Sword Art Online (SAO) is originally a series of light novels for young adults that started in April 2009 and is written by Reki Kawahara. It currently has 15 volumes and is still ongoing. The series was adapted into mangas and then was adapted into an anime between July and December 2012. It’s on the anime that this article will focus on.
The story’s summary: In 2022 the technology has evolved. November 6th 2022 is the release day of the new virtual reality video game, Sword Art Online. The main character, Kazuto Kirigaya alias Kirito, is one of the rare player that got the chance to be one of the beta tester of the game. From the first day of release, Kirito and around 10 000 other players logged on the game with the virtual reality helmet named NerveGear. At the start of the game, Kirito transfers the stats he acquired during the beta phase. He gets noticed right away by Klein, another player, that asks him for help to learn how to play. At the end of the day, our hero and his new friend are on the point of logging out to go back to their respective life in the real world, however they are unable to. They are immediately teleported in the Town of Beginnings. Unfortunately, that’s where the nightmare begins. None of the players can log out nor take off their NerveGear without dying instantly. Moreover, if a player dies in the game, he or she will die in real life. The only way to survive : climb the 100 levels of the game and beat the final boss. Kirito hopes that the experience he acquired during the beta phase and his stats will enable him to complete the game and survive.
Ann-Pier: I liked the anime of Sword Art Online because of the fact that the players, with the NerveGear, were completely immersed in the game without anything from their environment (people, sounds of any kind, etc.) able to disturb them. The love story between the two main characters is very cute. What I less appreciated from this anime is how the players didn’t have the option to log out from the game and that if they remove their NerveGear or their HP reach 0 which caused their death without a second chance. That added a frightening side to the player’s situation. However, this horrible side adds more challenges for the characters. I congratulate Reki Kawahara for developping this super idea and writing those novels to show us this great universe.
Anthony: I liked SAO because it adresses the subject of a future getting closer and closer to us with the virtual reality which is, I believe, almost on our doorstep with the Occulus Rift and the SteamVR. This gives us a glimpse of, and let us imagine, the good and bad sides from being totally immersed and disconnected from reality. When living a game experience becomes a full life experience, it changes your perception of the world. However, there’s a voluntarily forgotten aspect in the series, that is the politic and public side. The event of SAO seems to be muffled by the gouvernment and there’s almost no external view of what is happening outside of the game and we’re only able to guess that the families are worried for their relatives stuck in the game.
Our opinion: Even if Sword Art Online can be watched alone, we recommend you to watch the first season of this series of 24 episodes together with someone. The second season was entirely broadcasted in Japan in its original language and is currently being broadcast in english. Four of the lights novels are available in Quebec in english and one large format containing the first two tomes is available in french.