I think anybody who has played an MMORPG knows that most fiction about them are completely unrepresentative of the experience. They tend to simply be used as a fantasy setting with a bit of sci-fi spice, typically of the artificial intelligence variety. I’d even go so far as to say that not a single one actually understands how people interact with strangers online. But I have seen one give emotional depth to people playing online games, and as it would so happen, it does so by taking a new perspective on one of the most popular series to bash: Sword Art Online – Progressive.
“Video games are a waste of time. Online games are like drugs.” I think everybody who has played an online game recognizes these ideas. And yet more of us should recognize the underlying emotions that fuel those ideas: the fear of being left behind in a highly competitive society, one that records every mistake that we make, judging our worth as human beings but leaving our execution in our own hands.
For Asuna, and for most people living in developed countries, the cruelest punishment that we can give is not death, but shame, a shame which tells us that we should kill ourselves. This stands in direct contrast to Sword Art Online’s premise of a death game, and it makes Kirito, with his deep knowledge of the game but naivete in regards to reality, into an excellent foil to Asuna. It gives new weight to Asuna’s response to Kirito’s suggestion that they stay in the game forever: that even if they stayed, they would still be running out of time. But its most important function is not to position the game as a silly fantasy, but to connect it emotionally with the reality of how we fantasize success:
You can’t really change the disaster that was and continues to be Sword Art Online, but Sword Art Online – Progressive salvages so much in its first two chapters just by taking and fleshing out Asuna’s perspective. (I would even suspect that a similar effect was accomplished by Mother’s Rosario for people who didn’t enjoy the rest of Sword Art Online.)
Also Himura Kiseki is such a good artist it’s frankly kind of disgusting.
Credit for all pages goes to Kiss Manga Scans.