Sword Art Online creator Reki Kawahara recently sat down for an interview with Dengeki Online. He appeared in an interview together with seiyuu Ai Kayano and Bloom Into You mangaka Nio Nakatani. The two creators talked about each other’s works, and both expressed admiration for each other. Nakatani then remarked that she enjoyed Sword Art Online’s strong female characters. To this, Kawahara promised that those same strong female characters will be a lot more active in future books. Of course, SAO is a bit notorious for not giving its female characters much screen time whenever a new arc rolls around.
Kayano then asked Kawahara why he made such a decision. The SAO author answered that after going overseas for events, he came to the conclusion that he should be a bit more “politically correct”. And because of this, he’s willing to give his female characters the “screen time” they deserve.
The author also added that people abroad use more gender-neutral words like “protagonist” or “antagonist” instead of more gender-centric words such as “Hero” and “Heroine”. Nakatani then pointed out that in Japan, people use the term “heroine” more as a female character who works as motivations to heroes. Kawahara also stated that people’s gender should never determine their role in the story. He also added that it’s also wrong to treat female characters as trophies for the male characters to just get. He then used his admiration for yuri couples as an example. he said that “both protagonists motivate each other, instead of one of them having the relegation of the ‘heroine role'”.
However, Kawahara also says that that being said, he would never downplay Kirito’s presence in the story. He then added that he wants to include more parts of the female characters’ lives separately from Kirito. As for Nakatani, she admitted that she thinks that SAO’s female characters already have a lot of agency. However, she also added that there wouldn’t be a problem as long as SAO wouldn’t add any “Damsel in Distress” story lines again. And yes, SAO’s ALO arc is infamous for that trope as well. To this, Kawahara simply replied that at that time, he did not keep such issues in mind. And because of that, more and more girls keep gathering around Kirito, and Kawahara didn’t really had anything in mind about their roles at that time.
Kawahara has admitted to having flaws in his writing in the past, and did say he would like to change them if he could.
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source: Dengeki Online