Sword Art Online's Fourth Arc Is Both Heartbreaking And Beautiful

Sword Art Online's Fourth Arc Is Both Heartbreaking and Beautiful

Last year, we took a look at the third arc of the light novel series Sword Art Online (which is getting an anime adaptation later this year); but as enjoyable as that was, it is nothing compared to the heartbreaking, beautiful tale that follows it: Mother's Rosario.

This review assumes you have seen/read the first two arcs of Sword Art Online and those contain spoilers of those two arcs. Any other spoilers will be clearly marked.

Life after Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online's Fourth Arc Is Both Heartbreaking and Beautiful

On the whole, Sword Art Online is a series of action adventures. The first arc is a death game story. The second is your typical rescue-the-princess fare while the third is a cyber murder mystery. But Mother's Rosario is completely different in scope and tone from everything that comes before it. Rather than dealing with a brand new adventure in a new and different virtual reality MMORPG, Mother's Rosario focuses on the lingering aftereffects of spending over two years in a life-and-death game world.

The minors who survived Sword Art Online have largely been corralled into one school. There, they have the support of teachers and mental help professionals who have all volunteered to help them re-acclimate to the real world and catch up on their several years of missing school work while surrounded by the only other people in the world able to truly empathise with what they have been through. In this setting, the characters begin to move on from their death-game experience and start searching for what they want to do with their lives.

A Different Point of View Character

Sword Art Online's Fourth Arc Is Both Heartbreaking and Beautiful

Another aspect that sets Mother's Rosario apart from the rest of Sword Art Online is the almost complete absence of Kirito, the series' main protagonist. In fact, Mother's Rosario is the first book in the series in which Kirito is never a viewpoint character. Rather, this novel is told exclusively from Asuna's point of view. This is an excellent choice as it allows Asuna, who suddenly went from strong female lead to weak damsel in distress in the series' second arc, to once again come into her own and develop as a character.

Family and Expectations

Sword Art Online's Fourth Arc Is Both Heartbreaking and Beautiful

Asuna finds that she feels more at home in the recreated Sword Art Online than in the real world. For two years in the online world, she was a warrior in charge of her own destiny and helped lead others in their fight for freedom. In the real world she's the heiress to a rich and distinguished family full of CEOs and politicians and is thus expected to go to the best schools, get the best grades, get a highly respected job, and marry an influential high-society man — her whole life has been planned out for her since birth. There is no room in the plan for spending time in an online game with her friends, going to a non-top tier school, or loving a normal boy. Thus, much of Mother's Rosario is Asuna's struggle with who she is and who she wants to be as she is pitted against her overbearing, intolerant mother at home.

There's Always Someone Better

Sword Art Online's Fourth Arc Is Both Heartbreaking and Beautiful

While Kirito is little more than a supporting character in Mother's Rosario, the novel does a decent job at proving the old maxim "there's always someone better." In this case, this is personified by the new character Yuuki, the "Absolute Sword." Despite not having any special skills like Kirito's dual wielding ability, she proves herself superior in both speed and technique. As Kirito often seems overpowered in the series, it is interesting to see that, while strong, he is far from unbeatable.

A Heartbreaking Tale

Sword Art Online's Fourth Arc Is Both Heartbreaking and Beautiful

On the virtual world side of the story, Mother's Rosario is about Asuna meeting Yuuki and joining her group of similarly skilled players in attempting what should be impossible — beating a raid boss with just seven people — before the guild members go their separate ways. Of course, at the heart of the story is a secret — the reason for the guild's impending dissolution and the background behind Yuuki's amazing skills. And it is a secret that will make even the most jaded heart weep.

Other Uses for VR

The NerveGear and AmuSphere, the VR helmets in Sword Art Online, are amazing pieces of technology. By connecting directly with your brain, they allow all five of your senses to be replicated in a virtual world. Of course, there are more than a few other possible uses for such technology than just video games.

[Skip to the next section to avoid spoilers.]

Mother's Rosario explores a few of these uses — namely, the medical ones. As the VR helmets disconnect your mind from your body, sending the signals from your brain directly to the VR world, similar devices could be used as anesthesia. Patients in chronic excruciating pain could escape it and, as is the case in the novel, live on free of pain in a virtual world — even in the last days of a terminal disease. However, as we see in Mother's Rosario, VR worlds aren't the only option. Through the use of 360-degree cameras, a bedridden person could go outside — seemingly riding on another person's shoulder. All in all, it is an interesting look at the implications of VR technology in this near-future world.

Final Thoughts

Sword Art Online's Fourth Arc Is Both Heartbreaking and Beautiful

When it comes down to it, Mother's Rosario is an enjoyable change of pace in the Sword Art Online series. Instead of focusing on adventure, it focuses on character development for Asuna and explores life after spending two full years in a death game. Moreover, it fleshes out the technology of the world and ties everything together with a heartbreaking story. Simply put, Mother's Rosario is an excellent addition to the overall narrative and should not be skipped.

Sword Art Online: Mother's Rosario was released on 11 April 2011 in Japan.


Comments

    Medieval,fairy,guns then vampire arc ? This is so weird.

      Who ever said VR gamers need to stick to one genre of games?

        Yeah but when your trapped in a vr world multiple times and you keep going back ?

          Its not hard to fathom that. on onr handthey have lived and breathed such a virtual world for so long they have a connection with it. Its familiar, it makes sense. almost like stockholm syndrome...

          alsi, you're asking why video gamers would return to a frightening experience in a game over and over again? Have you not heard of Dark Souls??

          They're not always necessarily trapped in these VRMMOs, there can be other motivations involved making them want to go online.

    I'm not sure I can get interested again in SOA. I LOVED the first half of the anime... and then, they proceeded to successfully undo everything good about it in the second half. [SPOILERS ABOUND]:

    -The first arc created a believable relationship between the protagonists, going all the way to refreshingly skip tiresome endless emotional tug wars in favour of a relationship that is actually established and has opportunity to grow as a married couple. The second half regretlessly dissolved that marriage, introduced a completely unnecessary and trite otaku-tantalising incestuous third wheel to make a super-forced love-triangle that was only half-believable thanks to the ultimate annihilation of the original romantic interest's character. And then, at the series ending, they didn't have the balls to have the main character make a responsible choice, leaving it open for all possibilities in his growing harem. They were this close to even make his adopted daughter an erotic loli interest.

    -Speaking of which: The romantic interest was, in the first half, a headstrong (and actually strong, both physically and mentally) woman with a no-nonsense attitude that experienced a believable softening as part of her character growth... which in the second half degenerated into a completely useless, emotionally and mentally crippled damsel in distress, only so there would room for the love triangle to happen. Disgusting.

    -The first half had a mysterious villain, whose motivations were hidden until the end. He was the hidden puppeteer of the more obvious antagonist, the environment itself. The second half had a ridiculously over-the-top evil villain, almost caricaturesque in his vileness. Then, randomly, they decided to bring back the supposedly deceased villain of the first arc to aid defeat the new one, painting him in almost noble tones, trying to make us forget that he actually killed thousands of people, while the new one did little else than trapping a woman in a cage.

      I'd like to point out that there's no actual love triangle, just a weird love interest thing going on since Kirito has chosen Asuna, and continues dating her even in the Phantom Bullet arc. And they actually mention Kayaba possibly not being dead (at least in the LN's) before he shows up, and while the anime doesn't show it, Kirito thinks in that scene that he's reluctant to take his help, still hates him, and can not forgive him.
      And about Phantom Bullet Arc;
      Sinon's one of the most well developed and deepest character in the series.
      The villian is kinda "meh" , though, but not as over the top as Sugou.
      She's actually not interested in him (or if she is, only for a brief moment and she forgets about it after learning he's with Asuna)
      About Mother's Rosario:
      Asuna's the focus of this Arc, and it gives her some significant character development.
      The other lead does not fall for Kirito, and only barely interacts with him.
      Kirito's OPness is broken in a rare moment where he loses (and to the girl in question too) before the arc even begins.
      As for the villain, well, there isn't really one per say.

      As for how I'd rate the arcs:
      1.Alicization (Vol 9-15 and onwards, likely future seasons 3 and 4)
      2.Mother's Rosario (Vol 7, Probably will be in Season 2)
      3.Phantom Bullet (Vol 5-6, GGO, Season 2)
      4.Aincrad (Vol 1-2, SAO, Season 1 first half)
      5.Fairy Dance (Vol 3-4, ALO, Season 1 second half)

      2.5-Sword Art Online Progressive (Kawahara's rewrite/reboot/time gap filling of the original SAO, designed to give a better narrative than the huge timeskips scene in the original novel, better writing, character development and pacing) I'd still put it below MR and Alicization but above PB, leaving the list like so;
      1.Alicization
      2.Mother's Rosario
      3.Sword Art Online Progressive
      4.Phantom Bullet
      4.Aincrad
      5.Fairy Dance

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