Not a whole lot to write about this 'special episode', but since it is, after all, movie-length, I thought it worth an entry.
Extra Edition is a mishmash of throwaway extra episode - about an underwater quest that gives Kirito yet another chance to be the one who saves the day - a recap of the series and a whole lot of swimsuit fanservice of the main girls. None of them are particularly interesting, and it's quite odd to say that it was actually the part that usually so rankles - the flashbacks - that I enjoyed the most. Because it reminded me of what Sword Art Online looked like it was going to be back when it first aired.
I don't think that the backlash against any popular season has been so universal and so harsh. Attack on Titan is beginning to have the customary backlash every popular series has, but it's still mostly small pockets of detractors against legions of fans. My personal dislike for Code Geass outweighs my dislike for Sword Art Online, but I was aware that was a minority view. With Sword Art Online, though, not only was the swing from it being a big hit to what seems like every anime fan in the world sneering at it more extreme than even what the likes of Naruto and Dragonball Z suffered, it happened before the initial two-season run had even finished.
Which, of course, SAO did to itself. What the recaps reminded me was that the series began with great promise - a likeable, vulnerable adolescent protagonist adrift in a fantasy world, stuck yet given the tools to protect himself, even putting himself forward to be seen as a villain for the greater good. Only later did it devolve into the meanderings of a do-no-wrong sap and his bland harem overcoming the constraints of computer programs through the power of feelings. For a while, Sword Art Online looked like it was going to be very good.
Which is why, I suppose, it got a big fandom, and why episodes like this could be made. But what follows is pretty embarrassing. The underwater adventure is sub-Digimon prattle, without a likeable crew to spice up the journey. And the swimsuit parts are the kind of brainless fanservice that people rolled their eyes at - yet bought - in the early 2000s. Everything about this feels regressive, well-trod and boring. I didn't even watch the whole thing in a single sitting, or even two - something very rare for me.
Yet something keeps me coming back. This was bad, but I know that if another special were released tomorrow, I'd watch that too. I still like the art style, and Kirito's design - and want to see him become vulnerable and interesting again. I still like the concept and am curious about the other worlds I've seen on the covers of the light novels. I still feel like something clever might come out of the whole thing, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And if I'm a sucker for thinking so, oh well - it's not a whole lot of time to commit, and I will go on being suckered for as long as they pump this stuff out.