The Invisible God in Sword Art Online

Easter, the most holy of Christian celebrations, is only a few days away.  And so, in light of that, I thought it would be very appropriate to talk Sword Art Online.

That’s right – Sword Art Online.

Sword Art Online
Artist: うさこ@ついった (Pixiv)

Kirito, SAO‘s lead character, plays the role of a savior, and as such, it’s not much of a stretch to compare him to Jesus Christ. Comparing an anime lead to Jesus is nothing knew (think Goku of Dragonball Z), but still, Kirito stands out among a crowded field of shonen saviors for a number of reasons (SPOILERS AHEAD):

Kirito Performs Miracles (Including the Greatest One)

As the first season ends, Kirito fights the “villain” Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of the Sword Art Online game. As he is about to die, Kirito re-materializes and instead becomes victorious. He miraculously breaks the programmed rules of the game. A “miracle” is the breaking of rules of nature, and Kirito does the same within the rules of SAO.

The larger miracle comes afterward, though, when Kirito rises from the dead. This is nothing new to anime, but it’s particularly emphasized here. Kirito and Kayaba both die, and they find themselves in what appears to be SAO Heaven. This is a really interesting parallel with Kirito now in “Heaven,” because the title of the previous episode, where Kirito encounters the enemy, is “The Depths of Hell.” He’s gone from hell to Heaven, reflecting the belief by some that Jesus descended into hell following His death. And further, and more significantly, Kirito wakes up from SAO in real life, although he shouldn’t have according to the rules of the game. He has risen from the dead.

Kirito Changes Those He Encounters

Kirito’s similarities to Christ aren’t just in death and resurrection; they also have to do with his character. One thing Bible readers will notice is that when Jesus encounters people, they are often dramatically changed by him. The same is true of Kirito: Asuna gathers strength, and eventually falls in love; Klein becomes a leader and a strong player; Liz…well, she falls in love, too. And they’re changed primarily by Kirito’s great compassion, even though he has so much power that he need not demonstrate kindness to others.

Christ humbly came to teach and save. He suffered torture, humiliation, and degradation by walking among us, but He chose to do so out of His great love. And because of that, those who encounter Him are changed.  Today, we no longer encounter the physical Jesus, but the Bible teaches that were are transformed, given new hearts, when we come to accept Christ.

Kirito Rescues

And finally, note that Kirito rescues, just like Christ rescues. The entire second arc reflects Kirito’s determination to rescue the confined Asuna, the one He loves. Asuna is analogous to humankind, confined to the prison of sin, and needing Christ to break us free.

The Bible is often depicted as a stodgy book, but it’s also an incredible love story. God comes to earth, sullying himself – allowing people to insult him and eventually to torture and execute him – so that He can save us, the ones He loves. It’s quite an adventure, quite a quest, and quite a remarkable love.

While SAO isn’t a great anime by any stretch of the imagination, it has a beautiful heart at its center. It’s the story of a young man whose awesome power is matched only by his great love. And in that way, it’s also the story of the One we celebrate on Good Friday and Easter.

8 thoughts on “The Invisible God in Sword Art Online

    1. It doesn’t matter (as far as the story is concurned I mean.) non Christians often write more Christian stories than most Christians do. They’re just usually more subtle about it.

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  1. sao has nothing to do with Christianity. This is just a bunch of bad interpretations about similarities and horrible theories.

    This is the typical storyline and typical way of story telling for all semi-harem like stories.

    take 1 main character, have him get a bunch of resisting girls and turn them around by doing nice and benevolent things. As far as he coming back to life, it’s the main character of the entire series — has nothing to do with religion, he dies — story ends.

    does the alicization arc have something to do with christianity as well? he becomes comatose and a physical vegetable, but comes back to life!! omg reviving!!!

    there’s no connection here folks =) love the story for what it is, I hate these articles.

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    1. Teki,

      Since TWWK is not longer at Beneath the Tangles, I’ll take the liberty of responding. This article doesn’t necessarily claim that SAO purposefully involves Christianity, only that there are parallels. I agree with you that the storyline is pretty typical with the whole “nice MC wins affection of girls” thing. But here’s the thing for us Christians: we start to see the Jesus story *everywhere*. We can’t help it. It’s kinda like how a big fan of a certain anime or LOTR or Doctor Who will likely see connections to their favorite show in all sorts of places. Or how a yaoi fangirl sees BL where there really is none.

      I’m sorry to hear that you hate these articles, but I hope you can appreciate that TWWK—and all of us here—just have a different perspective than you. This site operates on the premise that hints of God’s story show up in just about every man-crafted story, whether or not the author intended that. It’s possible to both enjoy an anime for what it is *and* to notice parallels between it and our beliefs. For many of us, it makes the anime-viewing experience that much deeper.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

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    2. I think SAO isn’t related with Christianity in general either; it’s just that some Christial themes come back in SAO; like a lot of anime (and other forms of mediums) too.

      I respect your opinion, but I do strongly disagree. (At least in my opinion) God can use non-christian people for His glory; while are people are sinful it doesn’t mean they can’t do any good deeds. And just because they aren’t Christian, doesn’t mean they can’t write things that are very similar to Chrisitan themes.

      I apologize if I may have sounded a little bit rude; unfortunately English isn’t my main language so I’m not that good at expressing my opinion in English.

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