Greetings! Railgunfan75 here. We all have come across the scenario where someone approaches you who is interested in getting into anime but is not sure really what to expect or where to get started. There are of course a ton of series out there and selecting the perfect gateway anime. Everyone has their own opinions as to which one to select and they are all certainly correct. I will make an argument for a series which I feel does a great job of fullfilling the gateway anime role. This series certainly been divisive as it is either a love or hate it series. I personally am on the positive end of spectrum in my views but I also acknowledge that the series is far from perfect. For me the high points of the series are so good that I can look past it’s many pitfalls. This series is (gasp) Sword Art Online.

Sword Art Online is a perfect gateway anime in my opinion because it will show new anime fans what the high points of anime are and the dark side of anime all at the same time. It contains both positive and negative elements which show themselves in plenty of other series and is a great example of the range of things that one can find in anime. Of course I will further elaborate on this and explain the elements that make Sword Art Online the perfect series to show someone who is trying to decide whether to get into anime.

kirito (1)

The Good: Sword Art Online is a great example of the quality animation and soundtrack that anime series contain.

Let’s face it, the animation and soundtrack of SAO are clearly among the series strengths. The series does a great job of applying an awesome game world aesthetic to the series, the battle sequences are amazing to watch, and the character designs are great. The series looks gorgeous no matter what they are showing on screen. The soundtrack is also both incredibly bombastic during its action sequences and gorgeously calm and serene during it’s quieter moments. From a technical and artistic standpoint, the series really stands out as a way to showcase the highs that animation and anime can reach.


The Bad: Sword Art Online contains harem elements. 

One of the biggest complaints of SAO detractors is the whole Kirito harem thing that occurs in the series. While Kirito has picked his best girl, plenty of the elements of a harem still occur in this series.

  • Kirito has all sorts of girls fall for him and for the most part he is clueless.
  • There are scenes where the main focus are the harem girls “fighting” for his attention
  • The girls fit many of the typical character types that you find in a harem

In the case of SAO, the harem elements are certainly diluted by the other elements of the show and the all important girl choice has been made so it is not fully down the rabbit hole. However, as any anime fan knows- harems are unavoidable in the anime realm and getting a harem light like is present in SAO lessens the blow of stumbling upon this trope later.

asuna 1

The Good: Sword Art Online does showcase the power of female characters in anime at times

Sword Art Online has points where it does a great job of showing the power of its characters especially the female cast members. The likes of Asuna, Leafa and Sinon at points go toe to toe with our hero Kirito. They are as much a part of the story as Kirito and all play a vital role in their respective story arcs. This is especially true for Asuna who is given a ton of development in the 1st arc which showcases both her bad ass moments and her loving side. In the case of Leafa and Sinon, both take leadership roles in the beginning and Kirito’s success in those stories would not be possible without them. Long time fans know that many of the best series are carried by it’s strong and complex female characters and Sword Art Online is no exception to that rule.

leafa 1

The Bad: Sword Art Online falls into the fan service trap and turns it’s heroines into damsels

While the series does do great things with it’s characters, it also does many disservices to them as well. Many of the characters at some point are just relegated to either the typical damsel who needs saving by the hero or just simply spend their time fawning over the hero. Sadly there are plenty of series where the characters fall into this role (mainly in harems but in other series as well) and it is one of those things which can totally ruin a series. New fans will certainly stumble across a series like this, and SAO is a great primer for others which commit this sin.


The Good: Sword Art Online is a great entry level series for the Issekai genre which is a staple genre

One of the staple anime genres of late has of course been the issekai (or other world) genre. This type of series is one that can’t be ignored and certainly should be explored by new fans. Many of the genres best examples are now twists and criticisms of it’s standard tropes (such as Re:Zero and Konosuba). To better appreciate series such as this, any fan must have an understanding of what the standard is and SAO is the perfect example of this. It has all of the basic elements of the genre and while it fails at some, SAO is reallyb accessible with it’s premise and it’s story and can spark an interest in exploring other shows of the same type (It certainly did for me.).


The Bad: Sword Art Online contains a male protagonist which can be off putting at times

As we all know, while not certainly impossible it is harder to list an amazing male protagonist in anime. In many cases the list of best boys is shorter and a bit more difficult than their female counterparts. Sword Art Online’s protagonist Kirito while not the worst character in existence is certainly a weakpoint of the series as is the case in many series. Kirito is the prime example of a character who pulls miracles out of his ass for no reason and lacks the defining personality of his counterparts. He also can abe abit clueless at times. So why watch SAO versus the many other series with such a protagonist? At least Kirito has plenty of bad ass moments to make up for it. This type of character is a fairly common problem in anime and something that any anime newcomer should be aware of from the beginning.


When one explores the positive and negative elements of Sword Art Online together, one finds that Sword Art Online has many of the elements which define what anime is. The series is a prime example as to what makes anime great and where anime still needs improvement. I feel that SAO is a perfect gateway anime for newcomers for these reasons. By watching the series one can get a fairly clear picture as to what to expect when watching anime. By seeing both the good and the bad, people can make an informed decision as to whether anime is for them or not instead of a one sided picture that many of perceive at the beginning. This honesty about what the medium is will actually help us spread the word about how great anime is. By acknowledging all aspects of it, we as a community will have an easier time spreading the word.

That concludes this discussion. What are your thoughts on this post? What anime would you recommend as a gateway series? Please comment below or message me on Twitter (@railgunfan75) or Facebook (Railgunfan75’s Geek Blog). So until next time, this is Railgunfan75 signing off! See you soon and stay geeky my friends!