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Why the Sword Art Online reboot is what the series desperately needs

Sword Art Online: Progressive

Let me take you back to a much more simpler time. The year was 2012. Anime wasn't quite as mainstream then as it is now, but it was getting there. An anime adaption of a popular light novel series very near and dear to me and many others was released in July. It helped pave the way for anime series in the gaming genre into the spotlight. As you've already probably guessed by now, that series is Demon Slayer.

In all seriousness though, Sword Art Online was one of those series that pulled many anime fans into...well...anime. Even if it wasn't the first anime they've seen, it definitely helped solidify a place for themselves in the anime fandom. I remember being so captivated by SAO that it was probably the first series I genuinely was excited to see a sequel of. And boy oh boy, did that disappoint.

While season one's Fairy Dance arc had its ups and downs, along with the fact that dying in the game no longer coming as a life threatening ordeal lessened the intensity of the show, it still had its moments and a decent plot. However, season two's Gun Gale took a lot of what made the first season really special and cast it aside.

For all those who are nostalgic about Sword Art Online, try to recall what was the biggest aspect of the first season that made SAO, SAO. The cast of characters? Well I suppose but nothing really special about them that sets them apart from other series of a similar nature. The art and animation? Well that too, though plenty of series can land well on on those two things but fall short on the story (I'm looking at you Valvrave the Liberator).

As cheesy as it sounds, what made season one such a hit was it's focus on the relationship between Kazuto/Kirito and Asuna. They had a chemistry I hadn't quite felt from other anime couples, which is weird considering I can't directly point out what sets them apart. Perhaps it's because the show did a decent job of building it up gradually as opposed to one second they hate each other then the next they're head over heels in love (then maybe suddenly one of them dies, lol). This could still be seen in the often criticized Fairy Dance as well.

Kirito and Asuna
(From left to right) Kazuto "Kirito" Kirigaya and Asuna Yuuki

All of that is thrown out the window however, as season two splits the main characters into their own separate arcs, namely Gun Gale and Mother's Rosario based on the light novels of the same name. What really sets the tone here is the fact that Kirito and this new girl who goes by her gamer tag Sinon take the stage in Gun Gale, while the rest of the cast take a back seat. This is where some of Kirito's flaws start to manifest, ironically being that he is damn near flawless; a Mary Sue if you will. His personality hasn't really changed, it's just that without Asuna it's suddenly become more obvious.

Together Sinon and Kirito actually make a decent pair to watch in action, but only to that extent. The most interesting duos typically have contrasting personalities. Asuna's uptight but innocent personality complimented well with Kirito's serious but laid back attitude in the first season, compared to Sinon and Kirito, who were basically twins in Gun Gale with their backstories and all. Couple this with the rest of the main cast repeatedly being shown off for a minute or two doing nothing, it almost feels insulting. Or it could just be me being nostalgic.

Mother's Rosario is a bit of a different story. The story switches focus from Kirito to Asuna exclusively, as she interacts with a new group of friends she's made in Alfheim Online known as the Sleeping Knights, who are later revealed to be kids with terminal illnesses in the real world, their leader Yuuki whom Asuna connects the most with having been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. This arc honestly is where Asuna's kind personality shines best as we see her struggle to get Yuuki to open up while also fighting her mother to let her stay in school with her friends from SAO, both incredibly intense plotlines. Asuna has a more outgoing persona than Kirito, so her working with a completely new set of characters surprisingly...works. Not gonna lie, this arc almost had me in tears, and restored my faith in the series.

Yuuki and Asuna
(From left to right) Yuuki Konno and Asuna

With all that said, as great as season one was, it left a lot out from the original light novels unlike with Alicization, and we never really got a good look at many of the events that took place leading up to the individual floors being unlocked. Even Kirito and Asuna's encounters with each other during the time skip in the anime aren't fully delved into.

That's where Sword Art Online: Progressive comes in.

With the Alicization novels anime adaption wrapping up, the official Sword Art Online website and Twitter account announced that series creator Reki Kawahara's SAO Progressive light novels would be getting an anime adaption. A little teaser trailer was included along in the announcement tweet.

For those who don't know, Sword Art Online: Progressive is a retelling and a soft reboot of the series' Aincrad arc that will cover all of the events of Aincrad floor by floor, although from Asuna’s perspective. The light novels are still ongoing, and fans of the series have been anticipating an anime adaption since its inception. It's basically a soft reboot of the first few novels.

November 6, 2022? Wow, we're actually that close to the start of the series in real life, huh?

This is a grand opportunity to take everything we know and love about Aincrad and have the full story covered in motion, missing chapters and all (though I'd hold my tongue on seeing the notorious chapter 16.5 from the web novel brought to fruition, as unfortunate as that may be for some).

This is sure to be a nostalgic trip for long time fans and the introduction to the franchise for many, which is probably for the best. I sure know I'm excited.

No official announcement date has been given but with a teaser already out and the SAO hype train already on a roll, I'm sure it won't be much longer. So in the meantime, I guess I should probably go finish Alicization, which I've only seen episode one of so far, hehe.

Until then, ✌️.