[Character Book] Vol.2 Asuna

A couple of weeks ago, I made a poll on Twitter (https://twitter.com/gsimenas/status/1013479842661261312) to help decide what to work on next, seeing as I didn't really have much left to choose from. And, surprise surprise, the waifu factor proved to be too OP, as Asuna's character book won by a landslide... I'll probably have to refrain from using character names the next time I think of doing such a poll... As such, this week's release is just that - a translation of an interview with the author, Kawahara Reki, about Asuna. The character book had some other stuff, like fan art and best scenes, but I didn't feel like they were important enough to do at the moment. Might add them in later... if I feel like it... and find the time.

I'm planning to release SAOP4.2 next week, seeing as it ranked #2 in the aforementioned poll. Speaking of polls, I decided to do another one about how I should treat Engrish (pseudo-English in the original text) in my translations. Basically, I had been marking out all Engrish in Sigsawa's work because he loved overusing Engrish so much that it caused a variety of problems, but seeing as I'm no longer going to work on AGGO, I need to decide how I'm going to handle it in future translations where Engrish isn't going to be that big of an issue... or at least I hope it won't be... Anyway, the options are: marking all Engrish in itallic font as before, or only marking it if it's relevant that Engrish is being used in that instance. Both options have their pros and cons, so I figured I'd make it easier for myself and let the readers decide... Or at least that was the intention, but, apparently, the two options are going neck and neck... just as one options takes the lead, the other one catches up mere hours later... It's literally 50/50 at the time of writing this post... If I had known that this would divide the readerbase so much, I would have brought popcorn... Anyway, if you care about how I handle Engrish in my translations, feel free to share your two cents over here:

Thanks to all of those who contributed to the SAO Scans project for helping us get the raws.

Any feedback is appreciated. Especially since I didn't have any editors for this!

P.S., I don't really understand why Negima is brought up in the conversation when it was apparently released more than a year after Kawahara began writing SAO.


Raws: SAO Scans
Translation: Gsimenas

Reki Kawahara Interview: About Asuna

A chance to talk about Asuna's creation

——How did the name『Asuna』 come about?

Kawahara: First, I decided to use the two characters 〝明日〟, read as 〝Asu〟 from the very start. I was perplexed on what to add to it to complete the name though. Maybe 〝Asuka〟 or 〝Asumi〟? From all the options I had, I somehow went with Asuna (sweatdrop). Though, the time I began writing 『SAO』 was around the end of the year 2001 till the beginning of 2002——I was writing it with the intention of entering the 2002 Dengeki Novel Prize. So, 『#Magical Teacher Negima!#(Mahou Sensei Negima!)』 (Kodansha series) began at about the same time, so I thought, 'Dang, that Asuna similarity!' (laughs). Well, luckily, the "na" kanji we used was different. They used the kanji "菜" from the word #vegetable leaves#(菜っぱ), while I used the kanji "奈" from the word #Nara#(奈良) (laughs).

——Did you come up with her character name before her real name, like you did with Kirito?

Kawahara: Hmm. Since Asuna was a complete rookie when it came to games, I thought she would not have come up with an elaborate character name and so I had her use her real name as is.

——Asuna has cooking as her special skill; what is the reason for this choice? Does it originate from some game, just like the reason why Kirito wears black?

Kawahara: UO (Ultima Online) did have cooking as well. Though, UO's cooking skill was entirely a leisure skill; just because you leveled it up didn't mean you actually got anything out of it. But when you have a death game and virtual world with no escape like 《SAO》, I figured food is about the only pleasure you can have in the game. Thus, I placed the cooking skill in Asuna's care as a "skill that is in demand despite not having numerical merits". Oh, and I also simply wanted to write about eating in the virtual world. I thought, they can't possibly have all the mouth and tongue movements working in harmony and process the polygon food breaking into pieces. So, I also wanted to depict how that would work in my narrative; I believe that desire is yet another reason for her becoming a character with cooking skills.

——Asuna did indeed convey the fact that cooking does very well exist in a virtual world; you can cook and eat food and thus live in the game.

Kawahara: Right. I did want to depict in-game life skills.

——By the way, regarding whether or not IRL Asuna's cooking is tasty…… what would you say?

Kawahara: Just because she became a grand master cooking skill-wise in 《SAO》 doesn't mean her real cooking would become tastier, after all (sweatdrop).

——Though she does make lunchboxes for Kirito……?

Kawahara: While she is improving her skills, that does not really mean that her cooking is that big of a bomb of deliciousness. Meals in the Yuuki residence are made by a maid anyway (laughs).

——(Laughs). Following that topic, I would like to enquire on the reason she became a rapier wielder!

Kawahara: T-to tell you the truth…… as an author, I have some regrets about that decision (sweatdrop). Girl's weapon = rapier is a bit of a stereotype, isn't it? If I were to start writing the story now, I might make her into a two-handed sword wielder, even if it would be quite a forced change. Well, I guess I do feel glad that I made her a rapier wielder in the end.

——Considering that it is a weapon that packs a punch and yet still gives off that feminine vibe, I do believe it turned out very well!

Kawahara: Also, in UO, which I mentioned some time ago, a rapier is a dead weapon, you see (sweatdrop). Thus, I believe I perceive rapiers as rare weapons.

What is the origin of Asuna the heroine's personality and what is the reason for her popularity?

——I see. So, next up is the inner side of Asuna…… Please tell us about her personality.
Kirito started out as a solo player and eventually grew into the personality we all know, but how did Asuna develop her current personality?

Kawahara: Asuna's initial debut scene was the one where Kirito grabbed her hands in Agil's shop and said, "Chef acquired"; that scene was the first one I planned out and it served as the starting point for writing her character.

——So, you are saying…… that when you began writing, you did not yet know that this girl would become the heroine?

Kawahara: Oh no, from the very start, I had planned on having the scene of Kirito and Asuna watching the collapse of 《Aincrad》 at the very end; naturally, the fact that she would become the heroine was a decided matter, but things like her personality were completely non-planned. Though, Kirito catching a Ragout Rabbit and needing a person who could cook the meat was the course of events that I came up with next, so, in order to depict cooking and in-game life, as I've mentioned before, the heroine's characterisation began with her cooking abilities.

——So, the heroine's characterisation first started from her being a partner who could cook.

Kawahara: That's right. Oh, and I wanted her to give off a vibe of a woman as unattainable as a flower on lofty heights. That she's a beauty. And that she's the sub-leader of a top guild. That's how I began fleshing her out.

——With her created from such details, how would you describe the current Asuna in one phrase?

Kawahara: An unshakeable person. An onee-san heroine.

——She was able to accept a person as lonely as Kirito……!

Kawahara: But, on the other hand, Asuna is also a person who doesn't show her weak side to others, so she may have some similarities to Kirito.

——Speaking of which…… Indeed, she didn't quite want to discuss her personal troubles with Kirito in the 《Mother's Rosario》 arc.

Kawahara: By the time she appeared in volume 1 of the original series, Asuna already had various experiences in 《Aincrad》 and had donned various 〝armour〟, thus she was quite emotionally stable at that time. On the other hand, the Asuna in 《Progressive》 is closer to to its roots.

——The 《Progressive》 arc Asuna is quite vigorous, huh……!

Kawahara: That's even more prominent in Himura-san's comic version, but she is quite lively (laughs). Perhaps that's what she's like when she is released from her usual, high-class-upbringing self who had to keep up appearances at home and school.

——From then on, she experienced quite a lot of events in the death game and settled down when she married Kirito; did this cause her to lose her wild side from 《Progressive》?

Kawahara: But in the episode with Nishida-san and the lake king fishing, the lake king did cause her eyes to sparkle, so I believe her mischievous side is still alive.

——Where do you think the reason for Asuna receiving such love and adoration from fans lies?

Kawahara: Let's see. Since she is a character who has not been developed with that many traits…… I'd say that the reason for Asuna's popularity is probably the fact that she and Kirito make up a whole. The same could be said about Kirito; neither of them would have received so much support if they were alone, would they?

——Indeed, I believe fans can easily imagine that the two would probably always be together.

Kawahara: They do not doubt each other's feelings, after all. Nevertheless, they aren't clingy all the time either. They feel more like buddies or partners than mere lovers, huh. Doesn't it feel great how both of them compensate for each other's faults?

——Indeed, quite implausible, huh, their relationship is. When I try to think of any couples that would be similar to these two in other works of entertainment…… I can't think of anyone at all (sweatdrop).

Kawahara: Love comedies basically all feature quarrels, after all. But these two don't really have any.

——What would need to happen for them to have a quarrel….. I kinda do and do not want to see that (sweatdrop). Now then, what are your thoughts on abec-san's illustrations and the voice of anime Asuna, Tomatsu Haruka-san, both of whom breathe new life into Asuna?

Kawahara: As I've touched on the matter some time ago, Asuna is a character with not that many defining traits and when I did the base designs for her during by web series days, she was very much the ordinary long-haired character. But abec-san added a braid…… or what looks like a half-up braid on the back of her head. I really like it!

——The anime character designer Adachi (Shingou)-san has also said 『This is important!』. Due to its size, it definitely should not be visible from the front, but when a bit of it comes to view from the side of her hair, it makes it obvious, 'Ah, that's Asuna.' I believe that's an amazing invention!

Kawahara: As for Tomatsu Haruka-san——As a matter of fact, sphere (a band that Tomatsu Haruka-san belongs to) was formed at about the same time as my work debuted. It was the February of 2009. Fate seemed to bind us, though I've always known her name. Before her role in the 『SAO』 anime, Tomatsu-san's characters included Anaru from 『Anohana』 or Nagi from 『Kannagi』——

——Indeed…… At the time, she was known for her quite tomboyish, or rather vigorous roles.

Kawahara: But Asuna's audition went entirely differently. She had a very soft voice that gave off elder sister and high-class girl vibes; I was surprised by how wide her acting range was. Thus, my first impression was, 'What an amazingly talented person.'

——And afterwards, she also easily handled the role of the boy in 『Youkai Watch』……!

Kawahara: Right. Also, Tomatsu-san needed an extremely low number of retakes during post-recording. She practically had no need to do any re-recordings. Borrowing the words of Director Itou (Tomohiko), she splendidly and naturally performs the role of Asuna, a character whose 『great feminineness』is her highlight, yet at times she acts as a tomboy and at times she is quite scary. By now, I can't imagine anyone other than Tomatsu-san performing the role of Asuna.

——She is very much like Asuna, like a godsend.

Kawahara: Yes. Also, the gap between her now and during the 『Sword Art On Air』 radio programme… (laughs).

——Tomatsu-san during the 『On Air』 programme is, how should I put it, umm….. no comment (laughs).

Kawahara: (Laughs). She also sings some of the OPs and EDs; I believe we were very fortunate to meet her!

——A lot of people had a hand in creating Asuna, but would you have anything to say to her at this moment, Kawahara-san?

Kawahara: 'You could indulge yourself a bit more often, y'know?', something like that, I think. She is a person who puts those around her first, or rather, she is concerned with the well-being of others. As time passed by in the series, she even grew out of her mischievous side.

——Indeed, that scene with Nishida we talked about earlier could be her final moment like that…… Even her room is quite simple, compared to Suguha's room full of plush toys.

Kawahara: In real life, Asuna has lived her life at quite the cost of her own self, after all. She didn't speak about her own desires, nor did she pester her parents for something. Thus, I hope she will be able to find something she likes in the future.

Kawahara-san Best of Asuna

——Please tell us 3 of Asuna's scenes that you personally loved!

Kawahara: It's not a scene from the novel, but I loved the cut near the end of the OP for the TV anime's 1st season's first half, where for a short instance Asuna placed a pot in front of Kirito in her room. In the OP, Asuna displayed a cool attitude filled with resolution as she walked briskly or fought against Gleam Eyes, but when I saw that cut, the impression she gave off changed completely. That's what I love about it.
Conversely, as a scene that symbolises a strong Asuna, there was the scene in 《Alicization》 arc where Asuna embarked on the Ocean Turtle and, the moment she demanded to know the details about the experiment from Kikuoka, she grabbed Kikuoka's nape with one hand and lifted him up so high that Kikuoka had to stand on tiptoes (laughs). I love how livid she was there.

——Who would have thought that her most powerful and frightening scene would be outside games……! (laughs).

Kawahara: I most definitely want to see that bit in the anime. I want the anime to exaggerate it a bit and have her raise him so high that Kikuoka-san's feet would dangle (laughs).

And as for the final unforgettable part, it would be the entirety of 《Mother's Rosario》 arc. It had little presence from Kirito, and so I believe Asuna's charm as her own character had the most screentime there.

——By the way, what do you think is abec-san's best illustration of her?

Kawahara: It's not in the original novel, but an original illustration for 『Dengeki Bunko MAGAZINE's』 illustration teaching project; an illustration where Asuna is on top of Kirito after the two fell into a trap. Asuna there looks very good. This applies to the whole thing, but Asuna's "Kirito-kun, I'm sorry!" vibe is awfully good.

^ Kawahara-san's top illustration is the following one! (Published: Dengeki Bunko MAGAZINE Vol.15 (2010 September issue))

Asuna's future……?

——Well then, lastly, if I could ask what will happen with Asuna in the novel story in the future……!

Kawahara: She did become a goddess in Underworld, after all. This time, I'd like to write something with her as a realistic girl.

——Does that mean we'll also get to see that slight mischievousness that we talked about earlier……?

Kawahara: Yes. I mentioned this in Kirito's character book, but Alice took the stage as a strong rival, thus Asuna is bound to need a little more effort as a girl hereafter……!

——Expectations for an even cuter Asuna are growing……! Thank you for today!

(A certain day in March 2017: In the editorial department)


  1. This is awesome! Can you do Alice's character book next, given that she's the upcoming heroine of Season 3?

    1. I don't see any reason to rush doing Alice's interview. Season 3 is still an entire season away, AND Alice won't even appear much in the first month or two. Also, it'll most likely involve spoilers from the last Alicization volumes, so even most novel readers won't be able to read it yet due to spoilerphobia, let alone anime folk.

  2. I never thought Asuna would be that strong in real life
    The part: "she grabbed Kikuoka's nape with one hand and lifted him up so high that Kikuoka had to stand on tiptoes" likes my favorite part, I want to see it in Anime version too.

  3. Honestly, I love his views on Asuna as i entirely love how he built up her character. Always have loved her since Light Novel 1 and the anime as well as her relationship with Kirito is too adorable <3
    (She is actually the only girl from all of the anime series that are present out there, If Asuna wasn't present for the rest of the series... I wouldn't have stayed any longer. She is the very reason that i am staying back to follow the series till the end. )
    I am grateful towards Reki for this very reason for making her character.
    Thankful to you as well Gseminas, for your translations on this project.