What’s it about ?
A virtual-reality MMORPG gone horribly wrong.
Characters & Plot
Kirito, our protagonist. He was one of the beta players of this new Sword Art Online game, so now he’s fully prepared for the actual game. Besides “competent” and “very knowledgeable about SAO”, he doesn’t show off much personality yet. And he’s quite nice to…
Klein, the n00b, who stood in line for the midnight release of the game (10K copies in total). Kirito has the patience to teach him the combat system (no magic, only swordplay), and they spend some time killing slime-level encounters in the beginners’ area.
Kayaba, the creator of the game. I have to give him credit for style : when he shows up, it’s with a gigantic avatar literally bleeding from the skies. He announces that (1) the “logout” menu option is now disabled ; (2) outside disconnection of the VR helmet by friends or family will cause the immediate death of the player ; (3) running out of HP will kill the player for real ; and (4) the only way out of the game is to reach the 100th level of the worldmap.
Well, crap. This is gonna be a loooong gaming session…
(There’s a girl prominently featured in promotional material and the ED, but she’s yet to show up.)
This is a gorgeous series, full of scenery porn ; for a while it kinda looks like an extended SAO commercial (well, until the death toll starts racking up). The combat sequences look good, and even the extras have a lot of life to them. (Aside from a few glaring static crowd shots during the announcement.)
On the one hand, this is a very-well executed first episode, perfectly selling the premise and the stakes. The writers clearly made their homework about how MMORPGs and their players work.
On the other hand… it’s a MMORPG. Endless grinding and senseless quests are kinda built in, and I have no clue yet how the series is going to spice it up so that it doesn’t become tedious awfully fast.
Still, that was such a good first episode that I’m keeping an open mind about it.