Manga Review: Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosary Vol. 001

Sword Art Online was undoubtedly one of the most popular anime of 2012. Based upon a series of light novels by Reki Kawahara, SAO’s near-future characters, gorgeous fantasy setting, and life-or-death stakes drew an enthusiastic fan following. Yen Press has released Volume 1 of the Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosary manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of  other Sword Art Online manga, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Kirito and Sinon’s battle with Death Gun is over, but mere weeks later, something strange is afoot in the next-generation VRMMO ALfheim Online. A new duelist with a custom sword skill is defeating all comers–including Kirito! But when Asuna goes to face this duelist, she receives something she never expected: an invitation to an exclusive guild! But what is their aim? The Mother’s Rosario arc begins!

The Review

Mother’s Rosary, like Progressive, is an Asuna-centric series in the Sword Art Online franchise. This story, however, takes place well after Aincrad. In fact, it takes place after the events of GGO. As such, we see Asuna not as “The Flash” nor the damsel in distress at the top of the World Tree but as a teenage girl living life in the real world.

Unfortunately, despite all it took to get her out of SAO and then ALO, Asuna doesn’t return to a happily ever after. Certainly, she has Kirito’s devotion, but his love isn’t sufficient to erase her problems. Rather, another person’s lack of love threatens to negate the good in Asuna’s life.

Enter Asuna’s mom, otherwise known as the Queen of Tiger Moms. You’d think that she’d have sympathy for a daughter that got trapped in multiple life/death situations and narrowly avoided an arranged marriage to a creepy psychopath. But no. Rather, she acts as if the damage that their family’s company suffered on account of Sugou’s diabolical scheme (in Fairy Dance) is Asuna’s fault. While Mrs. Yuuki’s a bit extreme in her lack of empathy, her insistence on controlling every single aspect of Asuna’s life is bound to strike a chord with a lot of readers.

As such, New Aincrad, which is based off the virtual world that once held Asuna captive, becomes her place of escape. Even so, she can’t fully forget her problems, and the creators do a wonderful job at expressing her despair at the disparity between her real and online selves.

And that’s the situation when a mysterious new duelist arrives in New Aincrad. Enticing other players to fight with the prize of an eleven-hit original swordskill, Absolute Sword defeats all comers with ease. When even Kirito fails in his attempt, an intrigued Asuna decides to try the challenge herself.

Her reaction when she discovers Absolute Sword is a cute girl is a bit overdone; after all, Kirito passed for a “cute girl” in GGO. But then the narrative dives into the more important questions of why Absolute Sword is so strong and what she’s trying to accomplish. Absolute Sword quickly decides to include Asuna in her plans, and while those plans don’t require Asuna to put her life on the line, impossible is a pretty good descriptor for Absolute Sword’s goal.

By the way, the artwork is done by Tsubasa Haduki, who produced the Fairy Dance series. So if you liked Haduki-sensei’s fairy characters, you’ll see a lot more in Mother’s Rosary, although they’re now flying against an Aincrad backdrop.

Extras include embedded Background Guide notes, extra episode, afterward manga, and the title page and table of contents printed in color.

In Summary

The back cover touts SAO’s tagline: This might be a game, but it’s not something you play. However, this particular arc might be the closest to simply “playing” in the SAO franchise. There’s no “game of death,” no players forcibly trapped in a coma, no real world PK-ing. And that might just make this storyline the most relatable of the bunch. Asuna’s still showing some impressive swordplay, but as she embarks on a new ALO quest with new friends, her struggles are shaping up to be internal rather than external ones.

First published at the Fandom Post.


One response to “Manga Review: Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosary Vol. 001

  1. Pingback: Manga Review: Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosary Vol. 002 | Keeping It In Canon ...mostly

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