Read or Die

Review of Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops Vol. 8

Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops Vol. 8 by Reki Kawahara

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is there anything worse than extended periods between publication volumes? You lose track of the thread of the story and have to go back to the beginning and start over. Not horrible when you’re only eight volumes deep, as in this case, but downright frustrating when you’re over 40 with other storylines. (To say nothing of the additional time commitments required)

Oh, well.

If nothing else, this has been a pleasant saccharine diversion in the SAO universe. And it offered a bit of “screentime” to the secondary characters who aren’t always provided more than a token moment in the sun. More importantly, though, this final entry gave the readers what they’ve been contemplating from the beginning: a chance to see Kirito from the other side of the battle lines. And while it was interesting, I think it could have been handled better. There was so much potential to “deprogram” him into an NPC while retaining all of his battle prowess for the story’s sake, and it felt like a letdown. Ultimately, he was nothing more than a windup toy version of Kirito.

A safe version capable of being defeated by “girls.”

It wasn’t what the series was designed for. Or, rather, not what I felt the series was intended to mean. Kawahara-san has always done a creditable job of developing strong female characters, and this dropped that ball in a final confrontation. It wasn’t what one would want from a finale.

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