Damn, another post about Sword Art Online, I must be getting desperate. Except this is a completely different version so… Doesn’t count, right? Seriously though, I mentioned I was gonna read the Progressive manga and I was going in with spectacularly low expectations and maybe that’s come to effect my perception on it but regardless I have to admit: it’s pretty fucking good. And I mean that straight up without lying, or even ironically good. It’s a well-written story (so far) with characters that are, not only bearable, but… Oh how I hope Satan isn’t seducing me to say these words: GOOD characters! It has good characters. Keep in mind for spoilers, by the way. Asuna is the protagonist, seems like. For the first few pages of V1 it was mainly just enforcing Asuna’s reasoning for wanting to get out of the VRMMO by depicting her struggles in life in the real world. How she was taught to just sub-consciously focus on acing her exams, thinking about her future, which college she should go to; normie stuff. She was even the type of person who’d trash games and call them a “waste of time”.
I wanna note that her reasoning for wanting to get out of the game in the anime was fine even if it wasn’t very telling of her character. Much like this version of Asuna; the anime version of Asuna thought games was a waste of time and every moment spent in SAO was a day wasted in the real world. A genuinely sensible philosophy. The Progressive version had a very similar sentiment. But keep in mind, the issue in the anime was that she kind of just laid down next to Kirito and that sensible thought she had just before that seemingly vanished all cause Kirito is, objectively, always right and you should never question him. The parallel in this one is a lot more fleshed out. Asuna is hinging on giving up her life as she finds no reason to live within a world she has no purpose in. Now, there’s a bit of a snag in this first part but basically Kirito saves Asuna back-to-back. It’s pretty dumb. Essentially, I think Asuna was chasing a rumor that stated there was a log-out porter and she ran into a wild beast and was saved by Kirito and Argo(cool new character; more on her later.)
She was urgently rushing to get out because she wanted to, I shit you not, get to her exam on time. It’s funny when I say it but please believe me that if you read her story up till this part you’d sympathize at least a little bit. I-it’s very dramatic! Anyways, she meets Argo who’s a very necessary character that the anime was missing.
Argo is an information broker- y’know, like the one that Kirito was talking to in that weird Santa episode where he wanted to get the item that supposedly had the ability to revive someone. I really like her because she gave me information that was never present in the anime; the whole concept is actually really cool! Basically, she gathers as much intel as she possibly can and sells it as currency. Everything about what she does is unfair. Some costs on specific intel can go up depending on the circumstances. For example, I think it was when Asuna was looking to buy lewd-ish kinds of underwear that Argo caught her and confessed that she would only sell the information of the underwear she wears for a hefty price because they’re friends (more or less). Throughout my reading of this manga, it was apparent to me that in presence was gonna be decently influential and it was. Information brokers are the initial source of almost every rumor within the game. I am pretty sure that she was a significant part in the main duos rise to fame as rumors about Kirito and Asuna sprung up left and right. To the point where a ton of people were calling them the “2 best players in SAO”. I’m so happy that got some explanation. Despite the fact that Kirito and Asuna were obviously overpowered, I still found it hard to believe they were the top 2 players in the anime. Seemed like just a line the author threw in there with no explanation how it came to be.
Talking about Kirito is always hard. Because even when you can say something positive about him it’s a struggle to describe him in a positive sentence. It’s just not words that come out easily. So, I am going to talk about Kirito & Asuna as a duo dynamic. In the anime, I always imagined the intent behind them was always that they were on equal footing. But the differing roles was what made it difficult to reflect that, I guess. Unlike in the anime, Asuna is the first protagonist and shares that spot with Kirito as he’s introduced a little later on. And while I do think SAO has a lot of nuance within its world that makes it as interesting of a concept as it is. I think the plot was intended to be a lot simpler than it really seemed. It’s a dick measuring contest between Kirito and Asuna. And that may sound hilarious but it is also amazingly romantic. There’s a scene where they’re just part of some raid- I think it was to get into a boss floor. Everyone else was really struggling and trying to play the game smart. Kirito and Asuna, on the other hand, were just having a contest to see how many mobs they can kill faster (Gimli and Legolas style). It was a really fun and indirectly romantic scene that made me really like this manga. It was also cool that when the others were getting murdered by this large ox thingamajig; Kirito turned around and just yelled Asuna’s name and stated that they should probably go and kill that thing. Asuna just kept murdering and did not want to bother pausing the competition just to save a bunch of people from a thing that’s single-handedly destroying them.. Sufficient to say, they were a power couple. This is the core principle that the anime was definitely missing which is unfortunate.
The theme behind this manga lies within Asuna’s development. She went from being a person who studies every day for her exams and trying to get into a good college and became someone who can enjoy life for what it is. Even if it isn’t real; that’s not what is important. What is important is that you enjoy the small things. Enjoy what life gives you and have fun with it. Yes, it is partly thanks to Kirito but at the same time Kirito is having a dilemma when it comes to settling down on this ideology. He enjoys the fruits of his labor but never intends to let his guard down. He always feels the need to remind Asuna that NPC characters are just NPCs and she should not get too attached to them. Of course, the more he participates in these long quests the more relaxed Kirito seems. But the most endearing thing is how fucking scared he gets when he feels he can’t protect Asuna while she’s doing something that was unplanned. But I think I’ve spoiled enough. I highly recommend you read this manga on your free time.