I love anime, but for some reason, I was late to the party hearing about Sword Art Online, one of the most popular anime in the United States. I finally gave it a shot on the Crunchyroll app and binge watched the entire series within two months; it is a highly addicting and interesting series with many unexpected twists and turns. Sword Art Online is a futuristic anime about a group of Japanese teenagers and young adults who get trapped in a virtual reality game and must fight against monsters and other dangers to stay alive. If they lose a battle against a beast or one of their fellow players, they will die--in real life, not just in the game. The only way to escape their prisons and the threat of eminent death is to defeat the final boss on the top floor of the tower and win the game.
Sword Art Online begins with a fairly interesting premise which starts surprisingly slow after the first episode, but by the fourth or fifth viewing begins building up momentum again. The story itself is engaging because of the amount of likable characters and high stakes that you are constantly reminded of as you helplessly watch good characters die senselessly. The action sequences are excellent and feature a lot of interesting sword play and magical effects and the monsters are creatively realized and make for entertaining foes. What I liked even more than the action sequences was the amount of character development between the two main characters especially. Kirito is a quiet, brooding young man with a talent for slaying enemies and Asuna is a pretty, vivacious girl who is basically Kirito's equal in every way. The story begins as a typical shonen action flick but gradually introduces elements of romance and love which really causes the audience to care about these characters and root for them to get out alive.
The second season features three additional arcs and the introduction of new characters and virtual adventures. Kirito and Asuna's relationship continues to grow and their lives and family situations add another depth and layer to their characters. While the latter arcs are probably lacking some of the original's urgency, they are nevertheless enjoyable for continuing the stories of the characters we care most about. I gave the series as a whole nine out of ten because of a little inconsistency here and there, but generally find the series engaging, heartwarming, and something that may leave you crying during several of the most emotional parts.
I would highly recommend this series to anyone who likes Naruto, light romantic comedies, shoujo (girls) animes, or life and death shonen (boys) stories. The episodes are great, but not perfect; despite that, there is so much in them that the series will appeal to many different types of people. Watch it and see for yourself if you haven't already and keep an eye out for season three which should be coming out later this year!