Sword Art Online

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Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online light novel volume 1 cover.jpg
Sword Art Online light novel volume 1 cover featuring main characters Kirito (left) and Asuna (right)
(Sōdo Āto Onrain)
Genre Action, Adventure, Romance, Science fantasy
Light novel
Written by Reki Kawahara
Illustrated by abec
Published by ASCII Media Works
English publisher
Demographic Male
Imprint Dengeki Bunko
Original run April 10, 2009 – ongoing
Volumes 14 (List of volumes)
  • Sword Art Online: Aincrad
  • Sword Art Online.
  • Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance
  • Sword Art Online: Girls Ops
  • Sword Art Online: Progressive
  • Sword Art Online: Phantom Bullet
Anime television series
Directed by Tomohiko Itō
Music by Yuki Kajiura
Studio A-1 Pictures
Licensed by
Network Tokyo MX, tvk, TVS, TVA, RKB, HBC, MBS, AT-X, Chiba TV, BS11
English network
Original run July 7, 2012December 22, 2012
Episodes 25 (List of episodes)
Light novel
Sword Art Online: Progressive
Written by Reki Kawahara
Illustrated by abec
Published by ASCII Media Works
Demographic Male
Imprint Dengeki Bunko
Original run October 10, 2012 – ongoing
Volumes 2 (List of volumes)
Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment
Developer Namco Bandai Games
Publisher Namco Bandai Games
Genre Action RPG
Platform PlayStation Portable
  • JP March 14, 2013
Anime film
Sword Art Online Extra Edition
Directed by Tomohiko Itō
Music by Yuki Kajiura
Studio A-1 Pictures
Released December 31, 2013
Runtime 101 minutes
Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment
Developer Namco Bandai Games
Publisher Namco Bandai Games
Genre Action RPG
Platform PlayStation Vita
  • JP April 24, 2014
  • NA Q3 2014
Anime television series
Sword Art Online II
Directed by Tomohiko Itō
Studio A-1 Pictures
Original run July 2014scheduled
Portal icon Anime and Manga portal

Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン Sōdo Āto Onrain?) is a Japanese light novel series written by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by abec. The series takes place in the near-future and focuses on various virtual reality MMORPG worlds. The light novels began publication on ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Bunko label from April 10, 2009, with a spin-off series launching in October 2012, and are licensed in North America by Yen Press. The series has spawned five manga adaptations. A television anime series produced by A-1 Pictures aired in Japan between July and December 2012. The anime has been licensed in North America by Aniplex of America and an English-language version began airing on Adult Swim's Toonami programming block on July 27, 2013. An Extra Edition episode aired on December 31, 2013, and a second anime series, titled Sword Art Online II, will begin airing in July 2014. A video game based on the series was released on PlayStation Portable in March 2013, with a second game for PlayStation Vita to be released in April 2014. The novels and two of the manga adaptations have been licensed for release by Yen Press.



The light novel series spans several virtual-reality worlds, not exclusively the eponymous world of Sword Art Online.

Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン Sōdo Āto Onrain?)
The first virtual game world, as well as the setting of the first arc of the story, known as SAO for short. The world takes the form of a giant floating castle called Aincrad, with 100 floors in it. Each floor has a medieval-themed setting and a dungeon with a boss, which has to be defeated before players can advance to the next higher floor. Like most RPGs, it implements a level-based system. However, the game is altered in a manner in which players are unable to log out, and if players die in-game, their real life body dies too.
ALfheim Online (アルヴヘイム・オンライン Aruvuheimu Onrain?)
The setting for the second arc of the story, known as ALO for short. All players in the game have wings and are capable of flight. It is a large world, divided into separate 'homelands' for each of its fairy races. In Alfheim's center is a very large tree called the World Tree, and the goal of the game is to reach the top. It implements a skill-based system with players increasing their stats by developing both their combat and non-combat skills. Aincrad, the castle of the first game, is later accessible to ALO players as well.
Gun Gale Online (ガンゲイル・オンライン Gan Geiru Onrain?)
The setting for the third arc of the story, known as GGO for short. It is a virtual game world with a main focus on guns, although melee weapons like lightsabers and knives also exist. From all the games it is the most competitive one as the money earned there can be exchanged for currency used in the real world, drawing high-tier professional players to make a living from it.
UnderWorld (アンダーワールド Andāwārudo?)
The setting for the fourth arc of the story, the first Virtual World setting introduced to not be a game world. According to Kirito, it is graphically the most realistic of all Virtual Worlds to date. The flow of time in UnderWorld is variable and can be much faster relative to the real world's. Kikouka claimed that the current rate of its flow is 1000 times the speed of the real-world, and that the maximum rate was 1500 times the real-world's rate.


Sword Art Online (SAO) is a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), released in 2022. With the Nerve Gear, a virtual reality helmet that stimulates the user's five senses via their brain, players can experience and control their in-game characters with their minds.

On November 6, 2022, the players log in for the first time, and later discover that they are unable to log out. They are then informed by Akihiko Kayaba, SAO's creator, that if they wish to be free, they must reach the 100th floor of the game's tower and defeat the final boss. However, if their avatars die in-game, their bodies will also die in the real world. One of these players is Kazuto "Kirito" Kirigaya, who was chosen as one of the 1,000 beta testers in the closed beta. Since he had previous experience and knowledge of the game, he felt that he could beat the game easily. As a result, he set out on an adventure to beat the game. As the game progresses for two years, Kirito eventually befriends a female player named Asuna with whom he ultimately falls in love. After the duo discover the identity of Kayaba's avatar in SAO, they confront and destroy him, freeing themselves and the other players from the game.

Upon being sent back to the real world, Kirito learns that Asuna and 300 other SAO players have still not awakened yet. Following a clue about Asuna's whereabouts in another VRMMORPG called Alfheim Online (ALO), Kirito also enters the ALO's mainframe. Helped by his sister Suguha Kirigaya, known as Leafa in the game, he learns that the trapped players in ALO are part of a plan conceived by Nobuyuki Sugō to perform illegal experiments on their minds to put them under his control, including Asuna, whom he intends to marry in the real world in order to take over her family's company. After Kirito foils Nobuyuki's plans, he finally reunites with Asuna back in the real world.

Soon after, Kirito plays another game called Gun Gale Online (GGO) to investigate the mysterious connection between it and deaths occurring in the real world. Assisted by a female player he meets in the game called Sinon, he identifies and exposes the culprits, who include some former members of a murderous guild he had previously encountered in SAO.

Kirito is later recruited to assist in testing a state-of-the-art FullDive machine, Soul Translator (STL), which has an interface that is far more realistic and complex than the previous machine he had played. He tests the STL by entering a Virtual Reality world created with The Seed package, named UnderWorld (UW). In the UW mainframe, the flow of time proceeds a thousand times faster than in the real world, and Kirito's memories of what happens inside are restricted. However, he ends up falling into a trap set by one of the murderers from GGO and wakes up inside UnderWorld without any recollection of how he ended up there, unable to log out, with his real self left in a comatose state.


Light novels[edit]

Reki Kawahara wrote the first volume in 2002 as a competition entry for ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Game Novel Prize (電撃ゲーム小説大賞 Dengeki Game Shōsetsu Taishō?, now Dengeki Novel Prize), but refrained from submitting it as he had exceeded the page limit. He instead published it as a web novel under the pseudonym Fumio Kunori.[1] Over time, he added three further volumes and several short stories.[2][3] In 2008, he participated in the competition again by writing Accel World, this time winning the Grand Prize. Aside from Accel World, he was requested to get his earlier work, Sword Art Online, published by ASCII Media Works.[1] Kawahara agreed and withdrew his web novel versions.[3] The republication as a paper novel began on April 10, 2009. On October 10, 2012, the first volume of the Sword Art Online: Progressive series was released.[4] Progressive covers Kirito's adventures on the first and second floors of Aincrad, and includes a rewrite of two side stories: "Aria in the Starless Night" and "Rondo of the Transient Sword". A second volume was published on December 10, 2013.[5]

At their Japan Expo USA panel, Yen Press announced the rights to publish the light novels; the first volume is scheduled for April 22, 2014.[6][7][dated info] The novels are also published in France by Ofelbe Éditions,[8] as well as in China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Thailand.[9] With more than 11 million copies in print worldwide, there are future plans for publications in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and others.[9]

Sword Art Online
No. Title Japanese release English release
1 Sword Art Online 1: Aincrad April 10, 2009[10]
ISBN 978-4-04-867760-8
April 22, 2014[7][11]
ISBN 978-0-316-37124-7
2 Sword Art Online 2: Aincrad August 10, 2009[12]
ISBN 978-4-04-867935-0
August 26, 2014[13]
ISBN 978-0-316-37681-5
  • "The Black Swordsman" (黒の剣士 Kuro No Kenshi?)
  • "Warmth of the Heart" (心の温度 Kokoro No Ondo?)
  • "Morning Dew Girl" (朝露の少女 Asatsuyu No Shoujo?)
  • "Red-nosed Reindeer" (赤鼻のトナカイ Akahana No Tonakai?)
3 Sword Art Online 3: Fairy Dance December 10, 2009[14]
ISBN 978-4-04-868193-3
December 16, 2014[15]
ISBN 978-0-316-29642-7
4 Sword Art Online 4: Fairy Dance April 10, 2010[16]
ISBN 978-4-04-868452-1
5 Sword Art Online 5: Phantom Bullet August 10, 2010[17]
ISBN 978-4-04-868763-8
6 Sword Art Online 6: Phantom Bullet December 10, 2010[18]
ISBN 978-4-04-870132-7
7 Sword Art Online 7: Mother's Rosario April 8, 2011[19]
ISBN 978-4-04-870431-1
8 Sword Art Online 8: Early and Late August 10, 2011[20]
ISBN 978-4-04-870733-6
  • "A Crime Within the Walls" (圏内事件 Kennai Jiken?)
  • "Caliber" (キャリバー Kyariba?)
  • "The First Day" (はじまりの日 Hajimari No Hi?)
9 Sword Art Online 9: Alicization Beginning February 10, 2012[21]
ISBN 978-4-04-886271-4
  • "Prologue I" (プロローグ I Purorōgu I?)
  • "Prologue II" (プロローグ II Purorōgu II?)
  • "Interlude I" (転章I Ten Shyou I?)
  • Chapter 1. "Underworld" (アンダーワールド Andawarudo?)
10 Sword Art Online 10: Alicization Running July 10, 2012[22]
ISBN 978-4-04-886697-2
  • Chapter 2. "Project Alicization" (アリシゼーション計画 Arishizeshon Haikaku?)
  • Chapter 3. "Zakkaria Sword Arts Tournament" (ザッカリア剣術大会 Zakkaria Hanjutsu Taikai?)
  • Chapter 4. "Sword Mastery Academy" (帝立修剣学院?)
  • "Interlude II" (転章II Ten Shyou II?)
11 Sword Art Online 11: Alicization Turning December 10, 2012[23]
ISBN 978-4-04-891157-3
  • Chapter 5. "Seal of the Right Eye" (右眼の封印 Migime No Huuin?)
  • "Interlude III" (転章III Ten Shyou III?)
  • Chapter 6. "The Prisoners and Knight" (囚人と騎士 Meshiudo To Kishi?)
12 Sword Art Online 12: Alicization Rising April 10, 2013[24]
ISBN 978-4-04-891529-8
  • Chapter 7. "The Two Supervisors" (二人の管理者 Futari No Kanrishu?)
  • Chapter 8. "Central Cathedral" (セントラル・カセドラル Sentoraru Kasedoraru?)
13 Sword Art Online 13: Alicization Dividing August 10, 2013[25]
ISBN 978-4-04-891757-5
  • "Interlude IV" (転章IV Ten Shyou IV?)
  • Chapter 9. "Integrity Knight Alice" (整合騎士アリス Seigou Kishi Arisu?)
  • Chapter 10. "Integrity Knight Commander Bercouli" (整合騎士長ベルクーリ Seigou Kishi Berukuri?)
  • Chapter 11. "The Secret of the Chamber of Elders" (元老院の秘密 Genrouin No Himitsu?)
14 Sword Art Online 14: Alicization Uniting April 10, 2014[26]
ISBN 978-4-04-866505-6
  • Chapter 12. "Highest Minister Administrator" (最高司祭アドミニストレータ Saikou Shisai Adominisutorēta?)
  • Chapter 13. "The Decisive Battle" (決戦 Kessen?)
Sword Art Online
No. Title Japanese release date Japanese ISBN
1 Sword Art Online: Progressive 1 October 10, 2012[4] ISBN 978-4-04-886977-5
  • "Aria in the Starless Night" (星なき夜のアリア Hoshi Naki Yoru No Aria?)
  • "Intermission - Reason For The Whiskers" (幕間 - ヒゲの理由 Makuma - Hige No Riyuu?)
  • "Rondo of the Transient Sword" (儚き剣のロンド Hakanaki Ken No Rondo?)
2 Sword Art Online: Progressive 2 December 10, 2013[5] ISBN 978-4-04-866163-8
  • Concerto of Black-And-White (黒白のコンチェルト Kokubyuku No Koncheruto?)


There are six manga adaptations of the series, all written by Reki Kawahara and published by ASCII Media Works. Sword Art Online: Aincrad (ードアート・オンライン アインクラッド?), illustrated by Tamako Nakamura, was serialized in Dengeki Bunko Magazine between the September 2010 and May 2012 issues. Two tankōbon volumes of Aincrad were released on September 27, 2012.[27][28] A comedy four-panel manga, titled Sword Art Online. (そーどあーと☆おんらいん。?) and illustrated by Jūsei Minami, began serialization in the September 2010 issue of Dengeki Bunko Magazine. The first volume of Sword Art Online. was released on September 27, 2012.[29] A third manga, titled Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance (ソードアート・オンライン フェアリィ・ダンス?) and illustrated by Hazuki Tsubasa, began serialization in the May 2012 issue of Dengeki Bunko Magazine. The first volume of Fairy Dance was released on October 27, 2012;[30] the second followed on August 27, 2013.[31] The Aincrad and Fairy Dance manga have been acquired for release in North America by Yen Press.[6] The first volume of Aincrad was published on March 25, 2014.[7]

A spin-off manga starring Lisbeth, Silica, and Leafa, titled Sword Art Online: Girls Ops (ソードアート・オンライン ガールズ・オプス?) and illustrated by Neko Nekobyō, began serialization in the July 2013 issue of Dengeki Bunko Magazine. A manga adaption of Sword Art Online: Progressive, illustrated by Kiseki Himura, began serialization in the August 2013 issue of Dengeki G's Magazine. A sixth manga, titled Sword Art Online: Phantom Bullet and illustrated by Kōtarō Yamada, will begin serialization in the May 2014 issue of Dengeki Bunko Magazine.


An anime adaptation of Sword Art Online was announced at Dengeki Bunko Autumn Festival 2011, along with Reki Kawahara's other light novel series, Accel World.[32] The anime is published by Aniplex, produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Tomohiko Ito with music by Yuki Kajiura.[33] The anime aired on Tokyo MX, tvk, TVS, TVA, RKB, HBC and MBS between July 7 and December 22, 2012, and on AT-X, Chiba TV and BS11 at later dates.[34] The series was also streamed on Crunchyroll and Hulu.[35] The opening theme song for the first 14 episodes is "crossing field" by LiSA[36] and the ending theme song is "Yume Sekai" (ユメセカイ?, lit. "Dream World") by Haruka Tomatsu.[37] From episode 15 onward, the opening theme is "Innocence" by Eir Aoi and the ending theme is "Overfly" by Luna Haruna. The anime has been licensed in North America by Aniplex of America[38] and an English-language dub premiered on Adult Swim's Toonami programming on July 27, 2013[39] and concluded on February 15, 2014. The series was released by Aniplex of America in four DVD and Blu-ray sets, with special extras on the BD sets, between August 13 and November 19, 2013.[40] Manga Entertainment released the series on BD/DVD in the United Kingdom in December 2013,[41] whilst Madman Entertainment released the series in Australia.[42] Sword Art Online has been available on Netflix in North America since March 15, 2014[43] in English dub and English subtitled format.

A year-end special, titled Sword Art Online Extra Edition, aired on December 31, 2013. The special recapped the previously aired anime series and included some new footage.[44] The special's main theme is "Niji no Oto" (虹の音 Sound of the Rainbow?) by Eir Aoi.[45] Extra Edition was streamed worldwide a few hours after its airing in Japan.[46] The two-hour long special was available on Daisuki worldwide except for French-speaking areas, as well as China and Korea.[46] Daisuki offered subtitles in various languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and German.[46] English-speaking countries, Mexico, Central and South America could also watch the stream on Crunchyroll.[47] Extra Edition was also simulcast in Korea on Aniplus cable channel and in China on the LeTV streaming website.[47] French-speaking countries could watch on the Wakanim streaming website.[47] The Blu-ray Disc and DVD of Extra Edition is scheduled for release on April 23, 2014 in Japan.[48] The limited edition will include a Yui character song titled "Heart Sweet Heart" by Kanae Itō and an original side story written by Reki Kawahara titled "Sword Art Online Niji no Hashi" (ソードアート・オンライン 虹の橋 Sword Art Online Rainbow Bridge?).[48]

At the end of the special, the anime TV series was confirmed for a second season titled Sword Art Online II[49] which will begin airing in July 2014. The second season will be an adaptation of Reki Kawahara’s original light novels volume five and six that will cover the Phantom Bullet arc.[50]

Video games[edit]

A stage event at the Dengeki Bunko Autumn Festival 2011 revealed that Reki Kawahara's light novels would get video game adaptations.[51] The first Sword Art Online adaptation, titled Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment (ソードアート・オンライン -インフィニティ・モーメント- Sōdo Āto Onrain: Infiniti Mōmento?), was developed by Namco Bandai Games for the PlayStation Portable.[52] The game follows an alternate storyline, in which a glitch causes Kirito and the other players to remain in Sword Art Online despite defeating Heathcliff, and players from other VMMORPGs such as Leafa and Sinon get sucked into the game themselves.[53] The game was released in both regular and limited edition box sets on March 14, 2013.[54]

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is an upcoming game for the PlayStation Vita, which will be released in Japan on April 24, 2014 rated C on the CERO rating scale.[55][56] Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment takes place in the same alternative storyline as Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment.[57] Besides the floor by floor clearing of the game, a new unexplored "Hollow Area" of Aincrad will be added.[58] The protagonist Kirito will cross swords with a mysterious player who will become one of the key characters in the game.[58] The game will also be released in Taiwan by Namco Bandai Games Taiwan.[59] A digital-only North American release has been announced for Q3 2014.[60][61]

Kirito, Asuna and Leafa will appear in the upcoming Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, a fighting game by Sega featuring various characters from works published under the Dengeki Bunko imprint.[62][63]


According to Oricon, Sword Art Online was the top selling light novel series of 2012, with eight volumes figuring among the top selling light novels.[64][65] Richard Eisenbeis of Kotaku hails Sword Art Online as the smartest series in recent years, praising its deep insight on the psychological aspects of virtual reality on the human psyche, its sociological views on creating a realistic economy and society in a massively multiplayer online game setting, and the writing staff's ability to juggle a wide variety of genres within the series.[66] Eisenbeis particularly noted how the romance between Kirito and Asuna is explored bringing "definition to exactly what love is like in a virtual world." However, at the time of this preliminary review, he had only watched the first 12 episodes of the series. He has since gone on to review the second half of the series, lauding its excellent use of plot twists and praising its well written and believable villain. However, he felt that some of the initial positive aspects of the series were lost in the second half, such as the focus on psychological repercussions and social interactions that could be realistically seen in an online game. Criticism was also levied on the aspect of turning Asuna into a damsel in distress, stating that a female lead as strong as her was "reduced to nothing but the quest item the male lead is hunting for." Eisenbeis closes his review of the series by stating in regards to the two halves, "Both, however, are enjoyable for what they are."[67]

Rebecca Silverman of Anime News Network has criticized the series as having pacing problems and "sloppy writing".[68] Theron Martin criticized the story as struggling "to achieve and maintain the level of gravitas that life-or-death danger should have", while calling it unwilling to commit to Kirito's "lone wolf" image.[69] DeviceCritique explains that Sword Art Online influences the virtual reality market to grow, and references the Oculus Rift as a prime example of the starting point of Virtual Reality. It also praises Sword Art Online for exploring the psychological and social aspects of Virtual Reality Gaming.[70]


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  2. ^ Afterword of the sixth light novel volume
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