(This review may contain spoilers).
When I saw the anime of this advertised, I was immediately intrigued by the idea. And when I saw the book for sale… I immediately wanted to buy it and see the world.
Unfortunately, although this book did get off to a good start… by the end, I found myself feeling quite disappointed. While it was good to see something of how the people trapped in the game tried to make lives for themselves, by the time the plot got going, it felt like everyone had just given up.
The scenes at the beginning of the manga, when the players found out they were trapped inside the game, were done really well. It was heartbreaking to learn about the memorial that appeared and immortalised the names of each player who had died. In that respect, I could understand why many of the players chose to stop trying and just eked out lives to survive.
I didn’t really like Asuna. She kind of set my teeth on edge and I found it very difficult to believe she and Kirito had real feelings for each other. I was disappointed that there was very little time spent developing the romance… and even by the end of the book, I was left completely lost about how most things worked in the game.
There were some good elements of artwork in depicting the characters, in particular the contrast when all of them were unmasked when they realised they couldn’t leave. I found the idea of the guilds to be an intriguing one, but most of the information I had was coloured by Kirito’s experiences with them… and although I was being told a lot of the characteristics of those guilds, I wasn’t being shown.
I didn’t feel there was much in the way of different characters shown. I would have liked to see more than just Kirito and Asuna… and although it was interesting to see them gain a daughter, I found that very hard to believe when the little girl’s background was revealed.
I found it hard to form an emotional connection to most of the characters in this. I think the book would have been better as a longer one, with more time spent showing character relationships and how they interacted with the world they were trapped in.