* AlternativeCharacterInterpretation:
** Kirito ''isn't'' as ObliviousToLove as he appears; he figured out that Lizbeth had feelings for him. In the case of Asuna, he ''does'' have feelings for her, and he recognizes the signals she's sending out, but he's still getting over the trauma of Sachi's death.
** There's also an in-universe example with Kirito, whose "loner" attitude is interpreted early by many players as a sign of him being a "Beater" and not caring about other players, while in reality it is caused by his SurvivorGuilt and fear of losing any more people; if anything, the way he treated Klein and Asuna (he is the one because of whom they started [[TakingALevelInBadass Taking Levels In Badass]]) and him taking the blame for other beta-testers after the first boss' defeat make it really hard to see him as a selfish type unless this trope is invoked.
** Keita blaming Kirito [[spoiler:for their guild-mate's deaths is in fact a mental defense mechanism for his SurvivorsGuilt. In truth, he blames himself for not being there. Yet he doesn't even believe himself, which is why he kills himself right afterward.]]
* ArcFatigue: The Alicization Arc has been ongoing for 8 volumes, which is half the series. Preceding arcs were two volumes at most.
* AssPull: One of the biggest critiques towards the first two story arcs is that both end with a FinalBattle that is resolved by a blatant DeusExMachina. To elaborate:
** ''Aincrad'': [[spoiler: Kirito loses all of his HP fighting Kayaba, but still he manages to delay his disintegration by sheer willpower just long enough to return the favor]].
*** [[spoiler: Possibly balanced out by the fact that at several points later on, it is heavily hinted that Kirito was able to prolong his death by unknowingly activating the Incarnate System, a hidden mechanic originating from the LightNovel/AccelWorld series (and part of the same universe) and later further explored in the Underworld Arc]]. Which, of course, could be an AssPull in itself.
*** [[spoiler: However in the novels he didn't say outright that his avatar's disintegration was prolonged but just that it felt like it and allude the possibility of its delaying was possible due to his accelerated senses and just stabbed Kayaba right before completely disintegration of his avatar. Whether it was an asspull or misconception is up to the interpreter; he is an unreliable narrator after all.]]
** ''Fairy Dance'': [[spoiler:Kayaba's consciousness appears out of nowhere to Kirito and gives him administrator rights to the game's system, which allows him to defeat Sugou]].
** The fact that even the at the next story arc, ''Phantom Bullet'', [[spoiler:Kirito survives a fatal syringe stab thanks to a fully providential and amazingly well placed PocketProtector]] also lifts many eyebrows in the suspension of disbelief field. The only thing that prevents this from being as bad as the two previous examples is that this doesn't really resolve the final climax. [[spoiler:It's Sinon's help, both inside GGO and in the real world]].
* AuthorsSavingThrow: The ''Progressive'' mini-series addresses to some extent the complains of people who thought [[RomanticPlotTumor Kirito and Asuna's romance was too rushed]]. One of the main points of this soft {{reboot}} is to see them interact in more depth than in the original story. However, since they still canonically get together in the original first novel, [[RelationshipCeiling they're not supposed to become a couple in the mini-series itself]]. Whether it succeeds or not in improving their romance (whether you liked it originally or not) [[BrokenBase is another matter entirely]].
* BadassDecay: While Klein was never the equal of Kirito in SAO, he filled an important role in Aincrad as Kirito's loyal friend and foil, even when Kirito didn't believe that he deserved the friendship; by Excaliber he's degraded to comic relief and the butt of the jokes, and yet he's ''still'' crucial to its success.
* BaseBreaker: The OfficialCouple Kirito and Asuna. Two of the most polarizing protagonists in recent anime history. On the broad strokes, some claim that both are a little bit too perfect, thus making them unrelatable, if not downright unlikable. To be more specific:
** For Kirito it mostly has to do with whether or not he is a blatant MartyStu and bland WishFulfillment as opposed to being a completely legitimate and competent badass lead anime hasn't seen in years. Detractors argue that, even leaving aside his "over-powerness" arguably breaking both the character and the narrative, Kirito's badassery just doesn't work in this setting, since he's basically a OneManArmy, something that just doesn't happen in MMO [=RPGs=]. His ChickMagnet status and the way the story tends to focus on him instead of on arguably more interesting characters are also huge points of contention. For some they make him [[TheScrappy utterly unbearable to watch]], while others don't mind them and argue [[NeverLiveItDown they're just blown out of proportion by the detractors]].
** As for Asuna, she is either the most moe, badass and likable female character in recent anime history or another typical ShanaClone and run-of-the-mill Tsundere LoveInterest. The way Kawahara tends to put her in the background in most later arcs despite being the female lead of the franchise also hurts her reputation among detractors. Her SpoiledSweet background is another point of debate, albeit to a lesser degree.
* BetterThanCanon: There are those who consider [[AlternateContinuity the video games' continuity]] (''Hollow Fragment'' and ''Lost Song'') better than the original storyline of the novels/anime due to several factors, such as having to fight all the way to Floor 100 of Aincrad, giving supporting characters like Sinon, Silica, and Lizbeth more screentime, and removing some of the most controversial aspects of the original story. [[spoiler: Specifically, Suguha's pseudo-incestuous crush on Kirito is nowhere to be found in ''Lost Song'' as the game already establishes she knows Kirito is her cousin in ALO in the first cutscene.]]
* BileFascination: There's a fair number of late-coming viewers that jumped in after it became a critic-favorite punching bag in the anime community. See SnarkBait below.
* BrokenBase: Any of these can spark heated discussions:
** Is the Anime rushed and did it fail to develop its characters effectively as a result? Or is it fine the way it is?
** Is the novel superior to the anime? [[TheyChangedItNowItSucks Are the novel fans just upset that the animation crew didn't adapt the anime word-for-word to the novel's chronology?]]
** Related to Kirito and Asuna as BaseBreaker characters above, there are some aspects about them outside their individual characterizations that also heavily polarize viewers.
*** How Kirito and Asuna work as a couple is one of the biggest ones. Some see it as a cute, incredibly heartwarming classic romance between two truly likable characters with genuine chemistry, and consider their relationship at least a big part of of the core of the story. Others see it as a saccharine, melodramatic and non-believable couple, created by a teenager who writes how ''he thinks'' relationships work, which's only there for even more WishFulfillment (See RomanticPlotTumor below).
*** On the same note, is Kirito and Asuna's RomanceArc developed enough, especially in the anime? Detractors usually consider Episode 8 the beginning of the arc, so they say it doesn't have nearly enough development to be believable that they fall in love. Kirito's interactions with his SupportingHarem before then don't help either. Defenders, on the other hand, consider that it actually starts in Episode 2, and that even if their relationship is not the A plot, their interactions and BelligerentSexualTension are enough build up for when the romance jumps to the forefront. The constant hints that they keep meeting off screen for months (NotADate included) also help.
*** And finally, is their relationship a blatant and saccharine RomanticPlotTumor that utterly [[TheyWastedAPerfectlyGoodPlot ruins the awesome premise of the story]]? Or does it actually add to it, giving it real emotional stakes and creates an incredibly compelling mix between action, adventure and romance that is so hard to find in anime?
*** Who deserves Kirito more? Asuna vs. his SupportingHarem. For some, the Kirito and Asuna relationship lacks chemistry and development, especially in the anime.
** Whether or not Kirito and Asuna [[spoiler:actually had sex]]. They did in an extra chapter when the story was a web novel in a rather explicit scene (that some consider to be {{Squick}}y), albeit the whole scene was mostly a joke from Kawahara ([[WordOfGod according to him]], he wrote the whole thing "to make the topic disappear quickly into the darkness of history"). But the anime is much vaguer, since at most, it just implies it.
** [[spoiler:The implementation of AttemptedRape on Asuna near the finale of the first season. Some viewers think the AttemptedRape scenes add [[RapeAsDrama a lot of drama to the series]]. Others saw the AttemptedRape scenes as either executed very poorly, used as a cheap shock value, devalues Asuna as a character, or used as a fodder to make Kirito look good. Or, worst case scenario, [[UpToEleven all of the above]].]]
*** [[spoiler:It also happen again with the same reaction of the AttemptedRape scene with Sinon in the second season, albeit arguably to a lesser degree since the scene is less graphic.]]
** The series has an AwesomeMusic entry for good reason... although some people may argue that it sounds a little bit too similar to Music/YukiKajiura's previous works. Others say that the compositions are great, but the best tracks (particularly ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6NzqWI4HYU swordland]]'') are so overused that they eventually get old.
** Creator/AniplexUSA owns the rights to the series. Anime otakus consider them the [[Creator/ElectronicArts EA]] of anime [[CrackIsCheaper for good reason.]][[note]]The US [=DVDs=] are priced at ~$60 for 4 discs, totaling $240 for the first season alone[[/note]]
** Quite a few fans have said that SAO is a good GatewaySeries to anime, however, many of its detractors have said otherwise and accused it of being heavy on "[[PanderingToTheBase Otaku pandering]]" and WishFulfillment. This was a point of contention by some fans on whether it should air on Creator/{{Toonami}} or not, due to the said block's status as a gateway drug to the medium. Ultimately, the block’s creators thought the negative aspects weren’t a big deal.
** Kirito's defeat of Suguo/Oberon draws mixed reactions given its brutality. Some fans are horrified at torture being portrayed as heroic and others view it as justified karmic kick and a CatharsisFactor given that Suguo kicked the dog in every single one of his appearances.
** The ''Mother's Rosario'' arc's portrayal of [[spoiler:people with terminal illnesses, particularly Yuuki's AIDS. Some people found it unrealistic and overblown [[{{Glurge}} just for cheap tears]], while others found the story moving and genuinely heartbreaking. For what it's worth, even [[WordOfGod Reki Kawahara himself]] questioned whether making Yuuki an AIDS victim was really a good decision on his part in Volume 7's afterword]].
* CantUnhearIt: The meaningless vocals in Swordland were interpreted by English-speaking fans[=/=]detractors as: ''COFFEE, SODA, TOFFEE, PASTA, COFFEE, SODA, GIVE ME COFFEE[=/=]SEX PLEASE!''
* CompleteMonster: A lot of them.
** ''Fairy Dance'' Arc: [[CardCarryingVillain Suguo Nobuyuki]] (Oberon the Fairy King) is the [[CorruptCorporateExecutive director of research and development]] at RECTO Progress Incorporated, and the one-time fiance of female lead, Asuna Yuuki. He was also completely obsessed with research into the manipulation of human emotion. Following the clearing of ''Sword Art Online'', Suguo trapped three hundred of the surviving players in his own game, ''Alfheim Online'', where he ran experiments on their minds, [[ColdBloodedTorture testing their fear and pain responses]]. [[IHaveYouNowMyPretty Kidnapping Asuna in the game]], he keeps her trapped in a gilded cage at the top of Alfheim's World Tree, while plotting to wed the [[DudeShesLikeInAComa comatose girl]] in the real world. When [[TheProtagonist Kirito]] reaches the top of the World Tree, Suguo uses his administrator abilities to paralyze him, tortures him, and then sexually assaults Asuna in front of him, [[EvilGloating gloating]] the entire time about how, once he's freed, he will [[RapeAsDrama rape her again in real life]]. When the plan fails, he attempts to kill Kirito in the real world, attacking him with a knife. In the context of the story, Suguo is as bad as ''SAO'''s villains get.
** ''Phantom Bullet'' Arc:
*** [[RedEyesTakeWarning Red Eyed]] [=XaXa=] (real name: [[IllBoy Shoichi Shinkawa]]) is one of the top members of the [[PlayerKilling Laughing Coffin Guild]] in ''SAO,'' and the Guild's MasterSwordsman. During the Murder Investigation Arc in ''SAO'', [=XaXa=], alongside [[TheLeader [=PoH=]]] and Johnny Black, ambushed and attempted to murder players Caynz, Yolko, and Schmitt; when Kirito intervened, the trio also tried to kill him. After making his way back to the real world, [=XaXa=], bored, and [[SerialKiller seeking a way to kill again]], took advantage of his younger brother Kyoji's fragile mental state, to convince Kyoji to create the online persona of Sterben/Death Gun in ''Gun Gale Online'', ultimately hijacking Kyoji's desire to be "the strongest" for his own ends. Using Kyoji, and his old partner Johnny Black as aides, the [[PsychoForHire psychotic]] [=XaXa=] was able to arrange the murders of players Zekushiido, Usujio Tarako, Pale Rider, and Garret, before sending Kyoji to murder his own crush, Shino Asada. A sadist at heart, [=XaXa=] makes a point of crippling his opponents' avatars with a paralyzing toxin before delivering the coup de grace, and during his SwordFight with Kirito in ''GGO'' does his best to cut him to ribbons, mocking him the entire time.
*** [[AxCrazy Johnny Black]] (real name: Atsushi Kanemoto) is another top member of the Laughing Coffin Guild. As the Guild's MasterPoisoner, Johnny came up with a way to paralyze opponents so that they could then be [[ColdBloodedTorture tortured to death]], and puts this poison into effect during his, [=XaXa=], and [=PoH=]'s attack on the members of the Golden Apple Guild. When discussing what they will do with the captured trio, Johnny expresses a desire to [[InvoluntaryBattleToTheDeath make them fight each other to the death]], promising to release the survivor; when [=PoH=] notes that Johnny will just kill the survivor, Johnny complains about how the Guild Leader has ruined the surprise. He subsequently tries to poison Kirito when he comes to the Golden Apple trio's rescue. Escaping into the real world, Johnny was recruited by [=XaXa=] during the Death Gun murders, poisoning Pale Rider and Garret in their homes, before again making a getaway. He was finally arrested when, after having lain in wait for six months, he attacked Kirito and Asuna on the street, intending to inject them with poison from a syringe, and hospitalizing Kirito. [[SerialKiller Unable to quit killing]] in the virtual world or the real world, Johnny is the work's definitive PsychoForHire.
** ''Alicization Arc'': [[ArcVillain Quinella]] is the ruler of the Underworld server and High Minister of the Axiom Church. In an effort to obtain immortality, she fused herself with the Cardinal System of Underworld. After her success, she began corrupting the souls of the Underworld nobility by separating the nations and spreading ignorance and fear among the populace. After [[AGodAmI making the populace believe that she was a goddess]], she created the Axiom Church and named herself the [[SinisterMinister Highest Minister]]. Quinella brainwashed every rebel fighting against her government and the Champions of the Four Empires Unity Tournament. She also performs fatal experiments on innocent people in order [[ForScience to learn the secrets of the human units]]. After realizing the invasion of the Dark Territory was inevitable, Quinella confiscated every line of defenses from Human Empire in order to make the people more dependent on the Axiom Church. When faced with possible defeat by the Dark Territory, Quinella transforms thousands of people (including familiars of her own Integrity Knights) into swords and forms a {{Golem}} out of them, her victims [[AndIMustScream conscious in their new form]]. She claims this action was for the safety of these people, but it's clear she shows no remorse for trapping these people in such a state. A {{narcissist}}ic [[TheSociopath sociopath]] and a [[ItsAllAboutMe selfish woman]], Quinella only wants to control everything in her reach, killing and torturing anyone who dares to challenge her or "her" empire.
* CriticalBacklash: Not surprisingly, an increasing amount of folks are saying that the hate and backlash for the show and especially Fairy Dance is quickly reaching this territory. This is actually the opinion of Creator/{{Toonami}} themselves (whom probably witnessed first-hand many requests of SAO coming to the block get retracted when the show moved on to Fairy Dance during it's airing in Japan), as their [[http://toonami.tumblr.com/post/54263109126/do-you-have-any-concerns-about-the-incest-subplot-in rational for picking it up]] [[http://toonami.tumblr.com/post/54258600250/someone-is-gonna-ask-this-anyway-so-i-figured-i-get-it in response to the backlash.]]
* DarknessInducedAudienceApathy:
** The series is already dark at the start with TheMostDangerousVideoGame premise, but later story arcs introduces ''much'' darker plot writing [[spoiler: such as ''two'' AttemptedRape scenes (one in the Fairy Dance arc, and another in the GGO arc), to a group of mass murders who orchestrate a series of murders between real life and Gun Gale Online by finding other players' addresses and poisoning them despite the fact that [[http://swordartonline.wikia.com/wiki/AmuSphere AmuSphere]] have built-in safety measures that makes it impossible to kill someone in real life through the virtual world, introducing characters [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer that have been treated as social outcasts]] (Sinon for being forced to shoot a bank robber [[note]]Guns have a strong taboo in Japanese society, particularly if used to kill someone for self-defense puposes[[/note]], and Yuuki Konno for having AIDS); and having the main character, Kirito, ending up in coma, brain dead, and trapped in ''another'' VRMMORPG]]. One of the biggest criticisms of this series is the numerous amount of tragic fates on many of the characters without developing proper backstories or giving enough characerization for the audience to sympathize with them.
** One of the criticism of the series is that the author is too dependent on ''very'' controversial issues such as rape, AIDS, and PTSD for simple shock value rather than doing the research on these topics thoroughly and portray these scenes in a more respectful manner. This is particularly true with PTSD where there are a lot of incosistencies. For example, Sinon has suffered severe PTSD for four years after being forced to shoot a bank robber as self-defense and faced [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer social isolation]]. Many psychologists would think that playing a VRMMO first person shooter as self treatment for combating one's fear of guns is considered to be a ''bad'' idea.
* DracoInLeatherPants: Despite having kidnapped and murdered thousands of gamers, Kayaba Akihiko's fans insist he is not evil because he isn't sadistic like Sugou Nobuyuki or Death Gun, despite the fact that Kayaba is directly responsible for the other antagonists being able to pursue their evil goals.
* DryDocking: The number of fans that hate Kirito's guts and want him to stay away from ANY female character in the cast so they can have them for themselves is quite high, if we pay attention to the comments about the tie-in games.
* EarWorm: See AwesomeMusic.
* EightDeadlyWords: Detractors of the series frequently point this out as a problem, contending that the show's characters are forgettable, sloppily written, and sometimes reliant on one-note anime character archetypes, making it impossible to care about anything that happens to them.
* EnsembleDarkhorse:
** Really, all of the secondary female characters have rather big followings, [[FanPreferredCouple who would rather see them paired with Kirito instead of Asuna]].
*** There's a small number of people who strongly dislike the show but actually really like Lisbeth.
*** Silica as well, a lot of fans are upset that she doesn't get much screen time in the anime across from Episode 4 and her first episode cameo.
*** Sinon herself is also very popular and many people admitted that they enjoyed her character much more than Asuna due to her EstablishingCharacterMoment, her [[TheWoobie backstory]], her development over the course of the story, and her interactions with Kirito (which to some feel much better paced and relatable than Asuna's). Some have even admitted they would have preferred ''her'' to be the sole protagonist of the ''Phantom Bullet'' arc over sharing the spotlight with Kirito (particularly prevalent from those who see him as MartyStu) and would love to see her star in her own spin-off.
** Godfrey, [[spoiler: who is killed off after 4 minutes of screentime]] is this. His bro-ness personality and appearance reminds viewers of another EnsembleDarkhorse: [[LightNovel/FateZero Rider]].
** Klein is a HUGE example. He's one of the most likeable characters in the series because he acts like such a bro to Kirito, yet also shows genuine emotion and is a damn good fighter and guild leader, whose entire guild survived from inception to finish. There's a large amount of fans who claim HE should be TheProtagonist or TheHero, not Kirito.
* EscapistCharacter: Kirito and Asuna.
* FandomRivalry: Theres has been one with ''LightNovel/LogHorizon'', due to the similar premise. Interestingly enough, many ''LightNovel/LogHorizon'' supporters seem to be former [=SAO=] fans that dropped the series at some point (normally when the focus of the Aincrad arc shifted to romance, or when the Fairy Dance arc started).
** To a lesser extent, there's also one with ''LightNovel/AccelWorld'', which is written by the same author.
** ''Manga/{{Berserk}}'' fans have also not taken well to the fact that "The Black Swordsman" is now more commonly associated with a 16 year old gamer instead of an adult who actually wields a sword.
** Many ''Franchise/DotHack'' fans are also resentful of the fact that SAO is considered to have an original set up. Both works were created the same year, but SAO didn't become mainstream until it was formally published 7 years later.
* FanNickname: ''[[MaleGaze Sinon Ass Online II]]'' for the many unnecessary ass shots of Sinon during the anime, ''especially'' in episode 10.
* FandomBerserkButton: An interesting one with ''Franchise/DotHack'', since both franchises are this ''to each other's fan bases''. When [=SAO=] became mainstream in 2012, a lot of ''Franchise/DotHack'' fans were displeased by its popularity, arguing that [=SAO=] totally ripped off the premise of Creator/CyberConnect2's franchise. However, this accusations became in return a BerserkButton to [=SAO=] fans, who argue that the original Web novel was released around the same time the first Dot Hack game was released, so it couldn't possibly be a rip off. [[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgment Let us say, neither side wants to budge on this debate and leave it at that]].
* FanonDiscontinuity: A portion of fans of the anime see "Aincrad" as the only Arc, due to the many problems "Alfheim" had, and another portion would too, were it not for the Arcs after it.
* FirstInstallmentWins: Despite the story spanning at least four different [=MMOs=], with the titular Sword Art Online only appearing in in a single novel and a handful of short stories, the majority of merchandise and and promotional material use the characters' Aincrad appearance.
* FridgeBrilliance: "That's not possible!" said three or four times should give you a clue that we don't know something, especially if Kayaba says it about anything anyone does inside SAO. Then we learn about Fluctlight...
* FunnyAneurysmMoment: It's really hard to laugh when Kirito accidentally grabs Asuna's right breast after [[spoiler: seeing Asuna nearly getting raped much later]].
** Shinichi's occasional creepiness trying to win Suguha's heart is funny because he's harmless. [[spoiler:Kyouji, on the other hand, turns creepy right before he tries to rape and murder Sinon. Before this, the two were very similar.]]
* GrowTheBeard: While the series starts off pretty strong, it's the two-parter in episodes 5 and 6 where they really get the comedic timing down and solidified Asuna's characterization.
* HilariousInHindsight:
** Kirito and Asuna are sometimes thought of as [[http://ifunny.co/fun/ryU3PRAy1 younger looking versions]] of [[http://icrescent.tumblr.com/post/99963874114/am-i-the-only-one-who-thinks-rei-from-hotd-and Takashi and Rei]], even though the [[LightNovel LN]] for SAO was written a decade earlier (between 2001-2002) than ''[[Manga/HighschoolOfTheDead Highschool of the Dead]]''.
** The fact that there is an Arc called, "Mother's Rosario." Kirito's birthday is the Feast of the Rosary.
** The titular sword arts, as described in the novel, are special attacks where the system briefly takes over limb control, activated by specific arm movements. In other words, waggle controls five years before the Wii popularized them.
** During the Calibern arc the party finds a trapped beautiful woman who begs them to release her. Everyone except Klein sees it as an obvious trap but still Klein releases her. [[spoiler:Turns out it was a trap, [[DisguisedInDrag just not the kind they were expecting]]]]
** One on the dark humor side for ''Manga/FairyTail'' fans who enjoy the English dub. Asuna and Oberon are voiced by Creator/CheramiLeigh and Creator/ToddHaberkorn, respectively. In other words, Lucy and Natsu. Let us say, [[PortManteauCoupleName NaLu]] fans [[BrainBleach may not be able to unsee it]] when they see [[AttemptedRape Asuna and Oberon's interactions]] in [=SAO=].
*** The European Spanish dub has the exact same situation with Eva Bau (Lucy[=/=]Asuna) and Enric Puig (Natsu[=/=]Oberon).
* HoYay: Oodles between Kirito and Klein, starting in the very first episode. In the Japanese version of the first episode...
-->'''Klein:''' Kirito! ...Ah... Hey, Kirito. You were actually pretty cute. That's my type.
-->'''Kirito:''' And that unkempt face of yours suits you ten times better.
* ItsPopularNowItSucks:
** At least some of the hate for the series can be traced back to the fact it started off as a light novel series loved by the few who knew of it at first, but when the first anime came out and introduced it to a wider audience everyone, even the original likers, started to turn against it and claim anime was crap, especially due to with issues how the [[TheyChangedItNowItSucks characters and the plot were handled in the adaptation]], particularly with the second half of the first season [[SeasonalRot where most people claim things went wrong]].
** There's also no shortage of people that claimed that didn't like the franchise in the first place, but just dropped it without giving it too much extra thought. But then, when they saw how popular it became, they started to actively ''despise'' it. This is especially obvious among some critics, partially explained by the fact that they feel they sort of have to talk about the show because their followers just won't stop asking their opinion about it. Or just to be relevant.
* LoveItOrHateIt: One of the biggest anime examples in recent memory. Depending on who you ask, it's either one of the best animes of all time or one of the worst examples of bad writing in existence. And when these two kinds of viewers collide, [[InternetBackdraft it ain't pretty]].
* MemeticMutation:
** "GLOP GLOP" and "two years of semen" thanks to Chapter 16.5.
*** Or just mentioning "Chapter 16.5" as a shorthand/euphemism for "sex scene".
*** What makes this funnier is that the [[Creator/BrycePapenbrook voice]] [[Creator/CheramiLeigh actors]] themselves love bringing this up!
** Some people felt that the death scenes of certain characters were massively forced and failed to evoke any feelings. This led to the creation of [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nms3eZGEb3w this hilarious video.]]
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nms3eZGEb3w SAO]], [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daFzKBvxCtU crawling]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB2bvCEjQBU all]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMU8IaQ-QjY the]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNV0REo9TMc time]].
** [[VisualNovel/{{Tsukihime}} Isn't it]] [[Memes/{{Nasuverse}} sad,]] [[IncrediblyLamePun Sachi?]]
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx7xeNU6a9c EPIC RAPE MUSIC]]
*** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkbHS3U9lJM Kayaba!]]
** [[{{Mondegreen}} COFFEE, SODA, TOFFEE, PASTA]], [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DROMho7oa6I COFFEE, SODA, GIVE ME COFFEE]]
** Season 2's second episode has sparked off [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1A5mM9j54zA plenty]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8C9U1flOZs of]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iidFUNfh43k parodies]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64H-1KbtUVc of]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPHZmD-yubA the]] typical MLG FPS montage, complete with dubstep, Snoop Dogg, gamer slang, product placement, and [=FaZe=] clan plastered all over the screen.
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzG77A5o3VE "Kirito]], [[LukeIAmYourFather I am your father!!!"]] [[labelnote:explanation]]Kirito's [[WritingAroundTrademarks "photon sword"]], him having the SuperSenses and SuperReflexes of a Jedi Master, and [[DarthVaderClone Death Gun's appearance]] [[VaderBreath and voice]] have led to many jokes about the second season being "Franchise/StarWars Online."[[/labelnote]]
** [[RocketPower "It's the same ending as last time!"]] -reaction to [[spoiler: the climax of the Phantom Bullet Arc being Kirito cutting up the villain in virtual reality and then getting into hand-to-hand combat with a rapist in the real world, just like the Fairy Dance climax.]]
* MoralDissonance: In direct reference to the first example of MoralEventHorizon directly below, some find it odd how Kirito has a sort of (begrudging) respect for MagnificentBastard [[DiscOneFinalBoss Akihiko Kayaba]] even though he trapped 10,000 people in the game, causing hundreds of people to die, [[spoiler:lying to everyone as Heathcliff, and planning to betray the top player]] when both he and the story itself treats [[AttemptedRape Sugou]] (AKA Oberon, The Fairy King) like he's much, much worse, despite having not killed hundreds of people. While it's obvious that Sugou is a reprehensible human being that deserved to be punished and [[ItsPersonal Kirito has a much more personal reason to hate him]], Kayaba is in no position to get special treatment.
* MoralEventHorizon: Virtually anything Kayaba Akihiko [[spoiler:a.k.a Heathcliff]] does, such as trapping 10,000 innocent people inside a game for '''TWO YEARS''', over which time 4000 of these people died, just to [[ForTheEvulz satisfy his game master fantasies]]. Even worse, [[spoiler:he positions himself as the leader of the strongest guild in the game, earning the trust and admiration of many of the people he trapped, with the full intention of betraying them once they neared the end of the game]]. Kirito even thinks that the guy is a monster [[spoiler:during their fight]], after seeing how he felt nothing in spite of being responsible for thousands of deaths.
** Sugou crossed the line early on, and continues to KickTheDog after that.
** Most of the members of Laughing Coffin probably crossed this in when they killed players in SAO, even though they knew they would die. However, [=XaXa=] and Johnny Black definitely manage to cross this [[spoiler: by creating the legend of Death Gun just so they could continue to kill.]]
* {{Narm}}:
** Every single fight scene that has Kirito making some [[OffModel distorted]] facial expressions.
** Using "Beta Tester" as some sort of derogatory term. Even worse is when it gets mixed with cheater to make "beater", which... sounds like [[ADateWithRosiePalms something else.]] Also, their reasons for hating "Beta Testers" make them come off as overly-vocal [[{{Scrub}} scrubs]] more than anything given the MMORPG setting.
** A lot of people consider that the anime takes itself too seriously. Yes, they're all facing death, but for these people it doesn't match well the MMORPG setting. This gets worse in latter arcs where death in real life is not an issue, specially during the "Calibur" mini-arc, where the characters are literally just playing the game normally, and yet they treat the whole thing as SeriousBusiness.
** Related to the previous point is that some people consider a few death scenes too melodramatic to be taken seriously. And that's during the SAO arc. This gets UpToEleven during the ALO arc, since it maintains the melodramatic tone, except that this time [[spoiler: people don't die in real life]], so such melodrama feels odd, to say the least.
** In Episode 22 of Season 1, during [[spoiler:Kirito's first try to beat the World Tree battle. He starts having flashes of his memories with Asuna as he fights. Eventually, he starts [[SayMyName calling Asuna's name in his mind again and again]], sounding more and more desperate every time he pronounces it.]] Creator/YoshitsuguMatsuoka manages to turn this into a CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming in the Japanese version with his performance. BrycePapenbrook in the English version, on the other hand, makes it unintentionally funny. Which is a shame, considering that, apart from this moment, Papenbrook ''nailed'' the rest of the scene.
** "The name I share with this weapon... Death Gun!" Yes, he's named himself after his weapon, and it isn't a name you could say with a straight face.
*** To be fair, this one applies mostly to native English speakers. For people of other languages, this doesn't have the same impact. Considering the original novel was first written in Japanese (but the name was written in English), with no plans for an English translation at the time it was wcreated, it can be argued that this was a case were some {{Woolseyism}} was needed, but the localizers just chose not to.
** The reveal of how Death Gun's Death Gun actually kills people is laughably absurd and impossible to take seriously when Shinon is being shot at because it means [[spoiler:there's a guy lying in wait in Shino Asada's house ''with a syringe full of lethal chemicals at the ready'', and for some reason is only going to use them when one of the bullets actually connects in-game, otherwise getting hit with a bullet from that gun would have no dramatic tension at all in that scene]].
** [[spoiler:Yuuki's]] AIDS. Even though the disease still doesn't have a cure, by the time of 2011, when the novel was first written, it wasn't an automatic death sentence anymore[[note]]In developed countries, that is. But Japan definitely qualifies[[/note]]. At least, not like it was during the 80s and 90s, and ''definitely'' not to the point that the victim would need such a complex VR system to cope with it. Even [[WordOfGod Reki Kawahara himself]] admitted in retrospect that AIDS was the wrong choice for the story.
** "I wonder what the difference is between the real world and the virtual one?"
* NeverLiveItDown: It's hard to argue that the franchise has serious flaws, but many people argue some of them are just blown out of proportion. Namely:
** The series definitely has SupportingHarem elements to it, but if you were to [[BaseBreaker believe the haters]], Kirito spends at least 50% of his screen time picking up chicks without even trying, or worse, being a pimp. The reality is that this particular aspect of the series doesn't have nearly that much of a relevance outside a couple of filler episodes and one or two scenes where it's PlayedForLaughs. There are also several examples of female characters that don't show any hint of attraction towards Kirito, like Yoruko.
** It doesn't help the fact that [[WordOfGod Reki Kawahara]] likes to joke about this, like when he said that he feels incapable to write a female character in this series without making her fall for Kirito.
** On a similar note, Asuna's {{Tsundere}} traits. Albeit they're definitely there, they are prominent only between episodes 5 and 8. Afterwards, she always shows her sweet side, and very rarely goes back. However, a lot of viewers talk about her as if she was [[Manga/LoveHina anime!Naru Narusegawa 2.0]]. To be fair, she got some problems in the adaptation due to her CharacterizationMarchesOn in the light novels (see her entry in the Character page for details).
** Chapter 16.5, especially the quip about "two years worth of semen." An infamous exercise in IkeaErotica that was only posted on the original website's now-defunct ''fanfic'' section. The way some are quick to bring it up at the mere ''mention'' of the series, you'd think it made for the entirety of the franchise.
* NoYay: Anything from Sugou/Oberon.
* ParanoiaFuel: The thought of [[AndIMustScream being trapped in the new video game]] you just purchased and dying because you died in said video game. You'll be playing [=MMOs=] gingerly for awhile.
** And there is always the possibility that when DeepImmersionGaming is invented in a decade or two that it won't be as safe as it was intended to be. There are a bunch of ways to die with a Nerve Gear that DON'T involve product tampering. The fact that you're completely paralyzed means that if there was some emergency, such as a fire, you would be completely helpless because you'd have no way of knowing that you were in danger.
* PortmanteauCoupleName: [=KiriAsu=] or [=Kirisuna=] (Kirito x Asuna).
* RescuedFromTheScrappyHeap:
** The Mother's Rosario arc saved Asuna in the eyes of many of her detractors ([[BrokenBase albeit not all of them]], since her SpoiledSweet background made it difficult for some to get on board with her CharacterDevelopment).
** Suguha, only in the games though. See BetterThanCanon above.
* RomanticPlotTumor:
** Kirito and Asuna. Their relationship practically overtakes the whole ''escaping the MMORPG'' storyline, even though it barely has any (onscreen) development. [[note]] However, they only have feelings for each near the end of the series, which is canonly two years since they've met; plenty of time on-paper for it to happen. Whether or not that excuses it is up to the person [[/note]]
** Suguha's feelings for Kirito/Kazuto in the second half. Getting past the [[KissingCousins Incestual]] ValuesDissonance, it can come across as unnecessary and only serves to drag the plot down. Specially considering that the audience already knows that, even if they weren't related, there's no way in hell Kirito would have chosen Suguha over Asuna after all they went through together in Aincrad.
* TheScrappy:
** Yui gets the most heat, to the point that some believe that she is a lolicon [[PanderingToTheBase pandering]] bait, the dreaded moeblob. Many disliked her story arc, as they asserted that the emotion was contrived and pretentious. Ironically, there wasn't the same reaction with Silica in Episode 4 where [[spoiler: she was seen in her fanservice underwear]].
** Suguha was INSTANTLY disliked by people for everything she did from her wanting to be KissingCousins with Kirito, to her repeatedly going [[BrokenRecord "Kirito]][[MostAnnoyingSound -kun"]] in just about every scene she's in, to even her "stealing" the role of the heroine from Asuna.
** The biggest scrappy of the series is certainly [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Nobuyuki Sugou]], the {{arc villain}} of Fairy Dance. Unlike the characters listed above (which are more a case of {{broken base}} than scrappies themselves), very few people liked Sugou. From his arrogant personality, the squicky situations with Asuna, [[CardCarryingVillain his stereotypical villain personality]] and stupidity and the fact that he tried to [[spoiler: rape Asuna '''in FRONT''' of Kirito]] gained him a lot of hate from the fans of the series. Certainly, [[spoiler: his brutal defeat at the hands of Kirito (in game and in real life) were very well received and celebrated by the fans.]]
* SeasonalRot: Quite a few fans consider the Fairy Dance arc as a down part of the series, especially since it nullified Aincrad’s [[TearJerker/SwordArtOnline emotional]] conclusion. [[spoiler:Asuna was reduced to a DamselInDistress, and the romantic aspects were focused on Suguha and her feelings for Kazuto/Kirito. When Episode 21 hit, the arrival of TentacleRope had the fanbase screaming and Episode 24's AttemptedRape of Asuna in front of Kirito sent most who had stuck with the show until that point nuclear.]] As a result, quite a few people that have previously praised SAO have switched to bashing the series by the arc's end. In fact, it's quite common to hear the phrase: "I like Aincrad, but hate Alfheim." as a way to basically describe people's viewpoints on the series.
** Interestingly enough, this is also applies to some people for the second half of the Aincrad arc, mainly Episode 8/9-14. For these people, the two year TimeSkip and the switch of focus from the "complete the game" story to Kirito and Asuna's relationship was what started the decline.
* SnarkBait:
** By the time the second season started, SAO had become one of the biggest ones in the entire anime community and specially among critics. Some even said that they enjoyed seeing how the first season failed to meet its potential. The Fairy Dance Arc gets the majority of the flak, albeit the Aincrad arc doesn't get a complete free pass either. The second season was received more consistently positively, although it never recovered the hype levels it had during the Aincrad arc.
** The second season's more positive reception was kind of short lived, though. After it wrapped up, critics started to rally against the show once again; in some cases arguably more viciously than before. By this point, is kind of hard to find a critic who doesn't loathe the franchise to some extent, whether it's by occasional, but consistent jabs while acknowledging its strengths (like Arkada or The Anime Man) or with lengthy essays about why the series sucks too much to warrant its ridiculous popularity (like Digi Bro).
* {{Squick}}:
** [[spoiler:The attempted rape on Asuna.]] The act itself was already bad enough to {{Squick}} a lot of fans, even to the point of making them drop the show. But it's even worse in how it's portrayed: [[spoiler:The way Kirito saves her is seen by many as an ''empowerment fantasy''. Even people who don't mind the WishFulfillment aspects of the show think that Kawahara went way too far in that scene.]]
** Unsurprisingly, Sugou (the perpetrator of the act) was squicking the audience ''since his very first appearance''. Just the way that he sniffed Asuna's hair in the hospital with that sick smirk on his face is enough proof that his CompleteMonster label was never meant to be a surprise reveal.
* TastesLikeDiabetes:
** Yui. Fans thought that she was adorable and contributed to Kirito and Asuna's relationship. Detractors on the other hand saw it as contrived and pretentious and say it contributed to the show's SeasonalRot.
** Debatable sure, but some of Kirito and Asuna's scenes where they are being a couple can really come across this way due to some rather cheesy, if not just down right cringe worthy lines.
* TheyWastedAPerfectlyGoodCharacter: Klein is introduced in the first episode as a new player who Kirito somewhat befriends. The two separate by the end but instead of making use of Klein by having him possibly act as a {{Foil}} to Kirito (mainly because Kirito fails to save the first guild he joined, Klein protected his whole guild through SAO), and him being an active ally in the series, instead Klein serves mainly as a comic relief character with not much characterization beyond being "Kirito's buddy".
** Many people complain that Reki Kawahara never used Eugeo to the fullest of his potential. When we first meet him, we realize that Eugeo has more innate skill than Kirito, the beater and hero of Aincrad ever had, and that he has a crush on Alice Schuberg, who was kidnapped [[spoiler: by the knights of the Axiom Church and brainwashed, taking away her soul, memories, and old feelings]], which is his motivation for going to Centralia and trying to become a knight. However, Kawahara never gives him much character; in fact, he's practically just a blank sheet with none of the imperfections that give humanity to people. [[spoiler: In the end, Kawahara just kills off Eugeo.]]
** Alice Schuberg is another source for such complaints. When we meet her in volume 9 as a child, she is one of the most vivacious characters to ever bless SAO [[spoiler: and seems to have somewhat of a crush on Eugeo as a kid]] Flash forward to her teenage years [[spoiler: after her memories have been taken away from her and her old personality trapped in a golden cube]]: We meet her as knight skilled beyond even Kirito and Eugeo in not just magic, (which she was a prodigy in even a kid) but she can easily match the two at the same time. The potential Kawahara had with her is limitless. Yet what does Kawahara do to her? [[spoiler:Make her another member of Kirito's harem. Whoop.]]
* TheyWastedAPerfectlyGoodPlot: The first three episodes deal with an interesting premise, thousands of players trapped in an online death game by a madman. Then the plot chomps forward with multiple teenage girls dealing with their affection towards Kirito while he remains varying extents of oblivious about it, and Kirito falling in love with Asuna sooner than one would expect. Then in the Fairy Dance arc, Asuna gets relegated to damsel in distress status while Kirito's sister's character arc revolves around her romantic feelings for her brother (actually her cousin) which ended up as awkward for Leafa as it was for fans reading, even if she did get over it. In the light novels, the "multiple teenage girls dealing with their affection towards Kirito while he remains varying extents of oblivious about it" scenarios were left out of the main narrative in volume 1 along with a few other side stories. To some fans, this makes more sense than how it was handled in the anime, since the inclusion of said side stories in the main anime narrative was seen as messing with the momentum. There's slightly more buildup for Kirito and Asuna's relationship in the light novels.
** Kayaba Akihiko's reasoning for why he trapped the players in SAO was never explored and why he did the things he did is never fully gone into detail besides him basically saying "I did it cause I could", which wouldn't be bad in of itself, if it wasn't for the fact that he hints at other reasons.
%% * TooCoolToLive: [[spoiler: Yuuki.]]
* UnintentionallyUnsympathetic: In the climax of the Fairy Dance arc, Kirito [[spoiler:set Pain Absorber at level zero.]] and he [[spoiler:'''brutally tortures''']] Sugou until he's wailing in terror and agony, doing such things as [[spoiler:''cutting off his arm and [[EyeScream stabbing him in the eye.]]'']] He's clearly suffered serious damage from it, as shown in the next episode when he [[spoiler:encounters Kirito in the hospital parking lot.]] The show interprets this action as ''heroic''; Asuna and Yui don't even look remotely disturbed by Kirito's brutal actions. Even if the victim is a CompleteMonster, the show looks like it's endorsing [[spoiler:torture and violence]] as instruments of justice, a message that can be just plain ''disturbing.'' Fortunately, Kirito steps back into sympathetic territory by the next episode, when he [[spoiler:refrains from killing Sugou and leaves him to the police instead.]]
* ValuesDissonance: Shino Asada attacked a bank robber who was about to shoot her mother, and manages to kill the full-grown man ''[[GunStruggle with his own gun]]'' - years before the events of GGO, in which she was ''sixteen''.
** In America, that CrowningMomentOfAwesome would make her a hero of nation-wide acclaim. In Japan, Shino winds up being stigmatized. She is ostracized by just about everyone, including her own mother, who mentally regressed due to the intensity of the incident. This even extends to [[ThereAreNoTherapists therapists]] who learned of the event, so she has a case of PTSD so intense that a schoolyard bully can set off a panic attack simply by ''pointing a finger at her and saying "bang".''
** This mostly touches on child-adult relations in Japan, rather than what Americans typically assume is some sort of gun issue. In Japanese society, children are viewed as relatively innocent, and dependent upon adults (which makes the events of SAO seem even harsher by Japanese standards). What is ''really'' at issue, is that to Japanese society, a child is thought to be incapable of killing - that Sinon is able seems to create the presumption that she has the mind set of a cold blooded killer (that her actions were in self defense being irrelevant). [[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgment Which does not excuse what happened to her]], merely better explain it.
** European reactions would lie somewhere in between. Shino would unquestionably be seen as her mother's saviour and the criminal she killed would be viewed as having brought his fate upon himself. However her actions would be likely be painted as tragic, rather than heroic. The killing would be ultimately presented as a necessary evil and, above all, [[HarmfulToMinors as a sad loss of innocence]].
* WhatAnIdiot:
** Sugou's ego and CardCarryingVillain -ness makes him quite GenreBlind and he made many mistakes that were entirely avoidable had he just coldly thought and calculated about it like Kayaba. Sugou could have kept up a facade to everyone, not just Asuna's parents, or in general just not talk and gloat. Or he could've used a private server for testing instead of wanting to play god. Or he could've used something other than keypad and card for lock. Or he could've used GM ban/delete as soon as things went downhill. If he had down any of these, he would've got away with everything. But he didn't, and this led to Kirito rescuing Asuna and Sugou in jail.
*** Also, in the second to last episode, in the scene where he assaults Asuna, there are several things he didn't do which would've guaranteed him getting away with everything:
*** First off, after kicking Kirito back onto the ground when he struggled to get up, he decides to impale Kirito in the back with his own sword, rather than beheading him or stabbing him in the brain area, which would've killed him in the game world (but not in the real world, as he hasn't changed the pain absorber level yet). If that happened, it would've been game over.
*** Secondly, when he changes the pain absorber, he doesn't immediately set it to level 3 or bellow, which starts affecting a user's body in the real world. If he had changed it to that level or bellow, since he stabbed Kirito in the back, which would also include his spine, the addition of Kirito seeing Asuna in pain as Oberon rapes her would inflict even more pain on Kirito and kill him in real life. TheBadGuyWins. But no! He instead changes to level 8, insisting that he will gradually lower it to, in his own words, "give [Kirito] something to look forward to". He then tells him that once it drops bellow level 3, it starts affecting a user's body in the real world. Once Kirito gets a HeroicSecondWind from [[EveryoneHasStandards Kayaba]], and is lent his admin status, he takes Oberon's control on the system, and sets ''his'' pain absorber to level 0, which results in Sugou having some VERY bad injuries in real life when his avatar is killed in-game.
** The leader of The Army, Thinker, agrees to meet a known rival for power within his organisation unarmed in a high level dungeon. His rival doesn't even need to show up to screw him over, as he ends up trapped by a dangerous boss for days with no escape likely. [[spoiler: Only by sheer luck does he manage to escape thanks to Kirito, Asuna and Yui showing up in beginners town.]]
* TheWoobie:
** Asuna reveals to be one, having no-one else but Kirito in her life. And beyond that, [[spoiler: was one of three hundred unfortunate players who never woke up after the SAO ordeal, being forced to be with Sugou, then proceeds to be nearly raped by him.]] Someone help this poor girl out!
*** Her backstory is expanded in later novels and the manga, which reveal that [[spoiler: the reason why she's alone in the world before knowing Kirito is because of her high class family. To be precise, her mother, who originally came from a lower class family and was extremely strict, putting unrealistic expectations on her future. On top of that, she expected her to marry a wealthy man, but not to become a housewife, but to have financial stability so she could develop a successful career (thus having the worst aspects of BOTH sides of the CareerVersusMan dilema). It is heavily implied that the reason she started to play VRMMO games was in part to escape from all that pressure.]]
** Kirito isn't much better. Although he woke up, he discovers that his love never woke up, still comatose, only to find out that [[spoiler: it had been planned.]]
*** And before that, the emotional pain he went through after [[spoiler: Sachi, his previous love before Asuna, dies]].
** Sinon has PTSD from killing an armed robber in self-defense. [[KidsAreCruel She was bullied by nearly all her classmates because of this.]] [[ThereAreNoTherapists Her therapists reinforced her PTSD instead of treating it.]] Thieves have learned to exploit her PTSD to extort money from her. [[AllMenArePerverts She's constantly being sexually harassed.]] [[spoiler:Then, the only friend she's had for years tries to rape and murder her.]] Someone give that poor girl a hug!
** Yuuki probably has one of the saddest stories. [[spoiler: She was born with AIDS and had to endure it and all the social stigma that came with it. By the time of Mother's Rosario, she's the only one in her family still alive, she has to remain logged into the Medicuboid 24/7 (to the point where her time in virtual reality exceeds SAO players), and she doesn't have much time left herself. In fact, she dies at the end of the volume, after becoming such great friends with Asuna.]]
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-> ''Two years' worth of examples made a loading noise as they flowed endlessly onto my screen.''
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