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...
Sword Art Online is a great series of light novels, but this manga adaptation is incredibly lacklustre. The main sticking part is the lack of quality in the art (I'm not expecting the same quality as abec's art in the LNs, but at least average manga quality), but there are issues with how the story has been distilled for the manga. Some moments are left without context, which would be confusing for someone who hasn't read the first two volumes of the LN series or watched the Aincrad arc of the anime.
As someone who has enjoyed the light novels and anime thus far, I can't
find much to like at all in the manga.
*WARNING: THIS IS A REVIEW AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. IT'S RECOMMENDED TO READ IF YOU KNOW ABOUT SWORD ART ONLINE ALREADY.*
Sword Art Online is a great Light Novel and the anime is also a great watch too. There is also the manga of Sword Art Online: Aincrad, which on the other hand is not too great. I'll tell you exactly why.
This manga would deserve a 7 compared to the Light Novel or anime. Many people take a 7 as a relatively low score, but it indeed is pretty high. I've read parts of the LN and I'm watching the anime. I will review
and compare this from the anime, since it was nicely adapted from the LN.
The manga was good, but it lacked in many things, that the Light Novel and anime provided. This is what I mean when I say the manga is not as great compared to the LN or anime.
From any Sword Art Online fan, the basic story is about a boy named Kirito who gets trapped in the game Sword Art Online. If you die in the game world, you die in real life. The only way to escape Sword Art Online is to beat all 100 floors.
Based from the anime, the events that Kirito is involved in occur in the manga as well. Events such as, how the start of the was game, how Kirito joined a guild, or how Kirito met Asuna are all in the manga. The manga's tells of all these events, but they are presented not as great as the anime or LN did.
The story is overall the same and very good, except that the art, plot development, and character development bring it down a bit.
The art is not very good, and it is hard to tell what's happening because the art is very high quality. It sometimes gets a bit sloppy during the fighting sequences and is no match compared to the anime.
The character development is also something that brought the score of it down. A lot of the material and scenes feel rushed, on the other hand the anime and LN have much better pacing.
Also the lack of explanations bring the score down as well. From the anime there is an episode about Yui, the child that Asuna and Kirito found and started to care for her, is also included in the manga, well part of it. This is also apart of the Ln as a well written side story. There was about a page that showed Yui in the manga, but did not explain who or what she was. The only reason I knew it was Yui is because of the anime and LN. For any reader who hasn't watched the anime or read the LN, would most likely be confused. The manga is not fully updated online, but even if they put an explanation in, it would have been better to put it in at the time Yui was shown and not later on.
Overall, if you are a fan of the Light Novel series or anime series, and you can't get enough Sword Art Online, then I recommend you read it. If your just a regular fan reading the LN or watching the anime, then you might not find the manga as great. It's an okay manga on it's own, but compared to it's other versions, it's not as well done. To be honest, the LN and anime gives you a thrill when you read/ watch it, the manga sadly doesn't give the same feeling.
NOTE: I WILL UPDATE THIS WHEN THE MANGA IS UP TO DATE ONLINE (10/23/12)
First of all, in advance, I do love Sword Art Online. I read this as a fan, not as someone new to it, or as someone looking to bash it. I was super excited to read this, as I loved SAO so much. I was glad to see it was an omnibus, since it means I'd be spending less, but that's where the warning should have come.
This adaptation of SAO was horrible. So horrible to the point where I fear anime to manga adaptations now.
The art was lousy. The faces were drawn strangely, Klein was aged like 5-10 years, and the art lacked detail.
The only thing that was OK were the backgrounds, and even then I recall them only being basic.
The story was.. well, unfortunately, totally butchered. The plot was rushed, and character development was thrown out the window in favor of getting the story done in two volumes. We don't get to see Kirito go from Mr. Loner into someone who readily joins in with parties and realizes it's more fun to be with others than by yourself. He's just instantly Mr. Nice Guy who likes being in a group. I think the Beater thing was only brushed on in here, and I don't recall the battle with Kuradeel being there (though it may have been, but I forgot). It may have been, but if it was, it was rushed. Actually, I think Laughing Coffin as a whole was almost ditched. Additionally, Lisbeth and Silica do not appear at all here. Kirito just pulls his second sword from thin air here. Finally, Asuna and Kirito's relationship is almost nonexistent here. I think they just instantly know each other, like each other after the cooking thing, meet Yui, and fight at the end. They skip all of the early Kirito/Asuna scenes, which leaves their relationship feeling even more rushed than usual.
Overall, this was a horrible adaptation of a good anime. If you've seen the anime and want to revisit the world of Aincrad, read the light novel, or the Progressive series. If you are interested in SAO, but want to start with a manga (I do recommend just streaming the anime through Crunchyroll or Netflix, but if you really want to start with a manga..), read the adaptation of Sword Art Online: Progressive. It doesn't follow the anime exactly (it goes more into Kirito and Asuna as characters and the dungeons, though), but it's at least not rushed feeling.
The beginning was pretty good! I was enjoying it until... Asuna happened... Asuna is the most generic, poorly written love interest that I have ever witnessed! Kirito and Asuna's relationship was just flat out boring and it dragged out for WAY too long! It was like I was reading a love story instead of a shounen manga!
**Ending of volume 1 Spoiler**
The ending of volume 1 was the best example of how NOT to do an ending! It was a word for word Deus Ex Machina! Heathcliff (who was one of their allies) turned out to be the creator of SAO. Kirito wishes for Asuna to
not commit suicide if he died, Asuna gets stabbed by Heathcliff and he also stabs Kirito. Kirito uses his last bit of strength to stab Heathcliff, killing him. Now this ALONE would've been fine! I liked the end up to that point, but then both Kirito and Asuna end up surviving because Deus Ex Machina, and they wake up in the real world.