As a fan of the anime, I simply knew I had to pick up the manga. Despite already knowing the story, the manga itself was so fresh and different that it was almost as if I was reading from an entirely...
The plot revolves around a video game called Sword Art Online, a game in which the characters are inside the virtual world. I think the manga did a fantastic job of explaining everything within the game. Granted, there were some things that were skipped over - such as what a PK was - but regardless it was nice to learn more about the game from a player's point of view.
Speaking of point of view, the story is told in Kirito's perspective. It was a great experience to get inside his head and see how he thinks. I also found it interesting how part of his past - which was told very early on in the anime - was saved until later during a bonding moment with Asuna. The way Kirito thinks, as well as his stated thoughts for Asuna, made this story a feel as if I were learning about the characters all over again.
My only complaint, however, is the romance between Kirito and Asuna. What we don't know is how they meet, which takes away from their developing feelings. All the reader can assume is that the two had crushes on the other from the start. Other than that, the romance was very well written and had me in tears near the end. The romance between the two may have seemed sudden, but their relationship is hard to not fall in love with.
As for the art, I think we can all appreciate the cute yet distinct art style for this manga. The characters were well drawn and the monsters looked scary for ink on paper.
Whether you're a fan of the anime or never even heard of Sword Art Online, this manga is a definite pick-up-and-read. The characters, story world, and plot are all well written and hard to resist. I highly recommend this manga