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 6 of the Sword Art Online: Progressive manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of other Sword Art Online manga, click here.)
Back Cover Blurb
The war between elves rages on, with Kirito and Asuna caught in the middle! The forest elves seek the dark elves’ Secret Key, but to what end? Though Kirito tries to stay detached, Asuna can’t help being swept along for the ride. Kizmel is supposed to be just an NPC, right? But then why does she seem so very human?
Now that Kirito and Asuna have had their chance to introduce the third floor and interact with the NPCs of the Elf War quest, the other humans return to the stage. Here, the narrative gets complicated. As Kirito explained in the previous volume, players experience the Elf Quest differently depending on their choices, but they still share the same space. Thus, Kirito and Asuna see the reappearance of the forest elf they killed when Lind’s group triggers the quest.
In addition to multiple versions of the quest running simultaneously, we get a glimpse of Heathcliff and other nefarious elements that have nothing to do with the SAO programmed monsters. Also, the first official guilds form, bringing along the beginnings of rivalries. While there is still the urgency to escape SAO, it feels less like a “death game” with players trash-talking each other and getting jealous of Kirito’s partnership with Asuna. One really interesting scene is when the guilds express their desire to recruit Kirito (after all, who wouldn’t want him on their team?). Indeed, Kirito is popular enough to form his own group but chooses to remain solo. This is a significant departure from the anime where Kirito was ostracized and hid his beater status, and in my opinion, Progressive’s version makes much more sense.
However, this volume does have its nonsensical points, usually when it’s trying to lighten the mood. As in previous volume, much is made of Asuna’s smarts, and she even berates Kirito at one point for being dense. However, when they reach the third floor’s main town, she completely forgets the social implications of sharing a room with a guy and blithely checks the two of them into an inn in front of everyone. As for Kirito, there’s fanservice aplenty when he confides a secret plan to Kizmel—while they’re naked in the bathhouse.
Extras include a special bonus manga and illustrations.
There’s a lot to keep track of in this volume between the differing versions of the multi-stage Elf Quest and friction between the newly formed guilds. While there’s no boss battle, the simultaneous quest storylines lead to a different kind of clash. The setup for it, however, is complicated because of the various elements being manipulated, and understanding it requires an attentive read.
First published at the Fandom Post.