Reading the news earlier today of a Sword Art Online live action series produced by Netflix, my first thought as often is the case was “why?” The answer is obvious of course: money. However as I continued to read the interview with the producer a dawning realization came to me, this person does not know what they were talking about.
Edit: Since people seem to be not understanding this is a TV series, not a film.
Despite having watched the series and I believe they have there were some glaring factual errors that was tough to overlook such as:
In terms of the secondary characters, because the game is meant to be global, the way it’s presented in the anime and in the light novels, there are secondary characters that clearly are from other parts of the world, like Klein and Agil.
Except... its not. The original Sword Art Online game was a soft launch of only 10,000 players all of whom were in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Agil while African by ethnicity is Japanese by birth and Klein... well Klein is actually named Tsuboi Ryoutarou... so ya...
This was followed up by one of the most laughable comparisons I have seen in years. Especially now considering the context of Ghost in the Shell in North America:
Except again they are not. Say what you will about Asuna as a heroine but Kirito might as well be the photo next to “Light Novel Protagonist Gary Stu”. Hardly comparable to the quintessentially Japanese character of Motoko Kusanagi, a character who is literally named after one of the three great regalia of Japan.
These quotes were all in service of the idea they as producers respect Sword Art Online and will never “whitewash” the property. Which is great, even if they’re using a gross misconception of the characters and plot as their reasoning.
After reading all this I then came to a quick realization. The producers not getting or understanding Sword Art Online is actually a good thing. As a straight 1:1 adaptation of Sword Art Online would be TERRIBLE television. It is fine as an anime, however without animes ability to inoculate people against the series ample use of tropes I think the flaws of the series would massively overpower what makes the series beloved by so many.
What the leaves if the project does one day grace our screens is an actual adaption, one faithful to the material but not subservient too it. Think Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban vs the first two films in the series.
The structure of the plot remains intact with taking advantage of the new medium to tell new stories in it. While its clear bringing up Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones is simple PR Buzz, there is potential for interesting stories in it. The political maneuverings within the large guilds, something only hinted at in the anime could be compelling television if done with a deft touch.
While the raid of Laughing Coffin forcing good players to kill an event only referenced after the fact in the anime, would be a powerful moment in a live action series. As it puts into sharp relief the reality of the situation and the moral decision making these young people must go through. As the line blurs between the virtual and reality.
As of right now, we know so little about this series nothing is set in stone. However despite the fact it is clear the producer of this series has at best a tangential relationship with the source material, I say that is okay. As let us be frank, Sword Art Online is hardly a product worth reverence. It has some cool ideas (though not that original) and implements them well (at times) but that is about it.
A Netflix adaption to be good would need to expand beyond the anime and try something new. Jettison what does not work while expanding what does, Aincrad was always the best part of Sword Art Online lets see what new stories it can tell.