Why Sword Art Online Gets Disrespected Outside Of Japan

Sword Art Online is one of the best-selling light novels of all time, uncontested.

In Japan, it’s one of the most loved and recognized Isekai anime of all time in various “best” lists in Japan.

The perception of SAO is clearly different in its home turf.

But in the West, despite its continued success (as an anime or otherwise), it was never respected even remotely close to what it is in Japan in general.

Why is that? Are anime fans’ attitudes too different or is it justified?

Let’s talk about it.


Why SAO is disrespected by the mainstream:


1. The HATE train was too strong

The hate train for Sword Art Online happened so long ago it’s hard to find the beginning. But I’d say it started around 2012-2014.

This was the year or the years where some YouTubers, though hard to pinpoint, started the “SAO is bad” hate train, which was then followed by the worst of the anime fanbase in general (not the creators, but fans).

A lot of those old videos have been deleted but given the time frame, you can see this is where all the debates and the reactionary comments began, especially on forums like Reddit.

The train seems to have never lost its hatred for the SAO community and the franchise as a whole.


2. The bandwagon effect still remains

YouTube video

The bandwagon effect is in place across many industries, and the anime industry is no exception.

It’s when people jump on the bandwagon because it’s the now popular thing to do in that moment. Like how everyone jumped on the “Kanye is bad” train, the “Nick Cannon is anti-Semitic” moments, #StopAsianHate, BLM, and the list goes on forever.

In this case, that bandwagon is a negative effect that sticks to the SAO franchise in Western circles, but also some circles in massive anime hubs like India.

This is clear when you look at all the objectively worse anime that have been released since SAO, that somehow escape this level of bandwagon scrutiny, even when that anime is popular.

Some people who jumped on the bandwagon, which is typical of the bandwagon, didn’t watch SAO, haven’t watched SAO, or simply don’t care and are only there to be “on the right side” as it were.

We saw this with Demon Slayer, but that’s beside the point. The bandwagon effect is not to be underestimated.


3. Fans refuse to acknowledge Sword Art Online is an Isekai

One thing you should never underestimate when it comes to humans is their ability to deny things they dislike despite those things being factual or written in stone.

Or the ability to play mental gymnastics when it’s inconvenient, but then be quick to say “fax” when it’s convenient and makes people look good by association.

Isekai by definition means “another world”, which is a Japanese word of course. Japan rates SAO as one of their best Isekai anime shows of all time, especially when it comes to popularity and familiarity.

Yet Westerners and some Indian fans (maybe others) still argue to this day about SAO not being an Isekai because it rubs them the wrong way.

But will then have no issue saying Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is an Isekai, among others, because that’s more acceptable to say out loud where people can acknowledge and agree with you.

It’s a strange thing to see but again, never underestimate people’s ability to be in denial about things they don’t like, feel comfortable disrespecting, or don’t want to be associated with.


4. People feel its success vs quality is a mismatch

Sword Art Online was liked up until a point, at least in a mainstream sense. The first episode set the stage and people loved the premise of the series.

When it was announced that players could die inside of a game since it’s connected to their bodies in the real world, this also set the stage for SAO’s hype and popularity.

For one reason or another, like the more romantic side of SAO with Asuna’s introduction vs how she ends up later, people started to dislike SAO. But that dislike turned into the bandwagon of hate somehow.

For some people it’s the supposed harem, for others, it’s the characters, and for others, it’s how the anime didn’t live up to the hype.

Either way, people feel the success didn’t match the quality. And that plays into the franchise’s disrespect outside Japan.


5. The meme material is too embellished

When something is embellished, it’s portrayed to be true despite the fact people are laying it on thick (adding extra sauce, aka “facts” that aren’t true in reality).

The internet has a magical way of doing this, and many things despite being exaggerations or flat out lies are still believed because it’s more attractive for it to stay that way.

SAO and its long list of memes at this stage make whatever a person puts into a meme a fact that can’t be denied, won’t be denied, and won’t be debated or “fact checked”.

This is the case for many anime, but SAO in particular, even more so.


6. Kirito is seen as a bland character with no personality

People have argued this point from the very beginning.

  • Kirito has no personality.
  • Kirito is a bland character.
  • Kirito has no emotions.
  • Kirito is boring.
  • He has nothing unique about him.
  • He’s a boiler template character.

And the list goes on.

Whether or not this is true is a debate because it’s obviously an opinion like all entertainment related topics that aren’t based on logic.

But this is a reason why Sword Art Online has been disrespected so much outside of Japan.

It also plays into some of the memes.

Related: Sword Art Online Vs No Game No Life: Which Isekai King Is The MOST Popular?


7. Fans continue to pigeonhole SAO

When you pigeonhole someone or something, you make it impossible for that person or thing to ever be anything else other than what you define it as.

For example, pigeonholing someone as “sexist” and that becoming the narrative makes it hard for a person to rip that label off and burn it to cinders.

It sticks and it’s hard to take off (can be).

Sword Art Online has been treated in a similar way, and some of the pigeonholing it has gone through is hard to detach when people are so determined to keep it there and maintain certain beliefs.


8. Genuine fans of the series are dismissed

This might be the most important point of all. Genuine anime fans of the series are dismissed, dissed, disregarded, ignored, belittled, attacked, and labelled “not a real fan” or trash, etc.

The gaslighting is real, and ironically it comes from people who beforehand will preach about it being ok to have an opinion or think differently.

Of course, this only applies when the shoe fits and not when it doesn’t or isn’t approved of first.

Even when fans have made threads on Twitter about SAO debunking all sorts of myths, it’s dismissed and goes unacknowledged because people like the narrative (or others don’t want the attention of defending SAO as a franchise).

It’s a game of making yourself feel good at the expense of making others feel bad.



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