Sword Art Online Progressive Vol. 1 - Light Novel Review

Chances are by this point you’ve experienced or heard of the original Sword Art Online story in some form or other, witnessing the story of Kirito and Asuna as they attempt to clear Aincrad and escape the “game of death”. While this story has been built upon and added to a number of times since it was originally published online in 2002, author Reki Kawahara decided that he wanted to reboot the series and take a shot at writing the most complete and comprehensive version possible. The result of this effort is Sword Art Online Progressive, which follows Kirito and Asuna as they work their way up the floors of Aincrad.

The premise of Sword Art Online is simple: 10,000 players become trapped the virtual reality MMO Sword Art Online and must clear all 100 floors of the game to escape. The story follows players Kirito and Asuna as they attempt to clear the game, and this volume covers Aincrad’s first two floors.

How Was It?

If you’re looking for a series with plenty of action and an in-depth imagining of what life in a virtual reality game might be like, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. If you’re a returning fan of the series looking for a more coherent and comprehensive version of the story, you will love this volume. (Note: The following part of the review was originally written in point form). 

The writing style is much more mature compared to the original light novel series, providing a more coherent story. Covering only the first two floors was a great decision as it allowed for a more fully fleshed out story and allowed Kawahara to make his characters more rounded out. The addition of chapters from Asuna’s perspective was also very helpful in her characterization.

I really enjoyed the way Kawahara portrayed Sword Art Online itself, as his use of description and attention to detail made it feel like a fully realized world. This is even more impressive considering this was accomplished without superfluous description as the details provided flowed nicely with the pace of the story. Even though I don’t have a background in MMO’s, I never felt out of the loop and this made the book much more accessible and enjoyable to experience.

Kawahara has a knack for writing battle scenes well, providing just the right amount of description to allow for readers to visualize what is going on without sacrificing the pacing of the fight. I never felt bored during the battle scenes and was easily able to keep track on what was happening at any given time. This was especially apparent in the climactic battle in the second floor with “Baran the General Taurus” as Kawahara provides a very useful description of the tactics the characters were using. This made it much more clear what was happening during the battle and was a great addition.

Kirito and Asuna’s relationship remains as charming as ever and is a massive improvement compared to the original light novel as well as the anime. The slower pace Progressive provides allows for their relationship to develop more naturally over time and this really benefited this aspect of the story. I felt much more invested in their relationship because of this, and this will make the eventual romantic payoff that much more satisfying.

I don’t have many complaints about this volume, but I don’t feel that the character “Argo the Rat” was a strong addition to the plot. I felt that her character was not fleshed out as well as possible and relied on outside exposition from Kirito to really establish her character and actions. It would have been more effective if Kawahara had allowed readers to make their own conclusions about her actions rather than being told what they meant.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed Sword Art Online Progressive Vol. 1 and this volume is highly recommended for both returning fans and newcomers alike. The series is off to a very promising start by portraying a more detailed and fleshed out version of the story and I look forward to seeing how the story progresses in future volumes. The story is still just as thrilling as ever but benefits from the more refined and detailed approach taken with this volume, providing fans with the definitive version of Sword Art Online.

Sword Art Online Progressive Vol. 2 was published by Yen Press on March 24th, 2015. Authored by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by ABEC, the series is currently ongoing and published by ASCII Mediaworks’ Dengeki Bunko imprint. First published in Japan on December 10th, 2013, three volumes have currently been released, with volume 3 scheduled to be published in English on October 27th, 2015.



Date of Publication: April 24th, 2015

Translator: Stephen Paul

Author: Reki Kawahara

Publisher: Yen Press