While Asuna, Leafa, Silica and Lisbeth were doing their homework in Kirito and Asuna's Log House on the 22nd Floor of New Aincrad, Lisbeth informed Asuna of a player known as "Zekken" (Absolute Sword) who was challenging players on the 24th Floor, while offering an 11-hit Original Sword Skill as a reward. Asuna was told that the mysterious player had actually converted from a different game and that over thirty players who had attempted to challenge the player, including Leafa and even Kirito, were defeated. Hearing that Kirito had said something to the player before being defeated and not sharing what he had said with the others and thinking that the mysterious player had come for a reason, Asuna decided to challenge the player as well. To her surprise, the player was actually a girl named Yuuki.
Seven. The luck number. Seven days of Creation for us to live by. Seven musical notes that possibilitate the creation of masterful melodies. Seven wonders of the world for us to visit and admire. Seven colors of the rainbow to make a day after a heavy rain looks greater. It was none other than during the seventh volume of Sword Art Online that the author decided to make it a turning point in the story by making it completely different
from what he has written before. The previous arcs gave you what you wanted: Fantasy worlds for you to immerse yourself and think about the possibilites of what you would do if you had the chance of playing them. And badass characters showing what they're capable of. The next arcs give you what you need: A story to reevaluate and reconsider your values and think deeply about life and its overwhelming complexity.
The Mother's Rosario has the strongest storytelling in SAO and has the most compelling drama in the entirety of it. Asuna is the character that undergoes through most changes throughout the story. From deuteragonist to captive to a side character. She managed to prove her worth in all cases. This specific arc gives her the role she always needed, of a protagonist. For those who have read Aria in the Starless Night that story saves to give Asuna a background. That is, she was a rookie with no knowledge about gaming and was really distressed about being traped in a death game and after some pondering decided to move on and fight. But for those who haven't experience because they only read the main series. This arc, although in totally different ways, serves for the same purpose. This is character-driven story, or a character study if you will. Asuna gets all focus that she needed and get's a captvating backstory. Do not believe those who say that this arc is "skipable". Not only it gets briefily referenced in Ordinal Scale but some of the characters introduced get mentioned and may appear during the next arc. And one should noticed that this tale shows how much the author polished his writting skills and proved that he deserves to be the most commercially succesful lightnovelist of his generation.
Reki Kawahara along with Nasu Kinoko and Hideaki Anno from the Holy Trinity of Oddballs. They're creators of extremelly popular, controversial and highly influencial series. They are all able to write sensational pieces of work (Progressive/Heaven's Feel/EoE) and also abominable pieces of work (Fairy Dance/Fate Route/3.33) that you are better off pretending that they don't exist. And if you happen to be one of the many detractors of these series you need to look no further than to their respective author's jabs at their own works to help you criticize them. While NGE and Fate and its protagonists are negative critiques directed to the viewers/readers in a approach that can be interpreted in many ways. Shinji can be seen as a realistic representation of what would happen to a teenage boy with depression and social anxiety being put on a situation that far exceeds his own capabilities or he can be seen as a whiny, wimpy, annyoing colossal faggot who can't do nothing on his own and should be trated with pity. Shirou Emiya can be seen as a broken man with many issues to which he's able to overcome with which route having him developing corelating to his ideals or he can be seen as overly idealistic, bland, hypocritical, nice guy with an obvious chronic hero syndrome. Sword Art Online gives us Kazuto, which on the other hand, is a positive critique for those who experience this story. He can be seen as a cute, badass, snarky and reliable character, with trust issues, survivor guilty, and overall as a great complex character for the series and a farcry from most of the stereotyped "literally me" kinds of LN protagonists or he can be seen as a boring, wishfulfilment, overpowerd Gary Stu with no appeal to his character other that people who want to self-insert and dream to be like him. Both sides are reasonable to me but I prefer to stick to the former in all cases except for Shinji. The author has said that he doesn't views the act of immersing yourself in virtual video games unhealthy, and throughout his story you can see VR/Video Games being used as a way to find love, friends and create meaningful relationships. A way to get over someone. Using it as therapy. Using it for medical purposes. And at last being used for war purposes. Along many others.
I believe and consider SAO to be thematically rich. It's a story that tackles on so many themes. Namelly death, loss, tragedy, suicide, mourning, love, friendship, dilemmas, discrimination, family issues, escapism, self-acceptance, power, indocrination, corruption, trauma, isolation, mental disorder, terminal disease, expectations, memories, depression, bullying, duality, swordsmanship, religion, essense, existence, individualism, morality and what it means to be human while also blurring the line between reality and fantasy like never before. SAO imposes many questions about internet, video games and virtual reality that are impossible to ignore. Some are expelled out straight to your face such as Asuna's "What's the difference between a virtual world and the real one?" to some others that need a keen mind to be able to get, I like the fact that there's some nice subtlety to it. And I really like it. Kazuto's narration of SAO, along with his nerd/geekery knowlegde, is riddled with philosophical existencialism. That really makes you contemplate, cogitate and determine that the time that we spend with vidya and internet are valid, fun and if not taken to an extreme, can be worthwhile.
•Don't skip it.
The Mother's Rosario arc has two main characters and the then protagonist. I'll break it down in three sections.
Asuna started out on SAO, which was the first game she ever experienced, as a scared inexperienced girl who locked herself away waiting for the game to be finished so she could be freed from the trap she was in. Before SAO she was a top student from a all female private school and a daughter of a wealthy familty which had high expectations to fulfill. But after realizing that inert was someting futile and useless she decided to get up and fight. She initially didn't care if she died or not but as the story progressed she learned to value her life and after she parted ways with Kirito she bacame a the chief of a powerful guild. But not before having a deciding fight with Kirito.
As a subleader of the Knights of the Blood Oath, the strongest guild in SAO, Asuna always wore a gloomy facial expression and didn't dare to smile in front of her peers. She was what many would call an "Ice Queen". She seemed to have taken the "it is better to be feared than loved" to extreme and consequentelly the other guild members obeyed her out of fear and not out of respect. But eventually she opens up and mellows down to an amiable and more emotional nice girl. But she still remains strong, capable and very assertive. And even after being demoted from Tifa Lockhart to Princess Zelda Asuna proved herself to be mentally and psychologically strong enough to endure the advances from the antagoist that traped at the top of ALO and managed, throught her actions alone, to get the password of where she was locked in, escape and help Kirito helping her. Even in the Phantom Bullet she managed to be on her own and have a essential role during the climax, with the touch of her hand helped Kirito remember his gun and be able to beat the big bad of the arc, and indirectly help saving Sinon in the process.
Asuna overall as a character is strong-willed, resolute, complex, likeable, kind, polite, assertive, independent, graceful, mature, multifaceted and well-developed but she's also flawed, vulnerable, relatable, sassy, interesting and feminine. She may fall under the ojou-sama and onee-san archetype/tropes but she's unique. Name me one character that is or have been:
A woman, a wife, a mother, a warrior, a leader, a strategist, a defiant captive, a one woman army, a goddess, and a queen in just one person. Her monikers include: The Lightning Flash, the Berserk Healer, Goddess of Creation Stacia, and Star Queen. She has a reputation for herself. Her romance with Kirito is a big part of her but she's her own character. She has hopes and dreams, objetives and goals. The only female character I ever encountered that is worthy of the title of Ultimate Best Girl, Asuna Yuuki is a shining example of how to write a female character. And you can obviously see her influence in great characters such as Emilia, Aiz, Selesia, Raphtalia and Kuroyukihime.
Yuuki is one of the most charismatic characters to ever grace SAO. She's strong, capable, likeable and has a story compelling enough to shatter your heart in a million of pieces. She creates a beliavable and quasi-romantic friendship bond with Asuna and her interactions with her are very entertaining to watch and see. There's nothing else that can be said without entering the 'spoilers realm' but she's an excellent character overall and someone whose presence and charisma are something to be reckoned.
She also has a nice development in the Sister's Prayer SS, which is a side story that you surelly should read, because it's really worth it.
Kirito, the steady protagonist, got very explored throughout the previous arcs. He began as a shut-in gamer that barelly socialized. After being stuck in SAO he eventually joined a guild. Only for the to be killed for a mistake of his and he blamed himself for it and mourned the loss of their boon friends. Only after meeting Asuna he managed to move on of it. Asuna healed him and turned a broken person into a better man. And he managed to chage her also. He made her learn to appreciate the world they're in and makes have a more positive look at the situation she was in.
One thing that is nice to see is that Asuna has a lover that can stand on equal footing as her. Many of my favorite female characters are beyond awesome on their own but their respective lovers pale in comperison to their greatness in terms of character, development, charisma, design. Namely Hitagi, Shiki, Holo, Motoko and Asuka. Just compare them to their male counterparts and you see what I'm talking about. Kirito and Asuna's dynamic pleased me deeply. They have a relationship based around mutual suport and mutual respect. They're able to deduce and complete each others moves in a fight. And every girl Kirito befriends Asuna follows suit. In Dengeki, Newtype, Charapedia, KLNGS, ISML they're both able to top or at least stay on top five of every popularity they participate equally. And one should notice that they where picked as the most favorited couple in 2014. And I must say that their romance made me regain faith in romantic love again. I really want to find someone like Asuna and if I were a girl or I would love to have someone like Kirito. With that being said I would like to say that Kirito thankfully has a diminished role in this arc. But stills shows himself ocasionally to help Asuna and her crew.
•Asuna Yuuki = Ultimate Best Grill;
•Yuuki is an excellent suporting character;
•Kirito doesn't gets much focus on his arc.
Hazuki Tsubasa's art is not as good as the novel's artist, abec. But not he's, by no means, bad. The art takes some time to become great and just like in the previous adaptation, the Fairy Cancer, it fluctuates in terms of quality. Bee-pee's briliant designs never disappoint me. It's nice to see Asuna spoting a nice blue hair paired with azure pupils and a stilish dress, which is a nice yet inferior version of her Aincrad attire.
Yuuki features a stilish purple and red dress, a bandana and a (cute) ahoge. Her sword has a cool design too.
The Sleeping Knights designs were nothing out of the ordinary but they pleased me nevertheless.
The action scenes were very entertaining, specially the showdown between the Berserk Healer vs the Absolute Sword. The boss battles were also good. The dramatic scenes were not as impactful as they were in the novel but they remained moving. And the covers of each one of the volume covers were passable.
Sad, tragic, emotional and compelling are some of the words used to describe the Mother's Rosario, which is, along with the Alicization, SAO's best arc. And one thing that is nice to see is that religion, Christianity to be more precise, is finally put on a good light for at least once.
It's good to know that there's a story that may help people seeing that it doesn't matter how hard things may turn out to be all you have to do is pray and have faith and Jesus Christ is going to grant you strenght to overcome whatever issue it may be.
And I would like to finish this review with a beautiful quote from Zekken, which touched my heart deeply and I hope that it may touch other people too:
"𝒢𝑜𝒹 𝓌𝑜𝓊𝓁𝒹 𝓃𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓇 𝓅𝓊𝓉 𝓊𝓈 𝓉𝒽𝓇𝑜𝓊𝑔𝒽 𝒶𝓁𝓁 𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝓈𝓊𝒻𝒻𝑒𝓇𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒾𝒻 𝒽𝑒 𝒹𝒾𝒹𝓃'𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝓀 𝓉𝒽𝒶𝓉 𝓌𝑒 𝒸𝑜𝓊𝓁𝒹 𝒷𝑒𝒶𝓇 𝒾𝓉." - Konno, Yuuki.
Trivia - The reason for Zekken's Original Sword Skill name.
𝓠. Please tell me the reason behind the naming of the OSS, “Mother’s Rosario”.
𝓐. It’s a technique based on the memento from my mother, a rosary.
Source: tap-trans (Popularity Contest Questions - Yuuki)
•Praise be unto the Lord this manga is a compelling masterpiece.
Simliar recommendations for those looking for stories centered around drama, friendship and character development (and maybe some religion too):
CLANNAD (and anything made by KEY), Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica, No.6, Sakamichi no Apollon, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso and Violet Evergarden.