Anime Review – Plastic Memories

Many anime that I’ve reviewed on this blog are old. Most date back to around 2013 or so; some, such as Sword Art Online and Kaichou wa Maid-Sama date back farther. However, I have found a recent show. today, we’re looking at the first I’ve completed from 2015: Plastic Memories.

The Story: In the near future, humanity will have found a way to create artificial souls and house them in artificial bodies. These beings, called giftia, are loaned to customers to be companions, surrogate grandchildren, even foster parents. However, these giftia are not permanent, with a lifespan of about 10 years. When their time is almost up, giftias must be reclaimed and reprogrammed with a new soul and personality. That is where the Terminal Service division of giftia companies come in; their job is to recollect the giftias that are almost out of time. It’s here that Tsukasa Mizugaki finds himself, working alongside a female giftia named Isla.

Plastic Memories is designed to be touching. The whole premise of giftias having lifespans alongside the main character paired with a giftia should be a clear indication that something depressing will happen. Sadly, Plastic Memories‘s biggest problem is that its story is shallow. Outside of Tsukasa’s office, there’s not much else we know about its world. Even then, the office’s story is limited to the romance. The worst part, however, is that the show hints at a larger world, then never gets on with it. In one episode, they feature an employee of another terminal service office and never elaborate on how other terminal service offices work. Part of this issue stems from how the show treats time. It’s never clear over how long Plastic Memories is. While it felt like a week or so, the show actually lasted months, if not years, and I had no idea. This ruined the show’s pacing, seeing as they only showed a few events over years.

Instead, Plastic Memories prioritizes the relationship between humans and giftia, and that works, to an extent.  Early on, the show does a good job showing just how difficult it can be to let go of these giftia. However, that is replaced by a romance halfway through. That said, the “giftia-human relationship” plot device was the most developed and worked well, relatively speaking.

The Characters: I’d like to say the characters of Plastic Memories were well developed. After all, this is a touching show, so hopefully the characters and their relationships would be good selling points. Sadly, that’s not the case. The main characters are confusing and the supports barely do anything. But the mains at least have some selling points.

I wish I did more in my own show!

Tsukasa Mizugaki:  For a main character, Tsukasa is decent. He’s supposed to be a blank slate to flesh out the other characters and it works reasonably well, though there’s not much to develop. They tried to give him some semblance of a personality, but due to the show’s pacing, it’s never shown. A shame, considering the development the writers tried to give him potentially would’ve made him a better character.

Me too!

Isla (pronounced Aila):  Isla seemed much more important than Tsukasa. Most of the supporting characters are tied to her in some way, so you would think Isla would be more developed. That’s partly true, but she was still dangerously lacking. I think Isla tried to hard to be important. The audience is constantly told Isla’s important, but then they never see how. By the second half, she becomes Tsukasa’s love interest and nothing else. I’d say that shift was the best thing that happened to her, but it still didn’t make her better than before.

Final Verdict: Plastic Memories tried to be cute and compelling at the same time in 12 episodes. It partly succeeded. While the romance is adorable, there’s not much else Plastic Memories has to boast about. Sub-par story and sub-par characters cripple Plastic Memories  and turn into a less-desirable show.

Final Grade: C

sorry, Isla

Anime Review – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

This was a show that took a while for me to watch. After finishing Little Busters, I decided to finally give this show a go. Today, we dive back into the world of magical girls and into the world of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

The Story: We all wish for things in this world. A new car, a loved one’s health, the chance to go to a festival. We all wish for material possessions or happiness sometimes. But have you ever wished for something so badly that you would risk your life in exchange for it to come true? And what would you do if you had that chance?

Madoka Magica follows the story of Madoka Kaname, a 8th grader living in the not-so-distant future, who is approached by a strange creature called Kyubey, who offers her the chance to grant her one wish if she becomes a magical girl.

You’ll hear these phrases a lot when talking about this show, but Madoka Magica is dark, depressing, and, to some extent, horrifying.  Magical girl shows, I’ve found, tend to be more light-hearted. Characters might still die and shows can be serious, but it rarely takes itself too seriously. Madoka Magica changes all that. Its take on the magical girl archetype is unorthodox, but absolutely brilliant. It smoothly throws a change of tone on you about a quarter of the way through as it reveals the sinister truth behind the magical girls, then leaves you to wade through the twisted halls of its plot for the rest of the show. Madoka Magica has a central conflict that isn’t referred to much; in every episode, there might be a scene or to referring to how Madoka is trying to decide if she wants to become a magical girl, but most of the show doesn’t follow that, yet there is somehow direction. Halfway through, they add an overarching conflict, which sadly doesn’t play out much because it’s introduced too late and hardly mentioned until the very end.

The only flaw in Madoka Magica‘s is that it’s only 12 episodes long. While the story was solid, twelve episodes affected Madoka Magica’s characters.

The Characters: Surprisingly, I didn’t actually like many of the characters in Madoka Magica, though each main character was pretty complex. When Madoka Magica changes its tone around and we discover the truth about the magical girls, each character reacts differently; each gets some form of development. For some reason, however, while the story was immersive, it can be hard to get attached to these characters because not much else besides the whole magical girl plot twist defines them.

The useless one

Madoka Kaname:  I really want to say something good about Madoka. I really do. But when the main character hardly does anything in her own show other than cry and whine, it’s hard to find the positive traits. Madoka is not a great main character, instead acting more like Eren Jaegar from Attack on Titan. She’s clearly the most important character, yet hardly does anything.

The interesting one.

Sayaka Miki: To contrast Madoka, we have Sayaka, easily a better character in almost every way. Sayaka is more complex, with better development. She begins the tone change a quarter of the way through the show. Despite getting less screen time, I got far more attached to Sayaka than Madoka and the other characters.

 

The confusing one.

Homura Akemi: Homura’s a character whose story is not fully realized until the end of the anime, which, by that point, is a bit too late. Homura acts as this mysterious character for the majority of the story, with some peculiar fascination with Madoka, yet you don’t understand why until the conclusion. As a result, it’s hard to say how good of a character Homura was. She”s certainly unpredictable, and she did receive a stellar backstory, but it’s hard to say if it was adequate.

 

The one that stares into your soul.

Kyubey: The mysterious Kyubey is the driving force behind most of the show. It is the reason magical girls exist at all. However, there’s not much to say about Kyubey. It’s incapable of feeling emotion and thus not capable of any development. Kyubey exists more as a plot device than anything else.

 

 

 

 

Final Verdict: Madoka Magica is a pretty famous show, and I can see why. It has one of the greatest stories I’ve seen in an anime. While the characters are not as developed as they could’ve been, the storytelling more than compensates. Madoka Magica is certainly an interesting anime to look into. If you like magical girl shows or grim stories, this is a must-see. Even if you don’t like magical girls, I would recommend this show; it certainly lives up to its hype.

 

Final Grade: B+

 

Did someone say, “contract?”

Anime Review – Little Busters!

Key is a Japanese company located in Osaka, Japan. They are famous for their visual novels, little video games where you, the player, make choices that ultimately affect the ending. If you’ve ever seen “choose your own adventure” books, visual novels are video game versions.

Key’s logo

However, Key is a special company. They are famous for writing tear-jerking stories. Some of their works include Air, Kanon, Angel Beats, and Clannad, all of which have been adapted for anime. I’ve seen all of these anime, though I’ve only reviewed Angel Beats, and I’ve really enjoyed their stories. Today, we look at the fifth visual novel, adapted for anime by J.C Staff: Little Busters!

The Story: When he was a child, Riki Naoe lost both his parents in a horrific car accident. Despondent and alone, he was found and taken in by a group of friends who called themselves The Little Busters. Under their leader, Kyousuke, The Little Busters became Riki’s new family, a place that he finally belonged.

But now, in high school, the Little Busters are grown up; Kyousuke will leave for college at the end of this school year. As one last hurrah before he leaves, he decides to organize a baseball team, and enlists Riki’s help in finding new members.

Little Busters plays out like any other slice-of-life visual novel adaptations. We have the main character, Riki, who is introduced into a world filled with different girls. In the visual novel, these girls would serve as main characters in individual routes; based on your actions, you would end up with one of the various girls. In the anime, these routes put together make up the whole story. One of the problems with these kinds of adaptations is that once one girl’s arc ends and another begins, the previous girl gets suddenly shunted aside, as if the writers were in a hurry to get them out of the way. Little Busters does not suffer from that problem as much, as most of the girls were able to stay relevant long after their routes ended. The whole “baseball team” motif is simply a plot device to introduce the various girls.

The 6 girls in Little Busters

However, the show itself is not incredible. Key has a habit of blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, so this show can get confusing. Each arc is well-done, but they’re all very similar to each other. The story can get repetitive and thus predictable. Again, it’s a good show, but not something that would wow you, not like Fate Zero or Clannad. But, there’s one last part of Little Busters that I have not mentioned. And it alone makes this show glorious.

The original five Little Busters

Refrain: If I’m talking about Little Busters, I have no choice but to talk about Refrain as well. If any of you have seen Clannad: After Story, you’ll understand the concept behind Refrain.

Refrain takes place immediately after Little Busters, and spends more time developing the two main characters. The world they inhabit is expanded, and the amount of feels is doubled. Refrain is shorter than Little Busters, but it’s the more emotionally charged of the two. This is where you start to get attached to all the characters.

The cover of Ecstasy’s OST (original soundtrack)

Ecstasy: The last bit of Little Busters is Little Busters: Ecstasy. This originally was an adult visual novel (or eroge) that expanded on the first Little Busters. In the visual novel, three new routes are opened; in the anime, three characters, two already established, get their own story. There’s not much to say about Ecstasy. It’s a series of eight episodes featuring supporting characters in Little Busters. If you’re looking for closure with this franchise, watch it, but Ecstasy is not necessary to enjoy the Little Busters universe.

The Characters: The cast of Little Busters is enormous; it’s almost as large, if not more, than the cast of Angel Beats. I cannot talk about all the characters, but I will look at the most important three.

The magical wizard of happiness and rainbows

Riki Naoe: In and of himself, Riki has no defining traits. He was the protagonist in the visual novel, and he mainly served as the player’s link to his world. In the anime, his role is similar: he allows us to connect with the other characters, and those relationships make him interesting. In Refrain, we start to see more attention on Riki, turning him from a good character to a great one. Refrain gives him the development he needed to make him his own character rather than a slate for the viewer to imprint his or herself onto.

“He’s an idiot”

Rin Natsume: Rin is the female lead in this show, but she’s the weakest main character. The show emphasizes her as this important character, yet she only becomes interesting in the last two episodes of Refrain. The amount of emphasis she gets and her development as a main character are unbalanced. During the first season (non-Refrain), she is tasked with completing certain tasks to “discover the secret to this world.” You would think that would force to develop as a character, and while she does, it’s not obvious. Her development is hard to see and thus makes her difficult to bond with; you simply don’t know how deep of a character she really is.

The name of the post shall be….. The Little Busters!

Kyousuke Natsume: Kyousuke is, in many ways, Riki’s foil. He’s assertive when Riki is deferential and represents all that Riki strives to be. He’s not the most featured main character, but he is the most interesting. While Riki is nice to a fault and Rin is confusing, Kyousuke is mysterious, comical, and insightful. His relationship with Riki is one of the driving  forces behind Little Busters, and it works beautifully.

 

Final Verdict: Little Busters is a Key work, which means it has to compete against the likes of Clannad, Air, and Kanon (2006). That said, it’s a strong piece of work. Little Busters is able to make its viewers feel connected and emotionally invested in the world it creates; it has the mark of a well done anime.

Final Grade: A

Anime Review – A Certain Scientific Railgun

A while back, I reviewed A Certain Magical Index and mentioned that I had not seen its successor. But to review it right after Index would’ve been out of place, so I waited. And waited. And waited. Today, it is time to look at A Certain Scientific Railgun.

The Story: A Certain Scientific Railgun is a spin-off show of A Certain Magical Index, but if you have not seen either show, allow me to explain.

This is Academy City, a city-state located west of Tokyo with a population of around 2.3 million, 80% of which are students. It’s extraordinarily advanced; technology is approximately 30 years ahead of its time, but that’s not what makes this city famous. Walking the streets are students who have, using the powers of science, unlocked supernatural abilities – Espers, they are called. Within Academy City, each Esper is ranked according to his or her power level, on a scale of one to five. But first and foremost, this city offers top-notch education and research that pushes the limits of the possible.But the city is not without its secrets.

Railgun follows the story of Mikoto Misaka, an Index side character, and her friends as they confront these secrets within their city. Like many animes, this show is divided into story arcs, some well-developed and concise, and others drawn out and boring. However, Railgun links its different stories together, making the overarching plot a more cohesive unit. Concepts from early in the show come back later and play an important role. In Index, I may have mentioned that you could easily skip some stories and it wouldn’t affect your understanding of the plot too much; you can’t in this show. There’s a lot to keep track of, from the different Espers to the different schools and this AIM diffusion field business. Fortunately, Railgun does a very good job explaining the various concepts. When they tried in Index, I was completely lost. Maybe the reason Railgun felt so clear was because I had been exposed to the earlier concepts, but regardless, you shouldn’t have too hard of a time understanding.

Railgun is a spinoff show to A Certain Magical Index, and it does a decent job honoring the original show. However, that’s not a bad thing. Railgun, due to its storytelling really can standalone as its own separate story. You could watch this and not Index and still not lose too much. There are a few characters who are overlooked if you do this, but the amount of plot you lose is minimal. At the same time, there is something for people who have seen Index. The main character in that show, Touma Kamijou, makes sporadic appearances. While I would’ve liked to see him more, this is Mikoto’s show, not Touma’s. However, Touma’s appearance was nice to see, as Railgun does honor Index.

The only problems lie in some of the different stories. As mentioned previously, some are really interesting and well-paced, and others are drawn out and boring. I can’t give you any examples without spoiling some of the plot, but you’ll see what I mean once you start the second season. However, what all of them did well was build hype. Once each arc got going, it was hard to stop watching. Each episode ended in some kind of cliffhanger or shocking plot twist, that kept me wanting to watch more. The only obstacle was waiting until the story turned thrilling.

Lastly, the show’s fanservice is minimal.

WHAAAAAT?

The Characters: The characters in Railgun are an interesting bunch. Overall, they are a solid set, but characters individually can be either excellent or bland. And the four mains illustrate this the best.

Ability: electromaster. Complete control over electricity and magnets Power level: Level 5

Mikoto Misaka: Mikoto, the “Railgun of Tokiwadai” as a character, is a mixed bag. She has her outstanding traits and her really annoying ones. Not only is she a complete badass, as the main character, she gets the most screen time and development. Watching her grow more and more disillusioned with Academy City was the best example of one of her outstanding traits. But she’s not perfect. The biggest turn-off for me was that she tried too hard to be funny. The writers tried to exploit her penchant for “childish things” for comedic effect. The result is tedious and not what the writers wanted at all. However, if you can overlook that, Mikoto is, overall, solid. But some of the other characters outperformed her.

Also, she can do this:

Ability: Thermal Hand. Allows retention of an object’s temperature for longer periods of time. Power Level: 1

Uiharu Kazari (right): Poor Uiharu. Of the four characters describe here, she’s the most deprived. Any development she gets doesn’t feel meaningful and it doesn’t help her grow as a character. She stays constant as a bland supporting main character. Now, that might sound expected, but, as you’re about to see, she didn’t have to turn out the way she did.

Ability: Teleport. No explanation needed Power level: 4 “Judgment desu no”

Kuroko Shirai (Left): I admit, I didn’t like Kuroko at the beginning. I thought she was going to be another perverted side character who keeps making advances on the main character and gets beat up for it – comic relief, in other words. But, Kuroko completely surprised me and turned into a well-developed supporting character. While she continues to make perverted moves on Mikoto, there’s more to her than that, which was a relief to see.

Ability: None Power level: 0

Ruiko Saten (Right): Ruiko is easily my favorite character in the whole show, if you overlook her sexually harassing Uiharu. Ruiko is a level 0, which means she has no powers, while everyone else described above her does. The audience can understand Academy City from someone who is not special. My respect for Ruiko came in one of the first arcs, where you really see what it’s like to be someone who has no powers .

Final Verdict: A Certain Scientific Railgun is a show that remains popular long after it aired. I decided to watch it to see what the hype was all about. If you’ve seen A Certain Magical Index, watch this show. Even if you haven’t, it’s a very well done piece of work that can stand on its own, considering it’s a spinoff. Railgun delivers and it delivers well.

Final Grade: B+

Sorry, Touma. Rated this show as better than yours.

Anime Review – Black Bullet

 Most of my anime comes from my friend. He’s watches much more than I do and often recommends me some shows he’s enjoyed. Ookami-san, Noucome, No Game No Life, and Blade Dance are just some examples of what he’s referred me to. Of course, that means I have a very full viewing queue, but I am slowly working my way down. Today is one of his recommendations: Black Bullet.

The Story: In all of human history, there has never been a force as deadly or as persistent as disease. In 1348, the Black Death ravaged Europe, leaving one in three people dead – the only time in recorded history when the total human population decreased. In 1918, the Spanish Influenza swept the world, killing more people than World War I. Today, we face AIDS, SARS, Measles, tuberculosis, and, in the not-so-distant future, humanity will once again confront its old nemesis and the world as we know it will change forever.

A new virus, called the Gastrea Virus, has spread around the world, infecting millions, mutating them into horrifying abominations.

Faced with the possibility of extinction, humanity has no choice to but to fight one last war to save its species. By the year 2031, the war is over. Humans now live in isolated city-states, each surrounded by giant vanarium monoliths, which repel the gastrea. But the war’s legacy lives on. On the outskirts of town live the Cursed Children, children born to a Gastrea-infected mother and who carry the virus in themselves. While shunned by the rest of society, some have been put to work in Civil Security Bureaus, or CivSecs, which are primarily tasked with preventing more outbreaks.

Black Bullet follows the story of Rentaro Satomi and Enju Aihara, two Civsec employees tasked with stopping the various threats to the Tokyo city-state. The show, which is 13 episodes long, is broken up into three story arcs. The first two are less than average, but they serve to support the final arc. There, the characters receive the most development and the story becomes the most exciting. In the context of 13-episodes, the final arc was outstanding and really defines the anime.

The biggest problem with Black Bullet is that not every interesting motif and plot point was capitalized on. It ends on a unfinished note, and thus feels unfulfilling. Furthermore, while the most important and interesting motifs were expanded and developed, as was the case with the Cursed Children, Black Bullet was unable to completely immerse me in its universe. In other words, while it was complex, it was not complex enough.

The Characters: Black Bullet’s characters are quite interesting. Some are very well developed, others have semblances of development, and others have next to none. But all fit well in the context of the show, particularly the final arc.

Voice Actor: Yuki Kaji. Notable roles include: Eren Jaegar (Attack on Titan)

Rentaro Satomi: As the main character, Rentaro is easily the most developed. He’s the reason I liked the dynamic between society and the Cursed Children, and that alone really develops him as a character. As the story progresses, he starts to rise in rank and prestige, and while that helped further the plot, it didn’t further his character. However, Rentaro’s development is solid. I really liked him by the end.

Voice Actor: Rina Hidaka. Notable Roles: Last Order (A Certain Magical Index), Silica (Sword Art Online), Yuniko (Accel World)

Enju Aihara (Left): Enju’s a Cursed Child and Rentaro’s partner in the CivSec bureau. Unfortunately, unlike her partner, Enju is not very interesting initially. By the third arc, she gets a lot of development, which is why I praised the final arc so much. Enju mostly redeemed herself by the end

Voice Actor: Yui Horie. Notable Roles: Ayu (Kanon 2006), Riki (Little Busters), Minori (Toradora)

Kisara Tendou (Right): While Rentaro was great development and Enju was good, Kisara is somewhere in the middle. While she was enjoyable as a character, Kisara didn’t have that depth that Rentaro has. She received some development at the end of the show, but by that point, it was too late for it to be anything meaningful. As a result, as far as the anime is concerned, she’s set up to be an interesting character, but the writers never paid off on that plot point. Kisara is a good character, but not as good as Rentaro.

Final Verdict: Black Bullet is a solid piece of work for being only 13 episodes long. It will get you attached to the world it creates, but only up to a point. As a result, I cannot say the show is meaningful enough. At the same time, it is a very good show and I would say is worth a shot

Final Grade: B+

We’re going to miss out on bean sprouts!!!!

Anime Review – Blade Dance of the Elementalers

I like to go into new anime with an open mind. I’ve been surprised by animes that I would consider too short, and have been very satisfied overall. Today, we’re looking at Seirei Tsukai no Bureidodansu – Blade Dance of the Elementalers.

The Story: In this world, there exist people, all maidens, capable of summoning and controlling elemental spirits, which often take the form of animals or weapons. Those who can control these spirits attend Areisha Academy, where they will develop their abilities further. But now, the Academy faces an unprecedented occurrence and potential problem: This boy:

He is Kamito Kazehaya, the only male Spirit user in the world (the second in recorded history), drawn to the academy in search of his lost spirit partner. But remember, he is now the only male in an all-girls school. Guess where this show is headed.

This show is a harem, involving three girls. Some harem shows do a good job keeping the girls from devolving into large amounts of fanservice. Blade Dance kinda succeeds, leaving some as fanservice, and others mixed. But many scenes were completely unnecessary.

This is part of the opening scene. THE OPENING SCENE!!

Blade Dance is only 13 episodes long and it tries to keep direction, but comes up short. Part of it has to do with a lack of explanation. The show doesn’t do a good job explaining the world the characters inhabit, leaving you to figure out sometimes important plot elements. Elements that may be neglected a few episodes later.

There’s a semblance of organization, but considering the scope of the story the writers tried, 13 episodes was much too short. As a result, we’re left with story arcs that feel rushed or otherwise unfinished. It ends on a cliffhanger based on a premise that I didn’t expect. Judging from its ending, it’s preparing for a second season, but that season probably isn’t coming. Thus, Blade Dance just feels shallow.

The Characters: There’s not much to go off of with the characters because the show is so shallow. Some have a small level of development, but it’s barely substantial, if at all.

Because you can never activate abilities by keeping your hand down by your side.

Kamito Kazehaya: Kamito is a letdown. He has no redeeming features and is one of the blander main characters I’ve seen. Now this wouldn’t  be a problem if he instead helped develop the other main characters, but as you’re going to see…

0 to tsundere in 3 seconds.

Claire Rogue: Claire is very similar to Kamito in that she’s also horribly bland. Any semblance of development she gets is minimal and not relevant to the story as a whole. And as the main female lead, Claire is dangerously lacking.

Ellis Fahrenheit.

Ellis Fahrengart: Ellis fares slightly better than Claire, receiving more development; I enjoyed her more than Claire, anyway. The only problem with her is her degradation into fanservice. Many of her scenes were so over the top to the point of being unnecessary. Ellis serves more as a representative as the other characters in Kamito’s harem. They were actually somewhat interesting, and, if nothing else, had lots of potential. Ultimately, fanservice and time constraints were the limiting factors.

Final Verdict: There’s not much to say about Blade Dance. If it were longer and more conclusive, it would’ve scored higher. But it’s not, and thus I cannot say that it’s a great show.

Final Grade: C

Why can’t you just activate the crest normally?

Anime Review – Sword Art Online II

Sword Art Online was the first anime I ever reviewed on this blog. At the end of that review, I said that hopefully the second season would make up for the first’s shortcomings. Today, I’m going to revisit that world and review Sword Art Online II.

The Story: It’s been one year since Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya escaped the hell called Sword Art Online, a game in which avatar deaths translated to actual deaths, claiming the lives of thousands. Since then, other Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online (VRMMO) games have been appearing, some becoming quite lucrative, attracting pros and creating competitive tournaments. But for Kirito, he has tried to put the past behind him – until he is approached by Seijirou Kikouka, a member of Japan’s self defense force and the Sword Art Online Victim’s Rescue Force.

Seijirou Kikuoka

In the illustrious and competitive Gun Gale Online, rumors have been circulating about a man in a ragged black cloak calling himself “Death Gun.” His appearance in-game has coincided with actual deaths. And thus Kazuto must become Kirito once again and dive into the world of Gun Gale Online.

The name of this gun is Death Gun!

In my review of SAO, I criticized its lack of innovation; potentially interesting concepts were glossed over. I’m proud to say that SAO II, for the most part, fixes those issues. The first half is based on a really thought-provoking underlying concept, something that SAO never did well. The second half had a bit of a rough start, but ultimately ended well, shifting focus from one main character to another. Again, something new, and it worked very well; the end of SAO II was brilliant, though they did try to reshift focus to the original main at the end, which wasn’t the best move, but can be overlooked.

All things considered, SAO II‘s storytelling has been redone from season one, resulting in a much better plot.

The Characters:
The cast of characters hasn’t changed from SAO, with one exception. How they’re treated, however, is different. Despite previous main characters falling to secondary character status, the mains are what’s important here.

Yes, that’s what he looks like in GGO.

Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya: Kirito regains his title as main character for SAO II. For the first half. Many people have complained about his famous amounts of plot armor (that is, he can’t die for the sake of the plot), but I don’t see that as a problem towards his character. He’s featured for the first half, and is shunted aside in the second. This decision is actually a great choice, as Kirito mainly served in the first half to develop the other main character, and moving aside in the second allows yet another main character to develop.

The Berserk Healer

Asuna Yuuki: I had my complaints about Asuna in SAO.  She wasn’t a great character back then. But when this show happened, my respect for Asuna skyrocketed. She really needed this second season. Asuna’s the featured main in the second half of the show and she’s excellent. Normally, I’d have a problem with shifting the focus too fast or neglecting other characters like Shino (see below), but her development was so good that it erased those problems.

Do you feel lucky, punk?

Shino Asada:
Shino’s the new kid on the block- the new main girl in the first half of the show.  She’s also developed very nicely partly through Kirito, though not as well as Asuna was. I can’t say Shino was especially good, but she was a well-developed character in the first half, before falling into secondary character status in the second.

Final Verdict: I had high hopes for SAO II. And it delivered a much-more interesting and enjoyable piece of work. I wouldn’t say it redeemed the franchise, but I think that if you heard bad things about SAO, it’s now worth watching

Final Grade: B+/A-

Oh god, my eyes.