Sword Art Online: Aincrad

By Reki Kawahara, abec, and Tamako Nakamura. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by ASCII Mediaworks, serialized in the magazine Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I have to admit that this one took me entirely by surprise. I wasn’t really expecting much when Yen announced this. “Oh no, we are trapped in a virtual reality game where we must fight or die” is something that has become almost as overdone as “oh no, what are these strange feelings I have for my older brother” in anime/manga, and watching people cut things with swords has never been my thing. I also don’t game. It’s also based off of a light novel series, and I was thus expecting the manga spinoff to be somewhat rushed (and indeed, it does feel rushed) and filled with fanservice (actually very little of this, save one “oh no, I accidentally fell into her breasts” scene that just made me sigh loudly). However, it was the relationship between the two leads that drew me in. Because it is a genuine relationship. Wasn’t this a harem manga?


Backing up a bit, the premise has 10,000 players in a new immersive fantasy game trapped by its sadistic creator, who wants them to get to the 100th level of the game. Oh yes, and if they die in the game, they die in real life. Our hero is Kirito, who was one of the game’s beta testers (but unaware this was going to happen), and is fairly cool and aloof to everyone he meets. Our heroine is Asuna, a nice girl with drive and purpose who wants to join forces with Kirito so they can finish this faster and finally go home. Clearly they are destined for each other, despite a rocky start. I wonder how many volumes it will take before they realize their true feel… oh, wait, OK, that was fast.

For all the flaws that occurred to me after I finished the volume, the thing I loved most was the relationship between Kirito and Asuna. There’s an immediate attraction, they both risk their lives for each other, and because there is a setting in the game for ‘let’s have sex’, they do so (non-explicitly) about halfway through the book. And then get married. And even briefly have an adopted kid, though it turns out this is more than it seems, and ends in tears for both of them. They’re just really likeable kids, and bring out the best in each other – Asuna is someone that Kirito desperately needed, particularly after his last attempt at working with others.

I’m not sure that this is the sort of relationship that will last when they end up back in the real world and aren’t dealing with adrenaline rushes and near death experiences. The volume ends with Kirito (sorry, Kazuto… damn fake names) awake in a hospital, resolving to find Asuna but it’s very open ended, and given the series is 13+ light novels in Japan, I expect it may not be as simple as it seems. I’ve also been told that future volumes of this series (or at least the anime adaptation thereof) are far more… contested, shall we say. And I will admit that Kirito does seem to have the scent of ‘boring invincible hero’ to him, though honestly, I’ve read Index/Railgun, and it’ll surprise me if anyone tops Touma. As for me, I am quite content with what I saw in this volume, and will be eagerly awaiting the light novel when it appears next month. Despite all the swords, this was sweet and romantic.

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  1. I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed this! I loved the anime adaptation, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from the manga. I might hold off for the light novel series, at least to start.


  1. […] I greatly enjoyed the manga omnibus of Sword Art Online, and said so in my earlier review. However, I had not actually read the novels or seen the anime, as I noted. Most folks who had said […]

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