Japanese Novel and Anime Franchise 'Sword Art Online' Being Adapted as Live-Action TV Series

Sword Art Online book cover - P 2016

Skydance Television is looking to bring Japanese novel and anime franchise Sword Art Online to the small screen.

The independent production company has acquired global live action rights to Sword Art Online in a partnership with Kadokawa Corp.

The goal is to fast-track the launch of a new franchise by developing the first-ever SAO live-action TV series. Avatar's Laeta Kalogridis will pen the script and exec produce alongside Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross. A network is not yet attached.

SAO is based on the popular series of 22 books by author Reki Kawahara and published by Kadokawa. Since the first novel was published in 2009, the series collectively has sold more than 19 million print copies worldwide. The books have spawned nine comic adaptations published by Kadokawa, a video game — which has sold nearly 2 million copies and been downloaded more than 9 million times globally since its 2013 release — and two anime television series adaptations (distributed by Aniplex and animated by A-1 Pictures). Sword Art Online has been available on Netflix in North America since March 2014. An animated film, Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale, is set for theatrical release in 2017 in Japan.

According to Skydance, its potential live-action series will follow "a brilliant young beta tester Kirito and his group of friends when they are trapped — alongside 10,000 other people — in a next-generation virtual reality online role-playing game. The game is a world unto itself: filled with sword fighting, monsters, magic and mystery, where the stakes are life and death. Kirito and an ensemble of diverse characters must fight their way through this hostile environment while making lives for themselves in the fantastical world that is Sword Art Online."

As part of Skydance's plan, the company plans to launch an SAO virtual reality experience through the company's interactive arm.

“At Skydance we are in the business of world-building and SAO is a massive pop-culture phenomenon from which we plan to launch a full-scale and wide-ranging set of live-action franchise extensions across our business verticals, beginning with television,” Skydance Media CEO Ellison said. “We look forward to working alongside Laeta, Reki Kawahara and the teams at Kadokawa and Aniplex to build out a deeply immersive new universe of SAO in an authentic way that honors its well-established fan base around the globe.”

“For years I have been inspired by the inventive and masterful storytelling of the SAO franchise,” Kalogridis said. “I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to work with such talented partners to bring this cutting-edge yet timeless story to a new format at Skydance.”

The deal comes as Kalogridis has a first-look and consulting deal with Skydance. Her credits include Skydance's Terminator Genisys as well as Avatar and White House Down. She is currently writing and exec producing Skydance's Netflix drama Altered Carbon. She is repped by WME