Publisher: Yen Press
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Sword Art Online’s world returns inside of ALfheim Online, only this time a strange new dualist with a custom sword skill has appeared. The mystery person is issuing challenges to anyone who is willing to fight for an chance to win an 11 combo sword skill. This obviously attracts the attention of our regular cast – Kirito, Asuna, and their companions. Kirito challenges the dualist and figures out something crucial about his opponent. Surprisingly he loses, showing just how powerful this new character is. When Asuna goes to challenge the one who defeated Kirito so easily, she is shocked to discover one important detail about the avatar that everyone has left out. After recovering from something so unexpected, Asuna pushes forward and tries to acquire the 11 combo sword skill for herself. What she gets instead of a whole lot bigger…
Kirito and Asuna are still recovering their lives in the real world while they continue to live out their artificial ones in virtual reality. While other arcs in the Sword Art Online series focused heavily on Kirito both inside and outside of the game world, we really didn’t learn that much about Asuna on the outside. We see a bit of it through her interactions with Kirito. Fortunately, I think we’re going to get a lot more of Asuna in the real world in this new arc. I suspect this because of a story that has already started that continues with the notion that Asuna’s family is controlling and socially/financially ambitious. We know from Asuna’s first ‘arranged’ marriage that her parents don’t take issue with marrying her off for money, so once again we see a similar issue develop. Early into this volume Asuna is confronted by her mother about her performance in school because she lost time to Sword Art Online. Poor Asuna is expected to test out of the special school and get into college so she could catch up with her peers who didn’t lose years of schooling to a virtual reality game. Additionally, Asuna is warned that any marriages to people from that special school are not to be considered – which is her mother’s way of saying a real life union with Kirito is unacceptable. Asuna’s responses to this really show another part of her character that I didn’t care about before.
I am spending so time focusing on this one part of the volume because I think it is one of the more important things that will continue throughout the series. After so many arcs, I think as readers we are used to the virtual reality world, fighting bosses, and challenging other players. These serve as standard characteristics for this genre and are being used as a vehicle to discuss the characters real lives and how they differ from their lives in the game world. If we only watched Kirito and Asuna in the real world, I doubt we would be as interested.
I thought I was tired of SAO but this new arc has proved me wrong already with the first volume. I’m looking forward to seeing more development with Asuna and her family.
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**This item was provided for review.