English: Sword Art Online
Synonyms: S.A.O, SAO
Published: Apr 10, 2009 to ?
Score: 8.441 (scored by 9432 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top manga page. Please note that 'R18+' titles are excluded. |
SynopsisIn 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...
(Source: Yen Press)
BackgroundAuthor Reki Kawahara wrote the first volume of Sword Art Online in 2002 and intended to submit it for the Dengeki Game Novel Prize, but refrained as he exceeded the page limit. He instead published the series as a web novel. Shortly after his other series Accel World won the Dengeki Novel Grand Prize in 2008, Sword Art Online was published in print.
The series got 1st place on the Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! ranking under Best Light Novel category in 2012 and 2013.
Yen Press has been publishing the series in English under the Yen On imprint since April 22, 2014.
Note: The hate towards the anime adaptation has begun converting directly to the novel. However, the general consensus is that the novel is superior to the anime, and I would like to just say that the novel isn't necessarily going to be as 'bad' as the anime. I won't tell you to give the novel a go if you hated the anime however, as it is likely that you will start reading the novel with a biased and negative opinion, which never ends well. Or this could just not be for you. Either way, onto the review:
Sword Art Online. Also known as SAO, this series currently (at the time of this review) stands as the second top ranking Light Novel on MAL, and 11th when including Manga. First published in April 2009, it has continually gained popularity, currently having 10 volumes and multiple side stories which will only keep increasing with time. So why is this series so popular? There is a reason behind everything, and this is no exception.
The story gives the rest of the series a good setting to work with, making it possible to create all sorts of little stories from them. And you know what? A lot of the content in SAO is actually in fact, side stories that happen during the game. This is to be expected, as MMOs allow you to meet with a variety of people and experience new things as the heroes of the story move up and up the great castle called Aincrad. All of them are entertaining, and slowly allows the reader to understand the main character's personality and feelings with each one that is told. I found myself learning new things about the protagonist all the time! The attention to detail that the author provides is also amazing. A lot of the common plot holes that one would expect are well explained and covered, leaving you satisfied and not confused in any way.
(+) Setting allows for a variety of interesting and unique experiences
(+) Lots of battles with monsters to hunt and train, which are described well
(±) Romance that develops pretty fast
(−) Sometimes predictable
Not much to say really, except for the fact that the artwork is very well drawn.
(+) Nice character designs
For me, characters usually make or break the show/book/whatever. And in this case, they make it. The protagonist Kirito is NOT one of those losers who only occasionally turn GAR only when they absolutely have to, but one of those people who are consistently strong and reliable all the way through. His thoughts are also well portrayed in the form of monologues, adding to his character. The heroine of the series, Asuna, is very well-known and popular in the game for both her skill and her looks, but that isn't the end of her character. She also has her own will and thoughts, and can actually keep up with the protagonist in a fight. The MMO aspect allows for a variety of other interesting characters, each with their own different views and pasts. A solid 9.
(+) Main character [Kirito] is actually likable and cool, without the usual 'self-pitying phases' that we all hate
(+) Main heroine can actually do something herself and doesn't always have to be saved
(+) A wide variety are present
(±) Kirito is pretty much a Gary Stu at times
(−) A lot of the villains aren't that well developed
I REALLY enjoyed this series as a whole, and finished 7 volumes in around 3 days (currently up to volume 10). It kept me wanting more the whole time, and really showed me just how much a light novel can have an impact on you. Although this is not my first, it is most definitely the first light novel to force me to write a positive review about it.
(+) Once you start reading, it's hard to stop
(±) REALLY makes you thirst to play a VRMMORPG which, as of yet, remains a dream
In the end, I never really had anything bad to say about the series. Of course it has its flaws, but I felt that they didn't stand out much- you would probably do a much better job than me at finding them while reading the series. Highly recommended for people who play/used to play MMORPGs (although you don't have to), and those who like action and sci-fi with a hint of romance.
If this has still not convinced you to read this series, then... I am well and truly sorry for your loss. read more
A major function built into each fantasy story is an outcome that fulfills a dualistic and conventional promise. Thus, the meek did in fact inherit the earth, good did triumph over evil, early birds caught worms, what went around in fact came around, and they, whoever they were, all lived happily ever after.
This is in a broader sense, a good summary of the light novel known as Sword Art Online.
Before I start, let me point out that no literature is ever free of criticism. Modern classics such as Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird have been reread, reanalysed and criticised by commoners and critics alike. Sword Art Online, suffering from a plethora of the most elementary of the storytelling flaws, deserves to the very least an ounce of criticism.
The fantasy genre is one that has taken a path of ascension. From mere folklore, to the Gothic novels of the Romanticism era, to the early modern fairy tales and finally, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings franchise opened the fantasy genre’s gateway to mainstream success. Despite all the changes it has undertaken, the fundamental essence of this genre remains unaffected. That is, it postulates a different, fantasy based reality usually exploring the dichotomy of good and evil. So what does all this have anything in relation to Sword Art Online?
Set in the year of 2022, the author, Reki Kawahara projects us into an era where technological advancements have made it possible for humans to enter a Virtual Reality MMORPG. And thus begins the booming world of virtual gaming, the first one being Aincrad. Except, it turns out that Aincrad is part of a scheming ploy to trap players in a death game where there is no escape from this simulated world. While many fantasy stories’ premise possesses creativity, it’s arguable that these concepts are merely shoddy imitations of the original. Likewise, Sword Art Online injects a hint of technological essence into the age-old concepts of the fantasy genre. The archetypal story of an altruistic hero, the undying love of his life, and the paragon of evil is a concept that has passed through the sands of time and came out all shrivelled and devoid of creativity. If done correctly, it’s a sensation to sit through, and ends with a fulfilling climax. However, it’s a certainty that Sword Art Online doesn’t belong in such group.
Sword Art Online seems to be nothing special at all. But engraved into the core of every single piece of literature, are hidden messages, crux of the novels. In order to reach that core, and thus revealing the messages, outer layers need to be peeled. More often than not, these messages are unintended by the author. Similarly, Sword Art Online explores the Social Contract theory. In Aincrad, the first person who logs on is greeted with idyllic scenery, albeit uninhabited, a distinct resemblance to the Elysian Fields. Without a soul in their sight, that person is free to commit to whatever deeds within the boundaries of their freedom. They are truly in the state of nature. But as more people join, society forms and primitive versions of governments appear. Anarchy soon becomes oligarchy. Then add the concept of ‘death game’ and Sword Art Online becomes a thought provoking experience for anyone prepared to use their minds. Will our person leave the state of nature to protect their private property? Will society corrupt their innocence? Or will society inject a sense of morality into an otherwise brute savage?
But rather than rambling on about Enlightenment philosophy, let’s take a look at the dualistic spectrum of this novel. On one end, is the protagonist Kirito, the paragon of virtue. He seems to be the perfect role model whom everyone secretly, if not openly, admires. However, his personality is a paradox. As quoted from Kirito “…searching out selfish solo players like me…”. Indeed, Kirito is a psychological egoist driven only by self-preservation and selfish needs. Yet at times, he is depicted as an altruist, more than obliging to help those in need, even if they are complete strangers. Contradiction? Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, are the myriad of antagonists, either belonging to the group of deranged cartoon villains, or just plain confusing due to the lack of development. Here, author Reki Kawahara makes an elementary school mistake that’ll get veteran authors laughing until their sides split. Yes, he forgets to give one of the antagonists any motivation whatsoever. This is no hyperbole. Even the most inexperienced of authors would know better than to have a villain with no motives.
Another mistake which the author makes, are the time-skips, most noticeably in the first book. From near the very beginning, we are presented with a gigantic void between when the death game started, and two years afterwards. (though volume two includes side stories which occurred during this time) While a few pages of monologue covers the fundamental basics occurring during that time, it’s simply not enough. In particular, society’s standpoints and character interactions are crucial to the understanding of the plot, both of which are only elaborated to a vague extent later on. It’s as if the author plans for us to gulp down a mysterious liquid without telling us what it is first.
The second arc, fairy dance (aka Alfheim Online) tries draws together the different ends of the plot left unanswered by the Aincrad arc. Perhaps that’s where it failed the most, because not only did Fairy Dance turn out to be much inferior to its prequel, it lost all sense as the plot entwined into a big ball of mess. Characters are reduced to mere plot devices in a reckless attempt to drive the plot forward; the plot itself suffering from a series of faults; and the denouement is the most unsatisfying of all, for it tries to weave something from the messy ball of plot.
Only the force of the action scenes lifts the third arc Phantom Bullet above the previous two. But none of the arcs are as severely out of conjunction with the storyline as this. Not only does the author reduce the amount of attention given to the main heroine, Asuna, he also discards all the side characters into the ‘use later’ bin. This is perhaps the biggest mistake yet. They receive no grand exit, nor are they ever mentioned; they simply vanish without a trace. It would be understandable if this was a side story or a spinoff, however it turns out that Phantom Bullet is indeed a crucial addition to the storyline. So why would he discard the characters we have acquainted to, and introduce a brand new cast we have yet to understand?
After the third arc, it’s an obvious fact that Reki Kawahara is milking the cow. This brings us to one last issue. The books lacks the amount of thought and research that a good fantasy novel should have. It becomes repetitive and rushed sometimes. Of course, this is mere speculation.
What very little pictures there are, provides us with an insight on what characters looked like, as well as intensifying the action scenes.
Many of the fantasy stories written leads many of their readers to believe happiness, if not stunning prosperity, is the inevitable outcome of hard work, unselfish goals, and thrifty habits. While it is a fact that many individuals who read such stories are hopeful of such outcomes and conducts themselves in what they consider appropriate lifestyles, a growing number of readers become open in their scorn for outcomes of such extravagant outcome. They focus their scorn and cynicism on story in general and happy endings in great specificity. Perhaps a good take would be to drift away from the formulas that lead to such conclusions. Drifting instead to stories where the crooks got away with it. The bad guys did not of necessity get their comeuppance, nor did an overwhelming sense of guilt settle upon miscreants to the point where their conscience drove them to pay their karmic debt. That would certainly be an interesting take to the generic fantasy genre.
-This is a SpoilerFree review-
First of all I want to tell you that I'm not an english native so sorry for my poor english and for the eventual errors.
Sword Art Online, the novel behind one of the most discussed anime ever. Someone says "it's the best, omg nothing can be compared to that", someone else says "it's just the worst story ever with the worst character ever".
So that point of view gave me a lot of curiosity, I just wanted to start reading the novels, and after reading all the 14 that are out up until now I feel ready to explain my vision over this series.
We have our main character: Kirigaya Kazuto (much more well known as Kirito) who will "travel" trought many different virtual reality worlds, with just a sword as his neverchanging companion, and every time he will deal with different kind of lifethreatening dangers.
I will devide the various arcs, and than tell an overall small personal point od view.
Aincrad Arc - Volume 1+ Spin off (2 and 8)
I think I never read something with so much potential and nothing that wasted that much potential. The story is good, the setting is just insane and anyone who loves MMO would love that kind of setting. The ending is actually well done as well, the problem is what's in between. I felt like I was reading a black hole. We have no clue on what's happening during those 2 years, and I was dissatisfied. If the main problem is with the plot development the second major problem is with the characters. Expecially with the spin offs. We have a whole lot of characters over those 3 novels but just a couple are actually useful for any development, and even those aren't well explained, well characterised and we don't know nothing about their background. For me, who likes to analyze the character behind, was annoying. Anyway it's still a quite interesting story and it's enjoyable, overall rating for this arc: 6.5
Fairy Dance - Volumes 3 and 4
If the first arc showed how the autor can fuck up with the potential, here he just showed how he can create a story with basically no potential at all. I mean, I think this arc is completly useless. I didn't like it and that's just my tought. On the good side he created an actual story involving some more characters (...) out of nothing. It feel forced.
Overall rating imho:5.5
Phantom Bullet - Volumes 5 and 6
I like to think the author realized that the previous characters were just too much and not well explained and that the story had too many loops in between. So he created the GGO arc. We have just one character, and for the first time she has a background, a personality and a development. Sinon isn't static, she is interesting and well done. You can like her or dislike her, but you can't deny she is the first complete character ever in this series (it took only 5 books though), and for the story he resolved the loops by lowering the lenght of the period descripted. I personally liked the change of setting with the futuristic style of weapons (lightsaber-snipers-lasers weapon etc), but that's up to a personal taste. I preferred much more the light novel than the anime for this arc. First because we don't have all the shots on Sinon ass, second because it explains the move of the characters (I felt that the people who didn't read the novel couldn't get at all the meaning behind the move Kirito did in the episode 13... anyway) Overall score: 7.5
Mother's Rosario - Volume 7
A short spinoff with Asuna as our main character instead of the usual Kirito. It's not needed for the main story, as it won't leave anything actually important for the next arc, but it's a really enjoying volume. Finally Asuna get background, finally we can know her better, and finally we gat back to see the "new" Aincrad, which I liked (the idea of a floating castle with 100 floors). We got a new co-protagonist, Zekken Yuki, or "Absolute Sword", and she is quite amazing on both the personality and skill in game.
As I said, it's not needed to read this volume, but I personally loved it. Overall score: 7.5
Alicization arc - Volume 9 to 14 (up to now, it will go on)
That's the real thing. Finally we got an actually long story, which is set in a long period of time, and which doesn't present any gap. The character are well developed and finally our protagonist show some colours. It takes place in the new world "UnderWorld", an hyper-realistic world where magic (called sacred arts) is a normal thing and everything has his own HP (named Life).
Kirito after his long journey in the previous world was quite too overpowered, here he start from the beginning, not being able to lift an high level sword.
The story is quite simple, but it doesn't present any bad gap, everything is explained in a really detailed way, from the rules of the world, from his hierarchy... I found it interesting, sometimes the fight present too much description but well, that's what the whole series is about, swordfights.
The only thing that I hated is the beginning of the second volume (volume 10) where we have over 100 pages of description of the new fulldive technology, but you can feel free to skip them, there is nothing so important there.
It was a quite long journey to go throught this series, and I feel like you should give it a shot despite all the badmouthing that's around the animated series. If you want feel free to read the first arc and than skip to the arc that more interested you, because the only thing that's quite similar throught all the arcs are the references to the Aincrad arc, while the others are just quite disconnected.
I enjoyed the series and I give it a 7.5, just drop any previous heard stuff about it and think with your own mind!
Thank you for reading my review. read more
I've read the baka-tsuki version of every main story up to Alicization, which I won't start until the translation is finished. This review is for every non-side up till then, not just the first volume.
The series is very good. Poorly written, but very enjoyable. You can tell the author was younger when he wrote it and each arc is vastly different from the others as he progresses as an author.
Every arc is different here. Vastly.
First arc Sword Art Online
the story basically serves as a medium with which to explain the world to you. The romance factors are a bit exaggerated since the main characters are extremely plain. Still a very fun read.
Second arc Fairy Dance
Lots of fun if you exclude the incest bits that are made blatantly apparent early enough for this not to be a spoiler. The series could have easily take a Luke/Leah approach to make it less gross... but it didn't and the story suffers as a result. The villain is also much more despicable than I'd like. I know you're supposed to want the villain to lose, but rarely does a villain disgust me as much as the fairy king wannabe.
Easily has the weakest story of any of the arcs barring the bits they cut from the animu, which were cool.
Third arc Phantom Bullet
Actually has an interesting story in its own right. Neat world, and basically a mystery novel done kinda well. Kirito munchkins out in full form here though, so brace yourself. Aside from that it's fairly solid.
Fourth Arc Mothers Rosario
Arguably a filler arc, but in my opinion the best in the series. It focuses on Asuna instead of Kirito, which is the first plus. And the other plus is that it actually makes the characters matter in the story. I cried when sad things happened because they mattered and felt good when good things happened.
It's a book. Letters are still letters and are usually of similar prettiness.
Again, this is largely on an arc by arc basis.
First arc the characters are fine. Kirito and Asuna aren't quite so munckiny and it's nice.
Second arc had only 2 likable characters, Asuna and Yui. Everybody else, including Kirito, was bland. Yui is actually probably bland too, but she's adorable and makes up for the bland by the sheer force of cuteness.
Third arc characters are alright, but not good. Kirito goes full munchkin, making hm a bit less cool.
Fourth arc, again, is the best. Characterization is a bit lacking in all the previous installments of the series, here it isn't. You don't get to know the characters on a personal level per se but they matter.
Loved it. I can't really explain why, but it was a fun ride. Bland characters, sub-par plots, and poor writing in the earlier bits should make for a not-fun story. They didn't. I had lots of fun reading it.
Something I'd recommend reading if you like japanese books and aren't a literature snob that demands perfection. Not super deep, but it brings up some interesting world ideas and pays good homage to video games in a way that doesn't feel like nerd fanservice. And the fourth arc just blew my mind.
PS. The secret H chapter is so cheesy it will make your computer smell funny.
And because every review on this site needs this line and I know you all care deeply about this fact. First review. read more
-they have the same author
-both have virtual reality games
-both have a system where they can dive into the online network
-they have different kinds of characters, kirito and haruyuki are two sides of the same coin, complete opposites but have similar roles, kirito is the cool black hero, while haruyuki is the shining silver knight but the one thing they have in common is that they both of them are good with VR games and are both are the ones who save the day
-SAO is more of fighting to stay alive and for freedom while accel world is more of fighting to keep on fighting, to become the strongest
-they have the same author
-Both deal with Virtual Reality
-Light Novel even Involves A Crossover in which both of the main characters meet.
Main Differences are in the main character design both in virtual reality and outside of it. Kirito is portrayed more of the dark swordsman, while Haruyuki is more of a shining knight. While outside of the Virtual Reality, Haruyuki is overweight and shy, while Kirito is semi-underweight (from spending 2 years in virtual reality) and outgoing. Also Sword Arts Online is more like a team deathmatch, where dying in game equals dying in real life while Accel World is more of fighting to keep your Accel abilty.
If you die in the game you die in real life as well.
Virtual Reality MMORPG (VRMMORPG), sword fight scenes, levelling system, battle monsters to earn exp.
Both the MC has to experience the pain of losing someone they just met for awhile. The MC in both series tired to protect some girl but failed and get her killed. Continued living in the game while having to endure the pain and live on.
Zero no Shiniki is considerably more gruesome than SAO.
Both have similar names, Zero no Shiniki is called 零の神域 while Sword Art Online is called 刀剑神域
Both MC were trapped in a VRMMORPG World (In Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari case its similar) where they have to fight to survive/protect something. Both MC is trying to find a way to escape from the world
In the case of SAO Kiritoh start off being OP early while the MC in Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari get stronger bit by bit. There will be sword fight scenes within both series, medieval-ish setting. However SAO does not have any magic settings in it.
Both MC were trapped in a VRMMORPG World (In Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari case its similar) where they have to fight to survive/protect something. Both MC is trying to find a way to escape from the world. In the case of SAO Kirito start off being OP early while the MC in Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari get stronger bit by bit. There will be sword fight scenes within both series, medieval-ish setting. However SAO does not have any magic settings in it.
Reading Online:The Comic reminds me of Sword Art Online alot.
- Leveling system
- Variety of classes but Online: The comic has hundred of jobs to choose from
- killing monsters/ grinding for exp
- if you die in the game you will end up dead in the real world
- goal is to find out who created this mess / meet the creator
- bosses/ HP system
- both are online games
sword art online uses a head device to get into the game, where Online: The Comic uses a PSP-like device to start the game. and can play the game like on psp/ in real life as well.
online the comic has blood in it while sword art online do not
losing in certain battles may results in loss of functional bodyparts in real life where as sword art online do not.
Recent Forum Discussion
Recent Featured Articles
5 Sword Art Online Figures Directly From Cyberspace
Link start! Logging in… Welcome to Sword Art Online rare figure directory. Here you can find all about the rarest and priciest figures from our line of products. Enjoy, and we hope that these figures will remind you to log in again after glancing at them in the real world.
External LinksMangaUpdates, Wikipedia