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Sword Art Online Vol. #16 Light Novel Review

4 min read
This volume is an okay one overall, having some nice enough moments throughout, but kind of failing in its main thrust.

All-out war… kind of.

Creative Staff
Story: Reki Kawahara
Art: abec
Translation: Stephen Paul

What They Say
Fifty-thousand troops led by Gabriel Miller, aka Emperor Vecta, the God of Darkness prepare to invade the human lands defended by Bercouli and his army of five thousand. Kirito, still out of commission, is left in the care of Ronie and Tiese. Chancellor of the dark mages guild Dee Eye Ell also threatens to vanquish the army by launching a large-scale magical attack of her own. And in the midst of chaos, the one who appears to turn the tide of battle is none other than… Asuna?!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
As this volume begins, we find ourselves right in the midst of a massive war against the fifty-thousand troops of the Dark Territory. And how it’s handled is… interesting, although not particularly amazing in terms of execution. You see, ultimately, we get a look into the perspectives of a variety of characters, including both the Integrity Knights and commanders on the opposing side. And that’s cool and all, but… frankly, they feel just a bit half-baked for the most part, like we don’t spend enough time with them for them to feel fully fleshed out. Oh, and we get the reveal that one of the knights under Fanatio, Dakira, was in love with her commander, which seems like some cool lesbian representation… and then she dies in that same scene, mere pages after getting a name. Seems like a shame, and almost feels like the series saying, “Yeah, you can have a legitimate, non-jokey gay character… but she’s going to get killed off immediately for it.”

As for the actual combat… it’s a real unusual setup for a “war,” to be honest. Rather than feeling like a true and proper large scale battle, it’s more like the villains are just throwing their troops into a meat grinder up against the handful of Integrity Knights, more or less till they run out of resources. That’s not to say there aren’t a few interesting maneuvers along the way, and to be fair it fits to the theme that Gabriel Miller doesn’t give a damn in the slightest about his troops… but it doesn’t really feel like a war in the traditional sense.

Eventually, though, things come to a point where Alice realizes the opposing forces are after her, and so volunteers to split up, seeing that as a chance to both help out and also potentially deliver Kirito to where he needs to go. Some of the forces accompany her, but they end up in a bit of a pinch when their actions are predicted to disastrous effect… only for Asuna to come in with a literal godly account and the ability to alter the very terrain around her. This is something that I feel tentatively positive about, in that while it’s a bit overkill, it places Asuna in a place where she pretty much HAS to be an essential force on the side of the heroes this time around, opposing Gabriel Miller’s status as God of Darkness. That’s certainly good, as she just really has had a bit of a rough past of getting damseled in distress instead of getting to do anything… but I can’t say I love that her immediate role in the plot upon landing down in this virtual world is essentially getting into a “cat fight” with Alice over Kirito. I suppose there’s not much to her character but “really loves Kirito,” but it feels like a darn lame way to use her, especially when this should be a chance for her to really shine on her own.

At any rate, though, we do at least end the volume on a twist that’s a bit contrived and seems questionable at best in the details, but is kind of a neat development if you can look past that and just roll with it. And hopefully, that’ll be used to great effect as things develop further next time around!

In Summary
This volume is an okay one overall, having some nice enough moments throughout, but kind of failing in its main thrust. First off, the “war” it presents is a real unusual one, and doesn’t really succeed in presenting something that truly feels like an intense, large-scale battle. On top of that, the book DOES try to do something a little different in letting the perspective jump around to a variety of different characters… but unfortunately, they generally just feel under-baked, like we’re not given enough to truly care about them. However, some of the maneuvers we do get are pretty neat at least, and the twists near the end are flawed, yet interesting enough that I have some hope they could be used well in the future. So all in all, it’s certainly not a great volume, but it’s not a drag either, and shows at least some promise for what comes next with the foundation set up here.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: N/A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B+

Age Rating: 14+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: May 21st, 2019
MSRP: $14.00

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