WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Sword Art Online, especially in character descriptions. You have been warned.
Anime fans, rejoice! The pop culture phenomenon that is the incredible Sword Art Online is getting a live-action TV series adaptation, courtesy of Skydance Television. What started out as a short novel shot to fame and spawned multiple books, manga, a video game, and two anime series (with a feature length animated film on the way). In short, it is one of the most popular stories to come out of Japan in recent years, and with good reason.
What Is The Story Of Sword Art Online?
Sword Art Online (or SAO) starts with the launch of a brand-new video game that uses "full dive technology," a helmet that transmits the brain's signals to the game avatar, rather than the body, allowing the player to experience the game as true virtual reality (almost like a lucid dream). However, things go horribly wrong, and 10,000 players are trapped within the game, unable to log out until the game is won — something that will take years, as you can see from the English-dubbed trailer for the anime series.
The story follows our hero, Kirito, as he attempts to beat the game, free the other players, and figure out who is behind the diabolical plan. Alongside him is Asuna, a stunningly beautiful player who is also an incredibly talented fighter. As the game progresses, he connects with other players: Agil the merchant, Lisbeth the blacksmith, Klein the warrior, and Silica the beast-tamer. It's a stunning story of love, friendship, and courage, wrapped up in a gaming concept that sets fans slavering for more.
A live-action series has the potential to be absolutely huge, especially as the story continues past Sword Art Online into ALFheim Online and Gun Gale Online (and beyond, with new material still being created). With Laeta Kalogridis (Avatar, Birds of Prey) writing the script, and David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross producing, it looks like the creative side should be well taken care of, which just leaves the casting (and eventual network) to be determined — and I already know who I want to see on board.
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Note: Right now, I am considering only the original SAO players, although I would love to see later characters like Leafa and Sinon eventually join the show. If that happened, we could even see characters played by two actors - one for their real-life Japanese selves, and one for the in-game avatars (who often look markedly different).
Kirito: Godfrey Gao
The hero beater dressed in black, Kirito is a young man who is mature beyond his years. He is handsome and dark-haired, and Godfrey Gao would be a fantastic choice as the star of the show. Known for his role as Magnus Bane in The Mortal Instruments, he's already started to build a solid fanbase, despite being quite new on the Hollywood scene. An actor and model, he's also very athletic in real life — perfect for taking on all those fight scenes in the show.
Asuna: Keiko Kitagawa
Asuna The Flash is a stunningly beautiful young woman, whose speed and swordsmanship make her one of the top players in the game. Although she is usually pictured with red hair in the anime, in the original books she is described as having long chestnut brown hair (it just wouldn't be anime if the lead didn't have a strikingly different hair color!). Keiko Kitagawa, best known for The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, has the good looks and the action experience to do a phenomenal job of bringing this character to life — whether she dyes her hair or not.
Yui: Aubrey Anderson-Emmons
An in-game AI (artificial intelligence) that presents as a child in a white dress, Yui is one of the best-loved characters from the original series. She's absolutely adorable, but with secret steel in her heart, and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons would make a perfect Yui. Best known as Lily on Modern Family, Aubrey is the perfect blend of cute and sassy to bring this kick-ass little AI to life on the small screen.
Silica: Lana Condor
One of the youngest players in the game, Silica's baby face and cute pigtails belie her skills as a fighter. A talented player, and a rare beast-tamer, she fights alongside her tamed monster, Pina (a tiny feathered dragon). If Lana Condor took on the role, it would be her second time donning pigtails to play a badass, after she turned heads as Jubilee in X-Men: Apocaylpse.
Klein: Ki Hong Lee
Klein is one of the first players that Kirito meets in the game, and the geeky gamer quickly becomes a strong team leader. With his signature bandanna and cheerful attitude, he may not be one of the players on the front lines, but he's a wonderful friend and a great player nonetheless. Known for his work on The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ki Hong Lee exudes just the right amount of sweet charm — and just a little geeky goodness.
Lisbeth: Hayley Kiyoko
The best blacksmith in SAO, Lisbeth is proud and short-tempered at times, but she is a good friend to those who don't go around breaking her best swords. She has no problem standing out, with bright pink hair on all her avatars. Hayley Kiyoko is also a fan of the hair dye, and her blonde locks would be the perfect canvas for Lisbeth's pink look. Known as Raven on CSI: Cyber, musician and actress Kiyoko has the perfect attitude to bring our favorite blacksmith to life.
Agil: Shemar Moore
One of the older players in the game, Agil is a merchant in-game (and a restaurant owner in real life). Friendly and very kind to beaters and lower-level players, Agil's warmth shines through, despite his very intimidating size. He towers over the other players, but the size of his frame matches the size of his heart. Shemar Moore, best known as Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds, has the size and style to pull off the role perfectly, but it's his warmth and charm that really make him the best choice.
Kayaba/Heathcliff: Steven Yeun/Charlie Hunnam
The villainous Kayaba is the only player whose avatar doesn't match their real-life appearance. As the creator of the game, Kayaba was able to indulge in a little wish-fulfillment for his avatar, creating a handsome and muscular avatar with long hair — a far cry from his slim self in the real world. For this reason, I've double-cast the role, with The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun as the real-world Kabaya, and the buff Charlie Hunnam as his in-game counterpart, Heathcliff.
[Source: The Hollywood Reporter]