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From Googling around a bit I've gotten the impression that:

  • The Light Novels (LNs) are the source material
  • The "Progressive" novels (PNs) expand upon the source material
  • The Manga was adapted from the source and contains no new content
  • The Anime was adapted from the source and contains no new content

Though I'm not certain about any of those.

Assuming I'm correct, I'm unclear in what order the LNs and PNs should be read. For instance, I would expect it to flow best if I read the PN 'filler' that takes place in SAO before moving beyond Aincrad in the LNs. Assuming I'm incorrect, I have no idea in what order to intersperse each of the types of written materials.

In what order should I read written materials to cover all available relevant information in appropriate chronological order without spoilers?

So far I have read nothing, and watched the first two anime seasons plus the movie (all dubbed).

  • The 'Progressive' books are more of a rewrite than an expansion -- there are too many differences and retcons for them to be just different tellings of the same story. You shouldn't think of them as "filler." – Lucas Y. Apr 17 at 16:23
  • @LucasY. Would it make more sense to read only the Progressive books then? Or would I be missing story that is only in the LNs? My goal is to experience all of the available content, but in the appropriate order. – Nicholas Apr 17 at 16:48
  • If you want the version of the story that is portrayed in the anime, you want the original LNs, but keep in mind that they are not in chronological order. Meanwhile, after some overlap at the very beginning (the start of the story through the first floor boss), Progressive then continues into territory the original story (and anime) did not cover at all. – Lucas Y. Apr 17 at 17:08
  • I've only read the first two light novels (the Aincrad storyline), but based on that you're right to say the manga and anime contains no new content. The anime is surprisingly faithful to the light novels (there's very little from the books that didn't make it in), and nothing was changed or added. – PlutoThePlanet Apr 17 at 20:05
  • @PlutoThePlanet That's great to hear. The unavoidable differences between movie and book are always unsettling for whichever is experienced second. It makes it far more enjoyable when they're minor. – Nicholas Apr 17 at 20:33

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