The Sword Art Online, despite being a commercially successful novel, anime, and video game franchise, was considered fairly niche – definitely nowhere on the level of franchises like Naruto and Dragon Ball. But that seems to be changing. We have recently reported on the successful pre-order campaign for the latest game, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet, and now we chanced upon the news that there’s going to be a live action adaptation for Netflix’s streaming service.
Now, your excitement may have abated a bit after seeing Netflix mentioned in the adaptation, and who can blame you? Netflix’ Death Note live action adaptation has flopped, and the west has had a long history of cringeworthy live action adaptations of Japanese properties. So yeah, you have reason to easily dismiss the upcoming Sword Art Online live action project.
However, producer Laeta Kalogridis has recently been interviewed by Collider.com and she has made it clear that she’s aware of the problems that has recently plagued western adaptations of foreign properties, including the very divisive issue of whitewashing. When asked about what she wants to see with the live action SAO, Kalogridis answered:
Well, let’s get the obvious bit out of the way, right away. SAO is an essentially Japanese property, in which Kirito and Asuna, who are the two leads, are Japanese. In the television show, Kirito and Asuna will be played by Asian actors. Whether or not that was the question underneath your question, it’s not a conversation about whitewashing. When I sold it to Netflix, we were all on the same page. They are not interested in whitewashing it, and I am not interested in whitewashing it. In terms of the secondary characters, because the game is meant to be global, the way it’s presented in the anime and in the light novels, there are secondary characters that clearly are from other parts of the world, like Klein and Agil. To me, it’s very obvious when you watch it that you’re meant to take that this game spans the globe, but Kirito and Asuna are very clearly located as kids from Japan, and Tokyo, if I’m not mistaken. That is what we will be doing because that is the story. They are, in my mind anyway, much like Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, defined in part by being seminal characters in an Asian piece of art. That’s the first and biggest thing.
So it looks like we owe it to ourselves to at least check out the Sword Art Online adaptation. For more of Kalogridis’ thoughts, you can head on over to the interview at Collider.