NOTE: Old post, sorta rambly. Also, my perspective is different on this issue today.
With Sword Art Online II beginning in this season, Anime communities from all across the world both in real life and on the internet have been rampant with discussion. There’s lots of love for it but there’s also a lot of hatred. I would call the series divisive, but depending on where you get your facts it could be construed as overrated or overhated. If you’re looking to its average scores on websites like MyAnimeList and AniList and Hummingbird it gives the impression of the series being one of the most loved Anime out there, but if you look to Anime forums which seem to almost all be dominated by pure hatred for the series you’ll see an image of the series practically being the laughing stock of the entire industry. That would probably strengthen the argument that the series is divisive, but I think the latter is more concerning because people who gave the series incredibly high scores aren’t exactly doing anything except adopting an opinion most of the time in many of these discussion places.
The people who hate the series are practically going to every length to guarantee people will view the series as one of the worst of all time in years to come. Bobduh did a scathing write-up on the series, followed by his ask.fm being flooded with ridicule for the series (and not one defense of the series as far as I can recall, which I doubt Bobduh would purposely omit by not answering the defensive questions). I don’t have anything against Bobduh for his opinion or his articulation and reasoning, more the way some of his fans vocalise their own, but Digibro has gotten on my nerves with his own berating of the series. Digibro did an absolutely insane hour-long analytical diatribe video of the original series and gave it his first and currently only 1/10 score, and is currently doing full episode reactions to the series for his “ANIME HYPE TRAIN” videos under the name “ANIME HATE TRAIN”, with a coupled added shots at the series in the descriptions such as “another episode of stupid bullshit”, and “You can watch this show on crunchyroll, if you’re a masochist.”. It doesn’t stop with these two Anime critics and their respective audiences either. I’ve heard ridicule of the series from pretty much everywhere on the internet and in real life, and the aforementioned Anime forums are also quite keen on giving the series a hard time. I would argue that Sword Art Online is a redeemable series with its fair share of merits, but that’s only half the reason I’m going to the effort of defending the series. Sword Art Online is a very heavily flawed series and I understand that. I can acknowledge where a decent chunk of criticisms come from, but enough is enough and this obsession over the apparent issues of Sword Art Online has gone far beyond what any rational human being could call right and reasonable.
There’s a notion going around in these circles that Sword Art Online is practically a must-hate, a show that by disliking you are supposedly affirming your “good taste” in Anime. Some people even consider that Sword Art Online is the worst series of all time, and I not only disagree with that but think that if you were to imply Sword Art Online is a “worst of all time” kind of series you would be flat out wrong. I barely even need to go into detail about where Sword Art Online has merits, it exceeds at a very basic level visually and sonically. Some people may not find that as valuable as others do, but that basic merit alone takes SAO out of the “worst of all time” ball park. Others shows that are thrown around as being “worst of all time” like Garzey’s Wing, Psychic Wars and Mars of Destruction among others don’t have the benefit of strong presentation. The other thing that separates Sword Art Online from being “worst of all time” besides its tangible merits is its popularity. A worst of all time like your Plan 9 From Outer Spaces aren’t genuinely well received by many people at all. You may want to brush off the opinions of others, but for something to be even close to worst of all time it has to be almost unanimously bad. Because Sword Art Online genuinely appeals to an audience, no matter what shallow reasons it appeals for, it’s still an appeal that people can derive value from and therefore it automatically becomes nothing more than an opinion on wobbly legs to put SAO among the absolute worst, and due to that in particular I see the amount of fecal matter that gets thrown at it to be unjustified and even downright forcefully malicious towards fans of the series.
I’m not going to debate Sword Art Online’s merits and failures. I can, but I won’t. Ultimately if I do it’ll reach an impasse for one reason or another and then get uglier and uglier from there. Just know that I acknowledge a decent chunk of gaping issues with the series but also feel that it has its good points. I don’t just bring this up because I believe SAO II has been a solid improvement and that people are going harsher on it than they should be simply because it’s Sword Art Online, I bring this up because I find it ridiculous from a common sense standpoint for people to be constantly dwelling on bitter hatred and ridicule for a series that flat out isn’t worst of worst no matter how you take it. Have your opinions but please keep your senses in check.