Hello, Justin here, and welcome to the Otaku Mind. Guess what, we’re still talking about SAO this week. When it was announced that a third season was being made I asked myself the one question everyone asks about SAO, why is this still popular? I mean, despite the fan backlash and the disappointing arcs following the first arc, you have to asks why SAO is still a thing? Now, I don’t hate SAO as some people out there but I don’t love it as much as other people out there. I think it’s okay, they have some ideas and scenes but when you sit down and analyze the show there are a lot of problems. Yet, despite these problems SAO is still going strong till this day and I think I found some reasons as to why this is.
It came out at the right time
The first reason and probably the biggest reason is that SAO started airing at the right time. SAO came out in 2012, the same year the Oculus Rift was announced. All of a sudden everyone’s attention shifted to virtual reality. The idea had been dreamt about for years, players being able to physically interact with a virtual world. While we knew it wouldn’t be up to the level as portrayed in shows, this was our first step toward a new world of gaming. This kind of attention helped get SAO more recognition not only from anime fans but fans of technology, video games, and anyone interested in the idea of virtual reality. I’m sure this wasn’t plan as it takes years for animes to get produced and made, so it’s safe to assume that SAO came out at the right time in the right place.
First anime to tackle the idea of virtual reality
The second, there weren’t a lot of anime that tackled this idea before. Think about it, what anime tackled the same subject matter before SAO? None. Every now and then an anime would have aired an episode focusing or based off a game but as far as actual animes focusing entirely on a game had never been seen before. While it’s true we had .hack/sign and Accel World (which ironically was written by the same author as SAO) they weren’t as big as SAO. Hack was boring as hell because it wasn’t sure what it wanted to be or focus on. Accel World was okay and started airing a few months before SAO but it never caught on with viewers and when people started watching it, it was quickly overshadowed by SAO. So, SAO was our first real look at an anime entirely centered around a game which is another reason why it’s so popular. While there have been other anime like Log Horizon, Overlord, and Hai no Grimgar, Danmachi, and The King’s Avatar which has the same set up as SAO and in my opinion do the formula better, SAO was still the first of its kind. It’s similar to DBZ, whenever people think of shonen anime, DBZ is usually the first anime that comes to mind because it was the first anime they saw. While I like DBZ I don’t consider it the best shonen anime out there. There have been other shonen anime that have come along and do the shonen formula better but there’s no denying that DBZ got the ball (no pun intended) rolling and laid the ground work out for others to follow. That means, any shonen series that came after DBZ was influenced by DBZ. This same mindset can apply to SAO. Because SAO was the first of its kind, any kind of anime that has a virtual reality setting will follow or borrow ideas from SAO and will be the first anime anyone thinks of when they think of virtual reality anime. While some of you may think this is unfortunate, it’s the truth.
Good entry point for first time viewers
The third reason, it’s a good entry point into anime. Despite the flaws of SAO I won’t deny that if you’re looking to get into anime or get a friend into anime this is a good anime to show them. You can quickly grasp the plot of the anime, the motives of the characters, the setting they’re in, cool fight scenes, good animation and a lot of cute girls trying to get the attention of this op badass that nobody can stop. The series just hits all the right notes that begs your attention and focuses on a subject matter that a lot of people like or would find interesting. MMORPG games are popular so to see an anime focus on this is a joy. The second season continued this trend by having an arc focusing on FPS which was a genre of gaming that was dominating the market around the time the second season began airing. You may think I’m digging too deep into this but a lot of people after my generation say this was the first anime they saw. For me and a lot people in my generation the first anime we watched was DBZ which aired on Toonami so it holds a very special place in our hearts as a series we’ll always love no matter what. As time went on my generation would go on to be defined by the Big 3: One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. Outside of Pokémon, these were the three animes that made an impact in the west as well as the entire world. One of these 3 series was considered your favorite and you defended it no matter what. Each series has their strengths and faults and holds a special place in your hearts as the series that got you into anime and manga. For this generation, I think the animes that will define them is SAO, Attack on Titan, and I want to say My Hero Academia.
Finally, the last reason why SAO is still popular is that it has a good fanbase. Surprisingly, a lot of SAO fans are fully aware of the problems SAO has and are very accepting of them. I think the mark of a good fanbase is when they know their favorite series is flawed, acknowledge it, but still like it. Hell, I’ll be the first to admit that One Piece tends to drag on in places longer than it should and have a lot of weird moments but I still love it. SAO fans (at least the ones that I’ve talk to) are fully aware of SAO’s faults, accept them, and still like it. No series is perfect and is always subjective to public opinion. What I like you may hate and what you like I may hate. Like I said at the beginning I don’t hate SAO nor am I a big fan of it, but I do think it has some good ideas and I acknowledge and respect it for being the first anime to take this concept, succeed with it and opening the door for animes like Log Horizon and Overlord to air and get attention. It’s fair to say that if SAO didn’t succeed we may not have ever seen these animes air.
So the reason why SAO is still popular to this day despite the fan backlash and other animes taking the concept and doing it better is because it aired at the right time, was the first of its kind to tackle the concept, is a good entry point for people trying to get into anime, and a good fanbase who acknowledge that the series has faults but still like it. I’m sure they’ll be more animes in the future that take the concept of SAO and do it better, but no one can take away from the fact that SAO started the concept and it’s because of SAO we have good animes like Log Horizon and Overlord and is the reason why SAO will continue to stay popular despite its faults and animes that execute the concept better. Thanks for reading, let me know what you think in the comments section below, and I’ll see you next time on Project Nitsuj.
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