Ria is an avid anime and sci-fi fan who loves gushing about her latest favorite shows.
Sword Art Online has a massive following, and Alicization has proven to be yet another successful installment in the franchise. The blend of isekai and MMORPG elements has enough interesting twists on genre tropes to stay interesting without losing the action that keeps viewers hooked.
Here are 10 series that deliver the same kind of entertainment.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
The now-classic DanMachi, as it's called for short, offers a slightly more light-hearted yet relatable romp through a fantasy world. The setting is an actual fantasy world, as opposed to an online RPG, but the story still contains RPG-like elements. Main character Cranel isn't particularly interesting, but his interactions with Hestia make the show a joy to watch.
In addition to the first 13-episode TV anime, there's a Sword Oratoria spin-off series, and an animated movie premiered in Japan in February 2019. There are also a few manga adaptations to read in addition to the original light novel series.
Fairy Tail isn't set in an online realm, but it has the same mix of action, drama and humor that keeps SAO fans hooked. The main characters are all likable, and heroines Lucy and Ezra are fantastic female characters. The characters' epic journey contains a lot of familiar shounen tropes re-crafted into a compelling, entertaining tale.
The series is currently at over 300 episodes, but is set to end sometime in 2019. There is also the source manga, which ran from 2006 to 2017 and has 63 published volumes! Unfortunately, there are no other spin-offs planned at this time, but that's not necessarily a bad thing since the original story is so good.
The Asterisk War
With its futuristic world and high school setting, The Asterisk War may seem pretty different from Sword Art Online. It definitely has more ecchi comedy elements and shounen tournament mechanics than SAO, and the overarching sense of adventure is lacking.
Still, with only two 12-episode seasons, it's a great weekend marathon watch for fans looking for something a little more mature than SAO. Since The Asterisk War is also based on a light novel, the pacing and storytelling style will hopefully feel familiar as well.
Though GATE is significantly more mature than SAO, it somehow manages to avoid being grimdark, and presents a compelling and oddly believable story. The story begins when a portal to another world opens in Tokyo, bringing chaos with it. A band of Japanese soldiers are sent into the portal, resulting in a wildly entertaining adventure. The characters are fairly well-rounded, especially for an isekai anime where a decent amount of time is spent on worldbuilding.
With just two 12-episode seasons, GATE unfortunately doesn't get to explore its worlds as well as one would like. At least it doesn't get dragged out unnecessarily, though.
A true underrated gem of the genre! Log Horizon is more mature than SAO without becoming grimdark and bloody. Parts of the story revolve around the internal politics and decision-making by the citizens of the new online world, but somehow, Log Horizon never seems to move too slowly or get too technical.
With two 25-episode seasons, Log Horizon is a little longer than some similar series, giving it ample time to flesh out its world and characters without devolving into repetitive arcs. Like many other installments on this list, it's based on a light novel and has manga spin-offs you can dive into if you love the main series.
With its dozen or so spin-offs and retellings, the Fate franchise of video games and anime may seem overwhelming to outsiders. Don't let that deter you, though: the world of Shinji and Saber is complex and usually well-written, especially once the characters are forced to confront the dark forces that lurk within the tournament for the Holy Grail. The loyalties of the characters often shift, and as hidden motivations become clear, viewers may not always be sure who the “good guys” are.
The original Fate/Stay Night TV series is probably the best starting point for SAO fans, since it's not as dark as its prequel, Fate/Zero. You could also start with the Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works series, since even though it was released much more recently, it's only an alternate storyline to the original series instead of a sequel.
.hack//Legend of the Twilight
The .hack franchise was arguably more successful as a video game franchise than as an anime. As an early adapter of the MMORPG-turned-reality trope, it sometimes struggled to avoid cliches and predictable battles. .hack//Sign was critically acclaimed, but it moved slowly and couldn't keep the attention of most fans.
.hack//Legend of the Twilight is a great pick for fans of SAO, though, in part thanks to its fast pacing and young characters. It's only 12 episodes long, and some of the series' potential gets lost due to this short length. Still, it's a worthwhile weekend watch if you like light-hearted mysteries set in fantasy worlds. There's a manga series as well, though it has an alternate storyline that some fans liked more than the anime's plot.
The male character designs may leave something to be desired, but don't let that put you off of this under-appreciated show. Main character Haru is your standard geeky gamer, but his skills cause him to be noticed by a classmate, who then invites him to play a mysterious online fighting game. The resulting plot is surprisingly compelling, and the fast pace means that you'll get a lot out of this show in every episode.
Though Accel World is short on character development, and the movie is mostly a recap with some new plot tacked onto the end, the show's 24 episodes contain a decently well-contained plot. Some fans didn't care for the ending, but give it a try yourself and see what you think.
Re:creators has a strange yet memorable premise: the characters created by various writers and artists come to life and have to battle each other in the real world. Despite the potential for camp and cheesy wish-fulfillment, Re:creators attempts to approach the premise with some nuance and actual character development. It sometimes falls short of its potential, but it's still much better than some cynical viewers might expect.
Unfortunately, at just 22 episodes, some aspects of the drama and character relationships are left unexplored. It's a worthwhile weekend watch for viewers wanting something other than the usual MMORPG or isekai fare, though.
No Game No Life
This unique series has isekai elements, but with a twist: siblings Sora and Shiro are world-class gamers who are brought to another world to battle via games! Even if you're not normally a fan of board games like chess, give this show a try if you're looking for a unique premise. The tension of each game is well-executed, and Sora and Shiro are very memorable protagonists.
In addition to a twelve-episode anime, No Game No Life has a movie, a manga, and a whole light novel series. However, the anime and the movie tell a concise and enjoyable story on their own.
© 2019 Ria Fritz