All Ages of Geek Sword Art Online Unital Ring 2

Sword Art Online Unital Ring 2 – Review

by: Gen/Esis

After the intermission that was the short story collection Kiss and Fly, we finally return to the mysterious world of Unital Ring in Sword Art Online: Unital Ring 2. Even if I’m still not happy that the arc had to be separated between 1 and 2, the volume more than makes up for it by including the one thing I’ve been asking for…

But before I get into that, let’s get into that review:

Like the last volume, Unital Ring 2 is much slower-paced than what you’d usually expect from SAO. Instead of quickly pushing the plot forward, Unital Ring 2 takes its time to layer upon the information delivered in the last volume, introducing GGO and magic concepts, while simultaneously giving some needed character interactions. This combination makes the overall experience feel quite different from most of the series up till now. Even the Progressive series still holds more of the faster-paced storytelling from before.

But none of this is bad.

Something I always wanted out of SAO was more character moments. Time for the cast to interact that didn’t always pertain to the main conflict. With the story previously moving at such a fast pace, there was little time to do much with the large cast of characters this series has, and we were left mainly focusing on the main characters of each designated arc.

Thankfully, that’s something this arc does a magnificent job of pulling off. It doesn’t even have a new character to focus on alongside Kirito.

In fact, the characters here feel more dynamic than ever before. With this world being unknown to everyone, there’s plenty of opportunities for every character to shine, and in this volume, some characters even get to outshine Kirito. Characters like Lizbeth, Silica, and even Yui, get to use their specialties to help the group, never feeling like dead weight and instead adding to the overall team dynamic in one way or the other.

Yui especially gets a larger spotlight here than ever before. Having been assigned as a player instead of a regular A.I, there are plenty of new experiences for her and she shows time and time again that she’s roaring to experience them. Kirito, on the other hand, feels hesitant to allow his daughter to go head first into peril…but he seems to be warming up to the idea.

The last volume had a separate story going on parallel to the Kirito one, and this one is no different. In this case, it’s Sinon who has an entire adventure for herself. The chapters work as a great reintroduction to the tenacious sniper who we last saw as one of the Goddesses of the Underworld.

With both stories aiming for the same goal, Sinon reuniting with the rest of the group, her parts never feel like filler and instead help to flesh out other aspects of the world.

There’s been no real threat established yet, apart from the fact that if you die you can no longer enter Unital Ring, but through fights, we’ve received hints at something brewing. And for those who’ve read Accel World, there’s a name here that sounds oddly familiar which might be a hint to what we’re dealing with here.

Many of the game mechanics of Unital Ring are expanded upon here, going further into skills, magic, and many of the GGO elements. This time around, Kawahara seems to be prioritizing a lot of the game elements and bringing them to the forefront. To top it off, he has been incorporating these explanations directly into the story without any gratuitous info dumps, seamlessly weaving it into the character’s journey.

As much as possible, at least.

The fights in Unital Ring are quite similar to the standard SAO ones, you know, swords and whatnot, but the further players go into the game, the more advanced the fighting becomes. Now people are starting to be more strategic and get stronger weapons, especially with magic and guns spread across the world. So as the game continues, the landscape of combat is sure to change with it, and this volume sets up that inevitable outcome.

The plot, as I mentioned, doesn’t move forward much, but with Kikuoka on the horizon, it’s not farfetched to say the plot will soon get moving. We do get a few teases for what’s to come, including the Underworld coming back into play, but for now, the story has been focused on laying the groundwork for the future.

All in all, this volume is a great continuation of the story, serving to lay more groundwork for what’s to come. While the pacing can at times feel slower in some areas, it’s never bad enough to be distracting.

Also…they gave Argo a whole lot more screentime—that’s all I really wanted, and I got it.

Overall Score: 7.5

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