The dramatic, climactic, ecstatic culmination of season one is here! Luckily, after the slight lull of a relatively flabby third act, things are back on track once again. Now that the series is racing towards its final resolution, it has its focus back and stops needlessly treading water to fill airtime.
This review is determined not to give away major spoilers so lets move forward in a fashion that remains relatively vague; the momentum is much stronger this time around, if a little jarring at first, as Kirito suddenly decides that now is the time to act and rid the (virtual) world of evil for no other fathomable reason than…now is the time. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact its a perfectly welcome advance and serves to kick the series back up into that magical top-gear of ridiculous hyper-emotion that we have come to know and love.
The final confrontation is gut-wrenching enough and mega-perv Oberon is as sickeningly fiendish as you would hope and expect. In fact, his swan song is so outrageous that you actually get parallels with South Park’s Eric Cartman (note the tear-licking). Of course, without the latter’s sharp writing and satirical element, this version just evokes the complete opposite reaction: it’s horrendous but it makes the outcome all the more relieving. You’ll practically be cheering when comeuppance is duly met; die you rapey bastard…just die.
Some slight niggles are plot holes and character development; Kirito keeps giving newly introduced love-interest Leafa, the cold shoulder and striking out on his own, an almost complete reversal of earlier in the story when he finally figured out that it’s best to go at it as a team instead of being a super-charged misanthrope. Only to realise (again) that the latter is better. Backtracking and re-treading of this nature is just aggravating and character arcs quickly become looped. No need.
Not perfect by any means but its an ending to season one that does justice to the popularity of the franchise and with season two on the doorstep, we can expect many more good things to be laid out for our enjoyment. Lets hope the antagonists are as tasty, the jokes are as funny and the characters commit to their emotional developments. Roll on SAO II.