The anime community has found many punching bags over the years, anime that just attract ridicule, regardless of where they are found. Whether it’s because of the simplistic stories of shounen anime, or the most useless characters in a series.

Face it Krillin, you were worthless

But out in this great, wide world of ours, some punching bags rise above this simple title. Some anime that simply have enough poor writing, story, and characters that it earns the esteemed title of “terrible”. Sword Art Online is one of these series, where a single mention of this anime can drive a comment section into sheer chaos, with fans and haters alike fighting to push a point.

Actual photo of an SAO comment section

But is SAO really all that bad? Before we begin, let me say that this is all my personal opinion and nothing but that. Well to start off, why do people hate the show so much? From my personal experience with the show, and many reconnaissance missions to SAO comment sections I believe I can speculate. The main character is boring, Kirito is too overpowered with no logical reason for him to be, not only that, he is extremely bland, not providing much character outside of what we already know.

Did Bethesda program SAO?

Many of the situations presented in the show make no sense, take for instance, the fact that Kirito seems to gather a harem every time he goes out. Or that he can solo bosses too strong for a militia of 50 plus men to make a dent in. Or the fact that the ghosts of real people exist inside of SAO.

Did Kayaba really include programming for ghosts in his game?
Those are just some of the main grievances people have with the show, but what about the other stuff? I mean this article is called “Was SAO really that bad?”, so where’s the arguments in favour? Well they are right here.
To begin with, the writers did their MMORPG research before making this game, the show does represent several facets of MMO’s well. Just look at episode 4, being almost twice the level of his enemies Kirito doesn’t need to even fight back to survive, simply because of his HP regen being so high.

Hacks, I call hacks

The visual and sound design also deserves some commendation, the show’s art does its job well, it creates this fantasy world, and brings it to life. The vibrant colours and excellent line work breathe life into every character, mob, and building in the show.
The sound design is along the same line there, the beautiful music that permeates the show and all the major events draws the viewer in with its large scope and feel. The sound effects also are very well designed, the feel of a being trapped in a game is captured well through the chimes and other sounds found all through the series.
The production values of SAO are very well done, the people who worked on it obviously worked hard, and worked well, and this effort shows through the poor writing and unlikable characters. SAO is a well-designed and well executed anime in everything aside from the writing.
So the next time you want to rip on the show, just remember that a lot of work went into it, just not in the right places.