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Interview: Sword Art Online's Reki Kawahara

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Anime News Network's Lynzee Lamb sat down with Sword Art Online and Accel World creator Reki Kawahara to discuss gaming, his current projects, and future plans. The soft-spoken author was very knowledgeable about the fine details of his work and made one point clear: he'd like to get his written work into the hands of American readers.

ANN: Thanks for making the time to meet with me today. I'd like to ask you some questions on your current light novel works, Sword Art Online and Accel World, and their related adaptations. What involvement did you have in the adaptation process in each series, in terms of things like staff selection?

Kawahara: I was involved in the script, there's a script meeting every week. I would go there and make sure the scenario and story were correct and what I wanted. Also, I attended recording sessions every time, to make sure the special terminology were pronounced correctly.

ANN: You're currently working on two series at the same time, writing the light novels. Do you find it challenging to write two popular series simultaneously?

Kawahara: First of all, I work on both series at the same time, but also interchangeably. Sometimes, I have a hard time changing my mind from SAO to Accel World, Accel World to SAO, and vice versa. At the same time, after the animation started, there were a lot of requests like interviews or requests for short story writings. It made it even more complicated. I had to change my mind so quickly, it wasn't easy.

ANN: With Sword Art Online, some of the anime episodes in the middle were based on short stories. Was there a particular character from the short stories that you really, really liked and that's why you wanted them to appear in the anime adaptation?

Kawahara: Well, number one when it was made into an animation, the production company requested that I write more and expand the short stories because we did need more time to make a 25-minute animation. Secondly, when I came here, to Seattle, I attended the [dub] premiere and panel. I found out that Agil and Klein, the two male characters, are very popular here. So, I want to write some short stories based on these characters.

ANN: The lead female characters in both Sword Art Online and Accel World, Asuna and Kuroyukihime, I thought, they were very strong, capable female characters. What kind of inspiration did you take to write those characters? Are they based on anyone you know in real life?

Kawahara: There are no existing people that I wrote them on based in the real world. I don't usually make a character, setting, or anything before I start writing. As I write the story, the girls become what they are now. So, somehow, I don't know exactly, but somehow, my subliminal idea or some hidden emotion creates the characters to be strong and capable.

ANN: Ah, I see. I thought perhaps they might have a historical reference, even. I was thinking that Kuroyukihime reminds me of, I'm trying to remember the correct term, the traditional beautiful Japanese woman but she also kind of reminds me of, maybe, Tales of Genji...his mother? She's a very strong character as well.

Kawahara: It may be a little bit, now that I think about it. But I don't think in this particular case that I made those characters based on historical women. Ah, because when I was in high school I specialized in World History instead of Japanese. [*Note: In Japanese schools, students usually choose either World History or Japanese History]

ANN: For future works, do you plan to continue writing in the virtual reality genre? What other ideas or projects do you want to tackle in the future?

Kawahara: After I finish the two series, Accel World and Sword Art Online, after these are complete I may want to try something other than sci-fi.

ANN: Are there any light novel works by some of your peers that you're reading currently that might inspire you?

Kawahara: After I signed with ASCII Media Work's Dengeki Bunko imprint, I couldn't read other writer's work because after I'd read a novel I could visualize the writer. It's not a light novel, but I really admire Stephen King. I may want to try a horror story.

ANN: Both of your series deal with online gaming and characters who are looking to escape from the real world for different reasons. Haruyuki is bullied but he can be whomever he wants online, so he looks to escape that way. Do you think that's a common feeling with youth today? Do you find that to be a current issue?

Kawahara: If I think about it, I may have thought that because online gaming was the target of society. Like juveniles using it to escape, by not attending school or staying home and not going anywhere. Those are big issues and sometimes online games were targeted as the cause, by sociey. So I thought, "That's not true." I might have thought to show it in a more positive light in my light novels.

ANN: In a recent video, an interview for Sakura-Con with Aniplex, you said you put some time into Diablo III and enjoy it. What class is your favorite to play?

Kawahara: Ah, demon hunter.

ANN: Do you have any messages for your American fans?

Kawahara: I was very impressed that American fans love SAO and Accel World. More than I expected and I was so impressed. Both I and the publisher, ASCII Media Works, we really want to work with a publisher to publish the English version.

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