Finally, the show acknowledges the hard work of all the viewers who had to endure it.
After the horrible penultimate episode, I was expecting Sword Art Online to spend its last few breaths sprawled in a gutter before finally shitting itself and submitting to the powerful jaws of a thousand nettlesome rats. To say that it was the worst thing I’ve seen all year would be a disservice to every other anime, including certain proto-Key adaptations that are roughly as pain-free as dry ice Ultimate Frisbee. That was simply on another plane of existence, a Lovecraftian horror descended from the darkest depths of space to teach humanity a lesson in complacency.
So imagine my face when the finale isn’t the final shuddering bowel movement in Sword Art Online’s agonizing death spiral, only a 24 minute reminder that there were once interesting characters before the pheromones leaking from Kirito’s dual swords sent every woman within fifty miles barreling in his general direction, at the horrible cost of their personalities. Overall it ended on a decent, inoffensive note, but that didn’t keep me from pausing 50+ times to do more interesting things, like check my bank account, watch Bloody Stream again and again, or try to find animals in paint bubbles on the wall.
Before it actually gets watchable again though, what remains of the show’s strengths have to be maimed beyond repair. The final confrontation between Kirito and Sugou is less the ultimate, desperate struggle between good and evil than it is a kid beating up a guy whose depth perception has been wrecked by a ga- okay, again, who the fuck puts a pain slider in a game that goes down to fucking zero? Fucking really? Anyway, it’s not so much a fight as it is two idiots launching flimsy jabs at each other in a hospital parking lot set to needlessly dramatic music, before Kirito runs inside to visit his girlfriend and SOMEHOW NOT GET THAT CUT ON HIS ARM CHECKED, HOLY FUCK THAT THING WAS BLEEDING COPIOUSLY. They have a tearful reunion and everyone congratulates Kirito for being an unrepentant tool some time later. For fun, here’s a better parking lot fight that was intended to be funny, but had more gravity than anything SAO could summon.
Finally, things end by reinforcing the story’s bizarre fascination with MMOs, Kirito uploading the virtual seed that he acquired from the Ghost of Deus Ex Machina Past to the internet for all to use, building an intricate web of MMOs that has no consequence on anything else whatsoever. Granted, it’s the least stupid aspect of the series, but it adds little but an extraneous side detail that’s nice to know, but doesn’t abide by any strain of logic present in reality. Also, it’s great how Asuna returns to the game that she was mentally kept imprisoned in, because why not?
Funny enough, the whole conclusion is rather inconsequential. Our characters have no tangible growth, Kirito’s development actually stemming from his regression from overpowered to most likely still overpowered, but under the guise of starting off from scratch. The finale of Sword Art Online could have just been the three minute game of Happy Slaps in the parking lot followed by Kirito embracing Asuna and it would have had the same woeful poignancy.
Fuck this show was bad. It was an inexcusable, abhorrent string of clichés and horrible characters, saved only by the occasional decent spell when nothing related to the plot was going on. Nonetheless it was (mostly) a joy to cover, and I’m glad that I was able to stick with it for its entirety. To those who stuck with me throughout my constant whinging, thank you. To those who didn’t, though I don’t know why you’d be reading this post, fair enough. Merry Christmas to all, and to all no more Sword Art Online… at least until season two descends from the heavens when the stars are next in alignment. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Kawahara Reki Sword Art Online wgah’nagl fhtagn.