Sword Art Online Season 2 Review


 

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Episode Guide

Gun World
Ice Sniper
Memories Of Blood
GGO
Gun and Sword
Showdown in the Wilderness
Crimson Memories
Bullet of Bullets
Death Gun
Pursuer Of Death
The Meaning of Strength
Bullet of a Phantom
Phantom Bullet
A Small Step
The Queen of the Lake
King of the Giants
Excalibur
The Forest House
Absolute Sword
Sleeping Knights
Swordsman’s Memorial
Journey’s End
Beginning of a Dream
Mother’s Rosario

 

After the polarising reception to the first season of Sword Art Online, the wildly divisive anime returns for a second season managing to both improve and disappoint at the same time. With a return of the gorgeous aesthetic and better characterisation, the first 14 episodes are a massive improvement over the first season as Kirito (Bryce Papenbrook) returns to the world of VR MMOs. Unfortunately, Sword Art slips back into its old tricks with a lacklustre final 10 episodes that feels tonally inconsistent with the rest of the season, ending on a note of disappointment rather than triumph.

The story begins 2 years after the events of Sword Art Online when a wildly popular MMO called Gun Gale Online sees a fighter die in real life after being killed in game by a shadowy figure called Death Gun. With rumours running amok, Kirito is called upon to check out the validity of these claims, hunt down Death Gun all whilst trying to avoid getting killed in the process. After the disappointing end to the first season, Sword Art Online reinvents itself with a darker, more mature approach to it’s narrative whilst introducing us to cool-headed sniper Sinon (Miyuki Sawashiro) who does a great job of filling Asuna’s role from last year as the strong, independent female. There’s no time jumps in sight, a cohesive, easy to follow narrative and some good work done to establish Gun Gale as a living, breathing virtual space. It’s here that it feels like the creators have really taken fan feedback on board and created a vision of what the show potentially could have achieved in the first season and it absolutely deserves credit for the well written Gun Gale Online story arc.

Unfortunately it’s here that Sword Art Online decides to change the show completely, abandoning the foundations it built up as a darker, more serious anime with real stakes to return to ALO, the respawning, no consequence fantasy faerie world from the first season. The entire mood of Sword Art changes completely here, exacerbated by a brand new opening title credits, art style and simplistic plot. The story during the last 10 episodes see Kirito and his group of friends hunting for the legendary sword Excalibur while tackling monsters. On its own, the story is certainly serviceable but next to the emotionally charged Gun Gale Online, the plot lacks any sort of emotional consequence for any of the characters. It’s such a shame as for the first 14 episodes this season are gripping, exciting and easy to ignore any niggling plot issues thanks to the absorbing story and interesting dynamic between Kirito and Sinon.

Visually, Sword Art Online is outstanding again and the consistency with the art style is the one constant that makes this such a beautiful anime to watch. The voice acting is good too and even Kirito is developed a little better this year compared to last making it all the harder to end feeling disappointed rather than elated with the direction Sword Art Online II takes

Sword Art Online II feels like a reinvigorated show for the first 14 episodes before stumbling over its progress and tumbling back to square one for a lacklustre, disappointing second half. This is made all the more frustrating by just how much Sword Art improves from the first season. From the removal of time jumps to the more cohesive, easy to follow storyline right up to the high stake tension and better characterisation, Sword Art Online feels like a much improved show. Had the second season ended when the Gun Gale Online storyline finished then this season would be easy to lavish praise on but seeing this anime take one step forward before falling back into old habits with the tonally jarring return to ALO is a real shame. Much like the first season there are redeeming features to this anime but its squandered by some questionable decisions that unfortunately make Sword Art Online II more flawed than it has any right to be.

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  • 6.5/10
    Verdict - 6.5/10
6.5/10