Sword Art Online PSA
According to Gregory, Tobbii and Marshall of the JAA Podcast we are now in a new anime season, meaning a lot of new shows have been launched recently and are currently ongoing. Normally I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to this kind of stuff, but a certain title did break through my oblivious shell, and that one is called Sword Art Online.
I want to stay as spoiler-free as possible, but I do have to go into some mild spoilers to explain the premise of the show. The year is 2022 and a new MMO called Sword Art Online has just launched. To play this MMO you need to use a Virtual Reality helmet that lets you play the game with your mind and without a controller. The game was launched with a finite number of 10 000 copies, and because of the buzz generated before launch, it was all sold out on day one.
The main character is a boy named Kirito, who was a beta tester for Sword Art Online, and joins 9999 other players on day one of the final launch. After playing around for a bit and finding a newbie to show the ropes to, they discover that they can’t log out. The option is simply not there. Kirito suggests contacting a Game Master, but his new friend responds he’s not getting a reply.
Then all the players are brought into an arena where the creator of the game appears and tells them that they are all locked into the game, and no one will be getting out until they have cleared all 100 floors of the game. Anyone who dies in-game also dies in real life, because the VR helmet fries their brain. Anyone from the outside trying to remove the helmet by force will also trigger the brain-frying. And so it begins.
The show has a rather dark theme, and grim tones. It’s a little lighter from time to time, but people die. A lot of people die. I can understand if this might put you off, but it is a really good show. The pacing is excellent, the writing is fantastic, the characters feel believable and are easy to relate to and the sound design is marvelous.
Apparently this is based off of a manga, but everything so far was not covered in the manga, it is merely the prequel stuff. Filler, if you will. There are five episodes out so far. The first episode intrigued me enough to keep watching. The second episode pulled me in. The third episode simply wowed me. The fourth episode cheered me up. And then the fifth episode is a murder mystery! (I love murder mysteries.)
One of the most amazing things about this show is how much it actually feels like this could be a real MMO. The creator says he did a lot of research and playing of current MMOs before doing this show, and it really shows. So many little details done right, and big ones too. The menus, the way items and looting works, the way people group and raid, PvP status, dueling, equipment, combat, boss battles. Just so much of it feels right, and looks right.
I do have one small issue with the show though. More like a thing that has been nagging at me. Exactly how are the players being kept alive in the real world? It would be difficult to move them, because as Kirito points out, they can’t be saved by being unplugged, because the helmet has an internal battery that would be enough to fry their brains if it loses power. So safely moving 10 000 people, or however many are left alive, to hospitals does not seem like it could be realistically pulled off.
Perhaps I’m one of the few who ponders this though. Maybe you’d have never noticed if I hadn’t pointed it out here. I do highly recommend you check it out. It is very well-done and it feels different. It will be interesting to see how, or if, the show changes when it reaches the point where the manga starts. I haven’t checked out the manga, and I won’t until I’m done with the show, because I don’t want to spoil anything for myself. I think the JAAP fellows said it starts like 2 years after game launch. Now to just endure the wait until episode 6 comes out this weekend.