It's been almost two years since I wrote my review of the first arc of Sword Art Online, and while I never did go back and conclude or follow up with a review of the second arc, I never-the-less didn't change my opinion, or my stance on the anime as a whole. I still firmly hold fast to the claim that it was without a doubt the best anime I'd seen in 2012, and possibly 2013 (though that's debatable).
Now that SAO is getting a second season in the form of, Sword Art Online II, and because of some continued hate for the series, I thought it might be pertinent to go back and re-examine this anime with a fresh pair of eyes. To see if maybe I wasn't viewing the series through a set of rose-colored-glasses; and to see if perhaps all the hatred that the anime nerds in almost every corner of the internet throw at it is truly justified.
After a lot of contemplation and analyzing, I fail to see in the show all the things that the fans are complaining about; and boy do they ever complain. Granted, most of the hateful comments are made with witty and hasty inserted words like: "SAO is the worst anime ever!!!"
The fact that they go to the trouble of adding three exclamation marks to their statement just means that they want to make sure that you and I understand that they are saying it very loud. Well, don't worry, I got it. Loud and clear.
When I first watched SAO, back when it was airing in Japan, I noticed that it drew a specific type of audience; the sort that wanted to see certain things and that were tired and weary with atypical rehash.
Some of what made SAO fresh and exciting was that it didn't waste time with building up a super-hero, and then letting us watch as he slowly matured through the course of the show; suffering a few defeats along the way. Seriously, had Kirito suffered just one defeat, he'd be toast. No respawns, no going off to the other side of the city or world to lick his wounds: D-E-A-D, dead!
So a lot of the arguments about why Kirito fails as a character is somewhat lost on me. I can get that they want him to be a little far removed from the prediction field as possible, but the fans can't have a character in a game-type setting get defeated, when the rules stipulate that he will die. And, who in their right mind, besides neo-anal retentive types actually care to undergo the entire course of his leveling up.
It was established from the beginning that he was a good, if not great MMORPG gamer; he was part of the beta group, he played an MMO game solo; his badassery should not be a question.
But, you see, it's relatively easy these days for fans of anime to condemn anime rather than actually find something enjoyable about it. The modern trend has been to "find fault with" rather than "find something good in." The bandwagon early on for SAO was rife with half-assed arguments as to why it was a bad anime. Some of those arguments are so uninformed, that it's clear that the fans bellyaching over the show hadn't even taken a the time to watch it; let alone form an opinion for themselves.
Another popular beef that the fans seem to have, is with the way that the girls in the series seem to be so fond of Kirito; and have thereby decreed that he is some sort of harem master. The arguments pro or con in this arena have been pretty heated, and have ranged from the grandiose to the asinine.
On the positive side, we see that the girls in the show are gathering to a dominant non-aggressive type of male character that shows genuine interest in helping the opposite sex. Of course, he's not biased to just helping girls; and shows as much courtesy to men. One of my arguments was that perhaps the girls liked him because he was a nice guy. To which I was generously flamed.
Maybe I'm missing something. It was my understanding that girls liked nice guys.
Oh no, see apparently that way of thinking is sexist. WTF? Right?
I'm sure my wife would have married me all the more faster had I been an asshole to her, or pretended that she didn't possess any sort of gender differentials. Yeah, real classy. Why don't we bring up Adolph Hitler while we're already sinking this ship, because everyone knows that no internet argument has reached its full level of stupidity until someone mentions Adolph.
So, to test the theory of the fandom; carefully weighing in all the ups and downs about the series, I thought it would be wise to get some feedback on the series after the fact. So I conducted an experiment.
I sat my wife down (she is the more conservative of the two of us) and I had her listen to everything that the fans said was wrong with it, aside from the usual negativity that the show has going for it on the FUNimation forums. I gave her all the dirt, and all the praise, and let her loose on it.
The final verdict was interesting. To paraphrase, she saw nothing about the show that would justify its harsh treatment.
So here at the end. I've come to believe that the ONLY reason that anyone, fan or otherwise would go out of their way to criticise, is to make themselves seem more important than they really are. And, Sword Art Online has a very well defined bullseye on its back.
If you are one of those fans that hates this show, then do us all the courtesy of shutting the hell up about it. We get it, we got it, we understand that you don't like it; will never like it, and can't wait for the fires of God's judgement to annihilate the planet so this ilk can be destroyed. But for those that like it. You rock on. We can and should like what we want to like, and shouldn't be made to feel any less a part of the fandom for it.