Sword Art Online fans have been eagerly waiting for the anime's third season because it adapts the Alicization arc, the longest and arguably most popular arc in the original light novel series to date.
But series creator Reki Kawahara recently revealed a surprising fact about this arc. It turns out that he actually planned it all ten years ago, way before he even submitted his work on the Accel World series.
Reki Kawahara states in the Newtype interview that he first wrote the Alicization arc over 10 years ago. He wrote it almost all at once, only stopping once because he got stuck. That was the point when he wrote Accel World to submit to the Dengeki Taisho.— ?? Frog-kun ?? (@frog_kun) December 11, 2018
As translated by @frog_kun on Twitter, Kawahara recently stated in an interview with Newtype magazine that he first wrote the Alicization arc more than ten years ago. Noting that he wrote the entire arc almost in one go, briefly stopping because he got stuck one time. To break from this, he then created and submitted the Accel World series for the Dengeki Novel Prize in 2008. He actually won the Grand Prize for his work that year too!
What's surprising is that the Alicization arc didn't begin in the light novel series until the 9th volume in 2012. Meaning that while Kawahara started work for the arc early on, he continued working on it and fine tuning it for quite some time. The amount of work and passion going into the Alicization arc explains why fans have been drawn to it, and why it seems so different from what has come in the series before.
If he's been fine tuning this arc for that long, then it would explain its strong first impression. Unfortunately, all that time working on it still left the arc with a glaring mark on it with its use of sexual assault as a plot device. Though Kawahara has explained his reasoning behind the use of it.
If you have yet to catch the new season of the series yourself, Sword Art Online: Alicization can currently be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu. The series is officially described as such:
"Where... am I...?” Before he knows it, Kirito has made a full-dive into an epic, fantasy-like virtual world. With only a murky recollection of what happened right before he logged in, he starts to wander around, searching for clues. He comes upon an enormous, pitch dark tree (the Gigas Cedar), where he encounters a boy. “My name is Eugeo. Nice to meet you, Kirito.” Although he is supposedly a resident of the virtual world - an NPC - the boy shows the same array of emotions as any human being.
As Kirito bonds with Eugeo, he continues to search for a way to log out of this world. Meanwhile, he remembers a certain memory deep down within him. He remembers racing through the mountains with Eugeo as a child... A memory that he should not have in the first place... And in this memory, he sees someone other than Eugeo, a young blond girl. Her name is Alice. And it is a name that must never be forgotten...”