A Strong Second Act Can't Save Sword Art Online II

Carly Smith | 29 Dec 2014 09:00
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As much as it sounds like I hated this season, the last arc, Mother's Rosario, saved it for me. Asuna becomes the main character while Kirito stays in the background, only to pop in occasionally as a deus ex machina. Asuna hears about an Alfheim Online player named Zekken who hasn't lost a single duel. And because she beat Kirito, we know she's got to be serious. Asuna becomes the closest to standing toe-to-toe with Zekken, whose real name is actually Yuuki. The two become good friends as they fight the next floor's boss with Yuuki's guildmates. This arc feels like a nearly clean slate for Sword Art Online; most of the characters are new, and this is all about Asuna's relationship with online games and how that conflicts with the responsibilities her mother believes are a higher priority. This arc isn't long, and it's the perfect length for a side story that hammers home Sword Art Online's main point: relationships made in the virtual world are just as impactful as ones made in the physical world.

It's also a beautiful story about friendship between two women. I never expected to see that story in Sword Art Online considering it's felt like a harem show where Kirito saves the day every time and gets all the girls. Asuna has genuine character development as we learn more about her family, and we get to see her take charge of a group in tactics just like she did in the Sword Art Online arc. Asuna hadn't been given the time to shine since then, and I welcome her brief period as the main protagonist.

The Mother's Rosario arc has some clich├ęd emotional moments, but overall it's touching to see a bond so strong forged over just a few days. It wraps up with a sudden a teaser that the antagonist from the first arc - remember how much you liked that arc? - could still be making waves in the virtual reality technology world.

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if there's a third season of Sword Art Online, but you won't catch me watching it for pleasure.

Bottom line: Sword Art Online II is bland and predictable. The show doesn't start to shine until Kirito is pushed to the sidelines to make room for people who have character development underway.

Recommendation: If you're a hardcore Sword Art Online fan, I can't stop you from watching this. Otherwise, the final arc of Sword Art Online II was the only part of this season worth watching.


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