Why Am I Still Watching Sword Art Online?!?

Why Am I Still Watching Sword Art Online?!?


Hello & Welcome – To Replay Value The Five Hour Analysis Blitz is back and this
time the submission asked “How SAO is considered bad, yet people still continue to watch it.”
– and I have to wonder if this topic was plucked straight from my discord server because I’ve
been asking this question since the new season of Alicization started back up. Sword Art Online is a favorite punching bag
of the anime community at large for good reason, and if you’re watching this video you’ve
probably seen half a dozen takedowns of SAO from various youtube channels from every conceivable
angle. I don’t share that vitriolic hatred – I
don’t think Sword Art Online is good to be clear – but I am still watching it, and
not for the purpose of wanting to make a critical video, if not for this submission getting
chosen by RNG I probably would never make an SAO focused video. So why am I still watching SAO? I think it comes down in part to psychology,
and in part a defense of this dead horse which somehow makes a total of three points because
apparently I’m bad at math. Need For Cognitive Closure is a psychological
adversity towards ambiguity – in other words, its exact what it says on the tin – a desire
for completion. It’s one of the reasons why when you can
only hear one side of a conversation its distracting, why read the manga endings are infuriating,
and why cliffhangers are so effective. Put in tandem with a Sunken Cost – the idea
that you’ve already invested something that cannot be recovered – and suddenly you’re
reading a 2000 page book that stopped being good around the 300 page mark but you just
want to know how it ends. These psychological factors are logically
silly – you can’t get back the time you spent watching Alfheim, but you don’t have
to now spend your weekend watching Gun Gale – but even knowing this, it’s still difficult
to make the rational decision. That desire to know what happens at the end
is maybe part of the reason why I’m still watching SAO – sure Season 1 ended somewhat
conclusively, but knowing there was more out there kind of soured that, and maybe Season
2 would be really good. Same with Alicization and now War of the Underworld. The sunken cost just keeps going up and with
alicization ending on a cliffhanger and Season 2 – if I remember correctly – implying a cliffhanger
with the woman who helped Kayaba with the full dive tech – just keeps on adding psychological
weight to continuing the story. Honestly, I’m not sure how effective it
is in my case – I don’t feel like I have a compulsion to continue SAO – but I also
can’t say that it has nothing to do with why I’ve continued watching. I don’t want to imply that these psychological
forces are obligating me or anyone else into attempting to complete a story – but rather
that they are factors that in conjunction with any number of other points may be enough
to start up the next episode. But I think the main factor in why I continue
to watch Sword Art Online is familiarity. SAO was the second TV anime I ever watched
beyond stuff like Pokémon and it was directly handed to me by the same
friend who recommended Attack on Titan. I was in a new realm that I had basically
no sense of direction in, and shows like AoT SAO and FMA became my home base that I branched
out from. Even now where my understanding of the landscape
has increased dramatically, I still have an affinity for the shows that I watched when
I was just starting out – kind of like nostalgia I guess. And in a world where every season there’s
like 60 bajillion new shows and I don’t have time to watch every first episode, Sword
Art Online is a familiar face in a sea of uncertainty. I know Kirito and Asuna and Shinon, I know
the world and the plot lines and their personal stories. I generally know where the story is going
to go and the gist of the quality I can expect. That’s not to say that I refuse to explore
and watch new stuff in hopes of finding the new hotness, but that when
I’m not in the mood to test the waters, SAO is a good fallback. It’s like an order at a restaurant that
I know I can eat even if it’s not my favorite. And especially nowadays where the anime I’m
watching this season could vary wildly from the anime my friends are, stuff like SAO and
My Hero Academia are kind of community pillars that you can generally expect everyone to
be watching. So it’s not just personal familiarity but
also communal familiarity – and that’s important to a lot of people. And that doesn’t require masterpiece level
storytelling – The Room is a cultural touchstone and I don’t think there’s a convincing
argument for that being on par with A Streetcar Named Desire. In fact maybe part of the reason why SAO is
in this position is because of its failings – and everyone complaining about it is just
giving it more oxygen so that people feel like they have to watch it or else they’ll
be left behind in the community discussion. But I think it’s important to note that
SAO isn’t a “so bad it’s funny” show – and so I don’t think it’s really in
“The Room” kind of space. And really truly awful shows just get dropped,
SAO had and still has sticking power. Sword Art Online became popular for some reason,
and then it became a punching bag because it had easily targetable faults. And that popularity is probably because of
its bright spots: Production-wise I think it’s hard to complain about the show, it’s
cool in the very primal “lighting effects are dope” sense and the soundtrack has those
songs that are total standouts. The animation looks good, the OP songs are
catchy, voice actors do their job, generally the sound is really spectacular. From a pure conceptual level, how is the idea
of SAO not entertaining – it’s an action-adventure series set in video games with fantasy and
shooter settings. And for all the complaints about later parts
of the show, the first episode is good. To be clear, the writing is definitely THE
major problem, and if you watch a lot of the takedown videos – that’s the focus and for
good reason. But while I totally agree with the assessment
that Kirito is a bland character – I don’t think that reaches the level of “everything
about this is awful” in the same way that Shu from Guilty Crown gets to. It doesn’t really matter if Sword Art Online
is a bad game because I’m not playing it, and Death Gun’s use of a highly regulated
medical substance won’t instantly draw up warning flags for the average viewer. SAO’s writing is offensively bad at times,
but I feel like those have lessened as the series has gone on – and those early bits
are hard carried by an incredible production effort and fundamentally an interesting concept. So why am I still watching SAO? I guess I have a sort of stockholm syndrome,
to complete a story I’ve sank however many hours into, to share a show with the community
at large and a sort of familiarity being adrift in a sea of almost infinite options, and because
it’s just not a poorly produced show and sometimes that’s enough. It’s probably a combination of all of these
things, and my never ending optimism that the next season of SAO is going to be the
good one despite all the evidence to the contrary.And so even at the end of War of the Underworld
as I tweet out that I thought it was in the range of meh to mediocre, I’m sure I’ll
still boot up the next season of SAO whenever it comes out – just so that I can have a show
to talk about with each and every one of you. WAIT. Actually the only reason is so that when SAO
Abridged finally gets to the currently airing material, I’ll have already seen it. Only gotta wait til…2079. Worth it.

36 thoughts on “Why Am I Still Watching Sword Art Online?!?

  • October 27, 2019 at 8:49 pm
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    Interesting premise for me.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 8:52 pm
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    There’s new SAO?

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  • October 27, 2019 at 8:57 pm
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    SAO has good points and some really good moments and episodes, but it also has a lot of stuff that's not so great. I kept watching because, sure, Fairy's Dance needs to be set on fire, but weren't Mother's Rosario and early Alicization pretty good? (Then I realized that the good parts of SAO are all where the story experiments beyond its formula and the low points are where it leans into it, so…)

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  • October 27, 2019 at 8:58 pm
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    In my opinion on SAO people are heavily over exaggerating hate for SAO because of the video of the anitubers.

    It's not nearly the worst anime that they make it out to be.

    Sure it has an op protagonist that haxes a lot like I don't know a lot anime. That has a lot of girls around him like I don't know a lot of anime….

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  • October 27, 2019 at 8:59 pm
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    Do I hear Xenoblade 2 music?

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:02 pm
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    Aye we have similar anime beginnings =)
    Now I understand a bit more why I keep watching this show after so many years

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:04 pm
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    I'm more attached to the games than the show. It spun off into its own timeline and has some pretty fun moments.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:04 pm
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    i disagree with you if you dislike something that heavily you will not watch it sao has redeeming qualities that the haters no exist but dont want to admit it the anime man doesnt like it so doesnt watch it but that guy that lives in his others basement not only keeps up to date with the anime he has read one the books and on his second channel has a 3 hour video of him playing an sao game you watch because it has your attention something boring regardless if it was an early anime in your anime journey if it was boring you wouldn't watch it it just too far for these haters to take back what they've said so they just continue with the hate im not saying its the best anime far from it but its entertaining you cant take that away from it

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:05 pm
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    im not saying sao is the best but its entertaining

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:07 pm
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    I've always loved the concepts SAO introduces and the underlying themes of it. I enjoy seeing a series attempting to tackle the very possible future of breaking the boundary between our reality and the virtual one. Eventually leading on to what defines reality in the first place. Sure the writing isn't award winning and the characters aren't that special either, but I think they serve their purpose and are enjoyable enough.

    This one focus and point has maintained throughout the show, even when the series seems to deviate and change direction it always keeps this premise in mind. That's why I love it, and I stick up for it cause I think it's a decent show that gets way overhated. Is it amazing? Maybe not. But I don't think it's just flat out bad and I find it pretty consistently entertaining.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:07 pm
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    I watched through season 2. I got really tired of writing and just let the series go. I think as i get older, the need to finish stories wears off if I'm not enjoying it. Is it as hated in japan?

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:10 pm
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    When I started watching anime in 2015, the first shows I'd watched were, in chronological order, One Punch Man, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Sword Art Online. And because I was new to anime and had no gauge for what exactly was a good story, at the time, SAO was my favorite. I didn't know any shounen tropes so a lot of One Punch Man's jokes went over my head and even now, I still don't fully comprehend EVA, much less so back then.

    On the other hand, SAO had a romance where the couple actually becomes a couple (that was my standard back then), interesting ideas (VR games were hot stuff), and made me emotional enough to cry (Mother's Rosario was sad af). Those 3 things combined cemented SAO as not a favorite, but a standard which I use to judge other shows, even now. I had a phase where I insisted I had proper taste in shows and had joined the SAO hate train, but now, I've basically accepted that while SAO isn't the best, it certainly isn't bad either. Even if the characters aren't the best, I still want to see the end of Kirito's VR adventures.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:12 pm
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    It says a lot that most of the reasons given do not relate to the quality of the show itself but more so the community aspects of watching it knowing everyone else is. SAO is just really lucky to be the first of these transported-to-another-world wish fulfillment power fantasy fanfics to get an anime adaptation, cause if it came out today it would be treated like any other trashy seasonal isekai that becomes a bit popular while its airing, but gets forgotten shortly afterwards.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:17 pm
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    I guess I'll just comment here because people don't recognize that there's a gap between "not liking" and "hating" – I don't hate SAO, I don't like it either. I'm about as neutral on the series as it gets (I like some parts more than others, I have serious issues with certain elements, I really enjoy other elements, you get the idea). But usually when I'm non-plussed either way, I drop the material – so what is is about SAO that keeps me coming back episode after episode, season after season.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:17 pm
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    saying SAO has a bad writing could be considered a crime. just give it a try. read the light novel, at least once.

    you guys only watch anime and think one type of media symbolizes the whole thing.

    it does not.

    Reiki is an amazing author. he is writing a show about future technology, connecting the "present" SAO with the "future" accelwolrd

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:19 pm
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    Next S;G video when? You still have a lot to do and 0 as well, i hope.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:21 pm
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    just read progressive please. its actually pretty good and kirito-asuna relationship actually makes sense and is believable. the more people who read pro the sooner reki will write more, and i need more.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:23 pm
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    So you're watching it just because it's popular?
    Thanks for the honesty, but there a lot of hidden gems you could be watching instead.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:30 pm
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    The current series of sword art, is quite brilliantly done. It’s just a great story. The irony is all those idiots who claim they don’t like it, watch it like it’s their main religion. That’s proof enough how brilliant and entertaining it is. It’s still the most entertaining isekai anime out there! 🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🌍🌍🌍🌍🌍🌍

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:38 pm
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    I continue to watch SAO because I'm an idiot that before the second season decided to check the LNs and read the ones (3 it was) before alicization, read one more and really liked the arc.

    PS: The first time I watched SAO was after it ended because I never felt like watching it as it was airing but someone suggested it. SAO was good enough but fuck ALO was terrible. (GGO was decent in between and Mother Rosario was a tear breaker of a volume)

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:49 pm
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    "self-punishment" is the only answer I can think of.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:52 pm
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    Although it might not be masterpieces that you expect it to become, SAO is the anime to start booming when it first came out. Many veterans and newcomers all sat there through the entire show to see what is was like to become warped into an rpg game. It was like this sensational conscience that every anime viewer had. This was the show. Back in 2014, I started watching this show and I got hooked immediately. Essentially, SAO is a gateway for newcomers and it actually worked. Although Kirito may be bland and the Alfheim arc sucked, the show still had an actual story. Now, as people branch off to other shows like AOT, FMA, and Naruto, etc, they begin to explore their own interests.
    So, why am I still watching it?
    Say what you want, but I believe SAO has improved over the years. That change is enough for me to still have a little hope for better writing. As an anime, they start to improve in animation, music, and the expression of their characters. I still watch it to (as you've said) witness the ending it entails. SAO was my gateway anime and it holds a special place in my otaku heart. I want to see what it still has to offer many years later and to see how the SAO series end.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:56 pm
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    I gave sword art online a lot of chances and watched all episodes (except Alicization, …) because the first season really hooked me into watching anime again (maybe because i needed to find sth better but that's beside the point, still loved the setting… ONCE).
    but then they did it again. and again. and again. the setting always repeats and it really feels forced.
    after watching the first few episodes of garbage writing in Alicization I decided to drop it finally.
    it had enough chances to not make the mistake they always made. yet they wonder why so many people stopped watching this shit.
    really got disappointed by the third season.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 9:56 pm
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    When will Stein's gate stuff be uploaded I luv that

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  • October 27, 2019 at 10:04 pm
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    I watched a few dozen anime before SAO came on the scene. For what it's worth, it's definitely a show you remember, and I have the same nostalgia towards the first half of the first season as I do towards the first shows in the 90s I watched like Tenchi Muyo and Gundam Wing.

    Imo the GGO Arc and SAO Alternative Gun Gale both have a lot of replay value, infact I don't even consider it SAO. To me, it's an anime PUBG story arc.

    That being said, I don't care much for Kirito, the fairy game arcs or Alicization. There's other anime that do a better job with a fantasy world setting, and while Alicization is a neat conceptualization of future tech – the story itself is bland and uninteresting. Without the SAO setting to back it up, I wonder if any of these stories would be very popular… atleast among NA/EU fanbases anyway. SA fans seem to love Kirito. He's their zoomer version of Goku.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 10:11 pm
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    We watch it because it's SAO.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 10:15 pm
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    I can't relate to being compelled to get completion from a story. If an episode ends on a cliffhanger, I'll examine the possibilities and settle for the first acceptable things. Normally if an episode ends on a cliffhanger any more than once my faith in the quality of the series will diminish. I very rarely like anime that include cliff-hangers.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 10:16 pm
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    After Aincrad concluded I struggled to enjoy SAO due to the disappointment that they wasted such an interesting idea – until finally dropping it during the Calibur arc. Some time later I was pressured to watch it for 'Mothers Rosario' and something clicked. SAO has many faults but after Mothers Rosario – which is obviously its strongest arc – I forgave it those flaws and just enjoy it for what it is. A bit of 'mindless entertainment' with some of my favourite visuals and music in anime. I fell in love with the characters in Season one and Mothers Rosario reminded me why. Even if most of the Youtube community loves to hate it – it's found a strange place in my heart.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 10:23 pm
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    This is the same argument with me and shows circa 2000s (ergo Naruto, Bleach, etc)

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  • October 27, 2019 at 10:56 pm
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    not even I watch it anymore even tho I like some parts of it

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  • October 27, 2019 at 11:08 pm
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    I don't see why anyone would want to watch SAO when the Abridged version is a much better anime.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 11:17 pm
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    Aincrad was fun, and I got through it. I'd call it mindless popcorn fun, very enjoyable, hard to put down. Good flow and production values. Alfheim was a crime, but to be perfectly honest, Suguha/Leafa hard carried that part for me, in that I stared at her for the entire duration. Seriously. It was a shameless ploy, and it worked on me. GGO… uhh. GGO Alternative was nice, though. Not free of flaws, but free of Kirito, and as you observed, that bumps up the quality inherently. See also Mother's Rosario-

    Haven't dug deep into Alicization, just reviews, I think that's the point where I just hit the hard stop.

    Speaking of, it would be nice if Kirito didn't leave all his friends and his literal wife behind each time a new arc starts so they could matter ever. Klein never mattered, so it's less damaging to him and the Spurned Womens' Club, but Asuna started fading in the rear view mirror hard as soon as Aincrad ended, too. Damsel in distress… and then demoted further to 'barely exists'. And that process really hasn't stopped, though maybe it might soon?

    Other than that, a fun time. You're extra right about the familiarity. SAO is, for many people, the comfort food of media. I even enjoy watching people play through the visual novel bits of the SAO games. Which are, both ironically and fittingly, bad games. The premise is so compelling it can, alone, carry many people through the whole show. I'd watch more stuff about a band of friends just having fun in a VR MMO, whether or not they're dying or any of that.

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  • October 27, 2019 at 11:40 pm
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    I like big dumb dumpster fires

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  • October 27, 2019 at 11:53 pm
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    My issue with SAO is that over the years has detained the throne as the worst written fiction in any media I've experienced, ever. The dialogues are unnatural, stiff and devoid of characters; the infodumping is ever present and obnoxious when it is not plain dumb; every arc plays the same with the same tropes, the same genre defined roles, the same stakes and villains (edgy rapey bully guy or corporate sociopath); every possible good intuition or scientific speculation is brought down by kawahara inability to write it interestingly and instead focusing on projecting onto his flawless and perfect main characters.
    Why do I still watch it, I guess because watching it with my friends makes it an amusing show even after seven years of dread.

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  • October 28, 2019 at 12:08 am
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    Can't wait for the abridged to catch up with the anime so I can unironically say "It's been 84 years"

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  • October 28, 2019 at 12:16 am
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    I like SAO fight me

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