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Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Nails the Fundamental Silliness of Shooters

Something funny happened in the orbit of Sword Art Online this year. In a world rife with fantasy RPGs, it was the post-apocalyptic science fiction shooter that became the official comedy game of the whole enterprise, all thanks to the anime for Keiichi Sigsawa’s Gun Gale Online spin-off. Honestly, I can’t even argue with that; actually, it makes perfect sense.

Day 4 of the 12 Days of Anime 2018

Going into SAOAGGO—henceforth pronounced as “Sauwaa Guh-gowh,” actually let’s not do that, because the full title is still as stupid now as it was a year ago, so let’s just go with GGO—I honestly did not expect that the author of Kino’s Journey would turn in an action-comedy. That may have been my own fault, though, as my grand total of awareness of Keiichi Sigsawa, for the longest time, came from the centered-on-seriousness 2003 Kino’s Journey anime.


As the selection of Kino stories from 2017 series made clear, it turns out that he does have a more comedic side as well. Like how badly it goes when Kino hands down a recipe. Or making a story that concludes in the most batshit way possible by, no lie, massacring a fuckton of angry sheep.

So yeah! Guess it means that a show where main character LLENN’s very first moment of glory in the spotlight starts with a surprise attack—and tears in her eyes—after hiding her small avatar in a briefcase, is all perfectly in keeping with authorial tradition! I already did a roundup of some of the other outright goofy shit this show has put in while it was airing this summer, but that was before the second arc went into full swing. With the benefit of having now seen it all, I can say with absolute certainty GGO, compelled by the power of dual-wielded grenade launchers, did not slow the antics down.

As a longtime Sword Art Online viewer, all of this is just remarkable to me. For the uninitiated, Gun Gale Online the VR game first got introduced during a wholly serious thriller-esque arc—it went so far as to take a genuine swing at heavy subject matter like PTSD—and the depiction of the game followed suit. Even when the action hit its most over-the-top peaks, or when Kirito swung a lightsaber against bullets, the intent was angled more towards being more crazy-awesome rather than a slapstick routine.


I can’t say that I really mind the GGO spin-off’s steep shift in how it treats the game, however. If anything, it’s arguably closer to the reality of shooting games than the earnestly badass veneer that SAO’s Phantom Bullet arc gave to the game. Just from personal experience, I’ve been extensively playing a shooter on my own time these last few months, i.e. Destiny 2, and I love it to pieces, which has included recognizing that even when it aims for seriousness in its narrative, it is still a deeply ridiculous, silly game at its core.

Interestingly enough, it looks like that more humorous characterization of Gun Gale Online has continued to stick at least in part. The game made a pleasantly surprising one-time return in the inaugural episode of the Alicization season of SAO (hell yeah, I’m always down for getting some more Sinon!), and it notably made room for this.


Silica—fucking Silica—manning the gun turret on a jeep. That is a thing that actually happens. She even lets loose a joyous “rrra-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga!!!” while firing. You know, for good measure.


Yup, that makes approximately the right amount of sense!

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