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The spring 2018 anime season is officially here, which means there’s one thing on the minds of Sword Art Online fans… Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online! While we may have to wait until October for season 3 proper, but there are plenty of reasons to get ULTRA HYPE about this gunslingin’ spinoff. With the premiere right around the corner, here are some of the features that have us itching to dive back into the virtual world of GGO.
Keiichi Sigsawa is a one-of-a-kind talent, as evidenced by his source material that powers the wonderful Kino’s Journey anime adaptations. He’s also responsible for the novel on which the SAO Alternative anime is based, which should speak volumes about its storytelling capabilities. Beyond the caliber of Sigsawa’s writing, it’ll just be nice to see Sword Art Online from a different perspective.
If you’re still not sure about how Sigsawa’s approach to the subject matter might veer from what we’ve seen in the past, he briefly touched on this during his panel at last summer’s Crunchyroll Expo. Sigsawa said, “In the original Sword Art Online novels, there wasn’t too much of a gap between the people in real life and their avatars in the game. I wanted to create a bigger gap so it could be differentiated from the main series.”
That already rings true in what we’ve seen from LLENN (voiced by Tomori Kusunoki) and Pitohui (Yoko Hikasa) thus far. LLENN is short and feisty, but she isn’t of the same mindset (nor height) in GGO as she is in real life. Her friend Pitohui is a veteran of the game, but she has more mystery behind her than your average SAO character. Half the fun of the show will be getting a chance to see the dynamic between these two and how they mesh with the rest of the anime’s cast.
Opinions may vary depending on who you ask, but for my money, Sword Art Online is at its absolute best when the stakes are sky-high. That certainly applied to the first season, and the intensity carried over to the first half of Sword Art Online II. It wasn’t just the looming specter of Death Gun that made the 14-episode take on the Phantom Bullet arc so compelling, though. The world of Gun Gale Online is just wildly different from that of Sword Art Online or Alfheim Online. According to what we’ve seen in the anime, at least, gameplay revolves more around highly-publicized survival competitions rather than your average MMO-friendly bullet-pointed quests and sidequests.
Compare this to the Calibur and Mother’s Rosario arcs that followed. The former was about as close to watching a Let’s Play on YouTube as possible. As fun as it was seeing Kirito and friends team up to claim Excaliber and ostensibly save the virtual world from changing forever, it was also kind of like watching someone else’s high-level raid. Narratively speaking, most of those episodes are empty calories. Mother’s Rosario had some memorable moments and closed the second season out on a touching note, but nothing quite reached the week-to-week excitement of Phantom Bullet.
When Reki Kawahara’s Sword Art Online novels first came out in 2009, the traditional MMO was a more novel setting for an all-or-nothing death game. In 2018, Gun Gale Online actually seems like the more relevant showcase for what is otherwise a premise as timeless as Captain N: The Game Master. From Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds to Fortnite, online survival shooters are white hot right now, and GGO fits in nicely even when the switch isn’t set to “You Die in Real Life.”
Look, Kirito is fine and all, but he could probably use a little break from being the de facto face of Sword Art Online. This is an expansive world full of characters with plenty of potential, and Bell Cranel—I mean Kirito—is just one face among millions. Kirito is one of those flawless viewer-insert power fantasy characters that’s at his best when others are playing off him, and we’ll get to see plenty more of that in action when Sword Art Online season 3 debuts.
For now, though, it’s all about LLENN! I recently had the opportunity to speak with voice actress (and theme song performer) Tomori Kusunoki, and while you’ll have to wait until the next issue of Otaku USA spinoff magazine Anime USA for the full interview, I’ll share a snippet concerning Kusunoki’s thoughts on LLENN.
Here’s what Kusonoki had to say when I asked about her general impression of the character:
“In the beginning, there were a lot of teary-eyed illustrations of her, so I was under the impression that she was a scaredy-cat but also resilient. But now, I see her as more combative and savage, which is the complete opposite of the real world version of herself. She’s always charging ahead and pushing forward in her thinking and in her actions. I find that part about her to be so adorable! That gap between her personalities is irresistible!”
Again, this seems to fall in line nicely with what author Keiichi Sigsawa said about what makes SAO Alternative‘s characters special. Whatever ends up going down in Gun Gale Online this time around, I can’t wait to follow it as it happens and see how they grow and evolve over the course of the series.
Have you been watching Sword Art Online since the beginning, or will this be your first time digging into the series? Either way, let us know what has you pumped for Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online!