One of the reasons for the anime's divisiveness is the amount of unintentional humor present throughout it. One has to wonder why, though:
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- While the character designs are generally well made in their cutesy parameters, the fact that their faces have a shining "C:" smile as their default expression (particularly in official materials and artwork) can be a bit offputting.
- Every single fight scene that has Kirito making some distorted facial expressions.
- A lot of people consider that the anime takes itself too seriously even after the Aincrad arc ends and the MMORPG ceases to be a life-or-death issue. This gets especially bad in the "Calibur" mini-arc, where the characters are just playing the game normally, and yet they treat the whole thing as Serious Business.note
- Taken even further in Unital Ring where the group won't even sleep thanks to the game (as of the time, it's the only VRMMO) only park the avatar in one place while the player logging off and Kirito even refuses to took advantage of Alice and Yui.
- 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 Aincrad arc, which should be the most emotionally effective one as the game is an actual life-or-death issue. This gets Up to Eleven during the ALO arc, since it maintains the tone, except that this time people don't die in real life, so such melodrama feels odd, to say the least.
- Some critics have pointed out that, despite how SAO treats itself entirely as somewhat-realistic science fiction, things like the NerveGear virtual reality systems, the sentient AI, fluctlights and virtual ghosts like Kayaba and Yuuki all come off as pulling off magic with technology (which is especially blatant given that the setting is apparently just 20 Minutes into the Future and not even full-fledged futurism that might justify it through Clarke's Third Law). One may even have to invoke the MST3K Mantra after that point.
- Using "Beta Tester" as some sort of derogatory term. Even worse is when it gets mixed with cheater to make "beater", which... sounds like something else. Also, their reasons for hating "Beta Testers" make them come off as overly-vocal scrubs more than anything given the MMORPG setting.
- The leader of Laughing Coffin, the guild of Player Killers, is known as "PoH". While it stands for the appropriately intimidating "Prince of Hell," it's said to be pronounced, "Pooh".
- After Kirito, Asuna and company defeat the Gleam Eyes and Kirito is left with almost zero points, Asuna emotionally hugs him. This is not narmy by itself; the narmy part comes when she stays clamped to his chest for minutes, giving her back to the group and without uttering a word, all while Kirito speaks normally with them as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Keep in mind that, even if at least Klein could see they were attracted to each other, they were not even lovers by that point (and although they had been, it would have been equally silly). Also giggle-worthy is that only a few people seem to find this even a bit melodramatic.
- The opening for the Fairy Dance arc has Suguha pushing Kazuto into the middle of a road, which many people have joked or memed that she was trying to get him hit by a car.
- Asuna's Titania avatar being barefoot (or at least with her barefoot sandal-like ribbons) makes sense from an aesthetic point of view, as fairies are often portrayed in art as unshod or even entirely unclothed. It is also clear that the designer of the avatar was trying to make her look sexy and delicate, and not to mention she is technically a captive. However, Sugou's Oberon avatar wearing sandals is another thing, given that he has to fight and look dominant due to his role in the arc, and instead he just looks goofy. Him soccer-kicking Kirito in the face with that very footwear looks hilariously more like out of a Magaluf tourist brawl than a High Fantasy videogame final fight.
- The fact that two adult and presumably professional neurologists working for Sugou go around ALO in purple, tentacled slug avatars for some reason, instead of using regular human/fairy forms like Sugou himself, is incredibly cartoonish and kitsch for what is meant to be a serious part of the plot. The light novel (where the slugs at least are grey in color, not gawdy purple as in the anime) even does a Lampshade Hanging by having Asuna wondering why would they have that appearance of all things.
- The additional fact that they immediately use their tentacles to grope a random female they find in their chambers is both trite and hysterical, in particular due to the undoubtedly lecherous yet weirdly restrained way they do it (they don't even grope Asuna despite how eager they appear, but rather get content with just strangling her and stretching her limbs). The whole scene could have passed as a lighthearted parody of tentacle anime from The '80s had the series not clearly tried to play it dead serious instead.
- Kirito vs barrier! As soon as Kirito learns that Asuna really is trapped at the top of the World Tree, he goes into a blinding rage and flies straight at the World Tree, where he promptly and repeatedly slams headfirst into the barrier put in place to prevent players from flying higher than a set height. The scene is supposed to show Kirito's despair that he had kept bottled up, but it's hard not to laugh at this display of watching Kirito smack his head pointlessly into an invisible wall.
- In Episode 22, during 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 calling Asuna's name in his mind again and again, sounding more and more desperate every time he says it. Yoshitsugu Matsuoka manages to turn this into a Heartwarming Moment in the Japanese version with his performance. Bryce Papenbrook 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).
- Sugou sexually assaulting Asuna has been criticized as an ugly and exploitative moment, but this makes a stark contrast with what we actually see in the anime, which is a strange mix of offscreen censorship and deliberate inaction: after baring Asuna's chest, Sugou places his hands on her shoulders and then... he simply places them lower, out of the shot, without moving much or evoking a reaction from any of them. Similarly to the tentacle scene mentioned above, this instance really makes it look like the series is attempting to be both edgy and tame at the same time, and as a result, it comes not only as an amusingly awkward ratings stunt, but also as an offensively naive portrayal of sexual violence.
- The scene where Kirito frees Asuna from her chains, after killing Sugou in-game. It's meant to be a heartwarming reunion, but many fans can't get over the fact that Kirito hugs Asuna and cries on her shoulder while she's topless. Unlike similar scenes from other series, Kirito doesn't gives Asuna his jacket or any similar gesture, and the two of them don't seem to care about her state of undress. From the position Kirito is in, he's basically pressing his face against her bare boob.
- Kirito's visualization in the anime of Death Gun killing someone in real life through a game. That is to say, he imagines a bullet traveling through a phone line and then launching out of it to land square in the forehead of a victim. The fact that this moment is played completely seriously, complete with dramatic music swell, and as some sort of horrified idea of how dangerous the situation is on Kirito's part is a complete Mood Whiplash to how ridiculous it is.
- "The name I share with this weapon... Death Gun!" Yes, he 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 created, it can be argued that this was a case where some Woolseyism was needed, but the localizers just chose not to.
- When Kirito and Sinon are theorizing on how Death Gun commits murders, Kirito figures out that there is more than one player behind him. So that when one Death Gun members them kills a player in-game the second Death Gun member kills the person in real life. This is immediately accompanied by visual symbolism of a scorpion killing a lizard. This motif is so ridiculous it completely flips the seriousness of the scene and invokes laughter. Even Bryce Papenbrook made fun of this bit in the bloopers.
- Also from the scene in which Kirito and Sinon are trying to figure out how Death Gun kills, as Kirito wonders why Death Gun switched from the handgun (the weapon used in the murders) to the rifle when Kirito arrived to save Sinon. Immediately before Kirito realizes that Death Gun couldn't use the handgun to kill him, the scene shows a shot of Sinon's backside, making it seem as though Kirito got a Eureka Moment from staring at Sinon's butt.
- During the climactic battle between Kirito and Death Gun, when Death Gun tries to cloak himself, Kirito draws his pistol in slo-mo and shoots Death Gun while leaping forward so he's in the air. Once Death Gun gets uncloaked he panics and slashes Kirito about twenty times, all the while Kirito is still airborne and slowly spinning in midair before his feet finally touch the ground. Given Death Gun was able to get in that many attacks in the time it took Kirito to drop to the ground, it's fair to assume that Kirito must have been lagging.
- After Death Gun has been taken out, Shinkawa goes nuts in Shino's apartment and attacks her, which would be scary and dramatic if not by his hilariously exaggerated "crazy face" and his vociferous, Motor Mouth-style cries of her name.
- As tragic as it is, the idea of Yuuki and her entire immediate family dying from AIDS in the 2020s sounds just like Black Comedy, especially given that AIDS hasn't been a death sentence for decades and that Japan enjoys a world class healthcare system in real life. Even without resorting to the insanely advanced tech the series' setting has to offer, both Yuuki and her relatives should have easily been able to receive treatment that would have prevented their case of HIV from ever developing into AIDS.
- The fact that Eiji's name sounds like "Edgy" in English, which fits his personality quite well.
- The romantic scene at Asuna's real life bedroom has a couple of lines that some people found cringy (although others found endearing). But more than that, there is the part where Kirito hugs Asuna so hard they both fall down on Asuna's bed... and Kirito's face ends up shoved in Asuna's breasts. Many people consider this a tone deaf joke that completely ruins what is otherwise supposed to be an powerfully emotional scene.
- Kirito and Asuna's use of Photon Swords in GGO is very hard to take seriously given the sound effect of the Laser Blades resembles a farting sound. This may be a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as the stock lightsaber sound effect is likely off-limits to them now since Disney bought the franchise in 2014, but they could have still found a less funny replacement (such as the one used in the anime adaptation of Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online which used a different electrical sound effect that still managed to sound cool).
- While Kirito is discussing the nature of the Soul Translator project he's working on with Asuna and Shino in the bar, it stretches disbelief a bit that Asuna could instantly relate the company's name "Rath" to Alice in Wonderland, a reference that even most Americans would have difficulty getting.
- Johnny Black attacking Kirito with a syringe would have been scary and dramatic if it wasn't for the fact that an absurdly good Kendo practitioner like Kirito, wielding an umbrella (a popular weapon in real-life self-defense systems, albeit admittedly a bit of a narmy one by itself), managed to get beaten by a lunatic with a syringe. That's right; syringe beats umbrella!
- An otherwise emotional scene ends up being laugh-out-loud funny when Kirito breaks down into tears overseeing his flower garden dug up, without the context that he had been relating to the flowers and seeing them as sharing his journey of thriving in a foreign land. Although Kirito brings that up, he only does so after the flowers have been destroyed, meaning that the moment suffers from Show, Don't Tell reasons.
- There's also the particular line from a sentence in the scene that some fans have taken out of context, which only amplifies with Kirito's flashback Dissonant Serenity of a happy smile at that moment.
- When the corrupt pair of noble students, Raios and Humbert, try to have their way with Ronye and Teise, the girls and Eugeo all react as one would expect, but the pair of nobles play off the entire thing as just another game as the whole scene rapidly descends into an unintentional Black Comedy filled to the brim with too much ham to be taken seriously. In particular, as he's talking to Eugeo mid-sentence, Raios literally disrobes and leaps at the girls in the same motion, complete with the camera lingering on him in the air for a few seconds like it's something out of Lupin or a tag team Professional Wrestling match! It was so jarring that even Reki Kawahara (who was otherwise not involved in the production of the episode) himself admitted he was surprised to see it on his Twitter (said jump is an anime-original scene and was not in the light novel).
- One of the most infamous moments of season one, what with Sugou licking up Asuna's tears to revel in her despair, even gets replicated here as if the pair are trying to make this as theatrical and over-the-top as possible. The fact that they suffer extraordinary amounts of Off-Model and Art Shift to become particularly Gonk once Eugeo loses his shit doesn't help either.
- It is also hard to ignore that, while the episode is focusing on Eugeo's thoughts for minutes, Raios and Humbert are all the time on top of the girls, enjoying maniacally the act yet without actually doing anything beyond toying with their victims' clothes. And even when they finally start to strip them down, several minutes of scenes more happen again, yet they are still shown doing the same, without having even bared a bit of skin from their victims aside from their shirts! If Sugou's groping of Asuna in season two was portrayed in an absurdly naive and minimalistic way, this one probably tops that. It almost looks like the two villains were just pretending to harass them, as if they were actors in a rape scene from a very amateur film and were waiting all the time to hear "cut!"
- Then there's the moment when Raios and Humbert are about to completely consumate their respective rapes right before Eugeo manages to break free from his Taboo Index induced paralysis. They both get ready at unison and show quite ridiculous grins on their faces, while the animation does a sudden momentary freeze frame for dramatic effect that makes the whole moment unintentionally funny.
- If you pay attention as Raios' fluctlight glitches out and causes him to die, everyone in the room is just staring at him with mild concern, besides Eugeo's annoyed look. Even Humbert seems more like he's somewhat confused rather than paying much attention to his missing arm, and Tiese and Ronye also join in on the awkward staring.
- Raios and Humber's response to having their arms hacked off is way too childish to take seriously, and seems like a rejected scene from Fist of the North Star or Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and the fact that those two works are being referenced in the same sentence should clue you in to how ludicrous that scene is).
- Afterwards, Eugeo feels torn up about what he did and considers himself to be "just like those goblins." In-context, it's likening himself to lawless and chaotic monsters he and Kirito fought previously, and considering himself a murderer, plain and simple. Out-of-context, considering a certain other series airing at the same time that is infamous for the gratuitous Goblin rape at the beginning of its own storyline, and the fact that Eugeo is saying this with a missing eye tearfully to a near-rape victim, it's a bit more unintentionally funny than it should be.
- While the majority of the fight between Kirito and Fanatio in Episode 15 was quite awesome, there was one moment where the two of them are trading high-speed blows between each other... but the only parts that are moving are their arms and swords. It looks a bit silly to see just a bunch of white lines sparking against each other as Eugeo mutters, "Incredible..." Thankfully it only lasts a few seconds.
- Quinella fighting the heroes while naked (or almost, given her choker and her ankle wraps, which has its own fair share of narm) was such an edgy stunt for the novels that it already ensured they could never portray it properly in a G-rated medium like the Alicization anime. As such, the anime opts to hide it through a uniquely exaggerated usage of Godiva Hair and faraway shots in a way that is both awkward and distracting.
- Cardinal's boast to Quinella about how they are four while the latter is alone. While it does make some vague sense because Cardinal is technically occupying the body of a child after all, it doesn't justify that it is a massively childish threat, especially for a master virtual intelligence like her (as well as a rather silly claim, given that, alone or not, by this point Quinella has already proven to be powerful enough to overwhelm all the four characters gathered there, which is exactly what she proceeds to do next).
- Charlotte the spider appearing in Kirito's thoughts about people he wants to protect. While she could be counted as a person (she spoke with a human voice in the same episode), Kirito barely knew of her existence at all, and she is still, well, a bug, appearing in bug form next to Alice and Eugeo.
- The surprising amounts of Engrish that the GDS mercenaries say is just hilarious. The stand-out example is Subtilizer murmuring "Your soul will be so sweet" during Sinon's flashback: while Akira Ishida is certainly one of the most accomplished and experienced voice actors in the entire anime industry, his English pronunciation is... lacking.
- Most of the Dark Territory commanders have fearsome titles, except for the Orc warlord who leads the raid on Rulid Village: Morikka the Foot Harvester? When did Quentin Tarantino start writing SAO?
- Most of the action in this arc is pretty spectacular, but the major exception comes with wide angle shots depicting large numbers of troops moving or fighting. The annoying CG just cannot be ignored, especially in episode 30 when it seems like every human soldier is performing the same jumping dodge, just delayed enough to not be too obvious.
- There is more hilarious Engrish in Episode 35 as American players log in to the Underworld. "Hell to the yes!"
- The conference press with the robotic Alice, where the latter defends fluctlight lifeforms as equivalent to humans. While the scene itself has actually interesting overtones, the particular questions launched by the journalist are so ignorant, rude and fallaciousnote that it can be hard not to giggle at the obvious strawman, set by the writer solely to allow Alice to give out an incredibly easy and virtuous reply.
Alternative Gun Gale Online
- Pitohui is generally referred to as Pito in the show. One childish joke among the fandom is that "pito" is Spanish for penis.
- The fact that Fukaziroh not only named her in-game avatar after her late dog, but her name translates to "not allowed second son". Thankfully, it's generally abbreviated as "Fuka," which sounds like a Japanese girl's name.
- Considering that for most players, Gun Gale Online is just for entertainment and devoid of any real life stakes or death games, it can be kind of hilarious seeing how personally people take the deaths of comrades or fear for their "lives" when being attacked.
- Similar to Kirito and his Photon Sword in the main series, LLENN player avatar's stature giving her a distinct advantage over other players caught a lot of flack with fans from a competitive standpoint. In both cases, it's handwaved that like Kirito, LLENN's playstyle is considered too impractical in-universe, only for LLENN to become a Instant Expert wtih it. Though those with any experience in competitive scenes in games know that once a weapon or character build starts to produce results in community, there would undoubtably be a litany of copycats.