Sword Art Online (Manga); Great Idea, Poorly executed

Our thoughts from the monthly Mangaforum 

Sword art online; Great Idea, Poorly executed

Last month we read the hugely popular light novel/Anime/Manga; Sword Art Online by Reki Kawahara; And joining the forum this week were our good old friends and Manga bros, Matt (aka Coryn) and Simon (aka Vacant) from the highly established Manga Raiders website and HappyHourPodcast (thttps://mangaraidershappyhour.podbean.com/) – Ever the pros, Matt and Simon showed us how it’s done, with pop-limiting mics and glasses of wine. It was a good time.

So, What we all thought in a nutshell;

  • The set up is GREAT; but the story smells like it was written by a teenage boy…
    • A lot of good ideas; Poorly executed“; Matt
    • Starts off so good – WHY DOES IT TURN INTO A ROMANCE?!“; Lex

Disclaimer; I, Lara, had not done my research and knew nothing about Sword Art Online before I started reading it…And, well, I couldn’t be bothered to finish it. 

At Least I can say I’ll be writing this article from a completely neutral starting point…


What we liked but also disliked…

The popularity of SAO is undeniable, but ultimately somewhat questionable; I think our forum’s conversation might reflect how it’s even quite divisive in our own opinions.  While we all agreed that the concepts are so interesting, we also all agreed that the Manga didn’t actually achieve any interesting story-telling, and was more closely akin to a bad self-Insertion fanfic, penned by a 14-15 year old boy, living out a gaming fantasy…Wow, even for me that’s a pretty harsh comment.


  • Essentially the characters enter a virtual reality game with immersive “NerveGear,” a helmet that gives the player a complete sensory experience and control their in-game characters with their minds; However, at the very start of the story, the original game creator appears to inform players that they are FUCKED and can only leave by completing all the levels and evil bosses…oh and death in the game results in death in Real Life.

Its a cool set up, right? It starts with focusing on these 2 Cool Guys, Kirito (who has been a beta tester for the game prior to its launch) and Klein (a general cool dude); When the players are told they’re all trapped, their avatars morph into their real faces and within the first chapter, we see the  array of player reactions, creating the desperate chaos that would inevitably be generated when 10000 people are trapped in a virtual reality battle game….what they fuck will they do now…??


There then follows a simple time hop to 2 years later and its the lone-wolf Kiriko’s brooding mood followed by his impromptu friendship with the female lead, the highly desired (comic-relief/ boob-service) Asuna…

…Yup; Its that lazy.  The protagonists, age 16, and the convenient shortcut for a romance to be written .

I for one, just got more and more bored with the lack of character development; Sure, there are some great dark themes that give the story depth – But It was just Mary-Sue archetypes of the perfect shonen main characters, with the story progressing into their shockingly superficial romance; And the characters that seemed potentially diverse and interesting, are simply just glossed over after a first few initial pages (Klein for example, WTF happened to Klein?!) The story more or less focuses on how alone Kirito wants to be, how Asuna is there too, and apparently He saves her from the Game’s highlevel bosses a couple times.

One could suggest that it was my limited perseverance that’s stopped me discovering the true art of Sword Art Online; There are ten manga adaptations of the series, all written by Reki Kawahara, illustrated by different artists, implying character growth, struggle and commitment to the story….

Or maybe this was just the demographic misfire (We can acknowledge that i am not their target audience) … although I do enjoy shonen, just Good shonen.

Just, Nothing about the situation feels real; At least from the start, the story world just isn’t complete and if a manga can’t draw a reader in to a complete world of virtual reality in panel form within the first few chapters, then I would assume the whole thing is just dead in the in the real world.


Matt’s words during our recording ring true “Its Not a series to be considered or thought about, at all -You were supposed to accept what happened and move directly on to the next thing” Now, we all know that not all manga and anime is meant to me considered and cerebral (take Pokemon for example; Are we really enslaving animals solely to fight them against each other for sport??) But without ANY depth, or multi-dimensional character development and/or some kind of genuine theme of human struggle that the reader can relate to, then what is the point, really?

The interesting thing is however, that half our forum are not so scathing about the anime. The anime apparently elaborates slightly more on the history of the world, and develops the key characters back story, much earlier on – Asuna is actually her own independent character apparently. Perhaps this is a result of the anime taking direction from the light novel, as the original format. None of the Mangaforum have read the light novel (yet) but I now wonder whether it was just a poorly executed medium of manga was what limited the over all story.

I like to believe that comics and sequential art forms have the potential to lend themselves to any story, HOWEVER it’s crucial to remember that,  just like when films are converted from books, the consequences of a bad delivery are FATAL and UNFORGIVABLE.


We welcome any and all Sword Art Online related discussion- but also any views on good/bad delivery of source material into manga.

100wordanime actually wrote a great article on Anime’s to be rebooted, which i could totally get on board with – check that out here –> https://100wordanime.blog/2017/04/18/tuesdays-top-5-anime-id-like-to-see-rebooted/

OR what other examples are there where perhaps the Anime has delivered more than the Manga?

I’d like to thank Our MangaBros for podcasting with us; and if YOU fancy chatting and joining the forum, we’re streaming next on the 28th April, giving out views on by Naoki Urasawa’s, 20th Century boys as well as catching up on other manga and anime news and everything else.

Tune in at http://www.twitch.tv/mangaforum, and follow us on twitter for more updates over the coming months- https://twitter.com/themangaforum.

As always, We look forward to hearing what you think so comment below!

Lara and Lexa







One comment

  1. Nice article. I’ve never tried the manga of SAO but I liked the anime (not that it couldn’t be improved on in a number of ways). By the way, thanks for sharing the link to my post, appreciate it.


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