On This Date in 2012...

Sword Art Online burst onto the scene 5 years ago today, and anime fandom hasn't been the same since. Commonly abbreviated SAO, Reki Kawahara's popular light novel series unveiled its first animated adaptation on July 7, 2012 and quickly became one of the biggest anime franchises worldwide.

Coming from A-1 Pictures (who also brought us such memorable fare as Black Butler and From the New World) and directed by Tomohiko Ito, SAO revived the "trapped in a video game" concept for a whole new generation of fans. Unlike 2002's more moody and reflective  .hack//SIGN, SAO painted a similar concept with a heavier emphasis on action instead of introspective dialogue. Both series share the same composer in the fabulously talented Yuki Kajiura, whose SAO score blends perfectly with fantastic visuals and the smart character design by abec.

The story primarily follows Kirito, a teenage boy trapped in the confines of a virtual reality game. Kirito gains access to a closed beta for the eponymous Sword Art Online game and quickly discovers that there is no means to escape the game except through death. Together with his fellow players, they must find a way to beat this new game or they'll be forced to live the rest of their lives as denizens of any imaginary world. The first series consists of two different story arcs, which cover the first 4 books of the original light novel series.

Sword Art Online has now spawned plenty of sequels and spin-offs, and Kirito and Asuna have both become instantly recognizable as the franchise's iconic pair both in the series itself and on the floor of an anime convention near you. Its latest installment, Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale, just saw a very limited theatrical release this past Spring. The legacy of SAO is still going strong, and we couldn't be happier to welcome it.