Sword Art Online: How to Get Started With the Anime & Light Novels

Both popular and infamous, depending on who you ask, Sword Art Online is seen by many as the source of the current isekai boom in anime. Featuring a story where its protagonists are sent inside various online RPGs, the series' DNA remains highly influential across the anime industry.

Like most of its kind, Sword Art Online began in print form as a series of light novels before transitioning into pretty much every other form of media, leaving those who are yet to dive in potentially at a loss for where to begin. Here's a full rundown of the different permutations of Sword Art Online and where new readers and viewers alike can enjoy them.

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Where to Watch Sword Art Online

Perhaps the easiest way to get into Sword Art Online is through its anime adaptation, although it isn't completely straightforward. The main series has so far amassed nearly 100 episodes, though it's made more complicated by each season essentially being marketed as a separate part. Thanks to Sword Art Online's immense popularity, it's available on a wide variety of streaming platforms.

These include Netflix, Hulu, Youtube TV, Funimation, VRV and Crunchyroll. Likewise, the film Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, which takes place in between the second and third seasons, can be found on Amazon Prime Video or streamed on Hulu. The mainline series is available to purchase on Blu-Ray at Right Stuf Anime.

The spinoff series Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online also received an anime adaptation. It deals with the fallout of the primary series' events while also focusing on a new game and protagonist. Alternative is much shorter, currently with one 12-episode season. It's available to view through Hulu, Crunchyroll or Netflix.

Where to Read Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online Anime VS Light Novel

While watching Sword Art Online isn't entirely confusing, reading it can be another matter entirely. As mentioned, SAO began as a web novel written by Reki Kawahara before becoming a series of light novels back in 2009. It remains ongoing to this day, with 25 volumes published so far. Along with the main series, there are also the Sword Art Online: Progressive and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online light novels, as well as a prequel to the Ordinal Scale movie. That's not even counting the no fewer than ten manga versions of the series, which focus on different characters and games but are all written by Kawahara.

Thankfully, most of the light novels and manga are easily available to purchase on Right Stuf Anime, Amazon, or brick-and-mortar stores like Books-a-Million and even Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, some of the more comedic entries -- such as the 4-Koma anthologies -- are not yet available in the West, with peripheral releases outside of Japan recently slowed down. But there's still more than enough Sword Art Online material to get newcomers into the series, and it's easier than ever to get hold of and enjoy.

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