Sword Art Online: Alicization War of Underworld has just concluded, but fans are now left wondering if and when the hit anime series will return for season 4.
Fans of anime are used to waiting a long time for their favourite shows to return, the phrase ‘good things come to those who wait’ springs to mind, but no one really enjoys that time away.
We waited nearly four years for Sword Art Online season 3 to premiere and that felt like an eternity. Unfortunately, it looks like we are in for another similar break before season 4 will return to our screens.
Here is everything we know so far about the renewal status and potential release date for the fourth season of SAO.
Will there be a Sword Art Online season 4?
- At the time of writing, season 4 of Sword Art Online has not been officially confirmed by A-1 Pictures, but an adaptation of the ‘Progressive’ series has been announced.
UPDATE: It was announced after this article was written that ‘Sword Art Online: Progressive’ would be adapted into its own anime series. Progressive is a six-volume light novel series that retells the story of the Aincard from the original series. At the time of writing, it has not been confirmed that Progressive will be the focus of season 4, but will likely give the author time to produce the ‘Unital Ring’ arc – the last big story in the series.
Following season 3 adapting everything between the ninth and eighteenth volume of the light novel series, author of the series Reki Kawahara has revealed that he will be writing “one more big arc” called ‘Sword Art Online: Unital Ring’ – which currently has only three published volumes. We had expected that this would be what season 4 of the anime was adapted from, but the announcement of a ‘Progressive’ anime may push this back.
However, from a production standpoint, A-1 Pictures director Manabu Ono has already said that the studio is “planning to adapt the entire Sword Art Online series” – suggesting that all canon material will eventually be adapted.
So, with the view that A-1 Pictures want to adapt the entire series and a final arc currently being written, Sword Art Online is almost guaranteed to return for a fourth season.
Sword Art Online season 4 release date…
A release date for Sword Art Online season 4 has not been revealed, but we expect that the ‘Unital Ring’ arc won’t premiere until at least 2024. However, it is highly likely that the recently announced anime adaptation of ‘Progressive’ will debut within the next two years.
The problem with predicting a potential release date for Sword Art Online ‘Unital Ring’ is that it all depends on when Kawahara can complete the light novels. Assuming that this arc will also have 10 volumes and that Kawahara can produce at least two every year, the series still won’t be completed until 2023 – and that’s at the earliest.
However, there is hope for fans that the fourth instalment could be produced as another split-cour season, similar to Alicization, with three unique parts. This would mean that we essentially get three ‘mini-seasons’ every 12-18 months that will continuously adapt new volumes of the light novels until the series is completed.
Moon Cradle OVA or movie?
Whist the ‘Unital Ring’ arc may be the final instalment in the series, there have already been two side-story volumes published since the end of Alicization called ‘Moon Cradle’. It is possible that these two volumes could be made into their own anime movie or several OVA episodes whilst the broader season 4 is being produced.
However, Monsters & Critics make an interesting point where “another option would be to adapt Moon Cradle as a single-cour Sword Art Online Season 4.” This would push back the Unital Ring arc into the fifth season, but it would “fill in the long gap between the third season’s finale and the completion of Unital Ring.”
We will update you on the future of Sword Art Online as soon as more information on season 4 is officially revealed, so keep checking back in.