Have you imagined playing a game in which you actually died in the actual world? Sword Art Online series (SAO) is a story simulating that idea in manga, anime, and fiction.
SAO is a story about people in the future who can play “full-drive” games – the player goes into the digital world where human’s five senses can be perceived. Due to the very brief narrative, Kirito – the protagonist – bought a game called SAO – the first game of the full-drive experience. He put himself into the game world, presented as the flying castle. It’s a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG). However, he could not log out after spending a whole day with his friend. Then, he and other players discovered the truth. The game prevented players from returning to their real world and vice versa. The only way they could go back was to win the game – defeat 100 bosses; nevertheless, they were trapped there for eternity. Furthermore, players had only one life, meaning they could die in the real world if they died in the game. The fun part of the series is the portrait of the community and actions regarding players collaborating to win the game, betraying to survive, and killing players for fun. Even if Kirito and his friends beat the game (cheating) at the end, the story between starting and ending part opens lots of room to perceive where a dystopian world could be when the world was set to zero – no government, no law, and unsafe.
Imagine when you were in a situation where the resource was limited, and your life and death depended on yourself in a free-will world. You could die because of the risks of fighting monsters when pursuing to win the game; players who used the gap of in-game common laws to kill others for fun; your own friends who wanted to survive and got rid of you. Watching the series was not just for fun, but it let us think regarding moral aspects, selfish behavior, power in the community, and ultimately back to the real world about our existence.
How could the moral aspect be when there were no laws to prevent the actions of humans? This question may not be excessive after watching anime for some episodes. The series hides the ideology of dystopia in a nutshell of animation. The dystopia community is presented as the motivation to kill others for fun, as the laughing coffin – the criminal group – established in the series. Even though the game said people would die in the real world, there was no proof. Laughing Coffin used this gap to kill players as a mini-game for fun.
Additionally, this includes betrayal in relationships when a husband killed his wife in episode five. Miscommunication could occur for every couple; however, the law and morals prevent them from acting aggressively. Instead, they willingly find a solution to benefit both sides. The series portrayed the opposite side when the husband saw his wife changing her behavior to survive. He decided to kill her because he wanted to remember her as a soft woman, not a fighter. They might not feel guilty since the crime had not happened yet (no one saw the events). If it were, who would know that people actually died?
The selfish behavior and power can also be perceived in the anime episode four when Silica – a girl with a rare pet – was the target because she earned the power of healing. A group of players came close to her to survive and steal. She was trapped to die since they needed her pet; however, she was alive with the help of Kirito. Surviving may drive humans to act excessively without having enough consciousness. They planned to kill a weaker, not to protect, to make them survive in the game. On the one hand, they were selfish and criminal; nevertheless, it cannot be denied that they did it for survival. What could you do when you were in that situation which was the only way to ensure your survival?
I would not say I dislike the series. In fact, I love it! It does not merely present the surviving game with love and a fun story but also exemplifies a dystopian world where morality is questioned. I gave three examples of moral aspects based on my interest: fun killing, betraying, and having powers. The game in the series elaborated them well with examples leading to questions back to ourselves. What could happen when the game in the series was released in our world? It doesn’t need to be the death game. How would people act if they were no punishment for actions with non-player characters (NPCs) – like presented in the series “WEST WORLD”? What would people decide if they were trapped in the death game – as showed in the SAO and the series “Alice in borderland”? Would people accept the existing norms or modify them by the man who had the power to control others?
The title: Sword Arts Online anime
The author of the original content: Reki Kawahara
The authors of the anime: Yukie Sugawara, Yukito Kizawa, Muneo Nakamoto, Yoshikazu Mukai, Shūji Iriyama, Naoki Shōji
The producer: A-1 Pictures
The original run: July 8, 2012 – December 23, 2012
The Licensee: Madman Entertainment (Australia), Aniplex of America (North America), Muse Communication (Southeast Asia), and Manga Entertainment (The UK)
Promo picture at https://www.swordart-onlineusa.com/aincrad/
Promo picture at https://www.swordart-onlineusa.com/aincrad/character/
Picture: Sword Art Online by CarlitoSan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND
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