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This past Halloween weekend, Sword Art Online fans in Japan headed to the movie theaters to view the next installment in the hit franchise, as well as the first anime installment of the highly anticipated Progressive side-story, Aria of a Starless Night. According to Anime News Network, the film sold 225,000 tickets and brought in ¥349 million (US$3.06 million) in its first two days, topping the Japanese box office charts for the weekend of October 30-31, 2021.
While fans in North America will have to wait until December 3rd to get their chance to see the film, Aniplex has already revealed that a second Progressive film is already in the works, titled Scherzo of Deep Night. A release date is scheduled for 2022.
アニメ ソードアート・オンライン 公式 on Twitter: “- – 劇場版 ソードアート・オンライン -プログレッシブ- 冥き夕闇のスケルツォ- - －2022年公開決定－#sao_anime pic.twitter.com/c68GzsUmRe / Twitter”
– 劇場版 ソードアート・オンライン -プログレッシブ- 冥き夕闇のスケルツォ- - －2022年公開決定－#sao_anime pic.twitter.com/c68GzsUmRe
The announcement of the second SAO Progressive film has stirred controversy among readers of the light novels. In the continuity, Scherzo of Deep Night is the title of Volume 4 of the Progressive light novel series, covering the fifth floor of Kirito and Asuna’s journey up the castle of Aincrad. This means that the events of Volumes 2-3 as well as the remaining 229 pages of Volume 1 will be skipped over in the anime storyline for now.
According to Sword Art Online creator Reki Kawahara, the decision to skip ahead in the Progressive storyline is because, among other things, the “Elf War” storyline in the novels has not yet been completed. It is yet to be determined if the skipped content will see an adaptation in a future film or prospective TV anime season once said storyline is completed.
川原礫;SAO26巻10月8日発売 on Twitter: “原作をお読み下さっている方は、「ロンドやコンチェルトやバルカローレは？」とお思いかもしれませんが、エルフ戦争クエストが完結していない等々の事情により今回は『スケルツォ』が映像化されることとなりました。必ずご満足頂ける作品になると確信しておりますので、応援よろしくお願いします！ / Twitter”
Translation (by @sao_wikia):
“Those who have read the novel might be asking, “Where did Rondo, Concerto, and Barcarolle go?”; due to the Elf War Quest not yet being completed, among other concerns, it was decided to animate “Scherzo” next. I believe that it will surely become a satisfying experience, so I hope that receive your continued support for the series!”
At the moment, what Reki Kawahara and Aniplex’s long-term plans are for Progressive is unclear. There have been concerns from fans regarding Progressive potentially being a full-blown movie series. Given that there are eight books published so far, with more to come in the future, it would be hard to condense the storyline into a single movie or a series of movies without significant cuts. On the other hand, given that much of the storyline that will make up SAO’s future seasons is still being written by Kawahara, releasing new storyline in a piecemeal fashion in the form of movies should keep high interest in the franchise in the interim. There is also a possibility that these films can be converted or retold down the line as part of a future television season, similar to Demon Slayer’s Mugen Train arc, Dragon Ball Super’s Battle of Gods and Resurrection F arcs, and Gundam Unicorn.
However, outside of Mugen Train, Aniplex has not made television retellings or recaps of their canon films, causing problems for those who didn’t get the chance to see the film, as well as networks and services who can’t show said film due to rights issues. The most notable example of this that affected Toonami viewers directly was the previous Sword Art Online film, Ordinal Scale. As previously mentioned in the editorial published back in June “Is Toonami’s “No Movies” Policy Coming Back to Haunt Its Viewers?”, because the SAO films are canon to the anime’s overall continuity, a failure to showcase these events to the block’s audience will likely lead to fans being disenfranchised from the overall SAO storyline down the line unless a TV adaptation of the Progressive films is made or Toonami can successfully negotiate a deal with Sony to air the films when they become essential for viewing a future season.
Sword Art Online: Progressive is a retelling of the Aincrad arc from the ground-up, covering Kirito and Asuna’s original journey up the floating castle the story arc is named after, including events that were skipped over in the original story. Kawahara published the first volume of Progressive in 2012; around the same time that Sword Art Online’s first season was airing in Japan. This side-story is presently ongoing, with eight books published so far. In the U.S. and Canada, the light novels and manga for Sword Art Online Progressive, as with other installments in the SAO franchise, are translated and distributed by Yen Press.
Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night will hit theaters in the United States and Canada, both subbed and dubbed on December 3rd. The film is directed by Ayako Kawano, joined by character designer Kento Toya, and composer Yuki Kajiura. Aniplex USA along with Funimation plan to reveal participating theaters and begin selling tickets on November 5th. The film will cover the first 121 pages of Volume 1, expanding on the events of Episode 2 of the first season, including an anime-only storyline featuring a new character named Mito. Mito will be voiced in Japanese by Inori Minase. She’ll be joined by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Kirito and Haruka Tomatsu as Asuna. The English dub cast has yet to be revealed at this time, including whether Bryce Papenbrook and Cherami Leigh will reprise their roles as Kirito and Asuna respectively.
The official synopsis is as follows:
This is a tale of the time before “Lightning Flash” and “The Black Swordsman” were known by those names…
The day that she happened to don the NerveGear, Asuna Yuuki was a third-year middle school student who’d never even touched an online game before. On November 6, 2022, the world’s first VRMMORPG, Sword Art Online, is officially launched. But the players, still euphoric over having logged in, suddenly find themselves trapped inside the game when the Game Master deprives them of any way to log out.
The Game Master then gives them this warning “This may be a game, but it’s not something you play.” If a player dies in-game, they die in the real world.
Hearing this, all of the players panic, and pandemonium reigns. One of those players is Asuna, but despite not yet knowing the rules of this world, she sets off to conquer the floating iron castle, Aincrad, whose peak is too high to be seen. As the days go by in this world where death is never very far away, she has a fateful encounter. And then, a parting…
Though she’s at the mercy of the reality before her eyes, Asuna fights on with all her might until someone appears before her: the aloof swordsman, Kirito…
What are your thoughts on the recent SAO news? Do you plan on viewing “Aria of a Starless Night” in theaters next month? Let us know by commenting below or directly on our social media.