You took the time. Now it's my turn to let you shine.

[UNCUT] Press Interview with Kawahara Reki at Sakura-Con 2013

This is the interview article is with the author of Sword Art Online and Accel World, Kawahara Reki.

This article contains SPOILERS! If you do not want to be spoiled on Sword Art Online (including the light novels up to Volume 11) or Accel World. My suggestion to you, Read the light novels or if you wish not to read the light novels. Watch the anime adaptations of Kawahara’s light novels. Another way to avoid major spoilers on Sword Art Online. Head over to Cosplay Victoria and read the Press Interview with Kawahara with no spoilers named: Press Interview with Kawahara Reki @ Sakura-Con 2013

For the interview transcript in this article. I wanted it to be as close to the interview experience I had with Kawahara. Even though I had to correct the grammar of the questions, answers and statements. Luckily these corrections are minor and I did my best to maintain the word for word feel, from the interview.  Before the interview began, we were asked not to take photos of Kawahara Reki during the interview. As a result, there will be no photos from the interview. However, while you are reading the interview transcript, I have provided a few photos from Kawahara’s public Question and Answer panel as your visual aids. A few of the questions, asked by other members of press, can be answered with more information by checking out the author’s notes in the light novels. To help find which volume to refer to, I made a note below Kawahara’s answer; “Narmi’s Tidbit: [Information]”.

Kawahara Reki Sakura-Con 2013Question: If Sword art online was to turned into a real MMO, would you play it?

Kawahara: As long as it’s not “perma-death”, I might.

Question: This is your first convention in the states, is any food or anything you want to try while in Seattle?

Kawahara: I had for the first time in my life. A real oatmeal this morning and it was very delicious. I want to try a real American sized T-Bone Steak.

Question: In a recent interview. You said coming up with a simple idea of players trapped in a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) was the easy part, but finding the mechanism was the difficult part.You also admitted to the Nervegear having its faults, thus creating plot holes. My question, if you had more time or was able to go back, to add more to the story or fix the faults. What would you have done?

Kawahara: One of the things that I heard about. Would it be possible to instantaneously destroy the Nervegear the players were using? To make it inactive in time before it would kill the player. That was one of the things that was brought up to me. In order to combat such measures. One of the ideas was to have Kayaba announce that, should anyone attempt this or even succeed. Another player at random will pay for that action.

Question: Asuna is a bit of a tricky character, she starts off an incredibly strong fighter, an important political system of SAO. In the Alhiem arc, she caged, sexually assaulted and virtually replaced with women of half herability and depth. What would you say to the critics who found her role problematic. Especially, given the often misogynistic climate of anime and gaming?

Kawahara: So as I said previously, the character of Asuna. I might have created to perfectly for SAO and when teamed up with Kirito. There was hardly any problem the two, as a pair, could not overcome. So in order to increase the sense of urgency of the Fairy Dance arc. I needed to make her unable help Kirito and in caging her. I do have some regrets about putting her into a situation, in order to build up the sense of danger for Kirito’s adventure in the second story arc. As recompense internally, I made a story as follow up called Mother’s Rosario. Where Asuna is the main character. Should there be more animation, I would really like to see that story depicted.

Question: How much of Kirito’s personality and character is based off of your personality and character? Including the characters you play as in other MMOs.

Kawahara: I don’t tend to place myself into my characters. But, if I had to say there was some point of Kirito and myself. There is fact that both of us are not very good at forming parties. We tend to play solo, in these games, a lot.

Question: This question has been asked several times before but there is legitimate speculation or evidence that shows that there is some kind of connection between the Accel World light novels and Sword Art Online. For example the 9th volume of the SAO light novels, Kirito talks about going to America to study and research a new type of technology, which is the brain implanted chips. Additionally in episode 22 of SAO anime the end part shows Kirito holding a sword which closely resembles Silver Crow’s armor. While Suguha is holding Black Lotus’s sword. Whether there is or not an actual connection Sword Art Online and Accel World is still uncertain but were these similarities intentional or did you implement them to create a sense of same theme in both stories?

Kawahara: First I will explain the picture in episode 22. Well picture at the end scene of episode 22 came from the same mechanical designer of Accel World, Yousuke Kabashima. He, in his connection to the other show, was kind of being playful and did that illustration. So at this point, the two shows are separate. As an author, I consider the two titles separate but, there might be some similarities and some points that connects between the two series. Now, that’s not to say, should some issues be resolved with both stories lines. Possibly, maybe, there will be a third series that has ties to both stories but I can’t say for sure at this point.

Question: Between 2002 when you first submitted your submission for Dengeki Light Novel Award, between your actual publication at 2008 and before that. What did you do?

Kawahara: During that period, I was serializing SAO on my homepage and eventually that was picked up for publication, reworked, edited and released in 2008. I have to say I haven’t done the entirety of what I wrote on those pages in the novel series.

Narmi’s Tidbit: Read Sword Art Online: Volume 1 Author Notes for a detailed answer to this question.

Question: Can you explain the process of how your work was turned into a multi-media property? From the start to its popularity.

Kawahara: First of all, if I had thought it would a multi-media phenomenon. I might have made the main character of Accel World, Haruyuki, a little bit more cooler. In the beginning, I was more worried about if I would succeed as a writer let alone thinking ahead of that to an animated version of my novels. When my editor came to me and said “hey, they want to animate this.” I was shocked for one, but very pleased to hear someone wanted to see it animated.

Question: My question, the Sword Art Online novels aren’t readily available in English, there are a series of fan translators who took it upon themselves to translate the light novels from Japanese to English and publish translations to a website. I am curious what your thoughts about this are?

Kawahara: First of all, I am happy to hear that there are fans overseas. Who want to read the novels to the point of having translations made. I brought this up to my editors and asked; “Why isn’t there?” and he said, “As soon as a publisher in the United States makes us an offer. I am definitely willing to consider it.”

Question: Yesterday you touched upon the fact that there wasn’t much cut out from the anime as compared to the light novels but there were a few things. The Underworld (Jötunheimr) part in ALO and also during the epilogue was heavily truncated, a lot of that was foreshadow of later events. In the case of the anime do you feel anything was missed because of the opportunity to not include those and once Progressive (Sword Art Online Progressive) is completed. Would you want to include those scenes if you had opportunity to do so?

Kawahara: Are you talking about when they explore the underworld?

Reply; “Yeah yeah,” they left out the joke when Lyfa slips snow down the back of Kirito’s shirt. Which was, unknowingly, payback for what he did to her. Also foreshadowing during the murder case (A Murder Case in the Area), where Kirito storms in with his horse. Which leads to an appearance in the GGO (Gun Gale Online) arc where it is brought up again.

Kawahara: Well the root behind that one was that, when I was originally serializing that on my homepage. That scene didn’t exist. But when it was novelized, we didn’t have enough pages so I sort of tacked that on. So when it was going to animated I said, well the scenes just feel added on. So, I think it should be taken out of the animation and that was the choice I made.

Question: Obviously, Sword Art Online dwells heavily into MMOs. What are your experiences in MMOs and what are your favourites or games in general?

Kawahara: The one I play most is World of Warcraft, but more recently I am quite enjoying Diablo III. I am a really big fan of Blizzards games but I am kind of sad that Japanese versions of these Blizzard games don’t exist.

Question: We heard you said you feel fortunate meeting with your editor Miki Kazuma-san. Is there anything where you two couldn’t agree on at certain times? Any suggestions or comments you have?

Kawahara: Mr. Miki is a fantastic editor, he would never raise his voice or get angry about any sort of disagreements. But, he is also the type of person that won’t back down from an idea, so when we don’t see eye to eye. It becomes a very long conversation.

Kawahara Reki Sakura-Con 2013

Question: As Kayaba is the key story device for SAO, ALO, Alicization and Mother’s Rosario. By leaving him out of the Gun Gale Online arc, would you have preferred to have him have part in it. In ALO he had a hand in Kirito’s success of saving Asuna but, in GGO we don’t have any information on Kayaba. It’s almost as if, he had lost his important. Would you have given him more importance, if you were to redo the Gun Gale Online arc?

Kawahara: If Kayaba is involved as the ring leader in the story line for every story arc. It would seem to have fallen into a set pattern. I intentionally left Kayaba out of the GGO story arc so it doesn’t fall into routine.

(Follow up statement)
That is good you have thought of about it. Mother’s Rosario, I loved it quite a lot since it touched on Asuna’s character, her inferiority complex and why she loves Kirito.

(Translator: Do you have a question with that?)
Reply: No, I wanted to say thank you for doing that because in your Author’s notes. You stated you were worried of doing Mother’s Rosario.
Kawahara: “Thank you”

Question: How are able to craft such a believable virtual game within your stories? In other shows, such efforts are more unrealistic and corny, you can say.

Kawahara: I was able to make the virtual world Sword Art Online. Studying various American sci-fi novelists, all the movies in the US that feature virtual reality and learning from those things. I was able to incorporated a lot of want I learned and experienced into my world.

(Follow up)
Translator’s question to Kawahara: Any particular titles?

Kawahara: The founding roots came from James P Hogan’s novel about a character being trapped in a virtual reality world. The Japanese title is; Kasou Kukan Keikaku.

*Narmi’s Tidbit: Realtime Interrupt is the novel Kawahara is referring to.*

Question:: In Accel World, Black Lotus’ name is never revealed. Are you able to go into why it hasn’t been revealed and in the future are you going to expand on the story to reveal that?

Kawahara: To frankly answer your question. When I wrote the first volume of Accel World, there was no plans to write volume 2. So volume 1 ended with her about to reveal her name and didn’t. Eventually when volume 2 came around, I felt I lost a moment to reveal her name, so it is in a limbo state it is in now. If I ever get to the last volume, I will reveal it then.

Question: Right now you are busy with all of your success. What do you like to do when you are not busy and actually have sometime off. Do you have any hobbies?

Kawahara: In my answer, if I take online games out of that equation. I really like to ride road bikes. I even bought a trek bicycle. When I heard about what happened to Lance Armstrong, I felt very saddened.

*Narmi’s Tidbit: Kawahara quickly notes about him road biking in Sword Art Online: Volume 10 Author Notes.*

Question: In your recent interview, you stated you tend to use strategy guides for RPGs (Role Playing Games). If you were to create one for SAO, what would you include? What kind of advice would you give? Other than don’t die.

Kawahara: Ok, if I can’t put in don’t die or other than don’t die. It would be don’t leave the town. (Panel laughs)

Question: In Accel World, Haruyuki is an underwhelming kid, who turns out to be extraordinary. Where as Kirito is handsome, smart and skilled and turns out to be more so in game. What influenced the big difference between these two characters and did your age at the time of writing make a difference?

Kawahara: Honestly speaking the character Kirito existed first. Since that character (Kirito) seemed perfect, Kirito does have his weaknesses inside. Where as Haruyuki has his weaknesses on the external side but, has extreme strength on the inside. So, both of them have their strengths and weaknesses and I have never considered one to be inferior or superior to either one.

Question: When was it that you decided to become a novelist, and decided this was the career you would like to follow? Did it start in your childhood days, or was it simply your love of writing or reading stories that lead to your current career?

Kawahara: I always liked creating stories since I was little. The initial profession I wanted to strive to become was a game scenario or story writer but that dream never came to be. So, at some point I had become a writer.

(Follow up)
Question: At which point did you switch from wanting to be a game writer to a writer?

Kawahara: When I was a student at school, I definitely wanted to become a game writer but there was a big hurdle to become a game writer. You had to work for a gaming company and getting hired at a gaming company. Was an extremely high wall I was unable to climb over. So I found myself becoming a writer after becoming a student, in my 20s.

Question: What are the challenges you encountered while writing Sword Art Online and Accel World?

Kawahara: One of the difficulties I had in Accel World, when you are in the virtual world you are moving at 1000 times of normal speed. I had a hard time calculating, if it’s this many hours in the virtual world. How long has it been in the real world and vice versa. I really relented the fact, why does 1 minute have to 60 seconds instead of 100 seconds. Which would have made the calculations much more simple.

Question: Looking at the sales figures of the anime adaptations of Accel World and Sword Art Online. If by any indication, Accel World sold about 8,000 to 10,000 units per DVD/BD combined sales. In comparison to Sword Art Online selling at about 35,000 to 40,000 units per volume and still going. I believe about 131,000 volumes of the PSP game were sold in the first week, if I am not missing a zero here. The numbers here shows that Sword Art Online is a lot more popular to Accel World. What do you think of this discrepancies of the sales? I heard one possible explanation that, Sword Art Online is more girl friendly. A lot of girls really like Kirito, so the girls went out and bought the DVD/BD and games. What do you think of that?

Kawahara: It is true that the fan base for Sword Art Online in various age groups is very high, including female fans. But for me, I wrote Accel World, directed to a younger audience. Seeing the discrepancy in the numbers, personally, disappoints me. That the figures aren’t like that for Accel World. But for me, worrying about numbers is the worry our publishing company and the animation company, Aniplex, so I myself try not to think about sales figures.

Question: What did you expect coming to Sakura-Con and being at the end of it. What are your good, bad, or weird experiences you had?

Kawahara: I have to say, at Sakura-Con. I was very happy to see so many Kiritos here. Seeing the panel room filled with so many fans, and so many fans reacting so positively and openly in such a forum. Was a big surprised and a very happy experience for me. I can’t imagine such an event happening in Japan in the middle of such a large city, in such a large venue and the fans having the types of reactions, that they expressed here in Japan.

Question: When you created the Alicization arc and laminated the foundations where time is speed up by 1000 and will power is the key to everything. Was that foundation also carried over to Accel World? You said there was no direct connection to Accel World and Sword Art Online but the technology used in the Alicization arc, was it used as a foundation for what happens in the Accel World?

Kawahara: It is true the technology used in Alicization could be or is the foundation of the technology being used in Accel world but at this point like I said. It might be similar technologies having the same technological chain. It hasn’t been made clear that they’re in the same world. The two worlds could have the same technological advancements. As I noted before, if I were to clearly state the two world are the same. The numbers of things that needs to be resolved, in order for such a thing to clearly possible, it tends to be tens of times greater than I can even hope to do right now. Seeing the movie like the Avengers were it took a bunch of properties into one cohesive title. I have to say the creative staff of that movie is quite amazing.

Kawahara Reki Sakura-Con 2013

(Follow up)
Question: The changes made in the Alicization arc, where it focuses on will power rather than skill. Was it meant to bring Kirito down to more manageable level, compared to his overpowered, god-like form in the earlier arcs?

Kawahara: It is true that decision might have been made to make Kirito less godlike. However, by the end Alicization story arc, all of that work would had been for naught. Considering what happens to him.

Question: Regarding Alicization World in Volume 11. In Alicization turning. Cardinal has been personified as a player or NPC, an AI. From all powerful program, to a program that is unable to do its original function. What was your intention of doing this?

Kawahara: In the SAO, the original story arc was a battle of Kirito vs. Kayaba but, at the same time it was a battle against the system itself. So, in order for Kirito to combat the system, it became necessary in the Alicization story arc. When he was actually going up against the system, having it all powerful without a personality, started having some difficulties. So in order to create the story for the battle against the system. It became necessary for me to give it a personality and make it something that Kirito can face.

My response: Ahhh, follow up statement, Alicization omedetou (congratulations)
Kawahara: “Thank you”

Aniplex representative: Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for coming Reki Kawahara’s Press conference.

Narmi: Thank you for your interest in Kawahara Reki’s thoughts and answers to the question that was asked in the interview. With Kawahara being able satisfy the dwelling questions I had, from reading all 11 volumes of Sword Art Online. I had a great time in the group press interview. Even a few of the questions could have been answered by reading the Author’s notes in the Sword Art Online light novel serialization. Most of the question was interesting and to be in a face to face situation with Kawahara Reki. It was quite an experience. I hope to do more group press interviews and private interviews in the future. After I gain more experience in the field of press.

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