After solving the weapon-stealing scam run by Nezha, Asuna attempts to finish the martial-arts quest to join Kirito as the players take on the second-floor boss in this Asuna-centred retelling of Sword Art Online.
Asuna and Kirito have solved the mystery of the breaking weapons, cornering the blacksmith Nezha into admitting his scam. After being trapped by the martial-arts quest until she can break a boulder, Asuna continues frantically training with Nezha to finish before the second-floor boss battle begins. Meanwhile, Kirito departs from the group to join the raiding-party heading into the dungeon to take on the boss. Although the group is plenty strong and has knowledge of the boss from the beta test, Kirito’s worst suspicions come true when the boss changes unexpectedly. With his trusty partner busy trying to break a boulder, Kirito attempts to rally the rest of the raiding-party to survive.
After getting the largely uninteresting weapon-switching conspiracy out of the way in the previous volume, this volume is much more enjoyable for the abundance of action brought about in the second-floor boss battle. This volume is dominated by this battle as Kirito and the raiding party take on two gigantic minotaur, but this is for good reason because of how enjoyable it was. This battle lent a great sense of pace to the volume overall, and I really enjoyed the way it managed to nail the dramatic undertone in a way this particular adaption has lacked at times. We get an excellent sense of the desperation felt by these players of these players trapped in the death game as the situation goes from bad to worse, leading to an enjoyable sequence as Kirito tries to rally his comrades to hold out. This scene managed to effectively balance a focus on individually heroic feats while clearly explaining the broader state of the battle, and I felt that I had a clear picture at all times exactly what was going on in the battle without any style lost.
The events of the second-floor boss battle also bring together the somewhat goofy and unfocused story from the previous volume in a way that makes up for those failings. Ultimately, this is still Asuna’s story through and through, and I enjoyed the way that events of the battle were used to illustrate her burgeoning partnership with Kirito through their actions rather than through exposition. There were a number of real enjoyable “pay-off” moments spread throughout the battle which did this wonderfully, and I really liked the way that this was incorporated into the very satisfying and action-packed finale to the battle in a meaningful way. Although we don’t get much actual character-development in this volume, I really liked the way that it provide a strong punctuation mark to her growing determination as the cap-stone to her story-arc in the series so far.
Nezha’s story also receives a conclusion that fits in appropriately with the events of the battle. After finally being reunited with his comrades, Nezha gets his own moment of catharsis after the events of the previous volume. This was definitely a feel-good moment all around, and I liked the way that this moment was built up to in terms of its grounding in the mythology of the world. However, in hindsight I didn’t feel like this storyline delivered quite as potent a payoff as it really needed to justify the sheer amount of time devoted to him considering the general flatness of his character throughout. It would have been nice to see his character become a little more developed in the scenes he was in, but overall his story-arc worked well enough to give Kirito and Asuna something to do on this floor.
Kiseki Himura’s art continues to be an excellent reason to be reading this series, and she does a good job illustrating both the action scenes as well as the more stationary expository sequences. After having read and watched a multitude of adapations of Kirito and Asuna’s character designs, I have to applaud the fact that Himura’s take on the pair continues to delight thanks to the way she is able to exaggerate their facial expressions in a potently funny way. This continues to give the series a more comedic feel, but she also does a good job stepping up the detail level when required to get across a few of the more dramatic scenes. This volume also has a number of good full-page spreads to punctuate the final action sequences, and this was a great addition in making a few of the moments feel just a little more epic. The action scenes were generally clear on the whole, and I had no trouble following the events at they proceeded.
Sword Art Online Progressive Vol. 4 is a much better volume than the previous one, and is a thoroughly action-packed capstone to Asuna’s story so far. The action sequences were in abundance in this volume, making for an exciting read which brought together the storyline so far in an enjoyable manner. While none of the characters receive a whole lot of development in this volume, fans of the series looking for a good, old-fashioned boss battle should definitely pick this one up.
Sword Art Online Progressive (Manga) Vol. 4 was published by Yen Press on March 22nd, 2016. 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 5 will be released in the near future in Japan.
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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