Anime Review: Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online Vol.1

By Drew Hurley 27.08.2019

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Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online Vol.1 (UK Rating: 15)


VR Games development almost killed off after the nightmare scenario of Sword Art Online, when 10,000 players became stuck in their VRMMORPG, stuck in a life or death situation where dying in the game meant death in the real-world too. Now years later, VRMMO is back in a big way, and without the risk of permadeath in real life. This FPS-based, post-apocalyptic shooter proves a refuge for one young lady. Coming Courtesy of Anime Limited, this first half of the Sword Art Online spin-off is out now.
 
New seasons of anime have to capture the attention of viewers or to survive off the back of brand recognition or the fame of their studio. This is where Gun Gale potentially lost viewers before airing the first episode. Sword Art Online garnered quite a divisive reputation, one that could draw or repel an audience, but this is its own animal and should be considered regardless of its lineage. The first episode of Gun Gale Online does a great job of snatching the attention of the audience.
 
The titular game - Gun Gale Online - sees players swap the swords and sorcery fantasy worlds of Sword Art Online and Alfheim online to a futuristic first-person shooter and instead of a blank slate protagonist with a harem, there's a tiny, cutesy girl, dressed all in pink from head to toe. Even her gun is cute, as she's kitted out with a little P90 submachine gun. The first episode throws the viewers right into the action, where a huge "Game Jam" tournament is underway. The diminutive rosy gunner, 'Llenn,' is teaming up with a stoic giant named M to take on all comers in a team-based battle royale.
 
This first episode is hugely engaging. M acts as the straight man, with a huge base of knowledge of guns, warfare, and combat, while Llenn acts as the newbie to the world. This underdog duo takes on teams that would be familiar to any online gamers. There is a team of dudebro heavy machine gunners hwo spray anything that moves, some hardcore gamers, and even some special forces using the scenario as training. It shows why M and Llenn are so strong in this world, and it helps to set up the rules of the game.

 
After this captivating first episode, the story jumps to show the player behind the short salmon shooter. Cataloguing her story inside and outside of the game. The actual player behind Llenn is named Karen and she's the polar opposite of her avatar in the physical department. Karen is abnormally tall, especially for a Japanese girl. She's over six feet, and it's something she has always had a complex about, something that stopped her playing ALO with her friends, as she'd have to play as a leggy elf. Her friend introduced her to a few different games, but it was only here, where she could finally shave a few feet off her height that she finally got interested.
 
The first episode is great, and it gives plenty more to build on. Llenn and M may have taken out some, but there are plenty of teams remaining in the battle royale. Yet bafflingly, the next two episodes jump back in time. Telling Karen's story, introducing her real-world life and her nerdy otaku gamer friend, showing her falling in love with the game, and how she has a Kirito-level of broken-ness thanks to her tiny stature and extreme speed. This could be a killer misstep, but it manages not to be. The episodes absolutely fly by and while they do they introduce a very important character named Pito.
 
Llenn is happy enough just playing solo PvE. Heading out into the world and training her skills taking out mobs, until she one day stumbles on the passion of killing other players and builds a reputation as the 'Pink Devil;' a terrible foe to stumble on in the world of GGO. It takes an equally imposing player to  stand up to this monster, and that person is Pitohui, or Pito. Pito and Llenn become fast friends, and Pito greatly ups Llenn's game. Making this monster even more powerful, and as the story returns to the beginning of episode one, it's Pito who sets her up with M for the tournament.
 
Episode four returns to that tournament, and it's wrapped up at the conclusion of episode five. It's a little too brief, but there's no room to spread it out further, since there are only six episodes in this first collection, making up half of the entirety of the anime adaptation. There are a handful of bonuses bundled up here too. There are three different audio commentary tracks, a clean opening/closing, and most importantly, the special episode 5.5. This episode recaps the first five episodes that make up the battle of the first Squad Jam.
 
The story here is quite basic, the majority of this collection is just a single battle royale tournament after all. The action scenes are good at least, but Llenn's absurd power level make things a little less interesting, returning a key element of Sword Art Online that was not a good one. The overpowered main character. Llenn may not quite be on Kirito's level, but she's absurdly strong here, taking out entire teams on her own despite her lack of experience. The show is weaker for it. There's no watching Llenn struggle and grow. There is no having to produce intelligent, complex, or well-designed battles. Instead, it relies on deus ex machina. Outside of the game Karen befriends a group of kids who also play GGO and this slice of life element could be interesting, but it's all rather forgettable. Her complex never really given depth, the difference in the players left unexplored.
 
6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

With so many huge franchises, it's too easy to "go back to the well," or to rely on nostalgia of the fanbase to sell something new. A perfect example is the new Star Wars films, which held desperately on to the original trilogy and in doing so failed to tell their own story. Gun Gale Online cannot be accused of this, and it's what more franchises should do, take a rich universe and tell a brand new, original story in it. While it's nothing groundbreaking, it has promise. With just six episodes left it feels like it will be a complete story, the conclusion still may redeem this rather average production.

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