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From Yen Press:
In the year 2022, gamers rejoice as Sword Art Online-a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) like no other-opens its virtual doors, allowing players to take full advantage of the ultimate in gaming technology: NerveGear, a system that allows users to completely immerse themselves in the game world by manipulating their brain waves to create a wholly realistic gaming experience. But when the game goes live, the elation of the players quickly turns to horror as they discover that, for all its amazing features, SAO is missing one of the most basic functions of any MMORPG-a log-out button. Now trapped in the virtual world of Aincrad, their bodies held captive by NerveGear in the real world, users are issued a chilling ultimatum: conquer all one hundred floors of Aincrad to regain your freedom. But in the warped world of SAO, "game over" means certain death-both virtual and real...
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Keep the SAO train rolling!
Volume 1 is truly a masterpiece in my eyes. Like many have said before, the idea of getting stuck in a video game is not new itself. However, KAWAHARA Reki refines the idea making it truly unique. The story is focused on "gaming" but really, the "video game" aspect is only a flavor into what SAO truly stands is, a story of human interaction.
The way the story unfolds actually makes you believe "Yes this can happen", as shmigelpuf says "the story has a perfect balance of action, adventure, and romance".
The main character main seem like an archtype to some typical protagonist, but as you read further, you get to know the protagonist, you get to understand his thought, his actions, his feelings, and brings the story much more alive.
Read this, give it a chance, you will not regret it.
Oh and as darn2k mentioned, Volume 3 and 4 are one story, one arc and only combined do they equal the length of Volume 1. You have to read both to get a good picture and idea of the overall story.
To help the confusion for new readers
Volume 1-Arc #1 Volume 2-Before/In Between Arc #1 Volume 3- Arc #2 Volume 4-Arc #2 And so on
... Last updated on May 16th, 2011, 9:50pm
DO NOT stop after volume 1, it just gets better as the series goes on
I really love this series, I'm even helping edit. But I've just got to know how much of volume 3 claudiofd actually read, because no matter how much it was, it wouldn't be enough. Volume 3/4 are all one big story so if you only read a couple chapters or even the full volume 3 you wouldn't be able to get the same feeling, but once you read all of volume 4 with it you won't be disappointed.
That is not even mentioning volumes 5/6 where you get more of what is going on outside the game and Kirito is using a light saber in a shooting-based game.
The first volume was amazing but the story should have ended there
I read through the first volume pretty quickly and was amazed by how good everything was. The pace was good. Even when the main story was sort of "on hold" while going through the romantic scenes it was so good. Those scenes end up being very important because only by reading through them do you manage to understand and value their relationship.
Another thing I loved was the philosophic questions behind their situation. I clearly remember a scene where asuna and kirito are talking and she says something like: If we are here and our hearts are here and if we are living and feeling these emotions, isn't this reality in itself? Now that was beautiful and I totally agree. They were in the game for 2 years. They laughed, cried and suffered in game. Looking at that as just an imitation of reality based in lie is wrong. That was reality.
Then the amazing unpredictable end of the 1st volume left me with my heart beating faster than normal and all I could think was "What the hell? How will this end". Then I skipped the 2nd volume right to volume 3 because I honestly couldn't wait to get some closure to that cliffhanger.
And volume 3 has been a big disappointment so far. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad. It's just that after that amazing 1st volume I was expecting something equally amazing. Spoilers ahead so be careful. The new world isn't working for me and so aren't the new characters. Also the fact that it seems like it's gonna take a while to see the girl again is pissing me off. Then the whole conspiracy in the real world sounds dumb. He is going to marry a girl who is in a coma? You can do that in Japan? And her dad is all for it. Damn...
Concluding. Read it. Read the first volume and continue only if you really love it. Especially if you like MMOs or even fantasy as a whole you'll have a blast.
Read Volume 1 - Loved It
It started out real well. Protagonist is like your typical MMO grind player. Socially inept/withdrawn. Great Main Character in my book. He's neither weak or a loser. He's independent initially and able to stand by himself but later will soon have someone to depend on.
Plot was great IMO. Everything blended real well. Volume one tells the beginning and end of the whole story but the later volume will delve into Kirito and Asuna's life as well as every character they encountered in game in more detail(I've only read v01 don't quote me on this). His journey within the 2 years before the current floor 74. Where Volume had a time-skip.
Spoiler (highlight to view)
Gah! I need to know Asuna and Kazuto's relationship after clearing the game!
I have always been a fan of VRMMORPG type manga/games/novels/etc, and when I read this I immediately enjoyed the plot and the main character. I'm especially liking the world it takes place in and the characters that surround him. More recently I'm loving volume 2 with the Scilica and Lizbeth chapters and hold high expectations for more releases. I also began looking into the manga that has been released recently and I think highly of how it will progress. Baka-Tsuki I thank your group for releasing this along with all your other projects. Keep up the good work and please continue to release more chapters of SAO.
... Last updated on December 29th, 2010, 12:23am
[Holodeck Malfunction + Win To Exit] done right.
VOLUME 1 "(8/10)": I'm serious. I was quite surprised with the first volume. The concept itself isn't new (see .hack//, Detective Conan Movie, Yu Gi Oh, Digimon just to name a few). But compared to those I'm very pleased with the scientific approach behind S.A.O.. It's way more probable than the likes of .hack and co. It's one of the best and more importantly BELIEVABLE 'stuck in a virtual reality' kind of stories I've read or seen so far. That alone is reason enough to give this a try. Add a very interesting Virtual Reality MMORPG, a not so transparent plot, and a quite balanced cast. The result is known as Sword Art Online.
[Characters] I have to disagree with Astral100 on this one. IMHO Kirito is a great fit. He has alot of insecurities, etc etc. TRUE. But that also has a reason. While I'm usually not a fan of this type of protagonist in this case the plot depicted a very withdrawn and unsociable kind of teenager who finds refuge in gaming. That's what makes him a hardcore gamer, it's also ironically the source of his strength (being a hardcore gamer/betatester has allowed him to reach a very high level). Another thing that makes him interesting is that he's one step ahead of the reader at all times. Mainly by withholding information from the reader, but also because the plot is driven by conclusions he draws. Making the plot less predictable.
[Plot] I won't go into detail. A great read. If there's one thing I didn't like it's the intermission. You'll know when you get there. All the suspense was gone, and while you might argue this was a good break - literally 'the calm before the storm' - I would've preferred another approach.
VOLUME 2-4: I haven't finished Volume 2 yet, but so far it was a bittersweet disapointment. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed it plenty. But it's basically fanservice. Sidestories of Kirito meeting girls who end up falling for him. The characters were lovely, and I do realize that the events of volume 2 are important for the following arcs. However all things considered the events are superfluous and don't advance the story. It's merely there to satisfy the readers with fanservice and it lives out the glory created by the prequel. It's certainly nice in a way, but I have mixed feelings about it. "(5/10)"
ALfheimOnline (ALO) the successor of VMMORPG SAO and the second arc of the story (Vol 3-4). I'll give it to you straight. It's nowhere near as good or interesting as the first volume. At times it was somewhat irritating even. Damsel in Distress is bad enough as it is (I hate those..) now add a very unpleasant and boring villain and a protagonist who apparently turned into a moron. The previous calmness and intelligence he showed at times that made the plot less predictable is now replaced by impulsiveness. The story is no longer unpredictable. In the end this arc turned into a mediocre .hack// clone. "(5/10)"
VOLUME 5-6: So far GunGaleOnline (GGO) has been the best arc since volume 1. I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it's the thrill of anticipation you get from reading the beginning of a potentially interesting story. I can't wait to read more. (Currently @ v.5 ch.5) "(7/10)"
... Last updated on October 19th, 2011, 9:40am
Having seen a bunch of good reviews I started reading it, but now I regret it
I am so tired of those stories in anime and manga. The main character is once again a weak loser (character-wise), has no confidence, has tons of insecurities, makes stupid mistakes that a 3 year old would not do, always is led by others and agrees with whatever decisions other people make and is a total and complete looser. In other words, your typical harem hero. Thankfully there is only one girl so far, but she also feels attracted to the wimpy main character for no reason at all.
By the way, the real world girls would be be turned off by such behaviour faster than you can say snap.
It started off well, but the further I got, the worse it became. I had to stop reading halfway through the first volume, because it has become simply disgusting to me.
I mean you would expect a person who has been fighting every single day with his life at stake for 2 years would be more mature than this... this... looser.
If you are still a male virgin teen that has no experience with girls you might like it, but me, I afraid I am too old for this kind of bullshit anymore.
What are the japanese authors that make such novels are thinking? Ugh...I now have a very bad aftertaste in my mouth after reading this.
... Last updated on May 24th, 2010, 2:44am
totally unexpected. id seen this novel link in baka-tsuki page long time ago, but stayed away from reading it thinking it a novel based on available online game right now. most of manga based on online game doesnt really interest me since it feel flat.
im glad i read this novel today though..very good story. u could read the vol 1 for stand alone story. vol 2 is more like sidestory which fill the gap between the two years that the 1st vol skim by. which i dont really care.
Vol 3 is the real sequel. which pick up after vol 1 ended. quite a twist to the story though. im looking forward to kirito's new adventure.
9.9/10 (read below)
Since others have already said i wanted to say i will only say on little thing Had the waking-up scene been Asuna's then its 10/10 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
... Last updated on May 5th, 2010, 2:14pm
@_@ epic win!!! then meh. .
This is really a good novel. . it surprised me when i first started reading it. . the way the author made it seem more realistic in a sense that they were really living in a different world that one can only see in one's dreams. . in just the first few chapters i was drawn in. no... i was captivated by it. . the story has a perfect balance of action, adventure, and romance. . though it was a bit ahm. . alarming when i read chapter 16.5.. of volume 1. all in all its a good novel even if I've only read the 1st volume i think the next volumes would still be as great!
(edit) um. . just read vol 1 and 2. . it should have just ended there. . other volumes are meh. . why meh you ask? its like it shifted from epic seinen to shounen. . and the fact when you die in sao you die in real life disappears in the later volumes for me makes it feel that its lost its unique feel and magic. . so yeah the other volumes are meh. . @_@
(Edit) It seems i misjudge the latter volumes. . The fact is i just didn't like the fairy dance arc. . it was just boring and very cliche shounenish. . the following arcs improved a bit and now. . i am loving the alicization arc. . hope it maintains this level of polish. .