Synonyms: S.A.O, SAO
Published: Apr 10, 2009 to ?
Score: 8.611 (scored by 6174 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
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SynopsisEscape was impossible until it was cleared; a game over would mean an actual "death"―. Without knowing the "truth" of the mysterious next generation MMO, 'Sword Art Online(SAO)', approximately ten thousand users logged in together, opening the curtains to this cruel death battle. Participating alone in SAO, protagonist Kirito had promptly accepted the "truth" of this MMO. And in the game world, a gigantic floating castle named 'Aincrad', he distinguished himself as a solo player. Aiming to clear the game by reaching the highest floor, Kirito riskily continued alone. Because of a pushy invitation from a female warrior and rapier expert, Asuna, he teamed up with her. That encounter brought about an opportunity to call out to the fated Kirito―
Related MangaAlternative version: Sword Art Online: Aincrad, Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance
Side story: Sword Art Online - Side Stories, Sword Art Online: Progressive, Sword Art Online: Girls Ops, Sword Art Online: Celeste no Yousei, Sword Art Online SS: Caliber SS (Failure Side), Sword Art Online dj - Material Edition, Sword Art Online dj - Lisbeth Edition, Sword Art Online dj - Silica Edition, Sword Art Online dj - Pina Edition
Adaptation: Sword Art Online, Sword Art Online II
Spin-off: Sword Art☆Online.
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.
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
-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.
Related Clubs♥ Asada Shino FC ♥, Anime Skype Society, Asuna Yuuki Fanclub!, ღ Paramour Paradise ღ, ►English Licensed Manga Club - PART 2◄, Brother Complex & Sister Complex, Cards From Dream, Dengeki FC, Kazuto "Kirito" Kirigaya FC, Laughing Coffin, Licensed Light Novels, Light Novel Club!, Lyfa fan club, Marketplace Germany, Ninetailz's Card Shop (N.T.C.S.), Overrated or Underrated Animes and Mangas, Something Online, Sugou Nobuyuki Worship Movement ♥, Suguha Kirigaya Fanclub, Sweet Anime World (S.A.W.), Sword Art Online, Sword Art Online, Sword Art Online (S.A.O.), Sword Art Online Episode Reviews & Discussions, Sword Art Online Official, Sword Art Online Role-Play Club, Sword Art Online rp, Sword Art Online rp, Sword Art Online: Eternal World [RP], Sword Art Roleplay, The Anime Uber-Elitist Club, The Channel Of Gentlemen - Anime Edition, The Dorian Barber Anime Club, The Heros, The Sword Art Online Rebellion, Traditional Friends Card Club [TFCC] [Hiatus], Ultimate Secret Brotherhood (U.S.B.) [Memorial Mode], Yuuki ''Zekken'' Konno FC, [Facial Hair]Sexy[/Facial Hair]
External LinksOfficial Site, MangaUpdates, Wikipedia