Sword Art Online Author Reki Kawahara Says Female Characters Should Not Be Treated as Trophies
posted on by Kim Morrissy
In an interview posted on Dengeki Online on Friday, Sword Art Online author Reki Kawahara sat down with Bloom Into You manga artist Nio Nakatani and voice actor Ai Kayano (who voices Alice in Sword Art Online and Sayaka in Bloom Into You) to discuss their thoughts on each other's work. Kawahara and Nakatani professed admiration for each other's work; Nakatani remarked that she enjoyed how the female characters in Sword Art Online are strong. Kawahara responded that the female characters are going to get more active in the story from now on.
When Kayano asked what sparked this decision, Kawahara shared insight into his evolving mindset as an author. He said that when he went to overseas events, he received feedback for his writing, and he came to the conclusion that he should write stories with "political correctness" in mind to a degree. For this reason, he is trying to give his female characters more agency.
Kawahara said that the gender-neutral words "protagonist" and "antagonist" are used overseas instead of the gendered words "hero" and "heroine." He said that he agreed that a character's gender shouldn't determine their role in the story, and that it is wrong to treat female characters as trophies.
At this point, there was some discussion about how the word "heroine" is used in Japan. Nakatani said that she believes that the word "heroine" is used to refer to female characters who function as motivations for the protagonist. Kawahara said that one thing he admires about yuri manga is that both characters in a yuri couple take on the role of "protagonists" and motivate each other, instead of one female character being relegated to the role of "heroine."
Although he has been trying to give his female characters more agency, Kawahara emphasized that he would not be downplaying Kirito's presence in the story. He just wants to include more parts where the female characters live their own lives separately from Kirito.
When Nakatani remarked that she thinks that the female characters already display a lot of agency, and that there wouldn't be a problem with them as long as the "damsel in distress" parts were removed, Kawahara insisted that when he first started writing Sword Art Online, he had not been keeping such issues in mind. Because of that, the girls around Kirito kept increasing without thought about what role they would play.
In the same interview, Kawahara also revealed that he is a big fan of yuri manga and Bloom Into You in particular. He said that the closest he has ever come to writing yuri is Yuuki and Asuna's relationship in the Mother's Rosario arc, although he doesn't count it because the relationship was platonic. Kawahara said that he would like to write a romantic story between girls one day.
Kawahara has previously spoken out about his perceived flaws in his early writing. In December last year, he apologized to the voice actors of Tiese and Rondo for the rough experience they had voicing victims of sexual assault. He also explained that the over-abundance of sexual assault as a plot device in his writing was due to his early influences as an author, and that he would rather not use rape to express catharsis nowadays.
Kawahara first began writing Sword Art Online as a web novel in 2001. The novels were later edited and published as light novels by Dengeki Bunko from 2009 onward. The Sword Art Online novels entered a new "Unital Ring" arc in 2017. This marks the first brand new Sword Art Online novel arc written after Kawahara's debut as a professional author.
Source: Dengeki Online