This article contains spoilers from the anime and light novel (the first volume of Sword Art Online and up to Episode 8 of the anime), so please proceed with caution.
The light novel Sword Art Online has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and the movie version, released in February 2017, has been receiving great reviews. Sword Art Online’s overwhelming popularity shows no sign of slowing. Today I would like to shine the spotlight on the anime’s Season 1 Episode 8 ‘The Sword Dance of Black and White’.
This episode is an adaptation of the early stages of the first volume. Why did a story from almost the beginning of the light novel end up being the eighth episode of the anime? The answer lies in how the work’s chronological order was handled.
In the light novel, the first volume depicts the game called SAO from start to finish. The happenings in SAO that were not depicted in the first volume were shown in short story-form in Volumes 2 and 8. In other words, the events were not consistently portrayed in a chronological order. Neither one is necessarily correct but because of the chronological order the story is easier to understand. The anime may be easier for beginners.
In short, excluding the first episode of the anime, Episode 2 until Episode 7 depict the story from Volumes 2 and 8. The starting point of the anime, which follows the events in a chronological order, gets into the main part of Volume 1 in Episode 8.
The change in how people address each other
Comparatively, this anime adaptation doesn’t delete or compress very much of the carefully developed story from the light novel. However, there are various minor details that were changed. The first is how Kirito and Asuna address each other.
In the novel, although there were some exceptions, Kirito generally addressed Asuna with the second-person pronoun anta and Asuna addressed Kirito as kimi. In the anime, Kirito referred to Asuna by her name and Asuna called him Kirito-kun. Since the way they address each other has been changed completely, it is clear that it is intentional and not a mistake.
The reason for this change probably lies in the previously mentioned difference in handling the timeline of events. In SAO, there is a scene where Asuna complains about Kirito calling her omae (which is a rough, masculine second-person pronoun). Chronologically, this scene takes place before the story in Episode 8.
However, in the light novel, events are not in chronological order, so this scene was depicted in Volume 8. Of course, when the first volume went on sale, readers had no way of knowing that this interaction had taken place. Therefore, there was no doubt about how they addressed each other.
In contrast, the anime has organized everything in chronological order. The scene where Asuna complains to Kirito was properly depicted in Episode 5 ‘Murder in the Safe Zone’. To the anime viewers, the dialogue that led to Kirito and Asuna’s ways of addressing each other was already understood. If it had suddenly been changed to anta and kimi, it would have been strange. In the end, it is an obvious change that shows that the creators paid attention to details.
Small changes in duels
There is a scene where Kirito and Kuradeel duel over Asuna. There are three changes that stand out.
The first one is the reaction of the people gathered around them. In the novel, cheers rise before the start of the duel and there are people who blew whistles and jeered; the whole gallery was very excited. Then, Kirito began to focus so hard that he could no longer hear the voices around him. In contrast, the voices are much less pronounced and the scene focuses on the duel. Due to this, the anime version of the duel seems to have a more tense atmosphere. I think that the novel’s depiction of Kirito’s concentration is better.
The second point is Kuradeel. In the novel, Kuradeel, having been asked by Kirito to change his weapons and reshuffle, declared surrender while emanating frustration and hatred from his entire body. However, in the anime, Kuradeel did not surrender and changed his weapons to attack Kirito once again, only to be thwarted by Asuna. Furthermore, in relation to the weapons being broken, a scene was added where he wails that Kirito must have done something petty. Due to these changes, the anime ramps up Kuradeel’s insignificance. These small changes don’t greatly influence the story, but the audience gets a worse impression of Kuradeel.
The third point is about a scene added to the anime that doesn’t exist in the novel. I like this point the most. The scene added to the anime was one where a man thought to be part of the assassin guild, Laughing Coffin, watches the duel. After this story, Kuradeel is connected to a member of the Laughing Coffin and corners Kirito almost to the point of death. This addition was definitely purposely added. Through this scene the viewers get a bad premonition and begin to think that some sort of conflict will take place. Personally, I think that this was a good change.
When you watch the anime while comparing it to the light novel, you begin to see things that the creators of the light novel and the anime planted in the stories. It may also be fun to watch the anime considering how those involved in the story of Sword Art Online decided to use a particular scene, or what kind of emotions they wanted to evoke.