In short, yes. But you didn't come to read my bullshit just for a one-word answer. So no worries, I have enough to fuel the bonfire that is my opinion.
So where are we gonna start? Well, let's start with what is actually decent:
Right off the bat, one of the primary key components of any anime or western animation, is the animation itself. There is no need to deny that Sword Art Online looks absolutely beautiful. I can feel like I'm enveloped in this virtual world, like I actually want to be there.
The Action scenes are absolutely fantastic utilizing amazing choreography. It made me want to play an actual version of SAO. Because when something like that comes around, I'm willing to bet everyone that we all will want to play that game.
The other great thing about SAO was the soundtrack and sound design that went perfectly with nearly every scene.
Now I did watch the English dub for Season 1. It's passable as far as dubs go.
THE CATEGORY THAT HAS EVERYONE SPLIT DOWN THE MIDDLE....
STORY AND CHARACTERS (SPOILERS)
SYNOPSIS: Sword Art Online, a highly anticipated MMO is finally released. We follow the main protagonist, Kirito (aka Kazuto), as he logs in to the awe-inspiring world of SAO. He meets Klein, one of many underdeveloped characters who become friends with the protagonist. They soon learn that they can't log out of the game. They are then summoned to a town square along with every other player by the game's creator, Akihiko Kayaba, who basically announces that:
1. You can't log out unless...
2. .... you beat the 100th floor
3. If you die in the game, you die for real.
This is a good idea for a setup. For the first few episodes, I felt attached to what I was watching. There are high stakes established here. A story of survival where a group of characters have to stick together because anyone can die? That's what we get, right? Not really. What we get is focus on Kirito and (later on) his forced love interest, Asuna. Friends, let me tell you all a little something about this "MAIN PROTAGONIST" and this "FORCED LOVE INTEREST":
KIRITO IS BASICALLY TURNED INTO A FUCKING GOD: Yeah, I fucking hate Kirito. He's a smug asshole who just so happens to be the most overpowered character in the whole show with a bland personality to boot. During the first few episodes he doesn't seem so bad, but later on, it just gets fucking ridiculous. All the other characters, have almost no or very little impact to the story. This leads us to...
ASUNA: Asuna starts off as a badass in episode 2; someone who knows how to take care of herself. A female badass who can help out with the mission? Awesome, right? Yes, however, after that, there are only a couple other times when she's actually useful later. Most of the time, she serves the purpose of being the forced love interest for the protagonist. Is it at least good chemistry? Well...
Imagine being in an adult hook-up site chatroom. You're chatting with a member of the opposite/same sex(depending on your orientation) and the two of you start talking about marriage like you've both been together for a couple years. Keep in mind, you just started talking 5 minutes ago.
Well that is Kirito and Asuna. Like I said, "forced."
Oh, and they later on become "parents" because they found this random kid in the woods and then adopt her. Her name is Yui (We'll get to why this is important in a bit)
The remainder of the SAO story arc is passable to say the very least. And it definitely has a slightly stronger ending with Kazuto (Kirito's real name) waking up out of a hospital bed. After 2 YEARS of being trapped in that game, he beats the final boss (the game's creator, Akihiko Kayaba), gets out of a bed, and slowly walks down a hallway, beginning his search for Asuna in the real world. That was 14 episodes. Show's over. Hey, it wasn't perfect, but i could enjoy it to some degree. And it ended on a good note. I mean they wouldn't be so stupid as to continue telling the sto---
Arc II *ALFHEIM ONLINE*
Yep there were still 11 episodes left...
So, what's this new game we're going to dive into? Alfheim Online? What's it about?
.... I'm out...
TO BE CONTINUED... right now
Yeah, you thought I wasn't going to talk about this show's nosedive in quality, didn't you? Oh please... NOTHING IS SAFE FROM ME
So, the story starts off with Kirito finding Asuna in a hospital bed. But she hasn't woken up yet and we are then introduced to this arc's antagonist, Sugou Nobuyuki, who wants to marry an underaged girl in comatose. Creeped out yet? No? We'll get there. (and yes, I'm aware of Japan's consent laws, but come on, this guy is in his fucking 30's) So anyways we discover that Asuna is trapped in another game. A game with faeries. Sound stupid? It is.
Of course, now that Asuna (a character who was previously able to fend for herself) is demoted to typical Damsel in Distress status, she becomes the object of the story, a princess who needs to be saved. Basically the plot of the arc is nearly every Mario game ever, but with a pedophile instead of a giant fire-breathing turtle.
As Kirito enters the game, we are introduced to Leafa, and it is obvious that she, like nearly every other female character in the series, is attracted to Kirito. But when she logs off, she is revealed to be... his cousin.
First, we have a Loli complex, and now, incest. Congrats, SAO, you managed to make my mind vomit. Thank you. But don't worry. Kirito soon finds out who she is later on. But then we find out they aren't actually blood relatives so her crush from earlier is justified, right?
Oh and going back to Kirito, he doesn't get back his abilities from SAO. But.. because Yui(revealed as an NPC in the first arc) somehow managed to find her way into ALO after SAO was shutdown, she has the bullshit ability to give Kirito the stats he attained from SAO; Because the protagonist shouldn't be allowed to hit any significant roadblocks on his journey. Just a straight path from point A to B. Maybe he has to make a couple turns, but even with those the story could easily be made into a 2-3 hour movie. What we get is annoying exposition and filler prolonging the story's inevitable resolution.
And during this exposition we have lots more stupid shit like:
-Kirito somehow gaining the ability to turn into a giant monster to own an entire army
-Yui finding a bullshit way to communicate with her adoptive mother, even though Asuna is high up in a tower with a magic barrier.
-Asuna managing to escape because there's a mirror in her cage that could be used to show her the code her captor puts into a keypad to unlock the door. The guy really should have seen that coming, stupid on his part
------ Instead of completing her escape attempt, Asuna detours into a secret room with brains in jars, only to be violated and recaptured by 2 giant tentacled purple slugs in that same room minutes later.(Totally not a scene you would find in a hentai)
-Another Asuna rape scene near the end of the arc; this time with the pedophile. And, to make sure you know she's being violated, it's on screen.
-AND last but not least: NO REAL CONSEQUENCE FOR DEATH
I actually saved the very worst for last. The part that destroys any reason to care about the characters, story or this series in general: The ability to respawn. The reason why the SAO arc was tolerable and worked to some degree was because there was some form of risk: If someone died in Sword Art, they'd stay dead. They're gone forever. A terminal Game Over.
It's hard to find a reason to care when the characters can't/won't die and/or have the traits of a real personality. And this is especially the case of the protagonist. A character who doesn't have flaws and is near perfect can often be an absolute bore in any story unless his/her perfection is comedically depicted as the flaw, but SAO tries to take itself too seriously, so that is not the case here.
The awful story and bland characters really hurt the rating I have for this show. And most people are WAY too easy on it, expressing favor in the action, animation, and sound. "It looks and sounds pretty. So what if its story is mentally challenged? I like the story and the show is worth watching!"- cries the biased fanbase.
But why stand for a Michael Bay anime when I can find a series with better action AND a good story to tell? So what if the action looks cool, I want a good story behind it if it's taking itself seriously. If it's a dumb story and the show itself acknowledges that it is dumb, I'll stick around. But here we have a dumb story that thinks it's smarter than it really is. So the verdict for SAO is:
5.5 out of--
there's ANOTHER season?!?!
To be concluded...