Now that the anime summer season of 2012 has ended, it is time to look back at a few series that aired during this time. To start, let us look at how Sword Art Online and Kokoro Connect became so much worse due to strictly following their source material.
When it comes to the most interesting anime concepts of this year, I would not hesitate to nominate both Sword Art Online and Kokoro Connect. Their concepts may not be deep or convoluted, but depending on the way they are used, it could result in rather intricate and intellectual series.
Lucky then that both series decides to do jack shit with them.
You see, the idea behind Sword Art Online is that 10 000 players get stuck in a virtual reality MMORPG. If they die in the game it will be game over in real life, meaning that the only way out is to actually beat the game’s 100 floors. As I am writing this, I have already been able to come up with a bazillion of potential idea of a story. Imagine the potential for gripping moral dilemmas, character relationships and more! There is an endless array of possibilities lying in this very simple concept of being trapped in a game.
This makes it even sadder that author behind the light novels, Reki Kawahara, fails at even understanding the potential of his own concept. Of moral dilemmas we have none, the same applying to any kind of character development. In fact, it does not even feel like Sword Art Online takes place in an actual game at times. Switching the setting from a game to a, say, medieval one would not have done much difference at all for the plot. Yes, there are a few game mechanics here and there, but they are so rare and often ignored it is mind-boggling. Why even create such a concept if you do not want to take advantage of it?!
“Each one of us implicitly has a soul, mind, and a personality which contributes to our identity. Now that Nagase Iori’s soul is inside Aoki’s body, the result is identified as Nagase Iori. However, souls and personalities cannot be seen or touched.
That’s why we typically use physical appearance to identify a person. That means our bodies are the foundation for the identity. But if our bodies lose their significance because of the personality switching, will we still be ourselves?”
A similar problem is shared by Kokoro Connect, a series involving the five main characters experiencing various strange phenomena such as body-swapping and reverting back to their younger selves. In contrast to Sword Art Online, author Sadanatsu Anda actually touches various complex topics such as “What defines a person?” and “Is it worth risking friendship for love?”. Sadly, it never dives much deeper into these particular topics than merely mentioning them.
What is worse is that these two series actually continue beyond their original concepts and introduces more of the same instead of actually fully realizing their original ones. In Sword Art Online there are multiple virtual reality MMORPGs and in Kokoro Connect we have more than one strange phenomenon. The consequence is that both series are very shallow, which is a damn shame, because I really like the ideas.
To make it obvious, let us take a look at how many episodes these two series had as anime. Sword Art Online’s first arc had 14 episodes, with over half of them being side stories. Kokoro Connect, on the other hand, had three arcs during the span of 13 episodes. Five episodes for the first arc, five for the second and three for the third. That does not leave a lot of room for any deeper stories, does it?
In a perfect world, the studios adapting these two series would have completely ditched the source materials. They would keep the concepts, but ignore everything past that. Sword Art Online would be 25 episodes consisting of only one game, fully exploring its concept.
As for Kokoro Connect, it would only focus on body-swapping as that is the concept with the most potential. If done correct, introducing new phenomena further on would work without feeling tacked on as now, where it jumps from one thing to another.
I want to live in that world.