The Problem with Light Novels: A Discussion of Sword Art Online, Part 2

One of the things I enjoy about Sword Art Online is that so much is left to the imagination. The setting of Aincrad and the 100-floor realm with literal permadeath basically begs to be expanded upon in various ways, mostly in terms of world-building, character depth, and psychological analysis.

One of the major disappointments of Sword Art Online as a piece of media, both as a light novel series and as an anime adaptation based on the light novels, is that there’s not enough story to go around.

Not to spoil the series, but Sword Art Online is comprised on nine or ten light novels. Aincrad, which we are introduced to as the Sword Art Online VRMMORPG, is completed by the end of the first novel, which is less than 200 pages in length (light novels tend to not go over 120 pages). Additional background and sidestories were added in the second SAO light novel, but that means that the potential of the Sword Art Online arc feels like it’s watered down because the first novel is essentially a time-skip of two years (By a third of the novel, this is already the case), with gaps in story filled in by novel number two.

Does this diminish the enjoyment of Sword Art Online? Somewhat. But at the same time, because much is left to the imagination, much is also given in recompense to the reader with the overactive imagination.

The funny thing about SAO is that because I’m a MMO game hopper, the the idea that the SAO light novel series is about multiple VRMMORPGs doesn’t seem so far-fetched, and may actually be a good thing, depending on how the author crafts the story. I shall read the novels and watch the anime closely and enjoy each step as it happens.

2 thoughts on “The Problem with Light Novels: A Discussion of Sword Art Online, Part 2

  1. I’ve been watching the series, it’s well done. One thing I find about anime though is that they never focus for one second on anyone but the protagonist. There are rarely any love stories that revolve around anyone but the protagonist and little ever happens thats outside the protagonists experience.

    I feel like this limits the scope of sao. makes it feel insular and less grand than it could have been. Less a story about an MMO more a story about this one kid and thats a missed opportunity.

    • Ah. I do believe that’s a limitation of the light novel series actually. The story from the light novels, save for a side story here and there, is done from the protagonist’s viewpoint rather than the viewpoint of multiple players.

      It’s supposed to make us feel for the character more as a result, but the execution in the light novel is a little shoddy due to the limitations of the format, which is to have a novella’s page number rather than a full novel’s. 😀

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