Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
Air Dates: April 18 – June 30, 2018
Sub Version: Yes
Dub Version: No
Available on Crunchyroll and Hulu
What You Need To Know:
Reki Kawahara’s Sword Art Online was a massive success, and for good reason. It was inevitable that the spin-off light novel series written by Keiichi Sigsawa and illustrated by Kouhaku Kuruboshi would be adapted into anime.
Sword Art Online was a “death game” where the player’s lives were literally on the line and the stakes were very real. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, heretofore referred to as Alternative, is not. However much it wishes to be. Set after the events of S.A.O.’s second series arc ‘Phantom Bullet’, Alternative centers on protagonist Karen through her introduction to V.R. games and the different people that inhabit them.
What You’ll Find Out:
Karen Kohiruimaki is a shy girl who is so self-conscious of her height that she seeks to escape into the world of deep dive technology. At first, she attempts to play games of every genre but Karen is consistently given an avatar too close to her own self that she continues to try new games until she boots up Gun Gale Online. In G.G.O., Karen is known as Llenn the PInk Devil, a child-sized fighter dressed head to toe in pink who carries a matching P90. Llenn quickly discovers that the desert area provides camouflage for her outfit and becomes a one-woman ambush machine, in the process running her agility level up to one of the highest in the game.
In real life, Karen shies away from social interaction for fear of being judged but the freedom the sprite-like Llenn awards her begins to gradually awaken her. In game, she gains the attention of a highly skilled but borderline insane player called Pitohui who takes her under her wing. Llenn and Pito develop something of a partnership so when the Squad Jam is announced she is surprised to find out Pito can’t participate because of a real-life engagement and that she would be set up with a partner called M. The Squad Jam begins where Llenn becomes the popular favorite amongst the spectators and earns the respect of a powerful all-female team. Late in the battle, M turns his gun on Llenn saying that he can’t lose because if he died in the game the real Pito would kill him in real life, fully confessing his cowardice. Llenn goes on alone to achieve victory with M acting only at the last minute.
The victor was established and the next Squad Jam is immediately announced. This time the fearsome Pitohui will compete but against Llenn. Who will Llenn choose as her partner and who is Pito in real life that she’d threaten a fellow player?
What Just Happened:
I’m an unabashed fan of the original S.A.O., that being said I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a mixed bag of conflicting themes and antithetical character development. With only twelve episodes Alternative never really gives itself the chance to get bogged down in the details. It tells you right away who the characters are and the one or two traits they’ll exhibit throughout, and doesn’t overly concern itself with plot. The alternative is very much a show that wears its heart on its sleeve and says with all honesty “This is what I am, take it or leave it.”, and I’ll take it. The colors are bright, the action quick and frantic, but beautiful and it’s nice to have a show every once in awhile that offers nothing but mindless entertainment. There are however two instances where Alternative tries to be something it isn’t by presenting a couple of twists but the astute viewer can see them coming three episodes prior.
Final Thought: Are you looking for a distraction from the usual depressing anime were all the worst consequences tend to be the ending? Then Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is for you! I had an absolute blast hating Pito while simultaneously biting my tongue waiting to see what she’d do next. And more importantly, Psycho Llenn is one of the most adorable warriors ever animated. I warn you though, things do get brutal.
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