Sword Art Online: Aincrad Review

GameStop, Inc.

Written By Reki Kawahara
Art By Tamako Nakamura
Yen Press
ISBN: 978-0-316-37123-0

Cvr SAOIn the not too distant future, the first VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) dubbed Sword Art Online debuts. Players experience the game as if it were real life with the new immersive game helmet the NerveGear. No one is more excited than Kirito, an SAO beta tester eager to immerse himself in adventure. After a full day of game play, however, Kirito and other players attempt to log off only to discover the option has been removed. All players are trapped in the game, until they can beat the final boss. If any of them die, though, it’s game over for real.

Sword Art Online garnered a lot of attention over the past year with its premiere on Cartoon Network and live streaming. Yen Press decided to ride the waves of the anime’s release by importing the manga and light novels to the US. Yen Press is one of the top US manga publishers and they offer a mix of titles that range from excellent to “why was it brought over in the first place?” The anime has received hot and cold reviews and such extremities could dampen the manga’s success.

Sword Art Online has an interesting publication history. The author Reki Kawahara originally wrote SAO for ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki Novel Prize contest, but found he went over the page count. He then published it online and it grew popular. Kawahara eventually entered the Dengeki Novel Prize contest with another novel, which won the grand prize. ASCII Media Works was also interested in publishing SAO, so it was turned into a light novel series followed by anime, manga, and other adaptations.  SAO Aincrad’s concept about videogames crossing over into reality has been explored in other manga. .Hack/Sign and Btooom! are the first ones that come to mind, one could even argue that it has throwbacks to Ghost in the Shell (which is probably pushing it a bit too far). More authors, in Japan and the US alike, are exploring plotlines centered on videogames with a virtual immersion element. SAO distinguishes itself by making it a “do or die” situation. How many gamers have asked themselves what would happen if they couldn’t log off or wished they could forever remain in the fantasy world? It sounds good, but past the prologue the story is littered with clichés common to the most banal fan fiction.

The prologue deserves points for grabbing your attention with the idea that players can’t log out until they beat the game. It then jumps two years into the future, the SAO players have rallied together, worked their way to the 73rd floor, and have built a sustainable society (albeit a digital one). Kirito prefers to play solo (ah, the lone wolf archetype) and has become one of the game’s strongest players thanks to his time as a beta player. His preference to stay solo results from other players discriminating against beta players and their unfair advantage. He also is apparently suffering from PTSD from an incident, but he gets over that in a matter of chapters. The other lead is a female player named Asuna. She is with a guild named the Knights of Blood and supposedly one of the most skilled sword wielders. She has become a quasi-celebrity in SAO, because of her talents and her gender. Girl gamers are limited stock, so of course they are revered especially the most attractive ones (hint sarcasm). Per Asuna’s request they team up, though Kirito encounters some trouble when Asuna’s guild wants to defend her honor and get him to join. Why wouldn’t Asuna be able to defend herself?

Asuna and Kirito are one-dimensional shells with all their experiences and emotions being the single, most dramatic ever for them, until something else occurs.   Other characters fair even worse with very little development. At least, Asuna and Kirito have some meat on their bones even if readers are left gnawing for something. The greater part of the action takes place in the dungeons players need to conquer. The battle scenes are typical manga fair with the loss of minor characters and Kirito demonstrating his prowess. There is some explanation about the battle system and how players gain experience and skills. It helps understand how game play is done in the storyline, but it also feels awkward when the narrative is suddenly disrupted for explanation. Even more disrupting to the storyline is when Kirito and Asuna decide to marry each other, take an extended honeymoon, and end up adopting an AI as their child. While the event does contribute to defeating the ultimate boss, it happens too quickly to be believable and the laid on sentimentality is full of sugar. Kawahari pulled in the shojo tearjerkers for it.

Tamako Nakamura drew the art with character designs by abec. The art style bounces around throughout the manga. Details and textures are sparse throughout the entire manga, although in the beginning there is more. As the story progresses, the details are lost and the style changes as if two artists drew SAO. The style changes from average manga fair to something that imitates game avatars. The change to the later is very clean and rounded with bold black and white shading-it’s more cartoony and has a limited appeal. Backgrounds are almost non-existent and character designs do little to keep reader interest. The battle scenes are easy to follow, earning a couple points.

Sword Art Online: Aincrad is gloppy soup that attempts to be five star dining. The broth is a basic fantasy outline. The characters are the main ingredients with their traits as clichéd spices that don’t blend well. The art is the soup bowl that is cheap ceramics instead of fine china. It’s a book that passes right through readers heads and leave them hungry for the savory storyline they were promised.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Paul Crowder and ‘Boss’ Wooldridge Talk ‘The Blue Angels’ Doc – Interview

Director, Paul Crowder and Flying Ace, Greg “Boss” Woolridge talk about...

Eric Bana Talks ‘Force of Nature: The Dry 2’ – Interview

Eric Bana Returns for the sequel to ‘The Dry‘ in ‘Force...

Letitia Wright’s Talks about her Latest Film ‘Aisha’ – Interview

Letitia Wright’s latest film, ‘Aisha‘, a story about immigration, resilience, friendship...

Event News Event Reviews
Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Takes You to A Whole New World at Segerstrom – Review

Disney’s Aladdin takes the audience on a thrilling chase and a wonderous place...

Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach on The Queen Mary this Halloween

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach for the...

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice’ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the Arts – Review

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice‘ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part something: Hermione and the Mini-gun pt 2

Have a lead salad instead!

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part ?: Hermione and the mini-gun pt 1

It can't fire more than 6,000 per minute!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse: Kurt v Sid – HASTA!

Hasta La Vista Baby!

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...