Sword Art Online is a top selling light novel series whose popularity recently rose even more with its anime movie Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale. The series has received two TV anime adaptations so far, airing for over 4 cours.
Today I’d like to shed new light on two characters, Kirito and Silica, by looking at Episode 4 of the first season, ‘The Black Swordsman’, and how it differs from the original light novel.
Chronologically speaking, this story about Kirito and Silica occurs before the protagonist clears the game ‘Sword Art Online’. However, this particular story originally appeared in the second volume of the novel, which is a collection of short stories set before or around the same time as the events of the first volume. In the anime, the events are in chronological order.
This article includes spoilers for Volume 2 of Sword Art Online and Episode 4 of the anime.
Episode 4 of the anime starts with Silica and Rosalia quarreling in a forest. By having this quarrel before the opening song, it successfully drags viewers into the story.
How about in the light novel? Originally, it starts with Silica crying with grief for getting her familiar, Pina, killed, as a piece of its feathers is left behind. The original light novel uses a non-linear narrative and has a more impactful scene first to engage the viewers, like it does in the anime.
The difference here is that the anime and the novel choose to start with a different scene. The original work has the chronology broken up in order to introduce the story with the most impactful scene, while the anime uses a linear narrative introducing a tense conversation scene before the opening song to engage viewers.
Either narrative structure works well in its own way. I personally prefer the nonlinear narrative of the original novel which starts with the scene that has the most impact. For anime, it is usually easier to portray events in the order they occur.
Needless to say, both novels and anime need to engage readers and viewers. However, novels in particular need to attract readers simply with strings of characters. The original light novel, therefore, decided to use a nonlinear narrative to make it more spectacular. On the other hand, the medium of anime has ways other than narration in which it can attract attention.
Next, let’s look at the scene where Kirito and Silica have a meal together at an inn. This anime scene has several descriptions missing or changed from the original story. What’s most notable here is Kirito’s explanation to Silica about the colors of each player’s cursor. This episode later reveals that Rosalia is the leader of an orange guild called ‘Titan’s Hand’, and Kirito came down to the middle-layer floor on behalf of a victim to arrest them for the crimes they committed. The explanation here about player colors is important in order to receive the background information.
In the anime, Kirito explains player colors to Silica while having a meal together. The original novel does not explain it in this way. Instead, the novel describes what orange players are by having the exposition through Silica’s thoughts when Kirito and Rosalia confront each other. Having the exposition through dialogue in advance helps viewers understand the player colors well and concentrate on Kirito and Rosalia’s confrontation later while maintaining the tense atmosphere, instead of disrupting viewers from the event with an overt explanation.
(Next Page: The relationship between Kirito and Silica)