Plot: Sword Art Online -- an enormously popular virtual-reality MMORPG -- has just gone live, and thousands rush out to buy the Nervegear hardware that allows the player to immerse all his senses in the virtual world. A player named Kirito tested the beta version of SAO and is excited for the official release. However, he and the other players are shocked when they find that there is no logout option. The creator of SAO tells them that to win, they must clear all 100 floors and defeat the boss. Here's the catch: if they die in the game, they will die in the real world, as well... (A-)
Characters: Interesting. (A)
Art & Animation: A
Voice Acting: A
Objectionable Content: Profanity, suggestive/sexual material
Other: It's basically .hack, except all the players are trapped rather than just one or a handful. However, it does have its own appeal in the psychology of the players as they learn to live in SAO, and Kirito, who tries to put his experience in the beta test to use by helping other players.
The second arc is much less impressive than the first, as it falls into the "save the damsel in distress" trap, even though it started out with a strong female lead. It also has a lot more risque material.
Overall Score: A