Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

In the world of guns and steel that is Gun Gale Online, LLENN has been a devoted, female solo player. She is obsessed with two things: donning herself entirely in pink and honing her skills with consistent game play. She soon discovers her love for hunting other players (a.k.a. PK), soon to be known as the “Pink Devil.” Meanwhile, LLENN meets a beautiful yet mysterious player, Pitohui, and the two click right away. Doing as she is told by Pitohui, she enters the Squad Jam group battle.

I love the Sword Art Online franchise. Controversial opinion, maybe, but when I got back into anime abut eight years ago, I watched the first story and found something magical in it. The concept was fresh, the characters were interesting and the world-building was something that I followed intently. And after all these years the franchise is still finding new avenues and storylines to pursue to keep the magic going. First was Sword Art Online, followed by ALfheim Online and then Gun Gale Online. And this latter online world was popular enough to bring a whole new story to fruition – one with a new main character and new objectives that enables us to dive in deeper to this military, gun-focused online world.

LLENN is not your average Gun Gale Online (GGO) player. She’s small and cute and kitted head-to-toe in pink armour. Even her gun is pink. When we first see her in a GGO battle royale, she doesn’t look like she’s going to get very far. She’s a nervous player and a bright pink target in a game of snipers and heavy artillery. But she’s fast, and she seems to know the game mechanics well. She can run rings around other players with speed that shouldn’t be possible. It’s a genuine surprise.

Even more so to see the person she is in real life. Karen Kohiruimaki moved to Tokyo for college, but she is so tall that she even manages to stand out in such a diverse city. Her complex about her height makes her feel so anxious and insecure, so she gravitated to the artificial world GGO offered so she could be what she wanted most: to be short and cute. She wasn’t so sure about all the guns though, until she discovered that she seems to have a talent for them. In a game mostly dominated by men, she befriends Pitohui, another female player, and is drawn deeper into the world of competitive GGO play through the Squad Jam battle royales.

GGO is visibly different to SAO. It’s landscape is more complex, lacks colour and is more in-keeping with real world surroundings. It’s touted as Sword Art Online for a mature audience and battles require more thought, strategy and preparation to win. As a result, artwork can be quite limited and restrained, so much so that the real life scenes are where to go for a more brighter and varied colour palette.

I also enjoy how fast-paced they’ve made things. With brief supporting character introductions and little exposition, we are launched into the fast-paced action of the Squad Jam with high stakes and unknown opponents. The music fits well, with a staccato of synth-y beats heralding challenges and conflicts.

I do find some of the more ‘convenient’ plot points just a little hard to swallow sometimes. For instance, in the first Squad Jam, LLENN has an impressive showdown with an avatar called Eva. It’s hard to believe that, two days later, Karen crosses paths with a middle schooler who just happens to have the same nickname as this Eva character and then, after the girl spots a P-chan keyring on Karen’s bag, they shake hands and vow to do battle again. GGO is an MMORPG – and two players in the whole world walk past and identify one another like that? Nigh-on impossible.

That aside, I’m looking forward to Karen and LLENN developing, discovering the mysteries surrounding Pito and M and, of course, seeing more great gunfights.