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‘Sword Art Online’ Japanese Anime Franchise Being Adapted as TV Show

“Sword Art Online,” the popular Japanese novel and anime franchise, is being developed for a live-action TV series, Variety has learned.

Skydance Media has acquired the television rights, and has put the potential series on the fast-track with “Terminator Genisys” scribe Laeta Kalogridis penning the pilot.

The project marks the first-ever live-action television series for the “Sword Art Online” phenomenon, also known as SAO, which is based on the popular light novel series of 22 books by author Reki Kawahara. Almost 19 million print copies of the novels have sold worldwide, and the books have been spun off into nine comic adaptations, two anime television series, a video game, and merchandise program, in addition to an animated film that will be released in Japan next year.

The Skydance Television series, which is being produced in partnership with the KADOKAWA Corporation, will follow a brilliant young beta tester and his group of friends who are trapped alongside 10,000 other people in a next-generation virtual reality online role-playing game filled with sword fighting, monsters, magic, and mystery, where the stakes are life and death.

Following the series, Skydance plans to launch a “Sword Art Online” virtual reality experience through Skydance Interactive.

“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,” said Skydance Media CEO David Ellison. “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.”

“I am excited and moved that ‘Sword Art Online’ will be adapted into a live action series by the highly respected Skydance Media. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and gratitude to everyone involved in this project, and to the fans all over the world who have so generously and enthusiastically supported SAO,” Kawahara said.

“For years I have been inspired by the inventive and masterful storytelling of the SAO franchise. 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,” added Kalogridis, who will serve as an exec producer on the series with Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Marcy Ross.

Kalogridis’ credits include “Shutter Island,” “Avatar,” “X-Men,” “Tomb Raider,” and “Scream 3.” She is currently writing and exec producing Netflix’s “Altered Carbon,” which hails from Skydance, where she has a first-look and consulting arrangement. She is repped by WME.

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