Twelve episodes aren’t truly very long, but it was more than enough for this 2018 anime, now streaming on Netflix, to become a flop. Audiences familiar with its predecessor Sword Art Online (SAO) could expect Gun Gale Online (GGO) to have a compelling plot, intense action scenes, and blossoming friendships. Instead, this lacklustre anime was more meh than marvelous and lost out on valuable character development opportunities that could have set the show apart from SAO.
The show does the greatest disservice to its star, a shy college woman named Karen, who struggles with both her body image and an intense shyness that prevents her from creating more connections with her fellow classmates. When a friend talks Karen into buying a new gaming system equipped with a virtual reality kit unlike anything on our market, Karen tries a range of games before dismissing all of them for making her avatar too tall and not cute enough. Finally, she finds her match with Gun Gale Online, a less wacky version of Fortnite without the building capabilities. Her character? A pink-clad cadet seemingly about 10 years old. Karen gains skill points and notoriety in the game at such a rapid pace that it’s entirely laughable. As her skills and confidence increase in the game, her perception of herself in real-life also changes, but with no explanation. Yet, in battle, she switches between a top-tier player and an incompetent noob. Karen just remains a flat character, rather than exploring her struggle to be taken seriously in a male-dominated game, and her difficulty to accept her true self over her cutie-pie avatar. and
The show overall lacks consistency, struggles to locate a meaningful plot, and misses numerous opportunities to create a female lead that rises above the challenges of the video game world and reality to find self-confidence, build leadership, and forge true friendships. Save time and just watch the battle scene highlight reels on YouTube.