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While it's hard to deny that the show has definite flaws, some of them major, fans and even some mild detractors argue that some of them have been blown out of proportion by the hatedom to a ridiculous degree. To elaborate:

  • The series definitely has Supporting Harem elements to it, but if you were to believe the detractors, 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 Played for Laughs. There's also the fact that Kirito's 'harem' isn't even a proper harem, as he picks Asuna straight from the start, none of the other girls really try to fight for his affection, and Kirito never misdirects them into believing that they might have a chance with him anyway, since his devotion to Asuna is always crystal clear. There are also plenty of female characters that don't show any hint of attraction towards Kirito, such as Yuuki, Yoruko or Yuna. It doesn't help that 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. The fact that the merchandising is heavily focused on the girls, like in a regular harem show, doesn't help matters either.
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  • Kirito's personality. Detractors will endlessly criticize Kirito for having no characterization outside of being a Nice Guy who's edgy and really really strong. This is ignoring the fact that his stoic attitude is justified and heavily explored due to a result of Survivor's Guilt, while later arcs show more sides to his personality like his frequent adorkable moments, his love of harmlessly teasing, or his Undying Loyalty to Asuna. There's also Kirito's existential philosophy over whether the virtual world and the real world are different or the same, which is a heavy part of his characternote . But in the hatedom, regardless of what gets added to Kirito's character, haters will always say he's as dull as a brick.
  • Kirito's overpoweredness. Kirito gets a lot of flack for being an Invincible Hero and gaining power-ups, disregarding the fact he has to endure a lot of pain and failure in his life and things rarely go his way. Then there's the fact that countless characters from other series do the exact same thing and it gets treated as cool and badass, but when Kirito does so he gets labelled as Jesus-kun. To make it all the more confusing, in versus topics Kirito always gets bashed for being a weak loser who would die, making it seem like Kirito's badassery is only circumstantial.
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    • Related to this previous point, the infamous scene of Episode 4 of the anime, where Kirito resists the assault of seven players without moving a finger due to him being at a such higher level that they mathematically just can't kill him. This scene is always brought up in some fashion whenever Kirito's overpowerness is discussed (especially when he's used as an example of a bad-taste-Power Fantasy), or just his poor character writing in general. That despite the fact that's literally the only scene in the entire franchise where Kirito is shown to be that overpowerednote . He's been at the brink of being killed multiple times ever since, but detractors act as if he wins all of his fights by just standing up.
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    • Part of the problem lies in the fact that because the anime skips over large amounts of story and Character Development, even in the leveling sense, and also leaves out most of Kirito's exposition so that the viewer only has context and a few sentences to go off of, so in the end a lot of Kirito's capabilities and gear come off as New Powers as the Plot Demands. The inability of several players to kill him above? It comes from a passive health regen meditative pose he cannot attack from or even move fromnote . While not all of his controversial acts are covered or justified in the light novels, some of the most egregious cases get hit the worst in the anime.
  • Kirito's behaviour as a "Beater" in Episode 2 of the anime. In that episode he puts on the facade of an arrogant Jerkass to redirect the animosity that other players had towards beta testers to himself. Haters usually use this as proof of Kirito being a self-centred, morally questionable (if not down-straight bankrupt) person that should not be treated as a hero by the story, let alone his fans. That despite the fact that the behaviour was all an act, it lasted for one scene, and the few times when he shows what could be genuinely interpreted as arrogance is always against someone who was asking for trouble.
  • On a similar note, Asuna's Tsundere traits. Albeit they're definitely there, they are prominent only between episodes 5 and 8note . Afterwards, she always shows her sweet side, and very rarely goes back. Not to mention her He's Not My Boyfriend attitude (one of the most infamous Tsundere traits) only lasts for one episode. However, a lot of viewers see her as nothing but a generic tsundere love interest and that she might as well be anime!Naru Narusegawa 2.0. Although things improved for her in this regard after the Mother's Rosario arc, she's never been able to shake this label off completely.
    • Her web novel personality, mostly in being a lot more firm on her relationship with Kirito and being absolutely merciless to any enemy in her path (including outright killing Kuradeel herself, compared to Kirito having to handle it in the light novel and anime) has led to a number of WN readers labeling Asuna as a Yandere in comparison to her more well-known self. This gets especially prominent in discussions comparing things to the game universe which ups the harem elements by letting Kirito date pretty much everyone, where fans have taken to posting Asuna in the background and staring at romantic scenes between Kirito and other characters as if she's being a Stalker with a Crush, ready to slit their throats on a dime. Asuna's never gone to that extent, but in the games, she is a lot more openly antagonistic towards the idea of other love interests.
  • Also involving Asuna, despite her active role in the Caliber arc and being The Protagonist in Mother's Rosario, and actively contributing to her own rescue in addition to an independent escape attempt, haters will never let her forget the time she was a Damsel in Distress during Fairy Dance. It got so bad that even Sword Art Online Abridged made fun of it long before the parody got to that point in the story.
  • Heathcliff's status as a cheater. He may have played the game with his Immortal Object ability and used over-assist to beat Kirito in their first duel, but he can back up his skill. In his second duel with Kirito, Heathcliff was able to go toe in toe with him without his GM abilities at all (even reading and countering Kirito's Sword Arts, which Heathcliff himself knew inside and out as a result of making them)and almost beat him. Detractors however consider Heathcliff only able to get ahead only because of cheating abilities, not unlike Oberon/Sugou.
  • In addition to above, haters often bring up Kayaba's "I forgot the reason a long time ago" quote when asked for his motivation of creating SAO, despite his line saying that he forgot the true reason and he literally explained right after that he wanted to create a real virtual world and that he had fulfilled that dream. Haters bash Kayaba as a ridiculous villain for trapping and killing thousands of people without a clear reason, as well as bashing Kawahara for just didn't care about his characters.
  • Chapter 16.5, especially the quips about "GLOP GLOP" and "two years worth of semen." An infamous exercise in Ikea Erotica 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.
  • A lot of people only see Suguha as the girl who was in love with her cousin and adoptive brother Kazuto. There are many other aspects to her character, such as her passion for Kendo, the joy she feels when flying in ALO and her gradual disillusionment with MMOs (until Kirito helps rekindle her passion).
  • Sugou. Haters constantly bring him up as being a terrible villain who was one-note, generic, and cartoonishly over-the-top evil. Fans actually agree on this one, but thing is he was only around for one arc (10 episodes) and is never seen again. But haters make it sound like like he's an Overarching Villain who's featured for the whole series.
  • The infamous Attempted Rape scenes, especially the one involving Asuna. If haters are to be believed SAO is an ecchi anime which spends the majority of the time sexually assaulting girls for the fanservice. The reality is it's only featured in 2 episodes and it's treated as immensely awful In-Universe, with them never really being brought up again afterwards. But haters insist that this tiny scene defines the whole series.
    • The process repeats itself with season 3, where the tenth episode results in another attempted rape and the whole episode basically focusing around the ordeal, with plenty of calling out Reki Kawahara for using the trope yet again (even though the arc was written upwards to a decade prior and the overuse of the trope had actually become an Old Shame of his). Incidentally, for an adaptation that was getting a fairly lukewarm reception up to this point, this was the episode that made everyone start talking about the season again.
  • A lot of people claim that one of the main reasons why the Flame Wars surrounding the series haven't died out yet (especially on the part of those who like to bash on it) is because of the anime being ubiquitous... but that claim doesn't hold much water. If you actually see how much anime content the series has gotten, it becomes pretty clear that the SAO anime has actually been fairly scarce for such a commercially successful show. Seasons 1 and 2 were over a year and a half apart, and over two years passed between Season 2 and the Ordinal Scale movie, with yet another year and a half after that for Season 3, which incidentally had a mid-season break that lasted a whopping 6 months. However, even during those long stretches of down time, people just never stopped talking about it.note 
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