The last episode (for now and maybe forever) of Sword Art Online aired a couple weeks ago and after two anime seasons, I am very glad that it is ending/taking a break. The light novel that the anime was biased off of was praised for its witty and well written dialogue that helped make the online world of SAO and ALO come alive through the text. I feel it’s safe to say that the light novel deserves to be called “epic” but as for the anime…”ok” is a better way of describing it.
So the anime is by no means a failure. Most of the characters in both the anime and light novel were a blast to learn and watch mature over the course of the story. I honestly did not like Asuna in the beginning but by the end of the first season, I was rooting for a happy ending for both her and Kirito. Many anime viewers across the internet praised how the anime immersed the viewer into the story. I do agree with this point but there is a lot more aspects that get glossed over. First off is the plot and the pacing of the show. Unlike in the first volume of the light novel, the anime decides to include the side stories of volume two for episodes 2-7 which was not a huge issue except that it completely disrupt the pacing. They included these filler episodes so that you were introduced to all the characters in the SAO universe even if some of them were uhhh useless and unneeded. So filler episodes aside, the rest of the first season did skip over some minor details but overall I did not feel as if it was rushed. The second season however was plagued with pacing and continuity issues. From the first episode of the second season, important information was left out and entire segments were either skipped or almost left out completely. The pacing was so erratic that I honestly cannot recommend watching the second season at all. The plot seemed so rushed in order to get everything in for twelve episodes that it just comes off as a decent adventure between Kirito and his sister.
So while the plot and pacing sort of fails hard, the animation and sound is BEAUTIFUL. The world of SAO and ALO will take your breath away with their beautiful scenery. All the backdrops in these virtual worlds retain a certain level of quality throughout the entire +20 episodes. The same applies to the character models; they are all very well done. The sound also deserves some praise for being freaking awesome. The soundtrack fits the anime very well in both heavy dialogue and actions scenes. It has elements of orchestras and synths that blend well together. The voice actors did a spot on job with mending their own take of the characters with what was provided in the light novels as well.
So while the animation, sound, and characters are spot on, the inability for this anime to outshine its source material will taint the viewing experience. I know that a lot of people would rather watch a movie than read the book but I STRONGLY recommend that you give the light novel a shot before even thinking about watching the anime. The light novel does an excellent job immersing and investing you into both the characters and story while the anime is a glorified cop out that will most likely only cater to action fans. The level of deepness the light novel had is unfortunately completely taken away in the anime. It’s good but far from amazing.