Sword Art Online, Vol. 27: Unital Ring VI

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

Last time I said that it was a good book but the plot progression was minimal, and I’d say that the plot progression is even more minimal here. It’s also not quite as good a book. Stuff happens, don’t get me wrong. Lives are put in danger, especially in the Underworld, and there is a return there of a villain that I really didn’t care about when they were around in the main Underworld arc and care less about now that their descendants have returned. On the Unital Ring side, we’re headed up to a new level, and we’re interacting more with players from different games, but I sort of feel like Kirito is a metaphor for what Kawahara is trying to do with the series. He’s trying to juggle 3-4 plots at once and can’t devote all his attention to any of them. Frankly, I’d rather that he and Asuna try to figure out if Kizmel has been magically brought back to life (clearly implied near the end) than anything with dragon spaceships.

We pick up where we left off, with Ronie and Tiese staring at Eolyne and wondering if he’s just Eugeo wearing a mask, but the answer to that is still – so far – that he is not. They all then bond in a big bath scene, but then Kirito and Asuna are dragged back to Japan while Alice gets to stay and bond with her sister some more. They head back to Unital Ring to find that everyone else is tacking the floor boss, with Lizbeth staying behind so that someone can bring them up to speed. They then arrive on the new floor… the third “game” to do so, after Asuka Empire (which Yuuki and her friends played) and Apocalyptic Date (where the players are anthro). Unfortunately, these new gamers know Kirito’s reputation, and they’re also desperate because of some poor decision making, so they decide to kidnap Yui. Also a poor decision. And back in Underworld, Alice’s reunion is interrupted by a full-blown invasion.

There were a few scenes in this book I enjoyed. The entire sequence with the robot kitten was not only adorable but also showed off the issues that AI is running into – I loved it when we were told that, if it ran on AI, the kitten would start walking around on two legs like a human. I also liked Asuna and Kirito’s brief panic on returning to Unital Ring, which was sort of darkly funny – was everyone killed off while they were gone? But honestly, the main issue with this book was that there was simply too much going on, and it didn’t give me enough depth to really care about one thing over the other. This is especially true on the Underworld side, where we still don’t quite know who the main villain is, but the ones behind the invasion are frankly a group I would have been delighted to never see again. At least it wasn’t the return of Gabriel Miller. Yet.

If you’re still reading SAO, I’d say keep going. Eugeo payoff looks like it will be coming next time, and hopefully we get some dark elves as well. Just… not in this book.

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