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Sword Art Online Progressive Aria Timeline & Is the Movie Canon

Here's how continuity works in SAO (and in most Japanese media)

December 1, 2021

The first Sword Art Online Progressive movie, Aria of a Starless Night, is about to be released in America, and you might be wondring where the movie slots in in the current SAO continuity, and if it’s canon.

Sword Art Online Progressive Aria of a Starless Night is a brand new story focusing on Asuna in the early days of the Aincrad death game. Rather than following the original protagonist, Kirito, Aria of a Starless Night explains how Asuna ended up putting on the Nervegear and getting trapped into SAO together with thousands of other players.

  • MORE – SAO Progressive movie 2 explained by Reki Kawahara

SWORD ART ONLINE | Blooming of Forget Me Not Trailer

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SWORD ART ONLINE | Blooming of Forget Me Not Trailer
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Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night timeline & continuity explained

Sword Art Online Progressive Aria of a Starless Night is a new beginning focusing on Asuna. In mainstream MCU terms, you can call it an “origin story”. So it’s fine to watch it first without knowing anything about SAO.

Sword Art Online Progressive is originally a new novel, a remake, that retraces the first part of Sword Art Online, taking place in Aincrad. As you already know, in the first volume of the SAO novel, a two years time skip happens, and the story focuses on Kirito, who’s now an extremely strong solo player, as he ultimately clears the game at Floor 75.

However, in Sword Art Online Progressive, this time skip never happens, and the story has been rewritten by a much more experienced Reki Kawahara. With Kirito and Asuna forming a pair right from the beginning and exploring together the first floors of Aincrad.

Furthermore, the Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night movie differs from the Progressive novels as well by adding a brand new female character named Mito, voiced by Inori Minase. Long story short, it’s perfectly fine to start SAO with the Progressive movies, which are their own continuity.

Official artwork of Mito in Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night

Is the SAO Progressive movie canon?

The question isn’t whether it’s canon or not, but rather, you need to understand it’s a brand new continuity in itself, with events different than the original Sword Art Online.

This isn’t even the first time Reki Kawahara does that with his online MMO franchise. As you already know, Sword Art Online was originally a web novel that Reki Kawahara published in his youth in the early 2000s. from 2002 to 2008 or so. When Kawahara signed a contract with novel publisher Dengeki Bunko and launched the Light Novel version in 2009, several plot points were rewritten already.

In short, you should consider that the original SAO web novel, the SAO light novel, the Progressive light novel, and its movies are all different continuities. It’s all canon in their own universes. Even the SAO games are a different continuity, with exclusive story elements and characters like Strea.

This is actually very common in Japanese media, as most authors don’t care much about what is canon or what isn’t, and don’t think up some sort of progressive timeline where everything happened in the same universe.

Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night was released in Japanese theaters on October 30, and will be out in USA theaters on December 3, 2021. The second movie, SAO Progressive Scherzo of Deep Night, was also announced for a 2022 release in Japan.

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Iyane Agossah
@A_iyane07

Living near Paris, Iyane (He/Him) is the head of Japanese content at DualShockers. He speaks Japanese, has been watching anime for over 25 years, and plays Genshin Impact mainly for its story. You can reach him on Twitter at @A_iyane07.

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