Sword Art Online Abridged is a parody series of Sword Art Online from Something Witty Entertainment over on YouTube. The story is essentially the same but the show has been recut with scenes removed, and it has an entirely new dub.
It is odd that I’m reviewing the abridged version of SAO before actually reviewing SAO however I’d like to write this while the show is still fresh in mind. As much as I enjoyed watching this abridged version on YouTube I’m pretty sure once was enough because while some of the jokes made me laugh out loud I somehow don’t think they’d have the same impact a second time through. That said, this is going to be a fairly short review.
Generally speaking I don’t much like comedy and modern parody is probably one of the things I hate most about comedy. Mostly because it seems a large majority of people think that you can just take a basic idea, lower the intelligence of all the characters, have some obvious physical humour, sex jokes, and inappropriate comments, and serve with substandard presentation, and voila people will enjoy. Tragically they are right in that a lot of people do enjoy that but I find it kind of tedious and dull and generally it misses the point of being a parody in that it is supposed to be an imitation of the original style but with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect. Admittedly, parody expands beyond simple imitation and is full of intertextual references and social commentary, but good parody understands the original subject matter, style and intent and plays off of it rather than simply boiling things down to the most obvious joke.
This is where I fell in love with SAO Abridged. Yep, it has got swearing and obvious sex jokes (Yes, Klein does ask Kirito is he is going to show Asuna his sword skills which is one of the least subtle euphemisms you could come up with given the context). Honestly, if foul language or smut aren’t your thing, while this isn’t extreme by any means, it is fairly frequent so you are probably going to pass on the series at this point.
However, what SAO Abridged does is demonstrate an actual understanding of the underlying characters they are making fun of. None of them are given entirely new personalities. Basic traits they already exhibited, through one interpretation of the characters at least, are merely exaggerated. So Kirito, the socially awkward poor communicator essentially becomes a bit of a sociopath at the beginning and all the way through his incredibly twisted personality is pointed out by other characters. The thing is, it isn’t as though these traits couldn’t be seen in the original series. He does prioritize his own life early in the series and he does avoid building meaningful relationships with other characters for an incredibly long time after his first attempt to join a guild ended in disaster. That understanding of Kirito’s original character, heavily reinterpreted and extremely exaggerated, is what makes it so funny (at least to me).
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There is one recurring joke with Asuna that I really disliked and it has to do with how she deals with race and to be honest I found those scenes cringeworthy, however for 11 episodes of comedy, for there to only be one recurring joke that really missed its mark with me is something of a surprise even to me. Asuna, otherwise, is pretty funny in this parody. While episode 2 had me worried when they were clearly playing on female gamer stereotypes with Asuna not being able to open her menu, and that is a recurring joke, they fairly quickly expanded Asuna beyond the trope of new female gamer.
Additionally, I loved the way the show played on stereotypes of gamers and the current generation. It didn’t feel like it was just lazily taking on the usual stereotypes and saying, ‘hey we’re being self-aware, laugh’. I certainly loved some of the glitches that they introduced to the playing experience as it actually made the whole online gaming experience more real. Plus, as a parody it did call SAO on some of the more obvious issues particularly the motivation of the ‘villain’. It actually felt like some love and thought had gone into how to portray different ideas.
And that’s where I have to highly recommend SAO Abridged. The quality of the show put together here and the thought put into the writing really stand out compared to so many other parody videos. Certainly there are some moments where added art work is not quite as polished as the scenes taken from the show and at times the voices don’t quite match up with the character movement, but for the most part the presentation is pretty polished for what it is. Plus, the sound track is awesome. Part of me wants to know why that isn’t the actual theme song for Sword Art Online now and that final fight sequence took on a whole new level of cool with that sound track.
Okay, I’m done. If you’ve watched it, what did you think?
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