In a nutshell, Sword Art Online is everything that is wrong with modern anime. It has an interesting premise, and the possibility to have turned into an epic with everything that it promised to possibly do right. However, whilst it does deliver on a large amount of these in the early parts of the show, it turns into something that’s actually so bad it’s funny in the later parts, especially in the second arc.
Partly to blame for this is the leading cast. Kirito takes the male role, and…well, he’s really plain and uninteresting. He doesn’t do anything of interest or anything special, he just fills the role as main character and nothing but that. Along the way, very early in the first arc, a character named Asuna takes the role of leading female. She was a strong character, and a very likeable one at that, but she gets degraded into nothing more than a trophy wife for Kirito to collect and hold onto as the show progresses, and gets replaced with Kirito’s cousin/sister character, who, quite simply, doesn’t belong in the show.
To me, that’s where the huge problems come in. Asuna got replaced by a really poor excuse for a character and, oddly enough, as she changed her personality to adapt more to the male characters, the show became worse and worse. I’m not even going to talk about the sister/cousin character, as that would just make me angry and launch into paragraphs of rage about what went so badly over the show and why it sucks so much…and that is what I’m trying so hard to avoid.
The writing quality is also all over the place, with some serious moments managing to be serious moments, and some serious moments turn into nothing but comedic dashes of the imagination and end up becoming laughable. This balance isn’t something which anyone should be pleased about, turning the show into a Code-Geass styled train wreck.
Ultimately, that’s the only way I can describe this show: a trainwreck. It goes through really strong highs and then lows so pathetically bad that they make you giggle to yourself. It’s, well, because of this that it’s so hard to enjoy the show. What’s even worse is that this would be a completely different story if they’d decided to leave things incomplete and stop at 1-cour (13 episodes).