Spoilers for Sword Art Online until episode ~19 within the content of this post...
Are they gone?
BOOM. Everything I liked about the show (which I was, to be honest, not totally digging to begin with), gone.
I was really enjoying how Sword Art Online had the courage to end the whole "will they or won't they" plotline so quickly, and actually showed Kirito and Asuna together. And MARRIED, at that! Well this took an interesting turn, and I bet we can get some really cool stories out of a couple like this. I mean, not only is Asuna awesome, and we can see her and Kirito fight alongside each other, but it's not often you see couples who are together (even if the "marriage" is questionable) and I'm sure we can get some cool stories out of— BOOM. Nope, damsel in distress time, who wants to see our cool action girl actually fighting alongside the man, she can't do that, she needs to be put in a literal birdcage by a villain who's so obviously evil it hurts. Oh, and he almost rapes that awesome action girl, because have we mentioned he's evil?
Oh, and that awesome world we'd created, with ultra-high-stakes? BOOM. It's gone, here's a new world you know almost nothing about, and now Kirito can die over and over again with little penalty.
Oh yeah, and you like incest, right? BOOM.
I'm not even going to bother complaining about the whole "you can use SAO abilities because this uses the same server software," because SAO does actually kind of get video games, covering them extremely well and fairly realistically in the first half, and in such a video-game-toxic medium as television, that's more than I can ask for.
Look, I had some problems with the first 14 episodes, but I generally enjoyed them, and I would probably recommend them to people. And it end beautifully! If it had padded the SAO portions into all 25 episodes, and ended the same way it did, it could have been awesome. If it had just ENDED, it would have been pretty cool. A little heavy on the anime tropes for my taste (which is why I don't watch much anime), but pretty cool, overall.
But this second half... Yeesh. Maybe I'm not seeing some brilliance here, but... Ouch.
It's still reeeeeal pretty, though.
So, all right, I keep hearing people talk about SAO like it's the second coming of anime Jesus, and I didn't even really like the first half that much, so everyone come tell me why I'm crazy and wrong and don't get it.