Subseries Highlight: Sword Art Online Alicization Arc (Light Novel)

Sao Volume 9

Absolute Defense Shield, activate!

*ahem*

Hiyo, everyone! Today I’d like to talk about the Alicization Arc in a series I like both watching and reading despite acknowledging its many flaws! I’m aware that Sword Art Online receives a lot of criticism, much of it fair, and a lot of hatred, which feels a bit extreme. Regardless, I’ve been enjoying the latest arc in the light novels, and at least some of the content from that arc is going to be the subject of the anime’s upcoming season 3, so I decided to talk about it anyway! After all, I’m all about enjoying the best parts of a story despite its flaws and, in my opinion, this arc is the best that mainstream SAO has to offer so far. Flame me if you must – or try. This shield will never break!

An overview of the Alicization Arc’s role in the light novels – it encompasses volumes 9 through 18, so, by the end, it claims more than half of SAO up to that point. Until now, only volumes 9 through 14 have been officially translated into English, so even I don’t know how this all ends! However, as I understand it, the Alicization Arc can be split into two subarcs, and I’ve finished the first of those, and I really enjoyed it! I have no idea if season 3 of the anime can adapt 10 volumes of material – previously, the 25 episode seasons have covered 4 volumes each, so if season 3 is to tell us the full story of the Alicization Arc, I imagine it would have to be at least 50 episodes long. Maybe they’ll split it into two seasons.

I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of the story whether you watch it or read it, so I plan to keep spoilers to a minimum. That said, I will touch on some plot points from volume 9 and hint at some facts from volume 10. Also, anything that happened in seasons 1 and 2 of the anime or volumes 1-8 of the light novels is fair game.

Volume 9 opens up… strangely. Kirito has somehow become younger. He lives in a small town called Rulid with his friends Eugeo and Alice. The setting is that of the start of a typical fantasy game. A simple village. Lush forests. A dark land beyond that none may enter. The people of this world are ruled by the Axiom Church and its Taboo Index, a set of rules that are not only absolute laws, but literally unbreakable. For most people. Heroes called Integrity Knights uphold the laws and protect the people from the denizens of the forbidden land. Rulid is to be a place of order and stability. As you might expect, that doesn’t stop Kirito – who has only ever known this world – from going on an adventure with his friends. An adventure that leads to dire consequences.

Then he wakes up. He was just testing a game for an acquaintance of his in the MMO industry. Whoops! That almost got dramatic! He recalls nothing of the time he spent in that world.

He then hangs out with his real life friends, including his girlfriend Asuna, his AI daughter Yui, and Sinon, a player of a competitive MMO called Gun Gale Online. The latter recounts the tale of her attempt to win a major tournament only to be defeated by an opponent who told her that her soul would be sweet. Creepy! Afterwards, Kirito and Asuna leave together – and are confronted with something truly frightening.

The Death Gun murders, previously stopped by Kirito and Sinon, were carried out by two former members of Laughing Coffin, a murderer’s guild from the original SAO, and one of their brothers. While the two siblings were brought to justice, the third person was never caught. And he – known as Johnny Black – wasn’t particularly happy with Kirito. So, in the middle of the night, Kirito finds himself the victim of a real life attack using the same substance that Death Gun used for his killings.

When Kirito wakes up, he’s back in that fantasy world, now his proper age – and with all his memories, save for the ones of his previous time in that world. Before long, he realizes it’s a virtual world, but that the inhabitants are not mere AI like in previous MMOs, but fully fledged people. With the help of a friend, he embarks on a quest to escape from this world – known as the Underworld – and to better understand the true nature of the people surrounding him. It seems as if his MMO insider acquaintance may have been more than he appeared…

That’s all I’ll say about the story for now! As I mentioned before, I really liked this arc. It touches on themes such as what it truly means to be a human being and delves deep into the characters’ souls. If you like SAO, I recommend reading the light novels and checking out season 3! If you hate SAO, I don’t recommend bothering! If you hate me for liking SAO, please don’t post in the comments below! Otherwise, though, I’d love to see your feedback. Are you excited for the next arc? Interested in watching season 3? Have you already read some of the Alicization Arc, and, if so, what did you think? Feel free to criticize SAO, too – just keep it friendly and civil. I hope you all have a great week!

Series Highlight: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Light Novel)

Haruhi Cover

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’ll be talking about the series that got me into reading light novels – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, by Nagaru Tanigawa! Most people familiar with this series probably learned about it by watching the anime, but that alone wasn’t enough for me. I had to get all of Haruhi I could! So, I bought and read all the light novels, and those are what I’ll talk about.

The series follows Kyon, a self-described ‘average guy’ who, as of the beginning of the series, is starting as a student at North High. He finds himself seated in front of the notorious Haruhi Suzumiya, an incredibly eccentric girl who proudly declares during her class introduction that she wants nothing to do with anyone unless they have some link to the paranormal – ghosts, aliens, time travelers, whatever. Despite that, she and Kyon get into the habit of speaking to each other before class each morning.

Kyon learns that Haruhi is bored with the mundane and aggressively seeking something new to spice up her life. She’s known for dating anyone who asks her out, but for breaking off her relationships very quickly. She has also tried out every school club and rejected them all, despite her talent for both academics and sports. Then, Kyon makes his decisive mistake. He suggests she start a club of her own. Haruhi loves the idea, and, of course, Kyon is instantly roped into membership.

After hijacking the Literature Club and assimilating its only member, Haruhi begins the hunt for more. She ends up with a total of five members – each of whom has their own extraordinary quirk. Her club is called the SoS Brigade and is basically focused on doing whatever she feels like doing, whether that be entering a baseball tournament, creating a film, or scouting town for signs of the paranormal.

Kyon soon finds himself in over his head with all of Haruhi’s demands – and the astounding phenomena that surround her to which she is completely oblivious. The story takes many twists and turns from there, which I don’t intend to spoil, so if you haven’t at least watched the anime, I suggest you do!

That said, this highlight is about the light novels, so I should mention some of the storylines that are exclusive to them. But, first, those of you who are veterans of the anime will be happy to hear that the hated Endless Eight takes up only a single chapter in the light novels – the anime’s nonsensical take on that story is its own. Anyway, some of the other circumstances Kyon and his friends deal with in the light novels are as follows:

  • Defending the SoS Brigade against the student council president
  • Kyon finding a duplicate copy of Mikuru Asahina in the Literature Club closet
  • SoS Brigade tryouts.
  • Solving a mystery involving the strange behavior of dogs at a certain location
  • Encountering a second cast of characters that reflect the SoS Brigade members under incredibly convoluted circumstances

I don’t want to delve too deeply into any of those storylines, ’cause spoilers are bad, but the light novels feature even more quirky situations than just those, and if you liked the anime, I suggest you pick up the light novels and read them, beginning to… well, to where the author stopped.

The unfortunate thing about the Haruhi series is that it remains incomplete, and Tanigawa hasn’t published anything in years. He’s on record promising a continuation of the series, but even if that really happens, there’s no telling how long it will take, and no one seems to be quite sure what’s up. Part of me wants to believe this is some crazy gimmick Tanigawa is using to eventually garner more interest (Maybe he’ll claim to have been pulled into an alternate dimension or something! xD), but, realistically, the cause is probably completely ordinary. Haruhi wouldn’t be satisfied at all!

Speaking of Haruhi, I just have to write a little bit about why she’s one of the characters I most look up to in any series. The reason for that is in her unbridled individualism. She knows what’s supposed to be possible and impossible in life, but strives for the impossible anyway. Her free-spiritedness and openness to trying all sorts of things legitimately inspires me. I love her willingness to ignore society’s expectations for her and instead follow a path she really believes in, no matter how unlikely success seems – and her unconscious ability to find magic in the ordinary. She has character flaws, of course, but I’m totally willing to overlook them in the face of her sheer determination to be herself.

Anyway, that’s all for this highlight! Have any of you read the Haruhi light novels, or watched the anime? If so, what did you think? Have you read any light novels at all? Please let me know in the comments below, and have an outstanding week!

Series Highlight: The Stormlight Archive

Way of Kings 3

Hiyo, everyone! It has been a while since I last covered any novels, so today we’ll be looking at a whole series of them: The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. This series is huge, still in progress, and just plain awesome. Currently, the first three books are released: The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer. I last read the former two books back when they were first released, so it has been years, and I may not remember everything perfectly. However, I recently devoured Oathbringer, and it has left me wanting to revisit the series and discuss it with others!

It’s hard to properly describe the story briefly because there’s just so much to it, so instead, I’ll focus on three of the early main characters and their arcs in The Way of Kings. In book one, the character who gets the most page-time is named Kaladin. He’s a man who goes to great lengths to protect those he cares about, only to find himself worse off for it every time. After performing a nearly-inhuman feat to help the lord he serves, he is betrayed and branded a slave for his trouble. He struggles to find any hope to cling to in a world so consistently unfair.

Shallan Davar is a young noble who has traveled the world in pursuit of the renowned scholar and atheist Jasnah Kholin. Shallan seeks to become Jasnah’s ward – a sort of academic apprentice – but her intentions are not as pure as they seem. Her true motive is to rob one of the world’s keenest minds of a magical device necessary to safekeep her family’s future.

Dalinar Kholin is a Highprince of his kingdom who is known for the ferocity on the battlefield that characterized his youth. He finds himself forced into the position of a leader rather than a fighter, and experiences strange visions urging him to unite the nations of the world. Changed by the death of his brother, the former king, Dalinar searches for an honorable way to guide his country through the trials to come.

Those are only a few of the characters, of course. There are tons more, some with very unique viewpoints. Sanderson is a master worldbuilder, and the world of Roshar, in which these novels take place, is diverse and rife with deep lore. I can’t do it justice in a short post. I can only urge you to give the series a try for yourself.

That said, The Stormlight Archive is aimed at fans of epic fantasy – each of the three books in released in the main series so far is over 1,000 pages long. There’s also a spin-off novella called Edgedancer. I haven’t had the chance to read that yet, but it’s definitely high on my priority list now.

To make things even more daunting, The Stormlight Archive is one of many series that takes place in Sanderson’s Cosmere, a set of interwoven universes with varied magic systems. The other included series so far are less enormous than The Stormlight Archive, so you may want to start with one of those instead. Personally, the first book I read by Sanderson was Mistborn, and he has since become one of my favorite authors.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t go into any more detail here. Just know that Sanderson writes both worlds and characters that are deep and exceedingly well developed. I recommend his work to any fan of fantasy.

Have you read anything by Brandon Sanderson? If so, what are your favorites of his stories? if not, who are your favorite fantasy authors? Please let me know in the comments below. Until next time, ciao!