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 the animation studio is highly likely to renew the series.
Whilst there may not be an official confirmation that season 4 will be produced, A-1 Pictures Director Manabu Ono has previously said that the studio is “planning to adapt the entire Sword Art Online series”.
Following Alicization 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’. This will be what season 4 of the anime is adapted from and at the time of writing, three volumes from this arc have been published.
So, with the view that A-1 Pictures want to adapt the entire series and a final arc is currently being written, Sword Art Online is almost guaranteed to return for a fourth season.
Sword Art Online season 4 release date…
Whilst Sword Art Online has not been official renewed for a fourth season, we are expecting that the anime won’t return until at least 2024.
The problem with predicting a potential release date for Sword Art Online season 4 is that it all depends on when Kawahara can complete the ‘Unital Ring’ arc. If we assume 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.
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New 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.