Sword Art Online – a deadly VMMORPG where the only way to escape is by beating all 100 floors of Aincrad. While some players dedicate their lives to completing the game, the rest of the users regard the game as their new everyday life. Kirito comes across four particular women who are in this category and they become very meaningful to him as they change him, for the best and for the worst.
The second volume of Sword Art Online is a collection of short stories set in the time period of when the death game began and when the game got completed. The first volume covers the adventures on the higher floors but this volume expands on the individuals living inside the world. While the story this time is more character-driven, the story still retains some problems from the first volume.
“I should have told her everything at that point. If I had even a ounce of sincerity in my body, I would have laid bare my own hideous ego right there…
Instead, I sold her pure fiction.”
Rather than skipping time over two years to cover material told in the first volume, the second volume operates in a episodic format. There are 4 separate short stories inside the volume, told from the perspective of a different character, and each story has their own concepts and themes they tackle. The themes deal with the different emotions that the death has brought to the people inside the world; pride, love, and sorrow. While the content could fill half of a volume, the actual story leaves a lot to be desired with the possibility of more detail and character development.
These short stories are told from the perspective of the characters, with the exception of the last story. Each character has a different background in the game of Sword Art Online; Silica’s a mid-level player, Lisbeth’s a blacksmith, and Sachi’s a frightened girl. The characters offers a different perspective on they view the world, in contrast from our main duo, Kirito and Asuna, and it expands our understanding of Aincrad. The girls could support the story on their own, however with the inclusion of Kirito, they use him as a support or a savior rather than overcoming the conflict themselves. This leads to the inner thoughts and emotions of the character having less of an impact on the readers. For some parts, it ends up becomes multiple monologues on how Kirito has affected them just by being there. It also doesn’t help that by the end of each story, each character becomes romantically attraction to our main character, inferring the presence of a harem by the end of the volume when the plot element is unnecessary.
Something notable about the illustrations is the amount of detail put into the monsters. The representation of the dragon in the color pages looks very nice and sharp, using a range of white and blue shading for the colors. Even in the regular illustrations, the texture of the plant monster pops outs and the absence of linework in exchange for blurred shades of black for the Grim Reaper gives the monster a more menacing appearance.
It wasn’t a big issue in volume one but for this volume, the problem has more of a presence here. The character design in regards to facial structure looks very awkward. The characters’ faces look very large and flat, and it causes the head to have very little depth. This doesn’t appear as noticeable in the regular illustrations but the issue still remains for some drawings.
Sword Art Online: Aincrad’s second volume is an improvement over the first volume, covering more detail in regards to the characters that live inside the world and indirectly giving more information about the world of Aincrad. However, Kirito is the main problem that plagues this volume’s content as the stories centered on the characters leads him to becomes a saving grace for them and makes him appear like a hero when he isn’t the main lead. I recommend this over the first volume of Sword Art Online but if you want something of this nature, you would be better off reading the Progressive series.
Rating: Recommended – Average
Afterword: Like seriously, read Progressive.
Author: Reki Kawahara
English Publisher: Yen Press