Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night: I got 99 floors, but Mito’s only on one.

Sword Art Online is a show I’ve talked about in depth. I’ve discussed some of the light novels and every anime season. I’ve been a casual fan, but one who has defended the series from the people who seem to have an unreasonable hatred of the series. It’s not perfect, but far from the abomination that some people had made it out to be. So what happens when there is more story to tell? When the first arc is revisited and given new content? Can it win over some of those fans? After the cut let’s take a dive into the anime film: Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night and find out!

My thoughts on the Aincrad Arc in the anime are right here!

My thoughts on the light novel version of Aincrad are here and here!

With a complimentary bath!

Throughout my time with SAO. I have always maintained the belief that the Aincrad arc is the weakest of the story arcs. Not bad by any stretch, but very much a product of circumstance. To me, it feels that author Reki Kawahara felt he was going to get one chance, and only one chance to throw his story out into the world and went for it. Aincrad, as shown in the light novels and the anime adaptation, in turn feels truncated and condensed, with time skips of most of the game thrown in to focus on the relationship of Kirito and Asuna. The central premise of the story: clearing all 100 floors of the game, doesn’t even get completed at the end. While none of it is truly bad, a credit to Kawahara’s ability to write characters, it does indeed feel like wasted potential.

And it is that reason while Progressive exist. A secondary light novel series that chronicles the floor by floor ascent of Aincrad through the eyes of series heroine Asuna. It allows for the time and space for Kawahara to do what he wanted. Furthermore it allows him to revisit some of his plot ideas and concepts and better fine-tune them for the audience and in some cases, critics. Thankfully it seems both of the light novels and the anime movie seem to have done this in the best way.

Sword Art Online Progressive Film Releases Asuna & Mito Clip | Anime News |  Tokyo Otaku Mode (TOM) Shop: Figures & Merch From Japan
The time spent before the dive into the game paints a great picture of Asuna’s life pre-SAO and helps drive home why she feels the way she does.

Having not read the light novels, I was afraid that Kawahara and the anime crew would, in an attempt to win over some of their critics, over-correct what had been done before. That they would take Asuna, long considered neglected and underused in the story, and overcompensate in order to win those people over. Much like Faye Valentine in the live action Cowboy Bebop, there was going to be an attempt to ‘right the wrongs’ and make her more “approachable” to current viewers. Thankfully that is not the case at all, and Asuna’s portrayal in Progressive is true to form and 100% in line with her characters. Her journey reflects the greater themes of choice, and as we see Asuna, someone who happened into SAO by chance, struggle with her situation and resolve to be above it. Her vow of “If I can’t survive the game, then I’ll die the way I want,” is completely in line with her character. She remains a woman who wants to seize her own destiny and live life on HER terms. It’s wonderful to see, and offers a fresh but familiar perspective on events that were only really skimmed over.

▷ Sword Art Online: Aria of a Starless Night, Asuna is the protagonist of  the movie's new teaser 〜 Anime Sweet 💕
Asuna is still Asuna, and there is no attempt to make her a ‘survivor’ or a ‘girlboss’. She is true to her character throughout.

Accompanying her is a character created just for the anime movie. Mito herself is nothing special, serving more as a foil to Asuna and someone to bounce off before Kirito shows up. She does the job well, and despite me waiting for her to die for plot reasons, I was surprised to see how she was portrayed in the movie. The decisions she makes and the conflict it creates had me going “okay, that’s cool,” more than once. I only hope that it hasn’t been completely put aside in the next installment, as I did feel her conflict with Asuna was wrapped up a little too neatly. Still she remains a good character and one I hope doesn’t just vanish as the movies to continue to come out.

Sword Art Online -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night New Preview  Released, Showing Asuna and Mito's Friendship – O'TACO BITES
Mito feels very much like a plot device to give Asuna someone to talk to who isn’t Kirito, but it works well.

In terms of everything else, Aria is beautifully animated, A-1 pictures doing some great work with making everything seem so fluid and crisp. The fight scenes are intense and interesting, and the musical score remained quite enjoyable, even though there was a distinct lack of Crossing Field. People fearing that Kirito might show up to steal the spotlight can also rest easy. While he’s in the movie, he only shows up for a handful of scenes, and even the new version of the first floor boss battle doesn’t have him hogging the spotlight. It’s still true to the original version, but with Asuna lending a good strong hand to the situation. Its clear that Kirito and Asuna are being made to be more joined at the hip, and the two already have a distant, but approach bond that pays off in spades later. At its heart though, this is Asuna’s story, and I hope that Kirito will remain a key, but supporting player.

Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria Of A Starless Night: Release Date, Cast,  And More
Aside from single handily preventing Asuna from becoming a lesbian, Kirito is used sparingly here.

Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night was a good movie of a series that has always been good. Very much of a ‘Synder Cut’ or Special Edition of what has come before, it promises a slower paced and more thoughtful version of a story arc that was dripping with potential. I don’t know if it will redeem the series in a hater’s eyes, but if you enjoyed Sword Art Online, then you should give this film a chance. It was a good watch, and only reminded me of how much I really enjoyed this story. Check it out and see what you think, just remember to enjoy the baths!

Taking a bath(Colorized). : r/swordartonline
Yeah, I heard there is ALOT of this.

5 thoughts on “Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night: I got 99 floors, but Mito’s only on one.

  1. I’ve just come from the cinema watching this film and I really needed someone else’s perspective to help me understand the feeling I got from watching the film. I’m so glad someone else enjoyed this film as much as I did.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Asuna is still Asuna, and there is no attempt to make her a ‘survivor’ or a ‘girlboss’. She is true to her character throughout.”

    It helps that she was such a strong character to start with….

    As to “I hope Kirito stays a secondary character”, I have mixed feelings on that. Certainly in the early going, we don’t need to know as much of his side of the story. (“As much” is important here, because the story of Aincrad is essentially his story.) But there comes a point where it shifts from being two more-or-less intertwined individual stories… To being the story of Kirito & Asuna as a team as well as a couple. (The two are not the same, not even remotely.)

    And to me, that’s some of the best part of the story. Their strong working partnership as well as their deep feelings for each other are one of the best depicted in anime. (And decent depictions of such are pretty rare.) It’s part of what keeps me coming back to the franchise. It’s not his story. It’s not her story. It’s *their* story.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I really enjoyed the film myself. Part of me is left to wonder if this was the route of the original story that we got way back if there would be as much “controversy” surrounding the series. I enjoyed Aincrad despite it’s flaws and am glad to see it revisited. I had honestly figured certain things would happen considering the limitations that the story had and I am glad that the story was not as predictable as I thought it would be. This is a strong start to the new story line and I am excited for the next film! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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