Sword Art Online: Progressive, Vol. 8

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

(This review spoils the end of the book, but I’ll wait till after the cover art and summary to do so.)

For the most part, Sword Art Online is a cash cow. What this means, especially now that Kawahara is no longer relying on rewriting his webnovel, is that he is free to do what he wants and take all the time he needs without real fear of being cancelled. Now, this can be dangerous, and the series risks becoming a bit TOO meandering. But it also means that he’s happy to set up a bunch of stuff, lead us towards resolving it… and then kick it up to the next floor/book, knowing that he has time to look into it in greater detail then. This is what happens here with the ongoing Dark Elves plot. We get a few more hints about what’s going on, there’s some tantalizing angst as they worry about putting the main casino plot ahead of Kizmel’s (she assures them it’s fine.) And then the confrontation… isn’t. See you in Book 9.

Kirito frequently runs on his instincts, which usually serve him well but also get him in a pile of trouble, as they do here where he essentially decides to rescue the monster dog from where it’s being slowly tortured to death for the casino games. Which is fine, but… that means they’ve got a lot that now needs to happen, including getting Nirrnir to inspect the enemy camp’s monster stables. Unfortunately, that leads to Very Bad Things, so now Kirito and Asuna are in a race against time to try to a) beat the cheating casino, b) beat the floor boss, and c) help Kizmel get un-disgraced. Fortunately, they have each other, they have Argo, and they have the power of delicious Greek food, so it won’t be TOO hard… maybe.

So yeah, I have to admit, I was not particularly surprised at the fact that Nirrnir was a vampire, as all the signs were there in the previous book. It would have been more odd if she WASN’T. No, the surprise was that I expected our heroes to win and be able to cure her poisoning at the last minute. I wasn’t even that surprised at Kirito telling Nirrnir to drink his blood in order to stay alive – this is a classic trope of vampire stories. I was pretty surprised that this caused Kirito to become a vampire himself. And I was VERY VERY surprised that this was not resolved by the end of the book, meaning he’s going to have to take on the next floor only in the evening, as he now has all the traditional vampire weaknesses. It fits with the story in this 2-book arc, but honestly, I hope “Kirito the Vampire” is resolved sooner rather than later in Book 9. And honestly, I kind of want the dark elf plot resolved as well. I love Kizmel, but ell… sometimes Progressive *is* too meandering.

We’re caught up with Japan again, and I’m not sure when Book 9 will come out. In the meantime, please enjoy a Kirito who is probably going to be staring at Asuna’s neck even more than he normally does.

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