Reki Kawahara Panel @ Sakura-Con 2013
In our fourth feature on Reki Kawahara, the creator of Sword Art Online and Accel World, see what he had to say as he answered fan questions at his general panel at Sakura-Con 2013.
INTRO: Could you say a word to your fans?
KAWAHARA: Hello, I’m Reki Kawahara. I’m extremely happy to see all of you here today to see me. I appreciate the staff and the organizers of Sakura-Con for inviting me here. Thank you very much.
Q01: Is there anything in the original novels that didn’t make it into the anime that you would like us to know about?
KAWAHARA: I feel that Mr. Ito (Tomohiko Ito), the director of the animation series, was a big fan of the original works. He truthfully put the work into an animated form. I don’t think there was anything from the two original volumes that weren’t included in the anime series.
KAWAHARA: In working on the series, I wanted to explore the boundaries and the areas of virtual reality and medical treatments. Exploring that story, the main character, Yuki, met a tragic faith because of this topic. Because of that, thematically it might feel different from the other books, but I also like to think that I put in a glimmer of hope in that story. I wanted everyone to appreciate the story for that.
Q03: Is Chapter 16.5 part of the original storyline? (Chapter 16.5 is a pre-novelized chapter of Sword Art Online)
KAWAHARA: I’m going to say this is a question that should normally be answered. I’m sure, like Kirito, who spent two years in a virtual world, how do you spend that time? I wrote chapter 16.5 in those days when I was sort of wondering. I would like to consider that topic to be disappeared quickly into the darkness of history.
Q04: The animation in Accel World seemed more focused towards action than Sword Art Online. Is that true?
KAWAHARA: Sword Art Online is a game based on online multiplayer. Accel World is more of a fighting game. Because of that, the base feel of the game will be different. The main character in Accel World is not as lively as Kirito. The main point of the story is about Haruyuki’s growth on how he levels up within the game and becomes more confident. So if you could enjoy it for that, that would be great.
Q05: Is Sword Art Online: Progressive suppose to replace all the other stories that took place in “Aincrad” arc?
KAWAHARA: There are some discrepancies between the story told in the original novel and the “Progressive”. Since I started working on Sword Art Online, I’ve played a lot of net games. I wanted to go back and redo the system that Sword Art Online was based on and sort of modernize it. Hence, that is where the progressive story came from. I feel that a MMO that doesn’t get updated is a really sad thing to see.
Q06: Is Kuroyukihime Kirito’s daughter?
KAWAHARA: There seems to be some conjecture that such a thing could be possible. However, it’s already said that Kuroyukihime’s family was not a happy one. If she was Asuna and Kirito’s daughter, in the twenty years between the time settings, they had a really bad falling out in their relationship. I hope she is not the daughter of Kirito and Asuna.
-- Maybe Yui [from Sword Art Online] was their favorite child?
KAWAHARA: I would like to think Kirito as a parent that would love all of his children equally.
Q07: What is your favorite anime of all time?
KAWAHARA: Ghost in the Shell.
Q08: In your writing or creative process, have you ever found any shows you’ve watched or books you’ve read to be inspirational?
KAWAHARA: It would be an author named James P. Hogan, a sci-fi writer. His works has been very inspirational.
Q09: What is your average day like?
KAWAHARA: I wake up about 9AM. I go to a family restaurant around 2PM in the afternoon. I eat there. I would spend the entire afternoon writing in the diner until 9PM or 10PM in the evening. I come home, play some games, and go to sleep.
Q10: When you were designing Alfheim Online, was it hard to recreate that same sense of danger where death was permanent in Sword Art Online?
KAWAHARA: The biggest sense of danger was that you had a one week time limit in Alfheim Online. If you didn’t get there in time, Asuna would be forced to get married. I thought I would portray a sense of urgency through that time limit instead of permanent death. I have to say in the final episode of the animated series, Mr. Takehito Koyasu, who played Oberon did a fantastic performance. I like to think that you got plenty sense of danger watching that part.
-- Was that why he was such an evil vibe until the end?
KAWAHARA: I definitely wanted a voice actor that could portray it where you will have no question to on how bad this person is.
Q11: How much of Aincrad in the anime matched the image in your head?
KAWAHARA: I think the world was depicted beautifully to my image of Aincrad. If anything, the ceiling felt a little low.
Q12: At the end of each volume, you’ve written down what your levels were. I’m curious in what kind of criteria you used to portray your level up?
KAWAHARA: It is a kind of game where you level up by doing something by yourself which normally you would do with somebody. For example, going karaoke by myself or doing a barbecue by myself, I bear the loneliness.
Q13: The character, Yui, has displayed a lot of traits that Asuna and Kirito have. Was that intentional?
KAWAHARA: Yui spent a lot of time observing Asuna and Kirito. She assimilated a lot of their personalities and characteristics. If Kirito and Asuna were to have a child, I hope it would be like Yui. Honest, caring, and wouldn't have a rebellious phase. But I don’t think Kirito could deal with a child’s tantrum (aka the Terrible Twos).
Q14: How were you able to come up with the idea for Accel World world?
KAWAHARA: There is a chapter in Sword Art Online called “Alicization” that’s not animated. A technology where you accelerate your own thought processes would appear in that novel. My idea was if you were to accelerate your mind doing that while playing a fighting game you could probably do several hundred games in a very short span of time. There possibly could be a world where a student could play hundreds of virtual hours of fighting and still not fall behind in school. And that’s the kind of setting in Accel World too.
KAWAHARA: I sort of checked the way one of the characters would speak in that game. The idea of Asuna and Kirito’s getting a divorce was not my idea.
Q16: Have you ever considered making a real action MMO?
KAWAHARA: It’s a genre I love myself and I would be very interested.
Q17: What was your favorite scene in SAO?
KAWAHARA: There’s so many! If I had to pick one, there’s a scene where Kirito said something, that he should never say to a girl, to Asuna and gets his butt kicked. I really like that scene.
Q18: Why are Kirito and Haruyuki so completely and utterly different?
KAWAHARA: It could be that I wrote Sword Art Online first. Kirito is such a perfect character, almost too perfect. I decided with my second work to go with a character that is completely opposite of Kirito. After working on the title for a while, I’m starting to feel that Haruyuki would become a cooler main character from his growth. I would love to see an animated version where the two would cross swords.
Images © Reki Kawahara/ASCII Media Works/SAO Project
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