In a recent interview published on January 18th, 2019 over on Dengeki Online, Sword Art Online author and creator, Reki Kawahara, mentioned that the characters will be changing based on reactions from Western audiences who adopt more “politically correct” views on media content. Essentially, he’s saying that he will be listening to the loud minority that normal people refer to as Social Justice Warriors.
Anime News Network did a quick and dirty rundown of the highlights from a very lengthy interview that Dengeki conducted with Reki Kawahara, the artist for the manga Bloom Into You, Nio Nakatani, and the voice actress for Alice from the anime Sword Art Online, Ai Kayano.
Near the very bottom of the interview Kawahara and Nakatani begin to discuss the roles of heroes and heroines in manga and anime, after noting that some of Kawahara’s influences for Sword Art Online included Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Ghost In The Shell. He went on to say that the girls in Sword Art Online would be “more active in the future”.
Kawahara was then asked by voice actress Ai Kayano what were his reasons for changing the way the girls would be depicted in Sword Art Online, and he responded by saying…
“Due to the feedback from overseas events and fan reactions, perhaps it’s time to grow or become more politically correct to some extent.
“Presently, overseas the words “hero” and “heroine” aren’t part of the dialect. Above all, “protagonist” and “antagonist” is more of their style, completely unrelated to whether they’re men or women. I felt that was the correct way of going about it. I tend to think that it’s a distortion to treat the heroine like some sort of trophy. Recently, I’ve made a deliberately conscious decision to write the young females actively participating more in the story.
“So for those of you asking “Well, what will become of Kirito?”, and I suppose some people might think this as a supplement, but by no means does this mean that Kirito will no longer stand out. For the young girls, I want to give them the strength to take hold of their own lives.”
Nakatani responded by saying that other than those who became captured or prisoners, all of the heroines in the show did battle and fought, and showed a lot of independence and self-reliance.
He stated that originally he wasn’t entirely conscious of those nuances in portraying the genders that way, but over time he began bringing them into their own, unconsciously.
In a way, had he not been influenced by the Social Justice Warriors of the West, one would wonder how Sword Art Online would evolve organically? Or, in his own words “unconsciously”. Because now he’s saying that due to the feedback from the loud minority in the West, he will attempt to make Sword Art Online more attuned to the political correctness that real anime fans and gamers have been decrying and fighting against since 2012.
I suppose that one rape scene that aired during the last season of Sword Art Online could likely be the last time we see something like that if Kawahara is intent on pleasing the people who are pushing for more political correctness in entertainment media.
(Thanks for the news tip Hiecchi)