Popularity doesn’t always equate to originality. This is definitely the case with Sword Art Online, the immensely popular isekai anime that has transformed into hundreds of episodes, multiple seasons, and at least nine videogame renditions. The series initially began as a web novel which was eventually published and developed into a Manga spin-off.
The show itself is undoubtedly a trendsetter in its own right, as it’s become an integral part of popularizing isekai anime. Even so, much of the plot devices in Sword Art Online are derived from played-out tropes and ideas popularized in series that came before it. It has often been said that “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” SAO is undeniably the product of a great artist.
10 Kirito’s Party Is Every Harem Cliché Ever
Most anime fans have seen it before: the male main character goes on an adventure and along the way, the members of his party just all happen to end up being female. What’s more, they all end up falling into various degrees of love with him.
Though Kirito’s main love interest is undoubtedly Asuna, he helps a number of other women who end up joining their group along the way. This exact kind of situation is present in a good deal of other anime and is itself a kind of genre called harem. While this isn’t the most important part of SAO, it’s something that’s prevalent in the show and has certainly been done many times before.
9 Sword Art Online’s Isekai Influence Is No Miracle
Isekai is a genre of anime in which the main characters wake up after any number of events to find themselves trapped in another world. This notion of being trapped in another world has become one of the most popular stylings in all of anime.
Though Sword Art Online undoubtedly popularized isekai for modern audiences, the concept has been around in anime for a long time. In fact, credited as the first isekai is an anime called Paul no Miracle Daisakusen, released as early as 1976. Some other well-known isekai are Rumiko Takahashi’s Inuyasha and the increasingly popular Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away.
8 Getting Stuck In Video Games Is Nothing New
In SAO, “Sword Art Online” is the name of a popular Virtual Reality video game that the characters of the show ultimately become trapped in. Their ensuing struggles make for some interesting character development as they grapple with the idea of death in a game without re-spawns.
There is another popular series that took a very similar approach to the “trapped in a videogame” concept: .hack//Sign. First released in 2002, the .hack franchise became immensely popular and many to this day still proclaim that it was the best video game-themed isekai.
7 Other Anime Dual Wielders Could Challenge Kirito
A defining characteristic of Kirito’s in the show is that he can duel wield two swords. This is unique to any other character in SAO because the video game that he’s trapped in doesn’t ordinarily allow players to do so.
Though this ability is unique to Kirito in Sword Art Online, he is far from the only anime character to wield two swords simultaneously. Other notable characters in anime to do so are Zoro from One Piece, Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail, and Shunsui from Bleach. All of these are extremely popular anime that were released long before Sword Art Online.
6 Main Characters Are Almost Always Overpowered, No Matter The Anime
In a popular scene from the first season of SAO, Kirito is ambushed by an opposing guild. Instead of attempting to fight them off, he simply lets them attack him only to show that they have no effect on his HP. In addition, Kirito is awarded a special skill that no other character in the game world can have: the ability to duel wield.
A great example of another isekai where the main character is overpowered is Overlord. In Overlord, the main character Ainz Ooal Gown is trapped within a game world in much the same way as Kirito. Though the Overlord anime was produced after SAO, the actual novel was released two years prior.
5 Other Anime Have Also Had Every Season Take Place In A Different World
If there’s perhaps one thing that’s different about Sword Art Online from other isekai is that the other world the characters find themselves in changes every season. Though this is a different dynamic from other isekai anime, it’s by no means unique to Sword Art Online.
Though not an isekai, Hunter x Hunter is a good example of a show that changes settings every season. The characters and overarching plot remain the same, but each arc takes place in a completely unique setting. In fact, one season even takes place in a game world.
4 Brave Heroines With Luscious Red Hair Are A Common Trope
In anime, red hair is often a symbol of strength. The main heroine of Sword Art Online, Asuna, is physically characterized by her long, flowing red hair. Though her fiery locks are what make her stand out in the series, they’re far from a stand-out where the canon of anime is concerned.
There are several female lead characters who have pulled the courageous, red-headed heroine card before SAO. Among them are Ezra from Fairy Tale, Rias from Highschool DxD, and Asuka of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
3 The Main Character Being An Outcast Is Almost Expected In Most Anime
Early on in the show, Kirito makes an impactful decision: in order to bring together the other players trapped in the game, he decides to become the bad guy. By telling them that he is a hacker, his plan succeeds in uniting the other players in their hatred of him.
Though this is indeed a chivalrous move, Kirito is far from the only main character of a series to be outcasted after taking one for the team. A good example of this is Itachi from Naruto. Itachi is cast out from his village after taking the fall for his leaders and silently accepts his fate for the good of the group and his younger brother.
2 Kirito Isn’t The First Character To Become A Loner After Witnessing His Party’s Demise
Early in the anime, Kirito accepts a request to join a guild. Things go south quickly, and he watches as his entire guild gets wiped out in a dungeon raid. Kirito feels powerless to save them, and this experience traumatizes him to the point that he decides to remain solo from then on.
A perfect example of this dynamic in a character is Guts from Berserk. After witnessing his own group get brutally killed, he receives a symbol branded on his body which makes him cursed to be hunted continuously by demons. It’s no wonder he thinks it’s best to remain alone.
1 Not-So-Accidental Lewd Moments Are Essentially An Anime Staple
Scenes featuring moments such as Kirito falling face-first into Asuna’s lap are nothing new in the world of anime. This is one of the most common tricks in the anime book, especially in harem anime. The main character and a cute girl fall into a compromising position, which typically ends up with the girl getting bashful and hitting him.
Fans would likely be hard-pressed to find an anime where this trope doesn’t happen in at least once. Unsurprisingly, Sword Art Online utilizes this common gag repeatedly. This is a move in anime that’s as old as the art form itself. It’s not Kirito’s fault if he’s a bit clumsy.
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