Story: Reki Kawahara
Translation: Stephen Paul
What They Say
Kirito plunges into a suspicious new VRMMORPG called ALfheim Online to rescue Asuna, who never returned from Sword Art Online. ALO offers many features to entertain players in the wake of SAO: ultra high-end graphics, action-heavy gameplay, and a choice of fairy races, complete with a next-generation flight engine. Playing as a Spriggan, Kirito heads for the location of Asuna’s prison – the top of the World Tree, the final destination of every player in the game!
Along the way, Kirito nearly falls to a plot hatched by the enemy Salamanders, just barely surviving the ordeal with the help of a Sylph named Leafa and his Navigation Pixie, Yui. But just as Kirito and Leafa make it to the foot of the World Tree, the end of their quest in sight, both Kirito and Leafa each realize the other has a very big secret…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Rather than starting off exactly where last volume left off, we instead find Kirito and Leafa trapped in the underground world of Jotunheim, the land beneath Alfheim. It turns out that in their haste to log out they accidentally stumbled into a town which was in and of itself a monster, which quickly swallowed them up and dumped them down below. As Jutenheim is a freshly opened dungeon area filled with deadly monsters known as Deviant Gods, they unfortunately have no way to log out, and to die at this point would negate their progress. Even so, they make the questionable decision to help out when they see a monstrous Deviant God losing to humanoid one in a strange fight. This actually turns out to be a beneficial decision, eventually leading them to a way out and a tantalizing glimpse at the game’s ultimate weapon, Excalibur, though not without further trouble along the way.
Next up Asuna continues her damsel in distress role as her escape attempt ends in failure, though she at least manages to grab a key card from Sugou’s twisted laboratory. Kirito’s desperation then actually works out as it allows Asuna to pass the card to our hero. His next move, though, to charge into the final boss of the world solo, doesn’t work out so well. It ends up getting him killed, though Leafa does manage to extract him. In the ensuing conversation, the two finally realize who the other is in real life, and Suguha’s emotions come pouring out. Fortunately, though, they’re able to come to an understanding, and alongside some assistance are able to get Kirito past the final monsters. With the help of Yui and the key card, our hero is then able to slip past an impossible barrier and finally reunite with his love.
With this, we finally hit the climactic battle, which takes some surprising turns. It’s definitely a little different than the approach the series has taken so far, and it’s appreciated to see the book push the hero in a way it hasn’t before. Finally, we get some aftermath and epilogue, which ends up leaving the series in a rather interesting place.
This volume is a rather interesting one, consisting of a number of elements that are rather mundane and overdone while also hitting on some unique and interesting ideas. The front half is definitely a little weak in a number of ways, being both more of the same to some degree, and also using Asuna in a rather boring captive role again. The drama surrounding Kirito and Leafa is also not the greatest and does take up a good number of pages, though it does have its moments here and there, awkward as it may be. The approach to the ending and beyond, though, really does feel like something different and is better for it. It manages to feel more frantic and real than most of what came before, and does a great job of bringing things to a climax. It’ll definitely be interesting to see where the series goes from here on out, as the epilogue leaves things in a very intriguing state. All in all, though, this book makes for a flawed yet fascinating entry that’s certainly the best the series has yet produced.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: N/A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 21st, 2015