The vast majority of fans unanimously agree quite clearly that the first half of Online SwordsmanshipAincrad’s first season will always be a true SAO story, especially when compared to the events that took place in Alfheim Online. But ALO actually has a much more engaging plot and deserves more credit.
Part of Aincrad’s appeal stems from the simple fact that it’s where Sword Art Online begins, originally by novelist Reki Kawahara. When that changes, it’s a different story and can be seen as a spin-off. It didn’t help that Kirito beat the game much faster than anyone expected. The way the anime presents the story gives the impression that all 100 levels of Aincrad will be defeated before the player can escape. But then Kirito discovered that the villain and creator of Sword Art Online, Akihiko Kayaba, was among them, going on a journey. The fact that this happened in the middle of season one also made many fans worried. However, even if the switch to ALO happens in season two, it is for many people that Aincrad’s 100 levels are what makes SAO so special. So viewers entered the second half of season one with luggage.
Sword Art Online’s Alfheim has more personal stakes
ALO can make viewers unable to take their eyes off what they love, from the loveliest versions of Sword Art Online characters to the Aincrad setting itself, but everything about ALO is more personal. . The prospect of being trapped in a deadly game is terrifying, and the psychological trauma the characters go through throughout is masterfully explored. But what ALO explores more clearly is the idea that there are fates worse than death, and one of the last battles proves this. The threat to Asuna is sure to be much more frustrating and stressful for fans than the death threat to Aincrad. Although this was the culmination of true horror in ALO, Kirito was always faced with the possibility that Asuna would be physically attacked both in the game and in real life.
Compounding this is that these stakes can influence what happens in the real world where Kirito is just an ordinary guy with no special powers as opposed to in the game where he is a one of the strongest characters in Sword Art Online. Although he will lose to Sugou in ALO if he doesn’t get any help, there is always a chance that he can win there because of the ongoing battle in ALO. And Kirito won for that reason. Even though he gets help, that help will never work. This is very different from the helplessness of Kirito’s situation in the real world with Sugou, who is protected by law most of the time. In fact, Sugou would have gotten away with anything if he hadn’t tortured the minds of gamers.
Kirito and Sugu/Leafa’s relationship is beautifully disturbed
This doesn’t even take into account other nuanced relationships and nuances that aren’t present in Aincrad. There is an entire relationship between Kirito and his sister, Sugu, who Sword Art Online reveals, is not his sister and she loves him. And, of course, she joins Kirito in the actual game as Lyfa and falls in love with his character, which leads to a lot of problems. Another highlight is the compelling development of SAO’s original villain, Akihiko Kayaba. But events turned him into a hero and while Kayaba had ulterior motives, Kirito and even his early fans regarded him with respect despite everything.
Online SwordsmanshipAincrad’s Aincrad may have had a great “marriage and honeymoon arc,” but the honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever, which is why Alfheim is better than Aincrad.
Online Swordsmanship streaming on Crunchyroll.