Welcome to my third post in the N00b Reviews series!
Yep another post, written by none other than the resident noob here at Cosmic Anvil. After looking at Shingeki no Kyojin last week I am going to be looking at Sword Art Online (SAO) in this post. Similarly to Shingeki no Kyojin I also watched the anime series of SAO prior to reading the manga.
First, let me give you a little back story as to why I watched SAO in the first place. For those reading this who don’t know me, since having gone to university and being a part of the video game society there, I have developed a strong interest in video gaming. And as you’ve probably guessed by its title, the theme of video games plays a big part in this series.
Sword Art Online was written by Kawahara Reki and illustrated by Hazuki Tsubasa. It tells the story of ‘Sword Art Online’ (SAO) a virtual reality MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) released in 2022. The game uses a virtual reality helmet called ‘Nerve Gear’ to simulate the gamers’ senses through signals sent straight to their brains. This allows players to control their avatars in the game using only their minds.
On the release of the game, players log into SAO only to discover they do not have the ability to log out. They are then told by Akihiko Kayaba – the game’s creator – that they will need to complete the 100 floor tower to return to the real world again. They are also informed that if they die in game they also die outside the game as well. Survival suddenly becomes imperative in the digital world.
The main story arc focuses on the protagonist Kirito – a beta tester of SAO – who sets up as a solo player in order to conquer the game alone. Along the way he becomes friends with Asuna, a mysterious heroine and sub leader of the infamous guild “Knights of the Blood”. The two eventually team up both romantically and in battle to defeat the game.
Looking at the art style of SAO it is quite ‘cutesy’ looking, which lightens the dark nature of the series (being trapped in a game that could kill you). I also think Kawahara Reki wrote Kirito to be relatable to the audience and almost a stereotypical archetype of a video gamer (Keeps to themselves, awkward, and of course, competitive).
What I liked:
I really liked the way the characters had relatable traits and we wanted them to succeed in their mission to fight against the game and get back to the real world. Not only did the characters have relatable traits, but there were awkward relatable scenes as well. You’ll see what I mean here….
I also liked that the fact that whilst they were in the game, the distance between reality and the virtual world was blurred, for example the fact they still needed to eat and sleep in the game, and the skills gained also varied from everything between combat and domestic.
What I disliked:
I really can’t think of anything that I particularly disliked about the manga. Whether that’s because I am already biased to really liking the anime (one of the top rated shows on my Netflix account) or the characters. In general there was nothing that stood out to me as bad.
Another WTF moment?!:
In chapter 8 I discovered a weird moment at the beginning of the chapter that made reference to the anime. This was a bit of a WTF because it made me question whether the anime was happening within the games’ universe or if something had been added in by the translators to remind readers about the anime. (See the pages below below and make up your own mind).
How did it compare to the anime:
The main arc of the Sword Art Online manga focused heavily on the relationship between Kirito and Asuna and skipped a lot of the long battle scenes we see in the anime. I did also notice after reading a few chapters of the Sword Art Online: Progressive manga that there was more Asuna backstory and more information was revealed in the anime earlier on in the series, such as the meeting with the top SAO players. Also, a major part of the anime that was skipped in the original manga chapters was the Yui arc that focuses on the NPC (Non playable character) AI within the game that almost becomes a surrogate daughter to Kirito and Asuna.
Whilst I did enjoy reading the manga, overall I think I preferred the anime to the manga as it was a lot more action-packed and visually interesting. Once again, I am being sucked into wanting to keep reading more of the series. From what I’ve researched there are four main stories of the manga (SAO, SAO: Fairy Dance, SAO: Progressive and SAO: Girls Ops). I think I will probably read the other stories at some point, when I get round to it!
Written by marketing whizzkid Jess Hardcastle.