Don’t look at me like that. You all knew, sooner or later, this was gonna show up here.
For all the hit SAO gets, both fair and unfair, one thing A-1 nailed was the original opening for the Aincrad arc. Literally everything you need to know about this show is right there. Not just the premise upon which the story is built, but the story that is really being told.
Normally, I give a brief rundown of what the show is about, but this is SAO, and we all know what it’s about, so let’s just look at the OP, shall we?
I’ve had a busy week, so pardon me for skipping ground already well trad, even here on this blog.
When it comes to this particular OP, it isn’t really enough to just look at the individual parts, but how they balance against each other. There’s a short story playing out here, and it’s really put together in a very clever fashion, with the imagery being used to tell us a lot about what we’re going to see.
The first set of images is of Kirito, cause he’s Kirito, and the protagonist always gets to go first. In this case, however, it’s of sad Kirito, sitting in the rain, alone and looking lost. This is done for a reason, however, and highlights his own sense of isolation, loneliness, and how he fears making connections.
It’s followed with Asuna, and that purposeful stride of hers. This is also telling, especially with the brief glimpse we see of her wrapped in a blanket, afraid and alone. As well as the image of her looking at her own real world reflection. To be blunt, we are seeing the two sides of Asuna. The fierce warrior with a purpose, and the scared individual who just doesn’t want to die.
Putting these two sets of character scenes back to back does more than just tell us who the main characters are, it tells us who they are as people, and hints towards how much they need each other. We’ll come back to that in a moment, because as I said, this OP is balanced in a pretty clever way.
The brief bit of different characters reaching for the sky lets us know they all came to SAO searching for something, and the scene of the floor giving way, as Kirito flails in fear, lets us know they found something much more sinister. That’s basically the entire plot of the first arc, and the series as a whole more often than not, summed up in two scenes. Love it or hate it, that’s just well done.
We follow this with Kirito battling skeletons, which isn’t the big point. The big point is the shatter effect that is sued when monsters die in SAO. We’re being show that this is a virtual environment they are in.
Then comes the Gleam Eyes scene, and I love the way this is put together. Kirito fighting the Gleam Eyes, giving us the heads up to some big bads in this world. The part that I love, though, is what comes after. Of Asuna, charging into the fight as well.
What I love about this is that balance I was talking about earlier. Kirito and Asuna alone, now followed by Kirito and Asuna teaming up. That’s the real story of SAO, after all, and here, we see it presented. These two, both afraid and alone, coming together to fight by each others side against whatever the world throws at them. It’s just such a telling scene, and I love the way it’s framed.
We get brief intros to the rest of the cast, from Liz to Heathcliff, since they are all people that matter, and we need to know at least their faces. It does more than just that, though. Just in that brief glimpse, we get a sense of their personality from the way the characters are posed. It’s quick and dirty, yeah, but it works well.
The OP turns back to Kirito and Asuna, as Gleam Eyes is destroyed by the two of them together, before jumping into a quick cut of them living their lives together, looking happy. This balances, once again, against the opening scenes of them separate, alone, and afraid. Because this is the real story of SAO.
I’ve said before that SAO is actually a love story dressed up as a trapped in an MMO and death game. This is what I meant. SAO is actually a love story, and the very first OP told us that. Even the lyrics of Crossing Field, the song being played, from Lisa, over the final scenes says “I always want to be with you”. A-1 was making a love story, and apparently, a lot of people missed that, cause SAO is actually a love story.
To drive that home, the final image, of Asuna and Kirito’s swords crossed against each other, near the lake their home in Aicnrad would be. That really says it all, right there.
One more time, SAO is a love story.
Check it out for yourself.