Okay so I've been enjoying this past season of Anime, a number of awesome shows are airing every week, and I love keeping up with them all. One of those (in fact I believe it was the first show I simulcasted) has been Sword Art Online II. SAO on the whole is a decent show, but I must say that the Phantom Bullet arc has to be by far my favorite arc so far in the series, and has been since SAO II started. Once that arc finished, They moved on to the short lived Caliber arc, and now (as of writing this) are beginning Mother's Rosario. Overall season 2 has surpassed my expectations, and I've had very few complaints overall with the show, with one glaring exception. That exception being... that I watch Log Horizon.
Now any one who has watched both shows could tell you, Log Horizon and Sword Art Online are vastly different shows, almost complete opposites except for the fact that they both start off with a bunch of people getting trapped in a videogame. Log Horizon deals with economies, strategies and politics, as well as how the old videogame systems like tactics, respawns and NPC's work now that Elder Tale has become reality. The action heavy SAO never really touched in those subjects in the first 3 arcs, however that all changed with Caliber.
Now objectively, Caliber is not a terrible arc, it's a short action quest, which is fine as far as that goes. However my issue is not with the show itself, but rather, my reaction to it. For, you see, I just could not take SAO II seriously throughout that entire arc. To me it seemed that SAO was trying way too hard to add what Log Horizon already did great into it's own story, but instead of giving those ideas enough time to develop fully, they come off as a half-baked parody of the show which did them all better.
*Caution: Spoilers Ahead
First among those things, is the treatment of the NPC's. Now In Log Horizon, all the People of the Land are shown to have basically become humans, with their own desires, personalities and free will, making them indistinguishable from the Adventurers (except for the fact that the People of the Land die when they are killed.) In Caliber we see some of the first intelligent NPCs besides Yui, in an SAO MMO. However, it is never really made clear whether or not the NPCs were real people or if they were just AI's based off of Wikipedia's Norse Gods entry. As such stuff like Klein's attempted romance with some of the NPCs just fell flat and sounded incredibly silly, especially when my comparison is stuff like Crusty and the Princess's relationship in Log Horizon.
The second thing was the incorporation of raid tactics in Caliber. Now not being an MMO player myself, I don't have any personal experience of raids, but I think I have a fairly good idea especially from Log Horizon which has spent a good chunk of time relating how party structure and character builds work together. In Log Horizon this works as most of the battle scenes explain their co-ordination and tactics. Who is the tank, who is in the supporting roles, who is covering for someone else, all of this is explained and shown, making the tactics an engaging part of the story. Caliber on the other hand mentions party roles for about 1 min where Kirito realizes that their party is basically a bunch of tanks and no support, and then proceeds to do the raid anyways. I mean if they wanted to show a more tactical battle in SAO go for it, but don't just mention that you have a ridiculously unbalanced party and then go on like it makes no difference. I mean Kirito's modus operandi for a while has been for him to tank, and everyone else just to support whenever possible, that's what we expect, and that's what happens, so why bring up deeper strategy if your going to throw it all away? It just makes me chuckle, because I'm sorry Kirito, you're not Shiroe, so don't pretend your him, you just make a fool of yourself.
The last gripe really, is how seriously SAO takes the Caliber arc. I mean from the group's reactions you would expect that failure would be the end of the world, or something to that effect. But this is not Log Horizon, where Elder Tale becomes the player's reality, or even the original Sword Art Online Aincrad, where their physical lives are affected by the game world, this is Alfheim, which is just an MMO, with no real world consequences. So while turning ALO into Ice World Online might have sucked for the players of ALO, I couldn't help but laugh at how absurd it was that they took everything so seriously.
In the end though I didn't hate Caliber, actually I found it kind of entertaining, the problem is that for those 3 episodes SAO II changed into an unintentional parody, that I just couldn't take seriously. It was just too absurdly funny, watching SAO II trying to be Log Horizon and failing. It wasn't the reaction, I'm sure, that A-1 Pictures expected me to have, but oh well... At least I got a good laugh.
*Disclaimers and Acknowledgements*
- Yes, the title of my article is overly provocative. Guilty as charged.
- If you want to hear a bit more why you shouldn't compare LH and SAO go find the latest episode of The Ani-tay podcast. I highly recommend it