Anime Review | Sword Art Online : ALfheim Arc (Lights! Camera! Action!)

By Ian Soltes 06.11.2016 1

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Sword Art Online: ALfheim Arc (UK Rating: N/A)

With the first part of the first season now reviewed, it is time for the second part. Picking off where the first arc left off, Kirito is now free of Aincrad and back in reality. Only there is a small problem: Asuna is still not waking up, trapped in the digital world. Meanwhile, Kirito, having spent two years basically comatose, is struggling to return to normal life, yet word has suddenly surfaced that Asuna might be trapped in a different game called ALfheim Online! It's a world in which players can fly and, at last, no penalty for death… Time for the second arc to step up to bat.

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Sword Art Online is an anime that will garner mixed feelings whenever it is mentioned. In the review of the first arc, some of the problems were touched upon: how the story felt like it was more of a collection of short stories as opposed to a grand and overarching narrative being a prime example. Also, how it felt more like a fantasy story with MMO bits, how its good music and art were a major plus, and other such things that made for a mixed bag overall. In the end, so long as not seeking to actively look for flaws, enjoying it more as artwork than some deep story, then it was actually good - far from flawless, but certainly acceptable.

Now, here comes the second arc. The formula has been mixed up a bit, with pieces of reality and the digital world impacting upon each other. Kirito is now physically weaker due to having been in the game for so long, and life has moved on for others. However, Asuna is still trapped in another world and someone is seeking her hand in marriage in real life. He's holding her mind hostage so that she can't object, as well. The world where her mind is trapped, though, seems to be an interesting one and, with a timer now to try and rush to save her, things look like they could get interesting.

Once again things start off strong. Firstly, this new world allows for both magic and the ability to fly, meaning aerial battles can now take place, something that couldn't happen before. A new character, named Leafa, appears. She is a Sylph who seems to be just as capable as Kirito and has the twist of, unknowingly, being his adoptive sister in real life. All the fairy races are at war, as well, since there is the promise that whichever race clears the final dungeon first will become ALf's, making for both alliances and betrayals primed.

Image for Anime Review | Sword Art Online : ALfheim Arc (Lights! Camera! Action!)

The artwork and music is also spectacular, and easily on par with its prior arc with the magic, utilising chants, and floating letters, being especially impressive. Various other tidbits further help it along. Then it all falls apart. While in the first arc Kirito was skirting the lines of Mary Sue, but not crossing them, in this second arc he takes a dive into the deep end and, to make it even worse, the narrative smacks into the pool wall of 'stupid' and seems to drown. Upon entering the world, Kirito finds he has all his levels, which is fine since watching him grind it up again would be pretty lame from a narrative perspective and there is at least a hand wave (albeit a stupid one) as to why this is. Then it all starts to fall apart.

Revising the previously provided definition of 'Mary Sue' a bit, a Mary Sue is someone whom the narrative is more than willing to warp around, often ignoring logic or its own continuity for the sake of author favour. The ALfheim arc reeks of this. At one point, for example, Kirito attempts to bluff someone by claiming to represent the alliance of two of the fairy races, which would have been a fair enough bluff had such an alliance even been alluded to existing in the first place. How did the enemy General fall for it despite there being warning signs so obvious that lighting them on fire, launching them into the middle of the air, illuminating the light sky, and then engraving it on the moon for all to see for all eternity would be more discreet? Mary Sue! Why is it that the game developers included a final dungeon, one that could even be entered, and yet didn't even bother putting in something even resembling a final boss? Mary Sue! It is like that simply so Kirito can start to uncover the truth behind ALfheim!

Image for Anime Review | Sword Art Online : ALfheim Arc (Lights! Camera! Action!)

One or two of these logic flaws might have been excusable as real MMOs have had similar issues in the past; however, they all start quickly building up and up, with them playing into Kirito's story, eclipsing Leafa, Asuna, and the others, making them to be little more than further favour for Kirito, to the point where it cannot be denied. ALfheim is the point where Kirito hit Mary Sue.

Rated 4 out of 10


In the end, Sword Art Online: ALfheim Arc has some positives that stand out. The art and soundtrack are good and when the story isn't basically praising Kirito or warping to fit his narrative, it's decent enough. However, this is where the show smacks a wall… hard. Some might like this arc better for its more focused plot, which is perfectly fine, yet others will find them drowning in the powers of the Mary Sue.

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With SA:O I always feel like there is a good story going on just behind Kirito.

Also, seriously, of ALL possible avatars you could have picked, you chose a SLUG?!

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