Kazuto Kirigaya (aka Kirito) has survived the death game of Aincrad masterminded by Akihiko Kayaba, programmer of Sword Art Online, and made it back to the real world. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Asuna Yuuki (aka Asuna the Flash), the girl Kirito fell in love with in the game world and who has yet to awaken from her seemingly endless slumber.
As his sister Suguha sadly looks on, Kazuto continues to visit Asuna in the hospital in the hope of finding answers… But one day, the answers suddenly find him in the form of a man who claims to be Asuna’s fiance?! With him, the man brings an in-game screenshot of someone who looks a lot like Asuna being held captive! Now Kirito must dive into an all-new VRMMORPG, Alfheim Online, to bring Asuna home!
Original Story: Reki Kawahara
Art: Tsubasa Hazuki
(May have spoilers if you haven’t read the first arc, Aincrad)
In this manga adaptation, Sword Art Online once again returns with the same story as the light novels but with a different artist and story plot. The manga has 3 volumes unlike the first arc which has only one volume (the manga for the Aincrad has 2 digital volumes). The same goes for the digital format as well, it has 3 volumes. In this review, I will try to discuss the positive and negative aspects to this manga adaptation. I will also try refrain from spoiling the story as much as I can. If you have not read the first arc from the manga or light novel, I recommend not reading this review.
The artwork for this manga, in my opinion, has improved since the Aincrad manga. The art was done by Tusbasa Haduki and I thought his character designer was better than Tamako Nakamura’s design (from the previous manga). Haduki actually makes look like a boy while Nakamura made him look like a girl.
There is also a downside to the art. I also felt like the characters such as Kirito, Leafa and Asuna appeared “cute” in a sense. On the other hand though, Haduki also knows how to make the characters look angry, shocked or even sadness. You can tell when the characters display negative emotions on the black background and the eyes. When the background is fully black, something dark and negative was about to happen.
The combat scenes he does are pretty decent themselves. I like how Haduki can draw one against one battles but I sometimes had to reread the scenes where there is too much going on. In one of the moments of the story, Kirito fights a swarm of enemies by himself. At first, it is easy to follow what’s going on during the fight but when more enemies appear, it does become difficult to see what’s going on.
The story takes place after the events of the first arc of Sword Art Online where Kazuto is still recovering from being trapped for 2 years in the game “Sword Art Online”. He is now free along with other players. We also get to see Kirito’s cousin/”little sister” Suguha and learn about her feelings towards Kazuto. Even though he defeats the game and saved many players, we find out that some are still trapped, this includes his girlfriend and “video game wife” Asuna. Asuna is still trapped in the game and her body is in deep slumber. The story fully begins when Kazuto learns that the reason behind his trapped wife and players is none other than the game creator Sugou Nobuyuki. To make matters worse, Sugou traps Asuna so he can marry her and own her father’s company for his scheme; he is also the creator of the new VRMMORPG “ALfheim Online”, a game where players can become fairies and fly around in a new world. Kazuto must return to virtual world and win to save Asuna’s freedom.
The story of Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance changes from “escaping from a virtual death trap” to “a rescue mission.” This arc, even in terms of the anime and light novels, had mixed reviews based on how the characters were made and the themes displayed. This arc really emphasizes on what are the characters going through in many situations and how do they react towards other.
Personally, I feel like this arc wanted to focus on the three main characters: Kazuto, Suguha and Asuna. Based on what people are saying about this arc, Fairy Dance tries to form a “love triangle” with Kirito with his girlfriend Asuna and his “sister” Leafa. The theme of incest can be a major drawback to the story as it can be “weird” to fall in love with your brother. This is one of the reasons why Leafa is less likeable according to fans. Another thing I noticed from fans is transforming Asuna into a “damsel in distress”. In the story, Asuna is trapped by the creator of the game and she can’t use her fighting skills from the previous game to escape. In the end, she sits around waiting for her love Kirito to save her. These are the reason why some people despise this arc because of the characters and story plot.
There is another thing that bothered me the most is when we also see the appearance of Lisabeth and Silica. Unless you read the light novels, readers will be confused on who are these girls and how do they know about Kirito and Asuna.
Would I recommend this manga? It depends. I think the safe bet if you want to enjoy Sword Art Online, you should focus on reading the light novels. The light novels are the original source and they help clarify the characters and feelings. The manga is there for readers to help visualize the story. If you are like me who watched the anime first, the manga is no different; the feels the same as the anime. As a SAO fan, I enjoy it. I felt the arc was new and different than the Aincrad arc and we did get to see new characters. Besides the “love triangle theme”, I really like Leafa and how she just want to be close to her brother and have the feeling to be free and fly in the sky. Kirito was awesome as ever. He was a guy that was willing to sacrifice everything to save one person and he knew he had to go back to the virtual world again. This is just my opinion.
What did you think about the manga version? Do you like it, hate it, or meh? Comment down below for feedback and let me know if I missed something. 🙂