Posted Jun 17, 2024 by Ingrid Lorenzi

Creator Spotlight: Reki Kawahara

There are few men in the history of literature who have sparked such genre-bending, gravity-defying, “I can’t believe he did that” fiction like Reki Kawahara has.

As the father of VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game—wow, that is such a mouthful!) in light novels, Reki Kawahara has done it all.

Cool weapons? Check.

Monsters threatening the human race? Check.

Overcomplicated timelines? Check.

Cute girls in armor and guns? Check!

Honestly, so much can be written on the man (and on his Sword Art Online spinoffs; we have counted at least five, not even including the manga ones). However, today we will only tackle the four major works of Reki Kawahara. From his origins to his latest work, let’s dive deeper into this master’s career!


Accel World

Reki Kawahara’s origins can be found in his debut series, Accel World. We get a first taste of the VR element that Kawahara is famous for in the Brain Burst, the program behind the VRMMO (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online) fighting game. In Accel World, we also begin to see the initial workings of the formula that will lead Kawahara to global success with his next work, Sword Art Online. Initially published in 2009, this series is still ongoing, attesting to how much love was poured into it since its conception.

Prepare for a full dive! Even in the future, all the advances and innovation in the world can't change the dynamics of the school playground. And for Haruyuki Arita, a fat kid in junior high, that means he's destined to always be at the bottom of the food chain, prime pickings for the school bullies. But when he is approached by Kuroyukihime, a beautiful and aloof upperclassman, Haruyuki's life is turned on its head as he dives into Brain Burst, a mysterious computer program, and the Accelerated World with her help. It's in the Accel World that Haruyuki casts off his depressing reality and takes hold of the chance to become a Burst Linker, a knight to protect his princess!


Sword Art Online

For as much as we hear that Sword Art Online is an overrated series—we can’t deny the fact that when it first aired, we were all glued to our screens to see the wonderful and dangerous world of Aincrad. It is undeniable how much impact this series had on the light novel landscape, anime, games, but also in the fantasy realm. And this influence does not limit itself to Japan—if you are familiar with the bestselling book series Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, it is easy to see how SAO was a huge inspiration for the books (in the second book, Ready Player Two, SAO is even explicitly mentioned!). Bonus point: There are more than ten spin-offs and manga adaptations waiting for your reading pleasure, so you will never run out of material with this series!

In the year 2022, gamers rejoice as Sword Art Online—a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) like no other—debuts, allowing players to take full advantage of the ultimate in gaming technology: NerveGear, a system that allows users to completely immerse themselves in a wholly realistic gaming experience. But when the game goes live, the elation of the players quickly turns to horror as they discover that, for all its amazing features, SAO is missing one of the most basic functions of any MMORPG, [MB3] a log-out button. Now trapped in the virtual world of Aincrad, their bodies held captive by NerveGear in the real world, users are issued a chilling ultimatum: conquer all one hundred floors of Aincrad to regain your freedom. But in the warped world of SAO, “game over” means certain death—both virtual and real...


The Isolator

Things took a turn in Kawahara’s career with The Isolator. Unlike anything that he had written before, this series had a far darker start (murder by home invasion, at that!) and leaned more towards the sci-fi genre than the usual AR fantasy Kawahara is known for. Alien parasites, Madoka-like wishes, and secret organizations make this series an interesting addition to this master’s repertoire.

Sci-fi action, angst, and super-powered teenagers abound in this new series from Reki Kawahara, the acclaimed author of Sword Art Online and Accel World! Ever since a terrible childhood tragedy, Minoru Utsugi has wished for one thing: solitude. Years later, a bizarre encounter leaves a mysterious artifact in Minoru's body that grants his wish—but that's far from the end of his troubles. Others have been visited and given powers like Minoru's, but their twisted desires are not so benign. When a murderous force threatens the people Minoru holds dear, will his newfound abilities be enough to stand in its way? And can there be a future for someone who craves eternal solitude above all else? The story of the Isolator begins here!


Demons’ Crest

This release was quite unexpected but welcomed nonetheless! After what feels like a decade of SAO (and it probably is, curse my mortal body and my denial that I, too, have aged), Reki Kawahara is gifting us with a new electrifying series that has all the aspects that we have come to expect from the master: virtual reality, gamelike mechanicals, and a cast of intrepid warriors! Plus, Kawahara has finally added a mascot character to the hero’s party, one that we cannot wait to see in a plushie form! We are very excited to see where Demons’ Crest will lead us and wish all the best to Kawahara and his new series!

Yuuma Ashihara is playing Actual Magic, a virtual reality MMORPG, when it suddenly begins to fuse with the real world. While he tries to make sense of what’s happening, he runs into Sumi, one of his classmates. Before, she was one of the cutest girls in his grade, but she’s undergone a terrible metamorphosis—into one of the game's monsters! From the author of Sword Art Online and Accel World comes a story beyond VR and AR, where game and reality are one and the same.


It’s not hard to see how Reki Kawahara spearheaded a new subgenre in fantasy. By tapping into the exploding popularity of video games of the early 2010s, Kawahara managed to combine gamelike aesthetics and mechanics with compelling stories that delighted us and brought us to the edge of our seats. Some even say that the success of Sword Art Online was a major factor in the increased interest in light novels and their localization, and it’s hard to deny such a claim. At Yen Press, we are very proud of each and every series we publish, but we also must admit that we will always hold a soft spot for one author in particular. Thank you so much Reki Kawahara, and long live the father of VRMMORPG!