10. Sword Art Online II: Electric Bungaloo
While the first Sword Art Online ended (and some would say began) tepidly at best, Kirito’s 2014 destination, Gun Gale Online, brought in two fresh elements that has somewhat rekindled my interest for the inferior of the two MMO anime.
And Sinon’s arse:
The first element, guns, is contingent on my own personal interests, and may not make a difference for the average viewer who isn’t mildly psychotic about their hobbies. It was rumoured before the start of the series that the production team went to Guam in order to study guns and their workings, and it definitely shows. Not only in the details of the animation and art of the firearms, but also in small things that only a gun nut would notice, such as Sinon’s plot-wise insignificant but accurate explanation of the origins of the intermediate cartridge, her exposition of the FN Five-seveN and its unique calibre (itself a tactically sound choice for Kirito, given his fighting style), Kirito’s correct trigger finger placement and sight picture, a realistic slow-mo of a bullet leaving a birdcage A2-style flash hider which resembles its real-life flash pattern, proper use of the trademark “HK slap” to charge a HK UMP-45, inclusion of the often-forgotten disintegrated links within a mini-gun’s refuse which holds the ammo together on the ammo belt, etc. These minor cinematic details are normally unknowable and therefore unnoticeable by all but the most maniacal enthusiasts, and while they offer almost nothing to the overall quality of the show, they give people like me, who alternately cringe and rage at nearly every portrayal of ranged weaponry on the silver screen, a great deal of joy and excitement while I watch this otherwise languid show.
[The following paragraph contains an almost entirely self-gratifying, off-topic rant, impossibly, even more so than the preceding paragraph. You are advised not to read it.]
This starkly contrasts the modern, Hollywood take on arms and armour, who discard all in-depth research in favour of whatever looks cool and is easy to make. Seriously, guys? Sword Art Online is at best, a second-rate show within a niche hobby, with budgets, profit margins and production time frames that represent a fraction of what American studios have to play with. Not only that, this is a country that is completely devoid of civilian gun ownership apart from the Yakuza. These writers have to take a three and a half hour flight from Tokyo to Guam in order to do this sort of research, while the LA Gun Club is literally fifteen minutes away (granted, if you take into account traffic on the I-10, it may well take months to get there). Not to mention that movie studios have entire companies and occasionally the US Armed Forces taking care of their firearms expertise. Not only that, but this is the second anime/manga franchise with exceedingly accurate firearms lore to come out of a gun-free country, the other being Gunsmith Cats, which, impossibly, even got the New York City Firearms Ordnance correct, a myriad web of minor laws and gotcha’s that even its residents have difficulty deciphering, back before the days of the internet, at that. The SAO team’s research into the subject of their show created a beautiful piece in terms of action, which could be easily matched in a major action film production, but yet the American movie complex refuse to show even a modicum of the dedication their anime counterparts have shown in their own tradecraft, despite being paid far better than them. This is an absolutely disgraceful state of affairs.
[We now resume our regular broadcast of marginally less self-gratifying, off-topic rants.]
Guns and arse aside (that latter of which, as they say, needs no introduction), Sword Art Online II is the sort of dross its prequel was; a poorly written, Gary Stu-driven harem action show wearing the skin of a decent anime through its glossy animation and well-choreographed fight scenes. If you’re not a gun nut, then this show holds preciously little value to the viewer of discerning tastes. While I would usually try to remain objective in my ratings, this particular one represents my significant bias towards a show which has paid due respect to my hobby.
Expected Rating: 6/10
The remaining shows I have to review are Tokyo Ghoul, Tokyo ESP, Zankyou no Terror, Ilya 2wei and Yama no Susume: Second Season; Tokyo and Lesbians, basically.