Sword Art Online: Progressive, Vol. 3

By Reki Kawahara and abec. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On.

The cover of this volume of Sword Art Online features Asuna and Kirito shot from above, both relaxing happily as they float down a river in their gondola. It’s a fitting image, as this volume is also very relaxed and leisurely, and though there are some well done action scenes and sword battles, this volume lacks the tension that the first volume had, content to develop the themes it’s had since the beginning: how this world differs from the beta before it, how Kirito and Asuna are both getting closer to each other while also being socially awkward, the ongoing war between the Forest Elves and the Dark Elves, and the pretty scenery of the game itself.


While Asuna once again gets no narrative voice, we as the audience are learning more about her slowly; she’s clearly from a rich family, and Kirito wonders if her talk of ‘real castles’ means she’s seen some before. But her mixed feelings on Christmas also show us a girl who’s grown up very lonely, and is finally coming into her own as a person thanks to the game – though I suspect she feels guilty about that. As for Kirito, he’s gotten better at seeing when Asuna’s upset, but he’s still terrible at guessing why. In this respect, much as he’s the elite gamer who cannot be defeated and always gets the Last Attack bonus (this remains a highly amusing running gag), he’s still very much a 14-year-old boy, one with his own family issues.

There are several cute bits written for the seasoned fan of Sword Art Online. Lisbeth isn’t named, but we do catch site of someone who clearly matches her description early in the book. Argo appears less than I’d like, but her one major appearance is possibly the best part of the entire novel, as she walks on the water alongside Kirito and Asuna’s gondola, showing off her amazing agility and ability to tease Kirito to the max. There are also some interesting quests, such as Asuna and Kirito’s attempts to get their gondola made by the grumpy retired shipwright in the region, which requires them to fight a giant mutant Prophecy bear, and a secret quest to spy on some fallen elves, which requires them to hide in a crate and leads to accidental gropings that are possibly “amusing” to some.

Which there are some serious moments in the book, particularly Kirito and Asuna both worrying about how long they’ll survive and also keeping pace with one another, overall this book is very light and pacey. If it has a fault, it’s that it may be a bit too light – it’s nice to see Kizmel again, and I sense we’ll get more elves as we go on, but honestly not a lot really happens in this book. It’s a shame, as we’ve now caught up with Japan, so I suspect a wait for the 4th book – where the author has promised a tougher boss fight than the one that barely gets three pages here – will be a while. Still, recommended to Sword Art Online fans, especially those who just like to focus on the two leads.

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