Welcome, one and all, to our latest poll post! Today, we’re looking at anime that features protagonists becoming trapped in an MMORPG. Now, this set up has been pretty popular over the years. The thing is though, even with there being a fair series that fit this type of story, when you ask anime fans which their favourite is, it’s usually one of three: Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, or Dot Hack. So, today, we’re going to look briefly at these three shows and then vote on which one had the best first season. Let’s begin.
A young wavemaster, only known by the alias of Tsukasa, wakes up in an MMORPG called The World, with slight amnesia. He does not know what he has previously done before he woke up. In The World, the Crimson Knights suspects him of being a hacker, as he was seen accompanying a tweaked character in the form of a cat. Unable to log out from the game, he wanders around looking for answers, avoiding the knights and other players he meets along the way. As Tsukasa explores The World, he stumbles upon a magical item that takes the form of a “guardian,” which promises him protection from all harm. Subaru, the leader of the Crimson Knights, along with several other players who became acquainted with Tsukasa, set out to investigate why Tsukasa is unable to log out, and attempt to get to the bottom of the problem before it gets out of hand. (Taken from MAL)
Releasing in 2002, this Bee Train original remains popular to this day. Dealing with themes such as anxiety and escapism, it chooses to avoid relying on action sequences, and instead moves forward with a deliberately slow pace. The series is visually pretty nice for the era, and the character interactions help make the story feel far more multi-layered than some others. Throw in an excellent soundtrack and a decent voice cast in both the subbed and dubbed version, and you’re onto a winner.
.Hack//SIGN is the only title on this list that stated life as an anime, rather than being adapted from a light novel. This series also spawned a much larger universe that followed different characters through similar themes and also saw the release of light novels, manga, and video games.
Sword Art Online
In the year 2022, virtual reality has progressed by leaps and bounds, and a massive online role-playing game called Sword Art Online (SAO) is launched. With the aid of “NerveGear” technology, players can control their avatars within the game using nothing but their own thoughts. Kazuto Kirigaya, nicknamed “Kirito,” is among the lucky few enthusiasts who get their hands on the first shipment of the game. He logs in to find himself, with ten-thousand others, in the scenic and elaborate world of Aincrad, one full of fantastic medieval weapons and gruesome monsters. However, in a cruel turn of events, the players soon realize they cannot log out; the game’s creator has trapped them in his new world until they complete all one hundred levels of the game.
In order to escape Aincrad, Kirito will now have to interact and cooperate with his fellow players. Some are allies, while others are foes, like Asuna Yuuki, who commands the leading group attempting to escape from the ruthless game. To make matters worse, Sword Art Online is not all fun and games: if they die in Aincrad, they die in real life. Kirito must adapt to his new reality, fight for his survival, and hopefully break free from his virtual hell. (Taken from MAL)
First airing in 2012, this A-1 Pictures release was adapted from the light novel series by Reki Kawahara. Featuring themes such as love online and juggling a couple of different genres, it’s undoubtedly one of the more popular releases of recent years. That extends to the point that lead character Kirito makes a camera in Eromanga Sensei, and the series is actually referenced in Ready Player One.
Since its release, SAO has gone one to spawn multiple seasons, as well as video games, manga, and a potential Netflix live-action series.
In the blink of an eye, thirty thousand bewildered Japanese gamers are whisked from their everyday lives into the world of the popular MMORPG, Elder Tale, after the game’s latest update—unable to log out. Among them is the socially awkward college student Shiroe, whose confusion and shock lasts only a moment as, a veteran of the game, he immediately sets out to explore the limits of his new reality.
Shiroe must learn to live in this new world, leading others and negotiating with the NPC “natives” in order to bring stability to the virtual city of Akihabara. He is joined by his unfortunate friend Naotsugu, having logged in for the first time in years only to find himself trapped, and Akatsuki, a petite but fierce assassin who labels Shiroe as her master. A tale of fantasy, adventure, and politics, Log Horizon explores the elements of gaming through the eyes of a master strategist who attempts to make the best of a puzzling situation. (Taken from MAL)
Satelight adapted Mamare Touno’s novel series in 2013, Log Horizon was not as instantly popular as our previous two entries. Originally compared less favourably to SAO in particular, the series found its footing when it became clear it wasn’t trying to be a rehash of its popular predecessor. Featuring an emphasis on game mechanics and a large cast of characters, it certainly put its own spin on the genre.
Unlike the other two series in the list, Log Horizon did not get adapted into a video game. It did, however, get released as a manga series.
So, with all three series spawning multiple seasons, the question is, which of these three titans of the genre had the best start? Let me know by voting in the poll below. Or, if another series won you over more, hit the ‘other’ option. And don’t forget to let me know which series you voted for and why in the comments! Until next time, thanks for reading, and have fun out there!