Well, I certainly couldn’t imagine myself writing this post when SAO started.
If any of you have been keeping up with my blog or especially my Twitter account, you may have noticed that I do not think that Sword Art Online is a particularly good show. Okay, “not good” is probably putting it extremely mildly. In truth, I strongly believe that Sword Art Online is an amazing piece of shit which only rose its ridiculous level of popularity due to it’s fairly attractive premise, which remains despairingly underutilized. In fact, the entire world envisioned in Sword Art Online is constantly bent and distorted in order to cheaply put emphasis on our bland Gary Stu of a protagonist, Kirito. Game rules are bent to ensure his survival, tens of female characters swoon as he passes by, and he even gets dual swords, ’cause fuck it, he’s the best at everything and that’s the way that our that preschooler of a writer, Kawahara Reki, wants it to be.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. If my unrelenting vitriol directed at the show is what you wanted, then you might as well scroll through my Twitter timeline instead since you’re almost guaranteed one complaint every 2 hours at the very least. And if you desire my sarcastic drip instead, then I also assure you that you’ll get none of it here (again, Twitter timeline). And I’m certainly not going to bash or demonize the fans who like this show, because even I can recognize the attractiveness of the setting and the almost magnetic pull that it has had on the mainstream audience. Ultimately my goal with this article and as a blogger is not to destroy the fans (an activity that some, including myself, indulge in far too often) but to expunge whatever thoughts, insightful, positive, or neither, that float to the top of head.
In several ways, Sword Art Online is to anime as Dane Cook is to comedy: unintelligible babble hidden by spastic animation and sometimes feasible bursts of quality. And while I can see the appeal of both and have even come to respect the vast generality of their work (less so for the former) and their fans, it’s ultimately just not for me. However, although the two can be entertaining to some degree in a purely sarcastic manner, several times do I find myself shaking my head, lolling to sleep, and vastly offended by the pure essence of ass (both figuratively and literally) contained in a single showing. Well, whenever I watch it alone that is.
During the first half of Sword Art Online, I had found myself in an odd place. Before Sword Art Online had aired, I admit that I had raised expectations for the series and was, at the very least, somewhat excited for the first episode. However, as a chain of horrendous episodes and unintended chaos had streamed along, I was forced to concede that the show was simply bad and had completely averted all my expectations. While the show wasn’t even close to the complete hilarity and charm of beloved terribad classics such as Mars of Destruction or The Prince of Tennis movie, both of which I strongly recommend, watching Sword Art Online from the beginning was most certainly painful. It was dry, tasteless, and just plain hard to watch.
It wasn’t until I had founded my own blog and subsequently created a Twitter account, which is for all purposes God’s gift to discussing anime, that I had come to truly enjoy the awfulness that is Sword Art Online. Instead of wallowing around in the muck, there were now people I could talk to, complain with, and cajole. But more than that, actively blogging and using Twitter has allowed me to converse with others with completely polar opinions and those who enthusiastically support the show giving me a different perspective when it came to approaching the show. Although I still firmly maintain the belief that Sword Art Online is crap, watching and discussing it with other viewers has made the experience so much more vibrant than the previous droll viewing sessions of before. Whether they liked the show or not, I loved the discourse and the valuable pieces of perspective our discourses provided me.
Now I find myself heading a Skype viewer group for Sword Art Online and one of two of its proud founders. It’s been a rather enlightening experience. We groan, we mock, and we laugh, all at the appropriate moments, waiting for the next hilariously mistimed shot at Leafa’s cleavage so we can all drink our shots. And even when the episode ends, we still keep going, hours on end. We fly off tangents, discussing the best and worst of anime, our expectations for the new season, and even subjects beyond the medium itself. I’ve realized that I’ve only got 3 more weeks of Sword Art Online, and as shameful as it is to say, I’m a little sad. For me, viewing Sword Art Online has become less about the god awful show and more about sharing moments with a community of interesting, enjoyable people whom I love to talk to.
While some see anime as a means to escape, ever since opening this blog I have been forced to acknowledge that anime is entirely the opposite. In reality, any forms of entertainment is a social activity which allows for discourse and discussion, not reclusion. In the many years before, whenever I’d watch something terrible, I’d do it alone, without people to discuss it with and without the comfort or intimacy of open discussion. When I look back at some of the worst, most painful watches in my anime viewing career, such as Shuffle! and Omamori Himari, I realize that ultimately, I was alone when I had watched those shows. While no amount of friends would have changed how objectively bad the shows were (and man, those were some shitty shows), I can’t deny the possibility that watching them with others would have changed my experience drastically.
While I originally wrote this post as a thank you to Sword Art Online, I can’t help but give my real thanks to the anime community as a whole. With the right people, something awful can become a masterpiece, and with the wrong, even the best of things can become a chore. Through some bizarre, small change in my viewing habit, the show I loathed the most has become my most awaited. Lead was turned to gold, and the tiresome days of watching bad anime alone were over.
- If you actually want to hear us mope about Sword Art Online, pay a visit to Flawfinder’s blog Standing on My Neck. I assume that he’s just recording us speaking for masturbatory purposes, but that’s just me.
- If you do decide to listen, then I’m the guy yelling “HAIL SATAN!” and “Kirito, MY DOG!” every two minutes.
- Finally, if you have something to say about any show, positive or negative, feel free to speak to me any time. I would love to hear it. And yes, that includes comments about Sword Art Online.
- Edit: I’d also just like to say thanks to everyone in SCCSAV. You’ve changed the way I’ve watched anime, and I can never go back.