SAO or Sword Art Online has become one of the most debated anime in recent years upon its release in 2012. The first season ran from July 7, 2012, to December 22, 2012. While it was airing the Anime community became divided. One part loved the anime and became crazy for Asuna! At least the male fans did. But probably the majority of the fan base is comprised of female fans.
The anime was adapted from Sword Art Online Light Novel written by a Japanese author named Reki Kawahara. The light novel publication started from April 10, 2009, by ASCII Media. It also has a manga adaptation published by the same publication and Kadokawa combined. The Anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures.
Knowing the background is great and all but that doesn’t answer our primary question.
That is – “why SAO is so popular?”
Is it because of Asuna?
Anyone could easily fall for a strong willed fighter and yet girlishly charming Asuna.
But if that was the case!
Before we could get into more detail we need a bit more background info.
Yes you guessed it right!
It’s filler time!!
Just like Naruto Shippuden I’ll give you flashback inside flashback which is inside a flashback inside a flashback…
…or that’s what I wanted to say but I can’t. Because unlike Kishimoto Sensei I don’t have that much flashback in my arsenal.
In fact how can I even compare myself to the GOD of (Konoha yellow) flashbacks!
That said, let’s just start our flashback I mean background analysis without further due.
For a long time now anime community was inside a loop. Every year Japan produced more and more anime but most of them had the same kind of themes as the previous anime. No one was making anime like Cowboy Bebop or Fullmetal Alchemist or many other awesome classical anime anymore.
Most of the action anime repeated the same story pattern, same kind of power ups, same badass protagonist and same Herem theme!
I mean it looks as if every girl in the god damn world is having a competition of who can fall for him faster.
In many school setting anime the protagonist seems like a looser but girls seems to fall for him because he is kind.
Now what kind of kind are we talking about?
The kind f kindness which our kind may have never seen or heard ever before.
Let me give a quick example –
Say somehow the hero and a girl (going to fall) is having launch together. Now a scenario occurs where the hero had to pass on the salt to the girl.
Now wait for it.
Perhaps you have already figured it out didn’t you?
You didn’t? :O
The girl falls for him for his amazing Buddha like kindness you silly! 😉
When the anime world was stuck in this disasters kindness of herem and the curse of same pattern loop, SAO gave us a ray of hope from the havens above and came whith…
Virtual herem what else!
Sword Art Online has brought the herem themed story in a whole new level.
Now you can enjoy herem in a virtual fantasy world.
So now you know.
SAO is so famous for its contribution to the herem world.
Or perhaps it’s Asuna after all?
She is cute isn’t she? :/
Enough small talk, let’s get to the real business now.
The story of SAO is based on a MMORPG game. MMORPG Means Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. The players need to enter the virtual game world itself to play it. That’s why SAO is a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (VRMMORPG).
The players had to put on a helmet called Nerve Gear to play this game. Nerve Gear then connects the player’s brain directly to the game server where he will control his virtual character as if it was his own body. While playing, the player will stay in a sleep like state in the physical world. Experiencing this kind of virtual game play in reality is called augmented reality (AR).
The original definition of AR goes like this –
AR is a direct or indirect view of a physical environment where the elements are supplied by computer sensors such as sound, graphic, location etc.
The recently released Pokemon GO is a great example for this kind of reality. Pokemon GO was certainly a big step towards virtual reality gaming.
The settings of SAO is in year 2022. Augmented reality based game are very hot now. A new VRMMORPG game called Sword Art Online (pronounced in Japanese Sodo Ato Onrain) has been released which is developed by Akihiko Kayaba. Our Hero Kazuto Kirigaya who named himself Kirito in the game. He has been playing the game as one of the 1000 beta testers for over one year now. When the game was released, Ten thousand players logged into it at once. The thousand beta testers along with Kirito was included. The first day was great. Everyone was roaming in the gaming world as if they are in a real physical fantasy world. Kirito even made a new friend. But eventually when some players were trying to logout they suddenly noticed that there was no logout option in the games virtual menu bar! There was no option to contact the support as well.
While some of the players were just realizing it, all ten thousand players were teleported back to the place where they started the game from. There a grim figure appeared up in the sky. He said that, from now on they have to stay in the game. They cannot logout and will die in the real world if they die in the SAO world. That means no second chance and no revival. When the life bar hits Zero it indicates the end of their life as well. No one can even pull the Nerve Gear helmet from their head from the outside world coz it would fry their brain using a radioactive wave. Same way it will kill the players when the life bar hits zero.
That was obviously a real shock to the players. But they were also given a way for redemption. If anyone can clear all hundred levels of SAO then they will all be able to logout.
That means fighting through all the floors and their bosses without dying even once!
Of course that’s how the real world works.
It’s a god damn game made just for fun.
I wasn’t signed up for this.
And I wasn’t there either so there is no need for me to freak out. But Kirito was there. And thus the journey of the Lone Black Swords Man, the beta tester cheater the beater begin.
Wanna know what happens next?
Watch it and find it yourself buster.
So now we now the setting of SAO as well as its basic story synopsis.
We can finally begin to explain about its popularity.
Why SAO is So Popular?
As I first told you, the anime world was inside a loop for a long time. They needed something fresh. Sword Art Online came with a fresh concept and all of a sudden people were saying like – why didn’t anime like this were made before! Suddenly SAO made a ripple in the ocean of anime industry and the whole anime community had its eyes on it.
But what is the reason for people to adore this concept? Why virtual reality??
We have to dig deep if we want to get an answer for that.
Since long ago people wanted to go to different places. But some people can’t afford to travel. Some people don’t even want to spare the energy for travelling. Some are unsatisfied with their current life. Such is the cruel life. It devours those who can’t keep up. So people like these always wondered in a land of fantasy faraway in their imaginations. The first of the imaginations probably became physical through cave painting. As human civilization started to advance so did the physical manifestation of a faraway land of fantasy. People started to write and other people started to read. They started to portray stories in art, stage drama, songs, poetry etc.
But When Video Games were invented people were probably more closer to that fantasy world than they ever were.
While reading a story the reader could imagine himself to be in place of the protagonist. Or he may relate to another character. Reading comic book and watching movie, cartoons etc. is the same. But one thing you can’t do in those situations. You can’t make the character do as you wish.
But in Video Games you certainly don’t have that limitation. You can control the character yourself. You make every decision and everything needs your command to be done. So people started to get obsessed with their gaming characters. There is no other joy then the power of control. When you see people obsessed with Clash of Clans (COC), League of Legends (LOL), DOTA, Counter Strike, Pokemon GO, you will automatically understand what I mean. There is also the sense of achievement which makes it worth a while.
But people are greedy.
They want more.
And they always will.
There is no limit to their necessity.
But necessity is also the mother of invention.
So people started thinking, what if we could get into the Video Games and do what our characters do in the game?
The idea is fascinating isn’t it?
The chance to escape reality even if for a brief time and do what I do best (of at least decent).
The story writers and movie industry didn’t just sit and watch. There was a necessity for this kind of entertainment and it was provided as well.
So we get The “Matrix” on the process.
Matrix wasn’t about gaming but it was about entering virtual world.
Also there was an animated series named Jonny Quest. They were able to enter the virtual world which is called the quest world. There are other several movies as well.
But in the anime world there was no anime on this concept.
That’s a very big reason for SAO being so appreciated by anime fans. Especially those anime fans who are already playing MMORPG games online.
SAO is like a dream come true to them. So the gamer anime fan base just grabbed to the story just like a drowning man grab a floating stick.
Although before SAO there were a few anime of this type like Hake. But it was about a decade old and it was plain boring. So no one actually remembered or cared.
But SAO on the other hand had a life and death situation in the story. And since it was a virtual game world there were creatures that do not exist in the real world. The players of SAO also posse extra ordinary skills and strength because it was a virtual gaming world.
Only, in this world they could die. It’s like going to a real fantasy world. Like the one I was talking about earlier in my writing. When anime fans saw a story with their ideal dream including the intensity along with the pure love story of Kirito and asuna, they could not but love it. The OST (Original Sound Track), Opening (OP) and Ending (ED) songs also gave a boost to that love in the air.
But then you may ask – “What about the others?”
What about the Others?
Why other anime like SAO such as Accel World, Log Horizn, No Game No Life never came under the spotlight?
As for Accel World, it was unfortunately overshadowed by SAO.
Although both have the same writer, the fans seem to prefer SAO even more.
Even I seem to prefer SAO over Accel World!
But If you watch Accel world after SAO, you will learn that there is a connection between them.
What’s the connection you ask?
You have to watch them both to figure this out! 😉
As for other VR based anime, they couldn’t come up with the fresh surprise concept that SAO came up with and took the anime world off guard.
That’s one of the many reasons SAO is still a topic of hype among the devoted fans.
First love is always special you know. 😉
By The Way, Did you know that there is an irregular moon named SAO in Neptune’s orbit?