sword art online… go… now!

If I told you that Sword Art Online crossed Tower of Druaga with dot Hack, what are the odds that you’ll go read it? Zero? Or zero?

Well, that would be a mistake. Sword Art Online (via Baka-Tsuki) is an enjoyable read. In a nutshell, it is part Tower of Druaga. No, no, don’t run away. The main setting is a huge 100 story tower that needs to be climbed, with each floor presenting unique challenges. Inside this tower resides the 10,000 poor individuals who shunned World of Warcraft for Star Trek Online. Err… Sword Art Online, an MMORPG that requires a Ghost in the Shell-ish interface to play. Unfortunately, these 10,000 souls are now trapped inside the game and can only escape via the 100th floor. Sword Art Online then follows the protagonist, Kirito, as he adventures in such a tower.

Now why am I enjoying this? It’s pure, high-intoxicating fluff. If you’re looking for a Tolkien adventure or Nishio Ishin’s sharp dialogues or Malcom Gladwell’s reflective prose, you’re not finding it here. You’re getting pulp fantasy, at possibly it’s near best. You got a heroic protagonist with all the predictable attributes: loner, tragic past, modest, hidden power, chix0r magnet. You got a cast of characters that aren’t remarkable for anything except their generic stereotypes– hey, it’s a hot-headed military type! I wonder if his hot-headedness is going to get him in trouble? Hey, it’s the good-natured friend type! Hey, it’s a tsundere!

(At this point, I wonder if it’s because I’ve gone past being jaded to the point where I enjoy this sort of stuff even more. Or is it because I’ve experience so much pulp Japanese culture through manga, anime, and video games that things would be weird without these stereotypes… and then I try hard to force these stereotypes in maybe unfair ways. Or maybe Kobe Bryant is just tsundere for Phil Jackson.)

Unlike Druaga or dot Hack, SAO isn’t convoluted. It’s a fairly straightforward attempt at a fantasy tower genre with some MMORPG trappings. If you understand HP, potions, greed, jealously, pride, and equipment, you’ll have a good sense of what’s going on.

SAO is a fast read without any dull moments, and even though it’s fairly predictable, it still throws a wrench once-in-a-while. One thing about the writing style… it relies a lot on cliffhangers that either get resolved too fast or too slow. Maybe the cliffhangers show up too much, but it does make it hard to put down the nook. If you’re into pulp fantasy with all the rainbows of stereotypical manga stereotypes present, SAO is worth checking out.

(I put up my epub for chapters 1-15.)

20 Responses to “sword art online… go… now!”

  1. What was wrong with .hack and Druaga? I enjoyed both to some extent…

  2. .hack was boring as hell. I kind of liked Druaga, though.

  3. Hey I noticed in your nook post that you commented on haruhi being taken down from baka-tsuki. I also recently got a nook and did my own converting of all the haruhi, spice and wolf, and bungaku shoujo light novels into epub before they were taken down. If you need em, just tell me where to send them.

  4. After the first sentence, zero. After the full post, not zero. People working in the stuck-on-the-internet genre have this strange belief that there has to be some super amazing reason for drama to exist, thus the stuck-on-the-internet part, dot hack being the worst offender. That’s silly and unnecessary- people have died of net exposure in reality without the benefit of futuristic technology. If they focused on what makes netgaming netgaming- the petty rivalries and jealousies, the insistence on bringing over real world rules and structures, and the choice between revealing your traits or masking them- then a netgaming series might be interesting.

    From the way you described it, the setting sounds like a disaster flick, and wherever there is stress and survival at stake, there is the potential for interesting drama. I’ll give it a shot.

    By the way, I am never “jacking in” to a game- not even K-On!line would induce me to entrust my life to some harried programmers and an indifferent megacorporation.

  5. I assume the one on the right is male from the context, but he could just as easily be a DFC female.

  6. LFG…..Nax….
    Problem with doing a purely MMORPG anime from the players being inside the game would be the randomness. While adventuring outside of town would be fairly normal, aside from seeing high levels blowing through stuff or gathering materials in lowbie zones, or the ganking. Instances/dungeons would be serious unless they decided to animate a farming raid..where everything to most of the players is routine and easy. but the main cahracters are new and either mess up, or something. It is the in town time that would require Shaft randomness or KyoAni attention to background detail/in jokes. KyoAni’s done a tiny version of this in their Lucky Star OVA, and Shaft’s randomness is quite well known already. I mean think if someone did a World of Warcraft anime series from a player’s point of view rather than one of the NPC heroes the stories follow. Now imagine a version of trade chat in the cities…or worse….The Barrens chat. Those scream out for Shaft while the normal and random activities of the players in town calls out for KyoAni’s attention to detail.

  7. “Now imagine a version of trade chat in the cities…or worse….The Barrens chat. Those scream out for Shaft …”

    Chuck Norris would kick Shaft’s a$$.

  8. Natsunokumo
    A very good manga set on a MMORPG, but its translators died like two years ago

  9. Just read through the first 15 chapters, very enjoyable!

  10. I get persona 3 vibes from the description. Tartarus anyone?

  11. People still run around with General chat on?

    I think it would be interesting how the population’s cultural dynamic would change when the consequences change, especially if it is not readily apparent that the consequences have changed. It’s one thing to grief someone because you’re a greedy bastard, another thing to grief someone cause you’re a jerk who wants to ruin the enjoyment of others, and yet another thing to grief someone knowing that you are permanently trapping him inside the game forever by doing it. Also, the player-enforced consequences might evolve as well, once the weight of the situation is felt by the players.

  12. This novel is excellent. Just finished ch1-15 in one go and I must say, im entranced. Though looking at volume 3’s illustrations is starting to annoy me cuz Asuna is still trapped in the game and everyone else is freed? I was just starting to really like the two main characters as couples too….

  13. anyone know if this project is still being worked on and/or the novels will be coming to the USA?

    Just started reading it and I’m hooked, but I don’t want to wait years for something that will never get translated.

  14. a) Druaga was nice. Best Gonzo show in ages. b) WIll read this. Someday. c) “Fantasy tower genre”? Lol.

  15. why does .hack// have such a bad reputation. The anime was really made for those who were playing the games. They were trying to do a multi platform story. manga. video games, novels and anime. I personally liked the games and thats why i watched the anime and read the maga, and they fleshed out the whole series more. It was never meant to stand on its own.

    Anyway, I loved Druaga too and was really pleased when i first saw this pop up on Baka-tsuki last month.

  16. Chaps 16 and 17 are up now. Apparently the game’s initials contain it’s age rating. Rawr.
    …I’m sorry, that was terrible – Japan doesn’t even use the ESRB ratings.

  17. I just realized why the story felt familiar. Turns out it wasn’t because of the story itself, but because the art reminded me of Ragnarok Online.

  18. Heh, the author of the book (Reki Kawahara) is a fan of Ragnarok Onliine. Apparently he’s been playing since the open beta opened in Japan.

  19. What the helllllll? He plays Ragnarok Online? So I guess it’s an inspiration for this series? Man, I’m repulsed. Anyway, I read through what’s current, and I have to say it’s great… and terrible. Great execution. Terrible, tiresome premise. The trick is to get past the premise, and not dwell on some of the more convoluted explanations. Oh yeah, I didn’t realize it was a light novel until I actually checked it out. It actually works better as a light novel than it would as a manga.

    Oh yeah, The Army = Gamefaqs XD

  20. something similar to read while waiting for translators of SAO

    Moonlight Sculptor
    Synopsis: The master of flattery who will pour praises upon NPCs if it will get him one more copper coin! The avatar of hard work who is willing to hit a dummy without rest for 1 month in order to gain stats! For Wid everything and anything he does in the virutal reality of Royal Road is related to his one goal.

    Make money, become number one and use the fame and power to make even more money. Enough to say goodbye to poverty forever!

    What he doesn’t know however is that fate has another thing in mind for him…

    – One of, if not the most popular game novel series in Korea, Moonlight Sculptor follows the development of the main Character (Wid) through his trials and tribulations. Through the story so far he has picked up new friends, admirers, and devoted enemies aplenty from his time as the terror of the Continent of Magic (A game he played before starting RR). A character who overcomes impossible odds through sheer hard work without relying on any bugs or balance breaking items! Read this and you won’t be disappointed!

    First volume:

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