As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Sword Art Online (SAO) is a light novel series beloved by otaku geeks worldwide…and it is finally going to be made into an animated movie! The TV anime adaptation got instantly popular back when it aired, but in case you missed it, let’s just recap.
Reki Kawahara, the creator of SAO, started out by publishing novels online. He published both Accel World and Sword Art Online and entered the competition for the Dengeki Novel Prize (a famous literary award for light novelists in Japan) with Accel World. He won the grand prize and made his debut in print. Soon after, SAO was also published. Since then, both novels have gained many fans all over the world.
Over 12.5 million copies of SAO have been issued. On the influential Japanese light novel ranking list Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! (lit. This Light Novel is Amazing!), it ranked first twice: in 2012 and then again in 2013. It has since then stayed high in the ranks.
Since its humble beginnings on the internet, everybody’s been talking about SAO.
The animated TV series in 2012 delivered SAO to the world. The story about the MMORPG after which the show is named captured audiences all over the country. In the near future, leaps in virtual reality technology have resulted in a game console called NerveGear, a helmet that puts the body in a rest state while the mind plays the game. However, a wicked twist has caused the game to turn on its players, forcing them to finish it before they can escape back to reality. Taking off the NerveGear, or dying in the game, results in dying in the real world.
These grave conditions are well-balanced with comedic scenes and romance, all of which are featured in the anime. The animation, lively characters, and eye-catching action sequences received high praise from first-time watchers who hadn’t read the book. The anime was able to gain a fresh fan following.
And not just in Japan. All over the world people watched it and spread its popularity. It is now the most popular anime based on a light novel. After the anime, the light novel’s sales once again spiked, and today over 12.5 million copies have been sold in Japan, and 19 million copies sold worldwide. It is selling well in America and the UK as well as in Asia. Its popularity cannot be denied.
There is now even an American live-action TV series in the works, a very rare development for a Japanese light novel. It’s expected that this will get even more fans: ones who don’t read light novels or watch anime.
The new animated movie’s title is Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale. The movie’s exclusive original story is written from the author of the light novel. This movie is not about virtual reality, but augmented reality (AR); using the console, Augma, which changes the reality of the wearer, players go to an ‘ARMMORPG’ called Ordinal Scale.
The AR is a twist on the VR concept from the original SAO, the key difference being that the game will take place in the real world. It’s this MMORPG that the classic characters Kirito and Asuna will join. The game won’t be pure fantasy anymore; actual Japanese cities will become battlefields. Even though the title is SAO, the story will be a departure from VR, offering a fresh perspective with real-world consequences. There will also be parts of the movie that are more enjoyable if you’ve already watched the original anime, but ultimately, the story isn’t just another story about an MMORPG. However, the core theme of the SAO story, ‘adventure’, will certainly be there!
The world is watching Sword Art Online. From its humble online beginnings to its exploding worldwide popularity, this story will finally go beyond 2D. Don’t miss it! Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale will premiere in Japan on February 18, 2017.