Much to the dismay of many a Western fan who hoped to close out their Thanksgiving holiday with a viewing of the series’ latest cinematic outing, Crunchyroll has apparently censored their upload of Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night.

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Asuna (Haruka Tomatsu) draws her signature blade, Lambent Light, in Sword Art Online: Progressive – Aria of a Starless Night (2021), Aniplex via YouTube

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Sitting down on November 24th to take in the first animated adaptation of the Progressive light novels – which provides a more expansive retelling of the original Sword Art Online story – fans were quick to notice that the version made available on Crunchyroll had been heavily censored.

Kirito (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) is introduced to a new game in Sword Art Online: Progressive - Aria of a Starless Night (2021), Aniplex via YouTube

Kirito (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) is introduced to a new game in Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night (2021), Aniplex via YouTube

Centering on the series’ female protagonist, the specific scene in questions focuses on a battle-weary Asuna taking a moment to bathe herself as she struggles to accept the fact that she is now trapped within the world of the series’ eponymous MMO.

As thoroughly detailed by YouTuber @lucaslkp_, in the uncensored Blu-ray release of the film, this scene treats viewers to a few moments of brief fan service as Asuna enjoys the brief respite, her quick shift from relaxation to worry emphasizing the toll the ordeal is taking on her body.

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However, thanks to the platform’s delicate sensitivities, this scene is almost entirely different when viewed on Crunchyroll, 

Rather than show any hint of Asuna’s bare skin, Crunchyroll’s version of Aria of Starless Night not only covers up her bra-covered chest with a strange ‘hard light shirt’ as she prepares to enter the bath:

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Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night Crunchyroll Censored vs Blu-ray Uncensored (2021), Aniplex via lucaslkp_ YouTube

But also takes things a step further by avoiding shots of her bathing body in favor of random environmental shots, such as a faucet pouring water into the tub:

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Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night Crunchyroll Censored vs Blu-ray Uncensored (2021), Aniplex via lucaslkp_ YouTube

Or – in an instance which ends up making viewers seem like more of a ‘creepy peeping tom’ than the original – a zoomed out shot of her current location, the house she shares with Kirito:

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Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night Crunchyroll Censored vs Blu-ray Uncensored (2021), Aniplex via lucaslkp_ YouTube

Most baffling of all, however, may be the censorship applied to a subsequent shot of Asuna relaxing in the tub. In the uncensored version, the heroine’s head, neck, hands, and chest – the last being heavily obscured by a reflection of light – are visible through the bathwater.

But on Crunchyroll, the clean bath water seen earlier is replaced with a murky alternative which serves to hide her body from the shoulders down.

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Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night Crunchyroll Censored vs Blu-ray Uncensored (2021), Aniplex via lucaslkp_ YouTube

Even her eventual exit from the tub couldn’t escape censors’ eyes. Originally when rising out of the bath, Asuna’s bare upper body, her chest covered by her arm, can be seen as she prepares to lift herself up.

Meanwhile, in Crunchyroll’s version, the camera shifts upward to the extent that only her head is visible, any hint of possible nudity being simply pushed out of frame.

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Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night Crunchyroll Censored vs Blu-ray Uncensored (2021), Aniplex via lucaslkp_ YouTube

The decision by Crunchyroll to opt for a censored version of Aria of a Starless Night over the uncensored version has been a particularly baffling one for fans, particularly as the platform is not averse to presenting such series as Berserk: The Golden Age Arc – Memorial Edition as their production teams originally intended.

However, due to the fact that streaming services must separately license a given anime’s censored and uncensored releases, some have begun to speculate that Crunchyroll has opted to only host the butchered version of Aria of a Starless Night in order to drive up sale for the film’s upcoming English-language, uncensored Blu-ray release.

Asuna (Haruka Tomatsu) prepares to unleash the full might of Lambent Light in Sword Art Online: Progressive - Aria of a Starless Night (2021), Aniplex via YouTube

Asuna (Haruka Tomatsu) prepares to unleash the full might of Lambent Light in Sword Art Online: Progressive – Aria of a Starless Night (2021), Aniplex via YouTube

This unaltered version of Sword Art Online: Progressive – Aria of a Starless Night is currently on track to hit US shores on January 24th, 2023.

Asuna (Haruka Tomatsu) prepares to fight her way out in Sword Art Online: Progressive - Aria of a Starless Night (2021), Aniplex via YouTube

Asuna (Haruka Tomatsu) prepares to fight her way out in Sword Art Online: Progressive – Aria of a Starless Night (2021), Aniplex via YouTube

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