A Sword Art Online: Progressive anime adaptation is on the lips of SAO fans now that the Alicization anime ended.
The new Sword Art Online anime’s story about Kirito and Asuna will go back to the beginning in Aincrad rather than jump into a Sword Art Online Season 4 anime sequel based on Unital Ring.
The Sword Art Online: Progressive trailer was released as well as a new key visual featuring Asuna (which makes sense since she’s given more emphasis in the reboot’s retelling of the story).
The Sword Art Online: Progressive release date has not yet been announced.
The Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 7 release date is scheduled for Spring 2021.
What does this mean for the anime series over the long term? What we do know for sure is that A-1 Pictures director Manabu Ono stated in an interview that he had spoken with Aniplex staff around the time the SAO: Ordinal Scale movie was being screen-tested.
He said that “they were planning to adapt the entire Sword Art Online series.”
The only question is how it will be done.
Updated September 27, 2020: Added SAO Volume 25 release date and SAO: Progressive Volume 7 release time frame.
Updated September 19, 2020: Sword Art Online: Progressive anime confirmed! Added trailer and key visual.
Why a Sword Art Online: Progressive anime makes sense over Sword Art Online Season 4: Unital Ring
Alicization’s ending heralded in a new chapter in the anime series with an official announcement of an anime renewal, but what form will it take?
The story for the SAO anime is based on the light novel series by Japanese author Reki Kawahara. The Alicization anime adapted light novel Volumes 9 through 18, while Volumes 19 and 20 were called SAO: Moon Cradle Part 1 and 2.
SAO: Unital Ring is Volumes 21 and on. (Sword Art Online Volume 22, Kiss and Fly, is a collection of side stories initially released as part of a limited edition Blu-Ray/DVD box set bonus.)
The Sword Art Online Volume 25 release date was scheduled for December 10, 2020. It will be titled Sword Art Online: Unital Ring 4.
Moon Cradle tells the story of what happened to Kirito and Asuna after the Fluctlight Acceleration maxed out and they became trapped in Underworld for hundreds of years.
Rather than a direct sequel to Alicization, Kawahara said Moon Cradle is technically a side story structured to be readable as an independent fantasy story with some character names in common with the original SAO series.
Besides being a side story, Moon Cradle is also relatively short in comparison to the stories of most TV anime seasons. Rather than being adapted into Sword Art Online Season 4, Moon Cradle would make more sense as a two-part Sword Art Online: Moon Cradle movie project.
Instead, Sword Art Online Season 4 should be based on the newest SAO: Unital Ring story arc. The problem that Aniplex faces is that Sword Art Online: Unital Ring book series first began releasing in 2018.
The sequel was only up to Unital Ring 3 as of May 2020, and Unital Ring 4 releases in December 2020, which means it’s not quite ready for an anime adaptation.
Kawahara hasn’t announced how many books he’s planning on writing in total, but he has said he hopes it won’t be longer than Alicization’s 10 books.
Regardless of the total, it seems apparent Kawahara is years away from finishing Unital Ring, which leaves a gaping void for the SAO: Progressive anime series to fill.
Sword Art Online: Progressive anime was teased before the announcement
The domain name SAO-P.net just happened to be registered precisely a month before the final episode of the Sword Art Online: Alicization anime released on Sept. 19. It started off as an empty website with a basic HTML page saying “Notfound,” but now it’s advertising the SAO: Progressive anime.
The timing of the registration and the naming convention of the website fits the pattern for official SAO websites. For example, the Alicization anime has sao-alicization.com, and the SAO: Ordinal Scale movie had sao-movie.net.
In the case of sao-alicization.com, it was initially registered about two months before the Alicization anime hit in October 2018.
While Aniplex openly registered both of those websites, the Registrar (owner) of the SAO-P.net site hid their identity with a Whois Privacy Protection Service in an attempt to conceal the project before the official announcement.
What is Sword Art Online: Progressive’s story?
The entire Sword Art Online book series started life as a novel contest entry for Dengeki Novel Prize that ended up being self-published online.
Kawahara’s ideas for the Aincrad arc needed to be condensed since the contest rules required that entries have an actual ending, not a cliffhanger or a “to be continued” ending.
As such, Kawahara introduced many time gaps that skimmed over the many stories of the original SAO players trapped in Aincrad.
In 2012, Kawahara decided to fill in those gaps by writing the Sword Art Online: Progressive light novel series (it’s also being adapted into a manga).
SAO: Progressive shows how the players cleared Aincrad floor by floor. It essentially works as an SAO reboot or expanding the original story that retcons specific minor details. The focus is still mainly on Kirito, but the narrative’s point of view often switches to Asuna.
As of 2018, SAO: Progressive was up to Volume 6, and the manga adaptation also ended. Considering that Progressive has only told the story of the first six floors, it’s far from a finished tale.
While Kawahara is mostly focused on Unital Ring, it’s not like he’s forgotten Progressive. In late September 2020, it was announced that the Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 7 release date was scheduled for Spring 2021.
Still, the first six volumes of Progressive are more than enough for a two-cour anime season as it currently stands. Let’s just the Sword Art Online: Progressive release date announcement is right around the corner. Stay tuned!