Category Archives: Reviews and Impressions
I’ve always been fascinated with monsters. They follow a system of morality that isn’t the least bit concerned with human rights. Racism? Bigotry? Inequality? None of that registers to them. As far as monsters are concerned, all human lives are equally worthless.
So what if a human became a monster? Or what if they were given incentives to see the world the way a monster does?
Now that I’ve finally found the time to catch up with both the Alicization anime and read the latest light novel volume, I’ve been remembering what a fun series Sword Art Online is. Alicization is such a change of pace from previous seasons; it’s basically a Shonen Jump battle manga at this point, and I’m completely okay with that. Plus, the latest volume of the light novel starts a brand new arc, so despite the fact that this series has been running for years, diving into Sword Art Online has been a fresh experience lately.
Getting back into SAO like this reminds me how much Reki Kawahara has grown as an author over the years. As I pointed out in an Anime News Network editorial in 2017, Kawahara first began writing Sword Art Online in 2001. As a recap, a rough timeline of Kawahara’s career would go like this:
Sword Art Online volume 1 (written for the Dengeki Taisho) -> Submission is scrapped, gets posted online instead -> the rest of Sword Art Online is posted online, up until partway through Alicization -> Kawahara takes break to write Accel World volume 1 for the Dengeki Taisho -> Finishes off Alicization in 2008 -> Accel World volume 1 gets published, Kawahara writes new volumes -> Meanwhile, the SAO web novel is edited and republished by Dengeki Bunko.
…This means that Accel World is a newer work than Sword Art Online, but nobody really pays that much attention to Accel World (not even myself, tehehe). Even so, I’ve always thought it was unfair to judge what kind of author Kawahara is now based on what he wrote over 10 years ago. Although Kawahara began writing the Progressive reboot series in 2012, it’s only in the Unital Ring arc starting from volume 21 that the overarching story of Sword Art Online continues past the web novel. That’s why I went into volume 21 with a heightened sense of curiosity. Just what kind of author is Kawahara nowadays?
SPOILERS FOR SWORD ART ONLINE VOLUME 21 BELOW:
Your mind can be a dark and scary place.
Alone with only your worst thoughts stewing in your mind, the entire world feels like a prison. Your every problem is magnified to impossible proportions; you feel like you’re up against a suffocating wall with no weapons to fight.
A part of you is aware that your problems would be seen as trivial by other people. “It’s all in your head!” they’d say. But it’s not trivial, because they don’t understand that your head has become your enemy, and that it’s with you all the time. That’s why you never tell them. You never tell anyone.
And eventually, you snap.
The best thing about The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! is the afterword, where the author reveals just how much research he did to write a shogi-themed light novel. Usually, light novel authors use the afterword to thank the book’s illustrator, editor and the readers (in that order), but Shirow Shiratori goes out of his way to thank dozens of people involved in the professional Shogi world. He even recounts a personal story from his high school days, when he played Shogi against “the high-school Ryuo.”
The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! is a novel that takes a traditional Japanese board game seriously. It took four years of research before the first volume was even published. Think of it like the Hikaru no Go of light novels, except with unfunny lolicon jokes and the worst opening chapter in the world.
Seriously, it cannot be overstated just how bad of a first impression this light novel makes.
Have I ever told you about my impeccable taste in light novels?
Have I ever told you about how impeccably I choose the light novels that I read?
In the wise words of Wataru Watari: “The illustrations count for everything.”
Who gives a shit about the author, the plot, the reviews, or any other indicator of good writing? I always pick my light novels based on how cute the pictures look, and this method has never once failed me.
What is it with Tsukasa Fushimi and making every pairing in his stories so shippable except for the main one? After Eromanga Sensei volume 3, I’m rooting for the MC to bang anyone except his sister, but alas, not all things in life go the way you want them to.
The longer I keep up with seasonal anime, the more evident it becomes that most anime are vehicles of stealth marketing. You can watch anime-original projects full of SAKUGA like the above, but most shows are 350-minute long advertisements of a manga/novel/game/whatever. Why bother sticking to just anime for your weeb entertainment in today’s media mix environment?
These days, I usually go directly to the source material unless I really like the anime staff. There are very few anime that fall into this category this season, unfortunately. I would have liked to watch Little Witch Academia, but unfortunately there’s no legal streaming option outside of Japanese Netflix. And as much as I like Yasuhiro Takemoto and KyoAni shows in general, Maid Dragon Kobayashi isn’t my kind of thing.
But whatever, I’ve still been getting into some interesting stuff this season, so here are some vague impressions.
Reki Kawahara is well known for Sword Art Online and Accel World, but if you ask me, his best work is The Isolator, a sci-fi thriller and psychological drama series that only gets a new volume once a year. It’s based off a web novel Kawahara began writing in 2004, but he has rewritten the story heavily for its light novel release, and it is easily his most mature work.