Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Read for fun: In defense of SAO volume 4

In defense of SAO - Volume 4

Once, the original light novel makes clear that "OMG! Kirito is so overpowered!" complaint is baseless. This is over and beyond what the anime shows and the anime shows a lot. There's his attempt at soloing the Grand Quest at the World Tree, which fails just like it does in the anime and in the light novel we get an inner monologue of him berating himself for being so stupid and arrogant as to attempt something like that. Also, during the detour into Jotunheimen, he has to twice rely on a friendly monster to win a battle. The only way he manages to reach the top of the World Tree tower is with a lot of help from a lot of powerful people. Even then he would have failed if not for help from Yui and Asuna.

Yes, the supposed "Damsel in Distress" was instrumental in her own rescue. This is part of Adaptation Dissolution I suppose. The light novel makes clear how Asuna ended up in Sugou's bird cage and how long she's been there. Furthermore, it talks about how she's already tried everything short of the escape plan in the main narrative and the massive difference in power between her and her Game Master captor. Just because she's not a butt-kicking guild sub-leader all the time doesn't mean she's useless.

Sugou's minions using slug avatars still doesn't make any sense so that infamous scene doesn't appear to have any in-universe justification to make it any less icky, however, it is just one scene. It is not the whole novel and certainly not the whole series. Also, the novel shows how Asuna used the scene to acquire the Admin Access card critical for her ultimate escape.

There's also this theme of "real power" that I quite enjoyed. All through this volume and the previous, Kazuto has been using what amounts to a New Game Plus in ALO which gives him a tremendous advantage when he starts playing. However, he himself recognizes that this is not "real power" because it is just game code. Compared with Sugou in both the game and the real world, he can't compare because the man is a game master and an adult executive at the company hosting the server that contains Asuna's mind. Suddenly Kirito's sky high stats don't mean a thing. Then he gets a pep talk from "Kayaba" of all people on this subject and the idea of "real power" shifts; Sugou is just piggybacking on Kayaba and his "real power" doesn't belong to him. Then the theme is extended further with combat in real life and even with ALO players banding together to purchase ALO's servers from the bankrupt RECT Progress in the epilogue.

One thing I particularly liked about the 4th volume is how Suguha is viewpoint character. She gets a lot more development here than in the anime. The reader can see the "Kirito is Kazuto" reveal from her perspective and it is much more powerful than the anime, which, by its nature, is more limited in this regard. This is not to say that the anime does a bad job, but that, in my opinion, the light novel gives it greater room and weight.

The conclusion of the Grand Quest of Alfheim didn't get enough closure in the anime, in my opinion. Here we get a long scene confirming that, yes, everyone gets eternal wings as a result of the successful attempt on the World Tree. Leefa spends twenty minutes flying around at top speed. She loves flying which is entirely separate from her Kissing Cousins plot thread.

This volume marks another great entry into the series.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Sword Art Online Volume 4" an A+

Click here for the next book review (a request): Veil of Darkness

Click here for the previous book review (a request): Hidden from the Face of Humans

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

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