- Mangaka : Kawahara, Reki (Story) and abec (Art)
- Publisher : Yen Press
- Genre : Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Isekai, Romance, Sci-Fi
- Published : April 2014 - Ongoing
Gabriel Miller logged into the Underworld as the God of Darkness, Emperor Vecta and prepared to invade the human realm with his army of darkness. The last few remaining of the Integrity Knights, led by Commander Bercouli, has an army of one-tenth of their enemies’ number. As Kirito is still in an empty state, he is left under the care of Ronie and Tiese, the previous disciples under him and Eugeo. The Chancellor of the Dark Mage Guild, Dee Eye Ell, attempts to launch a large scale magic attack toward the human army. But the battle soon turned against them by none other than Asuna, who logged in as Goddess Stacia. You may have seen the battle in the anime but its nothing compared to the vivid and sometime brutal discriptions in this volume of the ongoing story of SAO.
Rise, gamers! Welcome to the Underworld! A virtual world where graphics and interactions with the underworlders are as close to reality. If you kill the original Underworlders, their fluctlights or souls will disappear forever! We also forget to mention that you will feel an intense amount of pain if you get hit, and the only way to log yourself out is death, so be safe out there!
Back to the war, Kirito is still a vegetable, classic Reki. Gabriel is a bit loco in that he likes to kill people and savour the view of souls leaving their hosts. Yeah… kind of f***** up if you ask us. Their objective is to capture and extract Alice and do whatever he wants with her and delete the Underworld that Rath has developed. The central theme of this volume is the horror of the war itself as the Underworlders are Bottom-up AIs, which represents actual humans themselves.
1. The True Definition of War
After Gabriel made his entry to the Underworld as the Emperor Vecta, you will be surprised at how much history has been made in the past 300 years in the Underworld. One of the armies of darkness commander, Dark General Shasta, is one of the very few people who wanted to create a peaceful unity between humans and dark territories. He knew Bercouli would understand he and Shasta’s clan can make it happened but soon denied it due to the presence of Vecta.
Because of Gabriel’s sole focus on getting his hands on Alice, his strategy in deploying his troops in the Underworld can be considered reckless and made use of their sheer numbers to deplete the human army’s Morales. But the Integrity Knights’ training and swordsmanship they possess are enough to drive thousands of their numbers, which creates psychological warfare onto the Dark army that questions their emperor on his decision. Not feeling appreciated and honoured by the Dark God and seen as nothing but sacrificial pawns for his goal. Will they, too, become similar to Alice, who went up against the restriction program that was implanted in everyone’s eye?
The human army feels similar to the Dark army, questioning whether this war is even worth protecting their realm when there are better ways to resolve this situation. The story shows how both sides of the conflict aren’t keen to have this war break out when there is a lot of unwanted sacrifice for a petty cause.
Before reading this volume, they offered an illustration of how each army was set up and understand the strategies they will apply in the field. The human military made an intelligent move to defend against the goblins and orcs in a passive approach, using range attacks by one of the integrity knights. Before that, they trained the normal underworlders well in the past about one year to fight smartly.
However, the dark army, mainly the goblins and orcs, do not have much of a plan to fight against them. The way the war plays out in this story is exceptionally dynamic. Many things are happening, and the experience the integrity knights have brought out their instincts to check on unexpected areas before the war starts. Bercouli made the best decision he can to make an arrangement in the army where each division has their integrity knight with their personalities and fighting style in mind, preserving the integrity of the entire army as a whole and work as a unit to lessen casualties.
1. That’s a Little Descriptive
Because of the realism in terms of graphics, people and feelings the Underworld offer to Kirito and Asuna and the war happened in the East gate between the human realm and dark territory. There are bound to be blood and gore. Reki did go all out on this one. The description of the actions that happened in the battles and the results of clashes are enough for readers to visualize them. So if you are sensitive to that, you might not like this one.
It is good to resume reading Sword Art Online after many years of reading other light novel and manga series and see how the story progress and the evolution of Reki Kawahara’s writing style. The intensity and emotions the war carries among both armies are almost close to reality. The frustration and the sense of doubt brewing in the dark military bring home the horror of war they are engaging in and whether the sacrifice they made is worth doing just for one AI called Alice. The tactical warfare the story portrays is well done. It’s simple yet somehow feels like it is challenging to execute as well. However, this volume might not be suitable for those sensitive to gore described in the story. If you have read this volume, what are your thoughts about this volume? Leave them down in the comment below!