Where to find SAO Progressive at All Ages of Geek

Where to Pick Up After SAO Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night

by: Gen/Esis

So you’ve finished watching the latest Sword Art Online: Progressive movie and you’re wondering where it goes from here. Well, you’ve come to the right place. The movies made a bit of a mess of Sword Art Online’s companion series by adapting it weirdly, but I’ll be sure to thoroughly explain what to read and what to expect from the source material.

To clear up the water, Sword Art Online: Progressive isn’t a reboot or remake of the original 2009 novels or 2012 anime. While certain events conflict with the main series, the Progressive novels are 100% canon, and any information given by the series takes priority over anything the main series says. On the flip side, the Progressive movies, Aria of a Starless Night & Scherzo of Deep Night, are NOT canon. At least for the most part. Certain events do occur in canon, but other chunks simply don’t.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get started.

What Happened in between the movies (and what to read)?

The first Progressive movie, Aria of a Starless Night, adapts the first arc of Progressive Volume 1 which goes by the same name. The anime does a pretty decent job at adapting the broad strokes of the arc, but you’d be surprised that a whole sub-plot was cut from the movie adaptation—among other things. But since it only adapts about 2/5 of the volume, there’s still a whole lot of book there to read. Among those is “Reason for The Whiskers” an interlude chapter about Argo the info broker, and “Rondo for a Fragile Blade” the second arc of the book and an exploration of floor 2.

But even after finishing that first book, those who saw the second Progressive movie, “Scherzo of Deep Night” noticed that we didn’t go from floor 1 to floor 2, or even floor 3. The second Progressive movie decided to adapt the fifth floor of Aincrad and the fifth arc of the Progressive series, Scherzo of Deep Night.

To get from book 1 to where the movie picks up, you’ll have to read through Sword Art Online Progressive volumes 2 and 3, which cover the arcs Concerto of Black and White & Barcarolle of Froth respectively. After that we get to volume 5, Scherzo of Deep Night. The anime doesn’t do a great job at portraying this floor as it was depicted in the novels, but the movie at least makes it so it’s watchable without losing the audience.

But now here is where we get to the full reality of the situation, which leads me to the next big topic—

There’s no picking up after the anime

It’s not possible. Well, technically you could start from volume 5 since that’s what happens after the second Progressive movie, but you’ll be more lost there than a kid in a packed mall. The Progressive novels have a larger conflict occurring as they traverse the floors, and it’s a conflict the movies skip over entirely. There isn’t even a slight mention of it in either of the movies and is a core part of the novels before Scherzo of Deep Night and after.

The movies adapted two of the three arcs that could be standalone in a sense, and that third one is told in the first volume. Every other arc requires an understanding of the other, building on each other as they reach a climax…eventually. To have the context of everything going on, you have to read from the beginning and embark on a journey from the very beginning of Aincrad (Starting a month in, that is) up until, from the time writing this, floor 7. But with the big climax the story has been building towards on the horizon—floor 9—there’s no better time than now to start reading through the novels.

Although I don’t think it’s entirely necessary since the volumes are numbered, I will give you the read order regardless. So, here it is:

  1. Sword Art Online Progressive 1: Aria of a Starless Night/Rondo for a Fragile Blade
  2. Sword Art Online Progressive 2: Concerto of Black and White
  3. Sword Art Online Progressive 3: Barcarolle of Froth
  4. Sword Art Online Progressive 4: Scherzo of Deep Night
  5. Sword Art Online Progressive 5: Canon of the Golden Rule (Part 1)
  6. Sword Art Online Progressive 6: Canon of the Golden Rule (Part 2)
  7. Sword Art Online Progressive 7: Rhapsody of Crimson Heat (Part 1)
  8. Sword Art Online Progressive 8: Rhapsody of Crimson Heat (Part 2)

While manga for Progressive does exist, like the movies, they aren’t fully canon. They also have been notoriously mismanaged, so much so that they canceled the most recent adaptation of one of the floors, so It’s not even possible to read it all the way through. All in all, I wouldn’t recommend even attempting to read the manga version. 

So there you have it, your guide to reading the Progressive series. I genuinely recommend this series to any fan of SAO or to anyone who wants to see more of Aincrad realized in a deeper fashion. With a pace of one book a floor minimum, with floors 1 and 2 being the only exceptions, there’s more than enough exploration of the game world—something many have wanted for years.

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