Kirito (Sword Art Online)
Kazuto Kirigaya (桐ヶ谷 和人 Kirigaya Kazuto) is a fictional character who appears in the Sword Art Online series of light novels by Reki Kawahara. He is more commonly known by his portmanteau, Kirito (キリト Kirito), his player name in the eponymous video game which the novels are set in. Kirito is the protagonist of the series, and is depicted as a teenager who was chosen as one of 1,000 beta testers for a new state-of-the-art virtual reality MMORPG, Sword Art Online. After the game is released to the general public, he and 10,000 other players soon discover that they are unable to log out and are trapped in the simulation unless they manage to beat the game.
|Sword Art Online character|
Kirito, as he appears in Sword Art Online
|Created by||Reki Kawahara|
|Voiced by||Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Japanese)
Bryce Papenbrook (English)
Due to the initial popularity of Sword Art Online, Kirito has become an extremely recognized character in anime and manga fandom, frequently appearing on lists of the most popular anime characters. Additionally, Kirito has featured in numerous official merchandise, and has been the subject of mixed to mostly positive critical reception, with focus on his personality, traits, and relationship with fellow player and love interest Asuna.
In an interview with series creator Reki Kawahara, when asked whether Kirito's personality and character were based off his own, the author responded that he does not usually put aspects of himself into his characters, and jokingly remarked that "but if I had to say there was a point of similarity between Kirito and myself, it is the fact that neither of us are good at forming parties. We [both] tend to play solo in these games a lot." He also added that he wrote the series to change popular opinion of online gaming; viewing it not a social ill or just an escape from real life, and thus decided to show games in a more positive light in his light novels. When fans asked him about Kirito using a sword in a gun-based game, Kawahara responded that the energy sword in Halo can be the most powerful weapon if used properly.
Kirito is voiced in Japanese by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and in English by Bryce Papenbrook. In an interview with Matsuoka on the similarities between him and his character, the voice actor opinioned that "I'm thinking about our workplaces – in both of our workplaces, there's only one chance [for success], so there's a lot of people who are putting in their all. I always think that I have to do the best acting I can for the sake of those who came to see me or watch the show. I feel like I have to pull along people with my acting. I feel like, I have to pave the way for the others." Many fans have asked Reki Kawahara whether there would be an eventual crossover between Accel World and Sword Art Online, to which he answered that while he had already written a scenario where Kirito and Haruyuki Arita meet and fight, such a prospect would be difficult due to SAO taking place in 2022 and Accel World in 2046.
In a review, Richard Eisenbeis of Kotaku hailed Sword Art Online as the smartest series in recent years; Eisenbeis particularly noted how the romance between Kirito and Asuna is explored bringing "definition to exactly what love is like in a virtual world." However, the two characters' relationship in the second half of the novels was criticized, with Eisenbeis complaining about Asuna being deregulated to a damsel in distress stock character for Kirito to fight for, lamenting that the "strong female lead" had been "reduced to nothing but the quest item the male lead is hunting for." The love triangle between Kirito and the other female characters was also scrutinized; Eisenbeis considered it "ludicrous" that Kirito would consider abandoning Asuna, especially considering his devotion to her in the previous storyline. Nevertheless, Kirito was considered a likeable and "fun" character.
In response to criticism directed at the series that Kirito was a "Mary Sue" type character, Karen Mead of Japanator.com wrote that "I don't think we ever see enough of Kirito's weaknesses to balance out his strengths: he's pretty much a genius at video games, as well as a kind, giving person, and those are some pretty major positives." However, she praised the positive aspects of Kirito's character, and his "competent and noble" self distinguishes him from other harem protagonists in that he actually earns the girls' affection. Carly Smith of The Escapist criticized Sword Art Online II and compared it unfavourably to the original storyline, summarizing "welcome to Sword Art Online II: the show where everyone loves Kirito and nothing matters", and that the anime doesn't "start to shine" until "Kirito is pushed to the sidelines". In an interview with Bryce Papenbrook, Kirito's English voice actor, when asked whether he would pick Kirito or Eren Yeager (whom he also voiced) from Attack on Titan in a fight, Papenbrook joked that "Inside a game, obviously Kirito would win, because he has God Mode running at all times. I think in real life, Kirito is strong-willed and passionate, but I think Eren would slice him up in real life. He's just too crazy."
Kirito is one of the most popular characters in Sword Art Online. In a fan poll by anime website Charapedia, 10,000 respondents voted on their favourite couples in anime, with Kirito and Asuna topping the list. Kirito's confession to Asuna also placed third in a list of the top twenty "anime and manga love confessions" by the same website. A third Charapedia poll, where respondents ranked the "top 30 [anime] characters they’d like to work for", had Kirito placed twenty-ninth and Asuna twenty-sixth. Additionally, a Chinese website, bilibili, took a reader poll to find the most "moe" characters of 2015; Kirito placed sixth in the male top 8 and Asuna first in the female top 8. Asuna and Kirito were awarded first and second respectively in a character poll by Dengeki Bunko (the publisher of Sword Art Online) for their light novels. Asuna and Kirito once again made a list of the "[Top] 7 Couples Who Make Love and War" by Anime News Network, writing "love blossoms on the virtual battlefield and the two wed before taking on the game's creator together.
Otamart, a popular Japanese app that specializes in anime, manga and idol products, polled users in which characters look best in swimsuits and yukatas, with Kirito (as Kazuto Kirigaya) placing 11th (for swimsuits) and 13th (yukatas) respectively in the male character category. Another Otamart poll asking users to rank the anime characters they would want to give chocolates to for Valentine's Day had Kirito placed 15th on the "top 20 characters men want to give chocolates to" category. The August 2014 issue of Newtype published results of a recent character popularity poll, with Kirito placing 1st overall for male characters; Asuna placed 4th for all female characters. Another poll which would decide the characters placed on a Sword Art Online artbook had Kirito placed in fourth place. "Kazuto" (Kirito) was also fourth on a list of the "top 20 anime characters Japanese fans would name their children after"; "Asuna" placed first. Italian restaurant La Ricetta in Zama, Kanagawa features pancakes prepared with anime and video game character art, including Kirito and Asuna.
The character has received positive critical reception, and his popularity has led to him being featured in several promotional efforts and merchandise of the series. Kirito makes an appearance in an April 2015 campaign which promotes Namco gaming arcades. Fan-made replicas of Asuna's "Lambent Light" and Kirito's "Elucidator" rapiers have been built by the Man At Arms team of blacksmiths and craftsmen. There are also Kirito, Asuna, and Sinon Sword Art Online-branded perfumes for sale; "Kirito" is described as "dry citrus with a touch of brandy, meant to evoke a mature spirit. It uses green apple, apricot and lime above Muguet, Rose, Jasmine, grapefruit and a musk and brandy base." Sword Art Online glasses based on the characters had a "Kirito" model; "these matte black frames feature a cross and the excalibur on each arm [of the glasses]." A series of anime-inspired Christmas cards featured characters such as Rin Matsuoka from Free!, Godoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Kirito. He has also appeared in several Sword Art Online-related video games. This includes Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, in which several characters appearing under the Dengeki Bunko imprint are featured. In a costume swap between video games Sword Art Online: Lost Song and God Eater 2: Rage Burst, Lost Song received a Julius costume for Kirito and an Alisa costume for Asuna whilst Rage Burst received costumes of Kirito and Sinon. Asuna, Kirito and Leafa appeared in a campaign by the "Manga Anime Guardians" project in combating anime and manga piracy, with the being project supported by 15 anime production studios and manga publishers.
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