Let me put this as delicately as I can: Sword Art Online is a terrible anime.
I believe this to be objectively true. A while back my friends finally convinced me to start watching anime, which is a worthy pastime. At least, if you can put up with the fact that some of the animators are convinced they’re making porn. Seriously, if I wanted to watch porn, I’m pretty sure I could find it. Give me well-animated fight scenes, thanks.
Back on topic, one of my friends had sworn up and down that Sword Art Online was easily the best anime of all time. Having no frame of reference, I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? The guy generally has good taste in this sort of thing. Sure, when I looked it up opinions seemed rather divided but I still went in thinking I’d enjoy the anime.
Well, that turned out not to be the case.
It was awful, much more so because I had just finished watching Attack on Titan, which is amazing. The story started with a good premise, good character ideas, and it seemed to be shaping up for a good show – and then the author threw it all away. The main character turns into an overpowered god akin to Superman back before kryptonite, the side characters’ lives all revolve around him, and the main premise of the show is OUTRIGHT IGNORED for a good ten episodes or so. Then the author must have gone “Crap, there was a plot I needed to get to!” and solves the whole thing in two episodes. By introducing someone who FINALLY beats the main character, except nope, deus ex machina.
And amazingly there are people who LIKE this. I literally am incapable of understanding how such a thing is possible. But whatever, I’m widely considered insane by my peers and am fine with that.
From what I have seen so far, this is objectively poor writing. And I would like to point out that I went in trying to like the anime. I tried so hard. But…I just couldn’t enjoy it. It made me very sad.
And of course, I tried to explain this to my brother when he watched SAO and said he liked it. I said it was fine if he liked it as long as he acknowledged that it was poorly written – the two things are separate in my mind. He told me that the poor writing was in my opinion, and proceeded to respond the exact same way no matter how much I argued with him.
Now, whether or not I like something is definitely my opinion. But really, by every standard of writing this is terrible. It’s like Twilight – the writing sucks, the romance is terrible, but it’s wildly successful…somehow. Whatever. People can like and dislike whatever they want (except Frozen. You will like that or I WILL FIND YOU.) but there are some things that are just poorly written. I doubt anyone could say that the stories I wrote in first grade about Battlebots stopping an alien invasion were any good, objectively.
The problem, of course, is that objective standards for writing are in and of themselves questionable. You can’t create a mathematical scale for measuring how well something is written. Hence the ability of my brother (and dad, at one point) to just stand behind their “In your opinion” argument. But there are differences. For example, the first anime I ever watched, Infinite Stratos, was similarly terribly written with a rather wasted premise. I enjoyed that one. I have no idea why I enjoy IS and hate SAO, but the contrast has made me try harder not to say that something is “good” or “terrible,” because that’s very hard to back up unless you’re a professional critic. And even then people are more than capable of disagreeing with you. If you ask me about something like that I’ll usually say what I personally thought about it and then what I thought from a more objective viewpoint.
I do prefer to account for others’ opinions on the matter, after all. Except regarding Frozen. That’s the one thing I’ll allow myself leeway on. You don’t like Frozen, all bets are off.