realistic is that the game play is very similar to the MMORPG we are used to. Guilds are made, marriages happen and the players are from different backgrounds.

The best part for me is that the creators of the series really did a good job creating the "virtual world". Cooking is done differently than int he "real world" and there is an amusing scene where the two main characters cook dinner. Another "feature" I enjoyed are how gamers could access the main menu with a drag of a finger.

Photo credit: Google
Can we have that on real life? My textbooks are kind of heavy and it would be nice to make it disappear and reappear whenever I need it.

If you are looking for an anime to watch because you are bored, then I recommend Sword Art Online. The first few episodes may drag a bit but give it a chance.

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