Story/Art: Reki Kawahara/Kiseki Himura
Translation/Adaptation: Stephen Paul
What They Say
The party is shaken when their leader, Diavel, is struck down by the boss of the very first floor. Asuna and her teammates are confronted for the first time with the cruel reality of their situation: Sword Art Online is no mere game–death here is final. Their commander lost, the remaining fighters begin to lose heart and plan their retreat. But the fight must go on if they are to escape this game world, and in his dying moments, Diavel managed to convey his appointment for the next commander–Kirito!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
As in the anime, the battle with the first floor boss ends with Diavel dead and Kirito dubbed a beater. However, Progressive puts its own spin on the fight. For one, Asuna takes more of a commanding role, showing hints of the guild leader she’s going to become. For another, the emotional aftermath is more complicated. Interestingly, sourpuss Kibaou, who started the beta/cheater/beater uproar against Kirito in the anime, winds up sympathizing with him in this scene. Kirito and Asuna still have a private conversation before Kirito goes off on his own, but Progressive’s version is more prolonged and has a distinct romantic tension to it.
Going into Chapter 008, it’s all completely new material. Both the Aincrad manga and the anime gloss over Floor 2, but we get to watch events progress gradually even as Asuna gradually improves. She’s not the only one having to sort herself out in the early days of SAO, though. Chapter 009 provides a glimpse of the beginnings of the guilds, and at this point, they’re a lot of fancy names and swagger and not much else.
Overall, the tone on Floor 2 is much lighter than I anticipated. Perhaps that’s because the only fight thus far is against a field boss that looks like a big bull. When the players take it on, they seem more concerned with who gets the glory of being on the front rather than the risk of a fatal hit. As such, it really does feel more like a “game” rather than the constant life/death struggle of Aincrad, especially when Asuna and Kirito compete to see who can take out the most windwasps for shortcake.
Asuna’s continued interactions with Kirito are also a surprise. The anime and Aincrad made it seem like the two didn’t cross paths again until Asuna had joined the Knights of the Blood, but in Progressive, they meet again days after clearing Level I. The two have a great rapport, and while Asuna is intrigued by Kirito, he’s obviously besotted by her. For those who were not so thrilled with the harem aspect of the SAO anime, this version of Asuna and Kirito’s early relationship might prove an enjoyable alternative.
Extras include the title page and table of contents in color, bonus illustration from artist Tomoya Haruno, and closing remarks from the creators.
Progressive continues to deliver a strong storyline with artwork to match. In addition to showing Asuna’s development as a fighter, we also see players organizing the beginnings of the guilds as they proceed through Aincrad’s Floor 2. Interestingly, the plot includes more early interaction between Asuna and Kirito. Although that deviates somewhat from the beater/solo fighter persona Kirito had in the anime, Asuna/Kirito fans will probably enjoy seeing Kirito’s early attraction to Asuna.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 21st, 2015