Sword Art Online II (Phantom Bullet) Review

It’s funny that I do this review before the prequel, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen the first season and I didn’t want to half-ass a review. Enjoy ~

It’s been one year since Kirito escaped the deadly game that is Sword Art Online. Meanwhile, ALfheim Online has gained much popularity, for it serves as a peaceful outlet for Kirito and his friends to escape from real world troubles.

Evil doesn’t die so easily, though. Roaming around another famous VRMMORPG by the name of “Gun Gale Online” (GGO) is “Death Gun,” a cloaked man rumored to kill individuals in real life through the game’s avatars. Kirito once again risks life and limb through virtual means to apprehend the mysterious assassin, but he’s not alone – the best sniper in the game, Sinon, with her highly destructive PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II, proves worthy of battle herself in this world of guns. As the world tournament Bullet of Bullets commences, Sinon, Kirito, saber in hand, and Death Gun enter the arena among many other foes, guns locked and loaded.

After the events of last series, SAO had a little repairing to do, and GGO was the best tool to do so. This arc in the light novel series by Reki Kawahara made up for the lack of action and strength in the first season’s Fairy Dance arc. Phantom Bullet reminds us of the quality characters and themes that the SAO series was famous for; a powerful sequel that matches the strong will and survival feel of the first arc, Aincrad. Sword Art Online II is engaging and thrillingly eerie through to the end of the arc.

Kirito logs into GGO as a . . . girl? Yep, and it’s just great. His particular model possesses long dark hair, and his breastplate, well, yeah, adds emphasis. While he continues his unwavering badass style, he crumbles when he finds out that Death Gun must be a member of the “Laughing Coffin” guild, a player-killing group from SAO. The vibe from the first season returns as Kirito realizes that he could actually die in this harsh, cold, foreign world. He starts to recall haunting memories of the PK-ing he committed himself when fending off the Laughing Coffin members. This new revelation builds on past his one dimensional superb fighting skills.

Asada Shino is weak, quiet, and had shot someone when she was very young, and that terrifies her. She can’t even hold a weapon without trembling and then vomiting. But in GGO – a virtual world, she’s not actually killing anyone, so she masks her fears through Sinon, the cerulean-haired, lime-armored heroine. In the gun world, she’s stronger, faster – better. She doesn’t have to worry anymore, because Sinon protects her and fights for her. Sinon puts a new spin on “the will to fight” that makes her my favorite character. When she meets Kirito, she thinks they are both girls, and acts in a friendly manner, but quickly goes tsundere when she finds out the truth.

Kirito and Sinon balance each other out very well – I couldn’t have asked for better pairing besides maybe Asuna, who supports Kirigaya Kazuto on the other side of the amusphere. Sinon does, however, fall to Kirito’s irresistible charm when she becomes weak, but hey, that’s just her real-world self breaking through, not a whole new and sudden change.

I would tell anyone to watch SAO for the character costume designs alone because holy sh*t this is where it’s at! Match these colorfully crafty armor and weapon designs with fluid visuals pumped with action and A-1 Pictures really has something going on! As mentioned previously, there are many more battle scenes in this sequel, and quality never dipped once. The landscape of GGO is give a desolate color palette to that of a ruined desert city. Graphically and artistically, the anime does take me to the mature and virtual world of GGO.

Yuki Kajiura adds to this unique universe by providing an adventurous soundtrack. There’s not really much to say, as it is still just as amazing as the first season’s. She did, however, take the “Survive the Swordland” track, the epic main theme, put it on flute, and up the tempo to add a new sense of glory to the Kirito and Sinon action. Nice 🙂

While the opening “Ignite” by Eir Aoi was befitting for a show with this quality of animation, the true delight is in the lovely ending, “Startear” by Luna Haruna. It features Asada Shino young and old along with her avatar, Sinon, providing a reminiscent feel of childhood and maturation.

Sword Art Online II is a strong follow up to its first season, as it contains much action, brilliant music along with fluid animation, and reminds us of the themes the very first arc held. I recommend all of the SAO series to young viewers because of its genuine romance and characters. While more mature viewers might get bored of the concept , I still recommend this season for its high quality animation and soundtrack. This second series definitely lives up to the hype, so I’d get aboard the SAO train before it’s long gone.

You can watch all of the anime for free at Crunchyroll! Sword Art Online II continues to cross the bridge between the virtual and real worlds, proving to us that they might not be as different as people think. “The virtual world is just a different form of reality.” – Asada Shino
It has been tons of fun following this thrilling adventure! Till next time ~

– Takuto, your host

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