"This game is impossible to clear. It's just a matter of when, where and how you die."
Kayaba Akihiko's death game has been up for one month. This incredibly difficult VRMMO has already claimed 2000 victims. It's the day of the 1st floor boss strategy meeting. The solo player Kirito, who's decided to only strengthen himself, meets a rare female player on the current front lines, while heading to the meeting around noon. Fighting alone against the strong monsters, she was like a meteor cutting the night sky.
Set in the not-so distant future, of advanced virtual reality and augmented reality. Sword Art Online has become a bit of a phenomenon within our cultural sphere, spawning numerous adaptations from: anime series, to movies, to video games and several manga titles. With its popular status, SAO has attracted a ton of scrutiny, the bulk of which being some form of "WTF! Why rush through the Aincrad arc?!" Well I guess the author, Reki Kawahara took a lot of the criticisms to heart, as he strives to reboot the main story of the franchise with this latest iteration Sword Art Online: Progressive.
Which immediately skips
over any sort of prologue and thrust the reader and main character, right into the thick of it. So even those who have watched the series and or read the light novels will still be gifted with something fresh & different. As it begins from the perspective of the intelligent, yet dissatisfied highschool girl, Asuna. Who so happens to wind up trapped in a new MMORPG, with little to no knowledge of even the most basic of game mechanics. After being saved from perma-death, by the solo swordsman Kirito and his sly informant Argo; Asuna gradually learns about the death game she has gotten herself stuck in and the people she will eventually call friends. And from these first couple volumes I can tell that the author is putting much greater thought into the story. Like spending time to flesh out the world, the game mechanics and the characters.
Characters like Asuna, I feel are the right choice for main character, since she is as ignorant as us readers, on the new world she's found herself stuck in. Of course I am aware this is a rudimentary method of providing exposition, but it does allow this story to become more of a journey than a power fantasy. What makes the characters interesting in this iteration is that there's a great deal more context to their actions. And it achieves that without bogging down the story with numerous flashbacks and monologues, beyond the initial volume.
When it comes to the artwork of SAO: Progressive, only one word comes to mind... "clean". The artwork is just very clean, with simple panel arrangements making it easy to follow the flow of action. But that's not to say that detail isn't put into those panels, as a great deal of it is put into emphasising some of the major impacts of any given combat scenario. Then again what really made me fall in love with the artwork of this manga has to be with how it's able to express so much without dialogue. The perfect example of this being 3 simple pages towards the end of Vol.2 Chap.008. With no dialogue it's able to express to the reader just how much Asuna has developed as a character; establishing that she acquired a humble abode (something she learnt from Kirito), that her studious nature remains in this new world and that she's grown to love her sword.
But mind you there are still flaws with this iteration of the story, most notably being the random tonal shifts, whereby the needless jokes are forced into intense battles. However none of it is enough to ruin what this iteration, of the Sword Art Online "Aincrad Arc", is attempting to achieve.
I went through a phase where I believed that this anime is really good, being one of the recent anime that got me interested as a once-casual viewer. Then the second half came.
Part of the complaints from most people about SAO is its sloppy narrative—and this is especially evident in the anime when they time-skipped A LOT. A good opportunity to flesh out the concept with the world of Aincrad went to flames after watching all these slice-and-life and overly melodramatic brouhaha fillers that never made any effect to develop the characters nor the world.
Now, granted that SAO: Progressive does NOT answer
all of the technicalities of the game world (How do they take a shit?), it does a job that is leagues better than what the original content might have given.
Sword Art Online: Progressive is a light novel series intended as a reboot to the SAO franchise as a whole, written by Reki Kawahara, the author for the SAO light novels. Progressive returns to the original Sword Art Online VRMMORPG and significantly redoes everything about the whole Aincrad arc. It was adapted into a manga, which is still ongoing, and the one I'm going to make a preliminary review of.
We are given the similar canon introduction as the original, where people get stuck in a virtual reality world, blah blah blah. However, readers will be quickly able to note how Progressive will take a different path by introducing us to the perspective of one of the most wasted potentials in character arc history: Asuna Yuuki.
The first few chapters suffer from a few hiccups here and there, because aside from one notable new character introduction it still feels like Kirito is the same overpowered walking deus ex machina in the original. The next chapters soon turn this around, and I must say, the change in focus to more on Asuna grants a fresher approach to the world of SAO.
Since the plot does not offer huge time-skips, it's superior in pacing and narrative, and while this story is generally predictable because, duh, this is a reboot but is still more of a plot expansion with the SAO arc, there are some small twists and turns that make you compelled to continue reading, surprising you with how minor differences may be, they still make up a huge role for forming SAO into what it is currently, and what it could have been.
One of the problems in the original SAO is how they dealt with deaths and game mechanics. I recall seeing how dark it can be at one point in the story, then by the next episode we have too much lightheartedness that is a terrible contrast. Progressive handles these fun moments and grim scenes much better, when the stakes are definitely high when it needs to be. Kirito may be an overpowered prick, but with good reason—similar to how you play RPGs, as you grind, you get better, and while Kirito has that advantage of being a beta tester, Progressive actually doesn't go to such lengths and shows that he can get in trouble as well.
On the topic of game mechanics, the system of Aincrad is explained with more detail and actually make sense: of course, I hope this continues until the crucial point in Floor 75 when they face off against Kayaba, where Kirito's sudden hax is put with good reason and not some pointless "Oh-No-It's-A-Bug" thing.
Comedy scenes are much better, too, and the cliched tropes of belligerent sexual tension are played with good effect, save for some parts. Overall, though, I find it funnier with how much different the characters' iterations are from the original SAO and how it is played to be their strengths to have greater complement to the plot.
Speaking of characters, Asuna has become the Asuna everyone wanted—the Asuna who isn't a lowly tsundere damsel-in-distress, and her foil and chemistry with Kirito's character had me double-checking if this was really SAO I was reading. Everything is handled smoothly that their budding romance does not become just like some sort of obligatory subplot unlike SAO had. Asuna gets significant screentime for being a character who is much like Kirito's equal in terms of skill and a love interest who can actually stand on her own.
That being said, Kirito is done in ALL THE RIGHT WAYS this time. He breathes more like a typical character (granted that OG Kirito was also cliche, but there are just some things about him that makes him look too much like the second coming of Jesus), and is a badass. Sure, there is still that vibe of "I'm-A-Main-Character-That-Is-So-Good-And-All" kinda thing running within him, but it isn't shoved into our faces much like the other one.
Much props to the other characters, especially the new character Argo, who is a great addition to the cast. Agil and Kibaou have more involvement and did not turn out to be mere plot devices who pop in and out.
The art in this manga is great, because it retains the original look with the characters. What I usually don't like about manga adaptations is that the character designs go way off compared to their anime designs, and takes a little bit of getting used to. Progressive is more or less similar to the art style of the anime and the light novels.
Also, I am going ahead and saying it.
The action scenes in this manga top that of the anime.
Sure, there's no motion, but there is the compelling beauty of danger in the fight scenes that triggers your mind to fill out the movement within your imagination. One scene that comes into mind is the battle with the first boss—and the dialogue and illustrations it had with the fight had the anime running for its money. It FELT like an MMORPG, where there are leaders that instruct the players to make formations in order to figure out boss patterns—which I felt was lacking in the anime. I don't know if the original SAO light novels had those parts, but I am glad I'm seeing this in Progressive.
The only flaws I see in this manga are that 1) I guess to get maximum enjoyment out of this, you need to know how terrible the original content is. Sure, it is not the worst anime, out there, but it is pretty mediocre at best. 2) It takes some background of gaming in order to understand some terminologies—since Progressive is more in-depth, they tend to use more video game logic to get some points through. 3) Some fanservice moments were really offbeat and I believe were not necessary, but hey, if it's Asuna, I'll take it. I just wish they'd reduce those scenes though. And the fourth flaw...
At the time of this preliminary review, the manga series nor the light novels of Progressive are not over yet. It still has grounds to be as worse as its original parent story, but seeing the major amount of differences this reboot has done in comparison to SAO, I have my hopes up, for this is how Sword Art Online should have been in the first place.
Also, the Aincrad world has 100 floors to finish. And hey, heads up, it's only the fourth volume of the light novels so far...that covers the fifth floor. I have a theory on how the narrative will proceed, but that's another story.
In conclusion, Sword Art Online: Progressive is not a guaranteed must-read but it sure as hell is it recommendable. It fixes a lot of mistakes of the original iteration and becomes far larger in scale. But then again, we have to thank the anime for its creation.
The manga is still ongoing but I enjoyed it from the start. I've seen the Sword Art Online anime adaptation and though the story is okay, it felt rushed. The story was jumping from one experience to the next so I wasn't pretty satisfied after it ended. However, this manga showed the nitty-gritty of the life within the game. It shows more personality among the players especially Asuna and Kirito.. Especially Kirito. Kirito was more or less unemotional for the most part of the anime until he suddenly got together with Asuna. There was no development between his feelings. In this manga, Kirito has
more personality and more development between them. I like it because it shows more detail and personality compared to the anime. I'm still hoping for better progress and more exciting and enjoyable chapters! I was hoping it would be a weekly chapter update. The only thing I dislike about this is the slow update in chapters. Every latest chapter keeps me hanging!
SAO still isn't thought out. At least it isn't lifeless, Asuna has emotions and goals, and it is pretty to look at.
The story ideas that are here clash with what is fun or potentially fun about the show. By fun I mean interesting misery, which is fun for evil people; So, fun. What a good show does is establish a premise and explore that by pushing the logic of it.
Every element is immediately demystified by Kirito who expositions at the reader until things aren't fun.
When Asuna and Kirito do leave the boss room and meet enemies that are way stronger than them, they
do nothing to play it safe, nothing to preserve their lives and they are rescued.
There are all these rules and tips for surviving in the game but we don't see people doing stupid stuff get killed.
The more I think about this series the worse it is. There isn’t enough good. There isn’t enough interesting. There isn’t enough tension. The only thing going for this series is some meh fan service and nostalgia for a relationship that won’t come to any kind of completion until the 74th floor (I didn’t bother to fact check because it doesn’t matter).
I want to see this book is for babies but that is based off a thought that stuff for kids is dumb. More thought will be put into people justifying it than was put into what the story should be.
Just the Good Stuff: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=mJPqeuHFTjI
Everything, for the folks that can handle it: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=JBQA1TNuK_4