Sword Art Online: Progressive, Vol. 5

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

There are several reasons that I think that Reki Kawahara is happier writing the Progressive novels, but the primary one is that he really just loves writing Kirito and Asuna falling deeply in love with each other – something we get quite a bit of here. He admits in the afterword that he’s not entirely sure how this is going to mesh with canon – in the original series, Kirito and Asuna act like they’re casual acquaintances when we first see them. But as I’ve said before, I think he knows he doesn’t have to worry about that till about Floor 10, and they’re only on the sixth. What’s more, this is Progressive’s first two-parter – which is likely why it’s shorter than usual. If you dislike Kirito (it’s all his POV again) or don’t care for Kirito and Asuna as a couple, the entire Progressive series is skippable for you. For the rest of us, it’s pretty fun and adorable – well, mostly adorable. Those player killers keep coming back, and they’re after our heroes.

I had to remind myself what was going on in the plot, as it’s been two full years since the last volume (fortunately, we will have less of a wait for the next one). The new floor consists mainly of puzzles to be solved, such as sudoku or the sliding pieces puzzles. Kirito and Asuna try to breeze through the main quest in the town, helped along by Kirito’s beta knowledge, but a spanner is thrown into the works when they’re captured while under a paralysis spell (as part of the quest they’re doing) by Morte and his partner, who are ready for some killing. Kirito and Asuna are really starting to fear for their lives here – especially Kirito, who’s been attacked multiple times. Things aren’t being helped by the ongoing war between the two lead factions, and Kirito attempting to deftly not support either side. Fortunately, the two of them do also have their bond with Kizmel and the elves, and can (mostly) safely relax in her presence – even if that means sharing a hot spring. And a bed.

It does have to be said, this volume of Progressive also contains an awful lot of game mechanics. I’ve never been overly fond of these sort of things in light novels, and I’m not fond of it here. But power through the endless pages of Kirito describing how his sword movements work or which stat boost he should get next, because the meat of the book is Kirito and Asuna’s relationship. They’re simply cute, and honestly I think the only think holding them back right now is the strange sense of self-hatred Kirito gets about himself as a romantic lead (yes, I am aware how ironic this is given the SAO franchise as a whole) and Asuna’s embarrassment, though by the end of the book she not only “bundles” with him in a queen sized bed (in the Scottish sense of the word) but they’re connecting pinkies as they sleep so that they’re always aware of each other’s presence. Sword Art Online Progressive is, at heart, a love story.

It’s also only half done – there’s no cliffhanger, and the author admits this is basically “I wrote too long a book, so they cut it in half”. I’m definitely ready for the next half, and more shipping tease. Oh yes, and more Argo! She was barely in this one.

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  1. Eldon Siemens says

    I definitely agree – we need more Argo, she’s a welcome addition to the cast! I do think this volume was too short, but so long as the second part comes soon enough, I’ll accept it. The volume 4-5 gap really was too long.

    At this point, I don’t think Kawahara should be concerned with aligning the original 2-volume story with Progressive, as the characters’ growth should take precedence over canon, and I already view this as a separate timeline from the original. IMHO, the Progressive series should be viewed as what the original 2-volume set should have been and simply toss out those first two volumes as a test run.

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