Sword Art Online


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In the year 2022, gamers rejoice as Sword Art Online-a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) like no other-opens its virtual doors, allowing players to take full advantage of the ultimate in gaming technology: NerveGear, a system that allows users to completely immerse themselves in the game world by manipulating their brain waves to create a wholly realistic gaming experience.

But when the game goes live, the elation of the players quickly turns to horror as they discover that, for all its amazing features, SAO is missing one of the most basic functions of any MMORPG-a log-out button.

Now trapped in the virtual world of Aincrad, their bodies held captive by NerveGear in the real world, users are issued a chilling ultimatum: conquer all one hundred floors of Aincrad to regain your freedom. But in the warped world of SAO, “game over” means certain death-both virtual and real…

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Related Series
Sword Art Online Alternative – Gun Gale Online (Spin-Off)
Sword Art Online – Progressive (Spin-Off)
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei x Sword Art Online (Spin-Off)
Sword Art Online Alternative – Clover’s Regret (Spin-Off)
Sword Art Online – Cordial Chords (Side Story)
Sword Art Online – Hopeful Chant (Side Story)
Sword Art Online: “If You Were Here” (Alternate Story)
Sword Art Online: “If You Wish It” (Alternate Story)
Sword Art Online: “If We Could Walk Together” (Alternate Story)
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Revived Warrior (2)
Half Prince (2)
To Be a Power in the Shadows! (WN) (2)
The Daily Life of the Late Bloomer Tamer (1)
Road Survival, I Have a Hint System! (1)
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Date Group Release
08/08/21 Dreadful Decoding ME 5
11/12/20 Dreadful Decoding ME 27.5
10/24/20 Dreadful Decoding ME 27
10/11/20 Dreadful Decoding ME 26
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08/26/19 Dreadful Decoding ME 29
05/27/19 defan’s... ss: monochromatic...
03/30/19 Dreadful Decoding ME 28
02/24/18 defan’s... v21 prologue
11/25/18 defan’s... v18 afterword
11/25/18 defan’s... v18 prologue 3
08/15/18 defan’s... v18 epilogue
08/18/18 Dreadful Decoding summer ss
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25 Reviews sorted by

Chronos Bee
Chronos Bee rated it
July 13, 2017
Status: v17
As this is a immensely popular and controversial series, I will provide some insight on the history of the series instead of normal reviewing.

Sword Art Online (SAO) is based off a web novel series written by author Reki Kawahara in 2001. He wrote the first arc - Aincrad arc - intended to submit it in a contest, but due to page limit, he decided to scrapped the idea and posted it on his website instead. In Reki's mind at the time, it was a passion project as he never... more>> intended to publish the story. Because many people warmly received the series, Reki wrote 3 more arcs, Fairy Dance, Phantom Bullet and Project Alicization. In 2009, he submitted a story that would go on and wind the grand prize of Dengeki publisher contest, that novel is now known as Accel World. Reki's editor knew about his web novel series, and after reading through it, decided to convince Reki to publish SAO as well.

For better or worse, Reki didnt change the light novel version, keeping 95% what he had written for the web novel. Keep in mind that at the time he wrote the 2nd arc - Fairy Dance - it was a passion project. Reki said it himself in a afterword, had he submitted SAO and won the contest in 2001, the story may have concluded at just vol 1.

Maybe at the time he was busy with writing Accel World, so he didnt make any improvement to the SAO series, instead rehashing what was already written. As a result, there is much to criticize about the 2nd arc. I wont go into details because every flaws in this series have been pointed out already.

As for the 3rd and 4th arc, we can see Reki's growth as a Japanse light novel author. He added more waifus for our beloved black sworsmen (maybe Reki is a fan of Berserk lul) . But really though, despite the harem nonsense the plot feel much more fleshed out and captivating, with the highlight of the Acilization arc.

In my opinion, you can skip the 2nd and 3rd arc entirely, and just read the Aincrad and Acilization arc, it wont make much of a difference, although the phantom bullet arc and mother rosario sub arc is pretty decent imo.

Keep in mind that what you are reading had been written a decade ago with little changed in term of plot, so it wasnt fame or money that kept Reki writing, rather it was the support of readers at the time the web novel was still alive. What he wrote, Reki wrote it for that small, niche community enjoyment. Even when the series got published, he didnt have hope that the series will last for long.

Well, for what it is, SAO is a enjoyable series with interesting premise (the death game element is absent only in arc 2), fantastic plot development at times and f*cking s*upid at others, it digs deep into the relationship and phylosophy of virtual and real. As a web novel series, it deserves a 5 but as a light novel, a 3.5 would be fair, so I round ut up to 4, because I am one of those that has niche hobby and love SAO, even with its flaws.

I dont think anyone will read this boring " review" till this point but if you did, what the f*ck are you doing, go read novel if you have time, like overlord or sth xD <<less
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Mideris rated it
March 19, 2017
Status: v18c1
Project Alicization is the best arc of Sword Art Online's main sequence. Aincrad lacked substance, Fairy Dance lacked genuine character development and much of a story, Caliburn and Mother's Rosario were moderately decent, but as short as they were, they could not be much more than filler.

Phantom Bullet was actually where things got good, simply because it had character development, a complex story line, and had the right amount of substance for the events. When I got to Project Alicization, I was floored. The whole story is complex, well built,... more>> and shines above the previous volumes. It's interesting, and is the entire reason I give the story this rating. If I were to consider on Phantom Bullet and Alicization, it would be close to a 5. If I consider everything else? The story is a 2 at most. <<less
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nakie08 rated it
November 30, 2015
Status: --
The first arc of this novel is just so-so. It's about being trapped inside a game where you can die from the many dangers present, permanently. It explores how different kinds of people deal with the situation brought down upon them.

The main hook of the first arc is that they were in a very dangerous world where anybody can die permanently. This creates a tension most wn/ln's nowadays completely ignores with the rise of the "OP mc" setting in popularity. That was about the best thing I can remember about... more>> this novel. I've read all of it before and if you ask me now what the mc's personality is like, I won't know what to tell you. The only thing I can remember about him is that he spent the rest of the arcs chasing after his "wife". That's about the deepest depth of character you'll get from him.

As for the rest of the arcs, if you want to leave the series with a good impression (if you do), then it's better to treat this as a single novel with just one arc. The rest are garbage.

This may be the title that spawned many MMO novels in its wake but it's not the first to use the MMO setting. And it's definitely not the best, not even close.

2 stars for an acceptable first arc <<less
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ITeokure rated it
February 13, 2018
Status: v18 part2
All these dumb people riding the fanboat on the hate. Yer all a bunch of idiots.

Sword Art Online was written by Reki Kawahara WAAYYY BACK ON 2001

It was supposed to be the piece he will submit on a contest, but it exceeded the word limit so he published it on his own website then.

... more>> It garnered attention of a few fans that dedicated him to continue the series.

He finished writing TIL THE ALICIZATION ARC. (I admit Fairy Dance s**ked ass) no publishing, no official anime adaptations, just a pure true web novel hidden within the depths of the japanese internet with a few dedicated fans urging him to continue writing.

Come somewhere around 2009 (i think) Kawahara won the competition with his Accel World piece, it got its anime adaptation, and his Producer (or whatever you call it) saw his other work, Sword Art Online, and said, "Why not animate this too?" And thus started the poorly made Anime adaptation which was basically a compilation of sidestories. (The Harem.) Like I said, Fairy Dance s**ked ass because it was not as dangerous death game as it was in the Aincrad Arc but it still had its thrilling moments especially on battle scenes.

Phantom Bullet Arc, is without a doubt, my favorite. Along with Asuna and Suguha, Sinon was the third girl to had a huge character development. And I mean HUGE. She had more character development than Asuna, and the in*est material, by far. We saw her overcome her fears and fight. She was the real protagonist of Arc 3. Trap Kirito was just there to trigger the event. It was here that you saw Reki Kawahara grow as an author.

Slight mention about Calibur arc, its just a sidestory in vol 8 collection. Although it featured Kirito's Skill Connect.

Now we have all 8 volumes, 4 arcs, then came the longest and probably the best arc of all, Project Alicization.

It connected all the story arcs together in one major plot. Let me break it down.


Aincrad - Underworld was made using the Seed, a small version of the Cardinal system that sustained Aincrad.

Fairy Dance - the research of Project Alicization was plotted to be taken by an american company that had its connections with Sugou Nobuyuki, the annoying fairy basterd that planned to sell research of the SAO survivors data to Amurica.

Phantom Bullet - the person who forced Kirito to have an unwanted dive into underworld (he was planning to quit the Part time job that test-dived it) was Johnny Black, the former Red Player of a mu*der Guild in Aincrad. Who is also a member of the Death Gun Trio (the major Antagonist of Arc 3)

Mother's Rosario - the STL was made using an upgraded Medicuboid, which in turn, was an upgraded version of Nerv Gear.


Its the story that linked all of them together by Reki Kawahara's growth as an author, everything was detailed out, almost all the characters had character development and for once in his goddamn life Kirito teamed up with a GUY. Who was the best wingman ever.

Yeah if youre still reading this..

Lol youre really bored.

Long story short, amidst its obvious flaws and mistakes, I still love this novel ever since I started reading it back on 2010 before it became an anime, when I was just a 12 year old edgy kid <<less
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Avagantimos rated it
April 19, 2016
Status: --
By no means is it original nor is it the best, but I cant see where people hating Kirito comes from. Yes, he gets lucky and nothing major happens to him, but lots of MCs are saved by luck, faith or destiny. I like SAO because it was my first novel I read online and I love everything about it.
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Victor DoUrden
Victor DoUrden rated it
March 10, 2017
Status: v17
Pretty sad most of the other reviews are from morons. SAO is a very solid read infinitely better then pretty much any other garbage that came after. SAO alongside. Hack are pretty much still hands down the best VR related novels. Only a paltry few non official fictions can even closely compare. Completely different from what is now known as "litRPG" genre. In SAO things actually happen, characters have character, there is a story, Kirito is not a moron protag, no recycled battle bs, no OP nonsense, actual tension, no... more>> number spam, and the novel shows plausible situations. Also a plus are realistic uses and reactions of technology by people. The real world makes an appearance unlike in some other novels the real world is like a small cameo reference at best.

Is SAO the best novel not really. Does SAO have faults absolutely but even then sadly alas not much comes even close in regards to a story that goes around the concept of VR and way later down the line AR.

I very much recall years ago before the anime came out that it was pretty much totally unknown. Just like AoT it only became acknowledged of existing after the anime came out. <<less
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SuperAnimeGOD rated it
December 11, 2016
Status: --
I came back here just to review this disgrace. While I thankful it kicked of a bit of a craze in the genre, it disgusts me that so many people actually give this sloppy mess anything above 2 stars.

All it has going for it is: the promise that anyone can die at any time, this was established early on and as the story "progressed" it was made very clear that no one even remotely relevant was going to die. So the only thing that made this worh reading was pointless.... more>> Then there's the characters. Kirito is not a character. He has less personality than a freshly drawn stick figure. The only time he had any sort of character was when he was interacting romantically with asuna, and even that was soon scrapped for some reason. Asuna was the only good character and then she was tossed aside. No, seriously aside from her no other character had any personality.

This may seems barebones, but that just means that SAO is so bad that it can be reviewed with a couple of blanket statements.

And no, a few interesting point or a small but of "character development" is not enough to boost it up and ignore its flaws, it is made of flaws. It is a hole of s*upidity that can only be called a story because it has strings attached to either end of said hole. A story that cannot even hold on to its premise has no point in being read.

One thing to note about this review is: I have only gone in on the Aincrad arc because there seems to be a misconseption that this tr*sh was actually good at some point. <<less
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SunsetChaos rated it
February 6, 2019
Status: v18 afterword
TLDR; Notice how the poor reviews were likely from before the latest arc. Consider reading Alicization Arc instead, it's the biggest and best arc that spans 10 volumes, or watch the airing anime that spans 4 cours.


Finally finished reading the Alicization Arc. I don't know what to say, but wow what a ride! That ending was great, conclusive and satisfying while still leaving it open for the continuation. The illustrations are awesome too.

Definitely best arc in the whole series spanning 10 volumes. It had great depths and complexity. I... more>> want more of Alice, especially Alice and Yui interactions. Now I need to go watch the 4 cours long anime on this arc that's airing currently.

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Zackarotto rated it
March 28, 2019
Status: v6
Here's a typically puerile kind of adolescent novel: "Trapped in a video game... but if you die in the game, you die in real life!" It's childish. The hero is the strongest, and every girl falls in love with him. But you know what? It works. It's fun. The fantasy of this world has a tendency to dig into the reader's brain. I guess it's a great scenario for escapism, to be forced to develop video game skill at the expense of your school grades, and be celebrated and respected... more>> for it. And it's just well-told. Maybe that's enough.

The rules seem a little contradictory sometimes, but the worst that can be said of the early Aincrad volumes is that it's a torture wanting to know what happens next, as it flirts with non-chronological stories and you have to wait for volume 3 to find out what happens after volume 1. There are also drawbacks when you go back and fit other stories into the gaps, if it isn't all planned out perfectly in advance. For example, you tend to wonder why Kirito wasn't thinking about Yui in volume one, when we're expected to believe that this event in his life has apparently happened just days before.

But it's impressive just having a Japanese protagonist who is quickly and openly affectionate with his primary love interest, instead of being wishy-washy for twenty books. But there's another side to that coin, which is that the author is constantly putting the threat of r*pe out there, and he seems to enjoy it a little too much. Though it is very successful at creating tension where there otherwise isn't, I think it's a very underhanded trick to keep straining the reader's empathy or concern for the heroines with that. Some emotional punches become cheap if used too casually and frequently.

I've read six books now. As the series expands and we see other worlds and settings, the same magical feeling isn't always going to be there. I may read more after taking a break from it, but I don't have nearly the same enthusiasm to push on to volume 7 the way I did to volume 2, or 3. I think most people would rather see development within one area, rather than being shuttled to new lands that we don't really get attached to because we're just passing through. It's also impossible to keep the stakes so high after the first story arc, and it shows. Right from Alfheim, we see players actually crying about the state of a quest, and it's weird. Nobody is dying there. They could tone it down a notch.

I suppose it depends on where it goes next, but I would like to see a return to a kind of stability, and farther-reaching goals. I'm uninterested in "MMO and villain of the week". <<less
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playa3 rated it
October 25, 2017
Status: --
There once was a boy named Kirito. He had a very good light novel written about him and his growth and relationships with others in a death game. It was probably in the 4-5 star range. Then, everything changed when the fire nation attacked. It got popular.

What happens to popular light novels? They get sequels that disrupt the original decent story by filling it with endless filler and new harem members. Don't get me wrong, I'm reading a light novel. I don't have anything wrong with the concept of the... more>> harem genre. If I did, I'd just look like a tool for even having an account on this website. What I do have a problem with is how the entire point of the story changed at that point. Instead of the struggles that these characters go through together and the mostly realistic emotions they would have in such a situation, it becomes more about the concept of creating AI and introducing as many girls as possible that never stood a chance because the MC was taken before they were in the picture.

What is the best volume in the series? The first one. The next best? The second one. Which volume gets bronze? The third novel. Which novel is the worst I've read so far? The most recent one I've read. This series is just continually getting worse and worse as time goes on. I'm not a hater of this series just because everybody else does, but I've got to say that it did go downhill after the first volume. I finally dropped this series in the 15th volume because there was no point in continuing.

If I find out that it improves, I may give a second thought to continue the series, but as of right now, I won't. Because of how good the first volume was I am going to give this series a 3 star, but that is my most generous rating I can give it. <<less
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rdawv rated it
February 24, 2016
Status: --
It's not an original story, being trapped in a death game. But I do credit it for reigniting the genre, I feel it has influenced the popularity of the "trapped in a game" after the bloated. Hack franchise. It is well written, to-the-point and has a good supporting cast. It is also very typical of a Japanese light novel: a MC who can do whatever he sets his mind to, trip over the love flags of girls around him, gets lucky within the game and is the focal point of... more>> his group of peers and friends.

Kirito himself isn't a very unique MC. Indeed, there are many readers/viewers of the anime who despises him for his luck in-game and with the female characters. He is like "that" popular guy in your class who is good in sports as well as in studies, surrounded by a bunch of people who clearly looks up to him, leading the class whether he wants it or not. We are supposed to root for this almost perfect character, the only thing missing is a flowery background behind him whenever he speaks.

But if you can put aside that and read it for what it is, a light-hearted adventure story; then it can be enjoyable. <<less
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UncleOddball rated it
June 27, 2016
Status: v1
The rating is solely for volume one.

As it was mentioned in different review, the first volume of SAO was the best. Actually, if it could be stretched - because there are some heavy time-skips in it - then it would be the best.

SAO was the first vrmmo-type I've read and boy I did love it. There was mystery, action and thrill.
Characters were pretty fine too. Despite slightly forced harem route, wich was at times making me cringe, the support cast was actually pretty well done. And boy, there were also some heavy feels there. Ugh. Christmas just won't be the same for me because of SAO.

Anyway, the first volume/arc has solid five. Second and what's further are like 2-3. They have their own charm, but compared to opening act it's quite worse.
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ecaayu rated it
October 17, 2020
Status: --
I read this all to their latest volume just because I want to see Asuna's and maybe some Kirito and Asuna moment. I don't realise that this is a kinda harem story but as I read it and many side heroine appear afterward, I just... even the author kill another Male main charaT_T it's fine cause the MC remain faithful to FL. it's not the best story but still my favorite cause the nostalgia and my love for the main FL (even I am a girl myself). I want to... more>> give 4* but because some people especially come back to this to give low ratings, I give this 5... like what childish things you do:'D but well I know the sentiment tho.. <<less
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EliSan rated it
January 22, 2018
Status: --
At first this novel was decent. Not perfect but still good. "Mother's Rosario" arc was especially touching (I totally cried T_T). Unfortunately later on (especially the last "Alisization" arc) became unbearable to me!!! Kawahara is such a slacker! It is so plainly seen that what he wrights is not "light novel" but "a script for future anime"! Every volume contains minimum content plot-vice yet mass of insignificant descriptions. It makes me so mad! Sure, anime will look good an all, but the novel itself became complete shit!
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SisConEcho rated it
October 16, 2018
Status: v7
The Good: The character designs are really superb.

Suguha best girl

Also Mother's Rosario arc, that was great writing.

The Bad:
Author is definitely not a gamer, should have bothered to do research on the gaming industry or MMORPGs.

on the gaming side, the author doesn't even attempt to understand MMORPGs, there is some surface stuff he got right, like how grinding and stats are important and stuff, but recovery rate higher than damage output? that would rely on defense as well, not just the recovery rate.
The worst part: reaction time is king? What a joke, he obviously knows nothing about gaming. Gaming, from shooters, fighting, RPGs, to strategy, is like chess, it's a exercise of the mind, a battle of wits... You don't win chess by moving faster. Log Horizon understands gaming much better.
on the business side, the number of sales don't add up to even a fraction of the modern games we have now might make sense for traditional media, but games? any AAA title under a million sales is a huge failure, the limited release also makes no sense from a business point of view, due to the marginal cost of addition sales, there is no point to limit sales, no publisher/shareholder would allow for this. given the miserable sales, it's a wonder how the developer did not go out of business be4 the series even begins

SAO has decent premise, but lacked the guts to follow through.
ALO is just bad taste.
GGO is meh, there are good parts, but overall... meh
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Cablebox13 rated it
April 14, 2018
Status: --
Love this. Favorite novel. Watch the Anime. KiritoxAsuna for life. Asuna best Waifu. Zero Two is my second best Waifu.
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mechafanboy rated it
October 26, 2016
Status: --
Short and concise, Arc 1 (Aincrad) is the highlight-ish and even then it's primarily because this wasn't done to death when it first came out.

Every arc thereafter has been lackluster in comparison and honestly, even more logic defying than the last. Kirito's set up as a Gary Stu from the beginning and doesn't fail to deliver on that end, repeatedly destroying the novel's plot's inbuilt logic. Generally I enjoy it when the process of breaking the plot's logic is interesting but in the case of this writer, the system breaking... more>> is literally because "it's MC, he broke the game" that's... basically all the explanation given....

it's not a terrible novel, but it's heavily overhyped thanks to the anime. <<less
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Lachiel rated it
October 26, 2015
Status: --
Ahhh the one novel to kick off the VRMMORPG crazy of novels.. The first volume was amazing nuff said about that. But slowly after you start to see it fall into it's own loop of plot.. You can tell the author's trying to ride the hype of his success in order to get money. That's just how I feel. The idea of the story is amazing, people get stuck in a death game VRMMO, and they have to fight their way out. Sounds great right? Well when this drags... more>> on and on for a few more volumes AFTER the first one you start have to question the sanity of our MC. Anyways, It's a good read atleast the first volume is and you can decide from their for yourself. <<less
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Asphyxia778 rated it
September 11, 2021
Status: v22
Sword art online definitely has it's flaws but the development in the Alicization arc (vol 9 to 18) has really made me love this story. The world building and set up of the arc was by far the best I've seen and it definitely shows the author's improvement as a writer. Especially the details of Kirito's inner thoughts and feelings and his guilt which were sadly cut out in the anime. (Honestly anime would have been much better if it didn't cut important character dialogue and inner thoughts and reactions.... more>> Also the best KiriAsu moments). We see our best boy Eugeo and Kirito as well as character development yay! (Eugeo death scene was so good) Also I really like Alice Synthesis Thirty as a character and her struggle to fit in a foreign world.

I started the anime first so I do have my bias but I personally think Sao doesn't deserve as much hate it gets. (But I definitely dislike Accel world.)

I'm definitely hyped for the final arc Unital Ring and looking forward to seeing it animated. (Please don't cut scenes)

If I have to rate the arcs I would say that I love Alicization most and then Mother's Rosario (I f*cking bawled my eyes out during Yuuki's death) and then Aincrad arc. Fairy dance and GGO are not good in my opinion.

Right now at the end of Alicization I would rate SAO a solid 4 stars. And overall it would be between 3 and 3.7 stars. I hope Unital Ring doesn't disappoint. <<less
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wait321 rated it
March 9, 2021
Status: --
Not sure why people like this. The story and characters are rather childish and cliche. The MCs agonize over trivial things. For example, random characters show up and die from their own unbelievably poor choices, but the MCs agonize over it like it's their responsibility to clean up after everyone. Furthermore, it's a random one dimensional characters with no development who died, so there's no attachment and the events just feel lazy and forced.

There's also an unrealistic scene where the female MC can't kill a mass mu*derer that she personally... more>> witnessed kill her mates. I don't understand why there needs to be so much drama over such straightforward decisions. Real people aren't so one dimensional.

Maybe I'm too old for the target audience, but there's no appeal to this story. <<less
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