Look at that title… to explain that IT’S SPIN OFF TIME! You all know what spin offs are right? When a popular series gets a side series that’s in some way connected to it. Sometimes it takes a popular character and gives them a series of their own like with Cheers character Frasier. Sometimes the spinoff follows an alternate continuity of the series well this is neither.
One of the anime that has started the current anime age was that of Sword Art Online. A series adapted from a light novel series and arguably starting the Isekai age of anime (I’ve reviewed plenty of those) even though analysing the series it’s not an Isekai. The series was incredibly popular despite its many glaring flaws and issues. Fortunately this spinoff is widely accepted as being better that the series it’s a spinoff from.
Rather than following one of the other characters in the main series, Alternative Gun Gal Online (ok calling it SAOAGGO now), instead remains in the same continuity but focuses on a completely unconnected cast of original characters and focuses on one of the other games introduced in the parent show, namely Gun Gale Online which featured in the main series second season and wasn’t really explored after that.
The first episode puts us right into the action with two of the main characters just thrown into a team event. A small girl in a cute pink camo outfit called Lenn and a large more standard tough guy called M. It shows just how calm and calculating M is, how in control he is while seeming to show Lenn as cute and out of her depth. By the end however we see Lenn is just as skilled as M is taking down an army platoon by herself before showing this to be a recording and we see what Lenn looks like in real life. And rather than going with the main series making them look so similar to their real life personas, Lenn’s real identity Karen Kohiruimaki is strikingly different being considerably tall… Taller than me if the measurements are correct. The first episode lets us enjoy the action of the series and the elements of the game world right away which is handy for people curious about the series.
Episode 2 then turns the clock back awhile so we get a proper introduction to Karen Kohiruimaki who has considerable identity confidence issues because of her height. We also get enough details about the world for those of you that didn’t bother to watch or read SAO and the information about VR MMORPGs. Karen’s friend introduces her into them but when she keeps getting tall avatars she goes through multiple games until GGO gave her one that was small. (The light novels apparently had her spend quite some time just enjoying that before actually playing the game). Afterwards it begins leading us to the events that we see in episode 1. Lenn’s growth in skill playing the game and meeting Pitohui who is a little crazy but her first friend in the game. We get time to learn more about our lead without having some over the top crisis that makes no sense like the main series constantly has. This is just the tale of some friends playing a game together, oh there are stakes later on as the level of Pitohui crazy is shown but there’s no “do this or lots of people are going to die!” stuff.
What’s more we actually get to see them grow and that growth be explained. No one is good just because (screw you Kirito) Lenn starts out a beginner but her journey to get to the final battle of the series is one you see progress. She learns and gets better as the story goes on and the series displays this well, she’s not perfect from the get go.
SAOAGGO is a nice show, a core cast of characters with some auxiliary and side that you all get to know without some bizarre melodrama or over the top crisis. We get to learn about them and what drives them. It’s a take of how a girl at first used a game to help deal with real life issues of confidence and ends up making friends and enjoying herself with it… oh and lots of digital gun violence.