Mother’s Rosary is the latest arc in the Sword Art Online franchise, and follows the events of Sword Art Online: Calibur. It’s been weeks since Kirito and Sinon defeated Death Gun, and now everyone’s attention has turned to VRMMO Alfheim Online. But it’s not as peaceful as the gang would have hoped: a mysterious duelist with a custom sword skill has appeared and is defeating all challengers—including Kirito. When Asuna decides it’s her turn to face the newcomer, it leads to something she never expected: an invitation to an exclusive guild. But the question is, why? The duelist seems to have a secret—and for whatever reason, Asuna is the only one who can help.
Relying on the reader’s knowledge of the SAO series through previous arcs, Mother’s Rosary, written by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by Tsubasa Haduki, wastes no time rolling into the next leg of the adventure, which focuses on Asuna and her relationship with Yuuki, a bubbly young girl who is the only player in the franchise to have mastered an epic 11-hit combo.
For such a thin volume, the story includes a gigabit’s worth of information, feeding the reader exactly what the need to know in order to hook them into the mystery behind Yuuki’s character and her motives. The first volume lacks a lot of the backtracking fluff of other SAO series because of its fast pace, but short Background Guides at the end of every chapter provide context and explain where Mother’s Rosary fits within the SAO timeline for those who aren’t caught up with the anime or need a brief refresher.
What’s particularly enjoyable about this arc is that we get to step away from Kirito, who is arguably as interesting and unique as a boiled potato, and focus on Asuna, a character whose primary focus up until now has been to support the hero.
The storyline itself has matured in this arc, moving character conflict beyond virtual reality and into the real world. Asuna is at odds with her mother, being bullied into a future the she doesn’t want. Through Asuna’s struggle to find the confidence to stand up for herself, the story begins to explore the gap between one’s courage in real life and virtual gaming, a disconnect that many gamers (myself included) feel. Why is it that we’re able to accomplish so much in worlds where killing dragons is considered minor, but freeze at the thought of something as simple as telling our parents “no” in real life?
At one point Asuna asks herself, “If I can only be my true self in the virtual world… then what is the point in coming back to reality?”, a question that reveals how self-aware the franchise has become (considering how the characters’ main focus was only to free themselves from the virtual world) and establishes the foundation for Asuna’s character growth in later volumes. It’s a shift that should appeal to readers who have followed the series since the beginning.
Having seen the anime, the detail to character to the character designs is at the level I had expected. But as a whole, the art style was inconsistent through the book. In some panels, body proportions looked off, either too elongated or thin, and varies so greatly that sometimes it felt like the characters were illustrated by different artists.
However, the panels flowed well and only worked together to convey the story being told. Backgrounds are simple—honestly, there’s not a whole lot to look at—which allows the reader to read quickly, without getting too distracted or bogged down by visual detail. Like the dialogue, it shows you what you need to know and nothing more, which I considered refreshing considering how much information the first few chapters dump on you in order to set up the story.
Those who have finished watching Sword Art Online 2 know where this arc is heading, and because the adaptations are so similar, it’s hard to separate the two. Assuming the Mother’s Rosary manga follows the same path as the anime, I can promise this: for those looking for an SAO spinoff with a little more emotional substance, Mother’s Rosary is the start to what promises to be a very moving and exciting arc.
Guest writer Emily London majored in Eating S’mores and would have minored in playing Love Live! School Idol Festival if not for the LP limit. When not waiting for Crunchyroll to update, she can be found doodling cute characters or practicing her Godzilla impersonation on unsuspecting action figures. Find her online @london_emi or at A Spoonful of Words.
She previously shared 5 F/F Romances with Girls in Capes readers, and you might like those, too.