As Netflix’s onslaught of original programming continues, one of the next targets in its sights is the popular VR-themed anime Sword Art Online. Altered Carbon creator Laeta Kalogridis has confirmed her involvement as executive producer on the project.
Speaking recently with Collider, Laeta Kalogridis, the creator behind Altered Carbon’s own novel-to-Netflix treatment, confirmed that a live action adaptation of the Sword Art Online anime is coming to Netflix. While Kalogridis wrote the pilot and will serve as the executive producer, the series’ chief creative role will be shared by veteran TV creators John Zinman and Patrick Massett.
Sword Art Online depicts a future where readily available ‘Nervegear’ VR headsets, which communicate directly with a users brain, transport players into a life-like MMORPG. Like many classic VR anime, players ultimately become trapped in the virtual world, with the threat of death in the game having the same consequence in real life. Based on the 2009 Japanese light novel series written by Reki Kawahara, the anime first aired in 2012 and achieved popular acclaim among fans of the genre. The Sword Art Online anime is presently available on Netflix (see regional availability).
And while you may be worried that it’ll go the route of the poorly received Death Note (2017) live action adaptation, which transplanted the premise in its entirety from Tokyo to Seattle, simultaneously whitewashing characters and cultural substance, Sword Art Online seems off to a better start. In her interview with Collider, Kalogridis said that Netflix was in agreement about casting the main characters, Kirito and Asuna, as Asian actors.
When I sold [the show] 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.
From the inteview, Kalogridis seems in touch with the show’s source material, and hopefully that will extend to showrunners Zinman & Massett as well. Up in the air beyond that is their ability to portray the complex world of Sword Art Online, which spans the settings of near-future Japan and the virtual game world which is soaked in elements of sword and sorcery.
Details on when the show will hit Netflix are unannounced, but, given Netflix’ penchant for releasing entire seasons at once, any earlier than 2019 seems unlikely. Along with the Ready Player One movie due out in March, VR is increasingly growing within the zeitgeist.