Now on the second floor of Aincrad, Asuna Yuuki and her companion Kirito continue to battle onward in hopes of clearing Sword Art Online. Asuna’s sword is broken during during what should have been a routine upgrade job, but the pair senses something more sinister at hand in this reimagining of the original Sword Art Online story.

Asuna and Kirito stop in at a blacksmith’s shop to upgrade their weapons in preparation for the second floor’s boss battle, but during the upgrade attempt Asuna’s beloved “Wind Fleuret” sword is broken. After discovering that this is a common occurrence with this blacksmith, it’s now up to Asuna and Kirito to solve this mystery.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this - not a whole lot actually happens in this volume aside from Kirito and Asuna trying to solve the mystery of the breaking weapons. If the idea of a volume of Sword Art Online that is almost a continuous stream of dialogue sounds appealing to you, this volume may be right up your alley. Unfortunately for the more action-inclined, our dynamic duo’s quest just never gets going in a meaningful way, making this volume quite disappointing considering just how good the action was in the previous volumes. Part of the problem is that the plot here feels completely inconsequential never it never shows signs of actually being relevant to the player’s goal of actually escaping the game. Instead, we get a shallow dose of political intrigue that never really goes anywhere and really could have been done without. It’s difficult not to feel like this volume’s plot should have been completely cut or decisively condensed to avoid feeling like an unnecessary tangent.

The bright point of this volume is the art work, which remains consistently fantastic just as with the previous volumes in the series. Mangaka Kiseki Himura’s character designs continue to shine, with the expressions of these characters drawn in a way that always manages to completely get their emotions across. The the only humour I was able to glean from this volume was a clear result of Himura’s work, and in less capable hands it’s likely many of these scenes would have fallen flat.

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One thing this series continues to do well is explore more of Asuna’s backstory, and I enjoyed that there were a couple scenes that were able to incorporate this into the main storyline. I think that the volume did a reasonably good job establishing why Asuna was so devastated at the loss of her sword and this helped to build her character effectively in my opinion. It would have been nice if these scenes accompanied a more impactful storyline, but I’m glad they were included because they provided a bit of a reprieve from an otherwise boring plot.

How do you feel about the above picture? If you are disposed to avoid that type of thing, you’ll probably want to be cautious about venturing in to this volume as there are a number of moments such as this which are played off for humour. I personally didn’t have too much of a problem with this, but it’s hard not to feel like the author is relying on cheap pandering to distract from the weakness of this volume’s plot.

If the idea of following Kirito and Asuna on a tangential adventure and its associated hijinks sounds appealing to you, then I can still recommend this volume as it offers a few scenes of character-building along with Himura’s wonderful artwork. However, if you’re looking for some of the action or high-stakes that Sword Art Online usually delivers, you can skip this volume without guilt. While I’m optimistic because of where this volume ends that the next will be an excellent return to form after this boring adventure, it’s fairly clear that this volume doesn’t quite measure up to the high standard it has maintained thus far.

What do our scores mean?

Sword Art Online Progressive (Manga) Vol. 3 was published by Yen Press on September 22nd, 2015 and covers chapters 10.5 - 15 of the series. Authored by Kiseki Himura and based on the original story created by Reki Kawahara, the series is currently ongoing in Kadokawa’s Dengeki G’s Magazine. Volume 4 is scheduled to be released in English next year.

You can also find our reviews for the other volumes in the series here:

Main Sword Art Online Series Light Novels:
Vol. 1, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5, Vol. 6
Sword Art Online Progressive Manga: Vol. 1, Vol.2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4
Sword Art Online Progressive Light Novel: Vol. 1 , Vol. 2, Vol. 3
Sword Art Online: Phantom Bullet (Manga): Vol. 1
Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosary (Manga): Vol. 1

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*Copy provided for Taykobon by publisher.
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