So I watched the anime not too long ago, and it was the single most important rule in the game to not die, otherwise one would die in real life.

However, I never encountered an episode where they showed players die in real life.

I had my share of skepticism, but hey, we all get the story. Die in the game, die in real life. Cool problem which made story interesting.

Then I had conversations with friends about the anime and I was in for a surprise. They all firmly believe nobody actually died. Their basis for this argument was the episode near the end where it was mentioned that all players were logged out. They were convinced that it meant all players that were left, and all players who died in-game.

This, plus the fact that I never saw a person having their brains fried with a nerve gear made me think otherwise for a bit. If they really did die, they could have just died from malnutrition or the extreme stress of thinking it's the real deal. As to why no one woke up ahead, they could have been held in some limbo after in-game death until Kirito defeated the game.

But after doing some research, everyone else does say players died in real life - but have no proof. They all just said they will die because it was said that they would.

Can anyone point me to an episode (or manga chapter) that depicted someone had their brains fried with the nerve gear? or proof that someone actually died from being fried with a nerve gear (like a cemetery visit scene, certificate of death etc.).

  • 3
    I don't remember it being shown, but I think it was mentioned later in the series that some people died after people tried removing the headgear from the victims, before word got out that doing that was also fatal. (Posted as a comment 'cuz I have no citation.)
    – Cattua
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 2:28
  • @Killua: I was originally going to dig that up and post it as an answer. As it turns out, at least in the anime, all that happens is that Akihiko himself digs up various news articles / footage about this happening, and if we're going to suspect him of bluffing, this probably wouldn't resolve the problem.
    – Maroon
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


tl;dr: Players did indeed die from having their brains fried. Otherwise, it would be odd for Kirito to never be told and to make statements suggesting that he doesn't know.

A general meta-observation

Firstly, I should note that it would be very odd story-telling if we (and Kirito) were deceived about players having their brains fried and never were told that this was actually a lie, given how the "real death" factor was so intrinsic to the set-up of SAO. It's normal for stories to have plotholes or to leave some things unexplained; this, however, is more an issue of some sort of Occam's Razor for stories.

Observations from SAO

Halfway through the first episode, Akihiko states that there is no logout option, and that removing the NerveGear will result in death. He then pulls up a bunch of news articles and footage about the deaths that have already occurred. However, perhaps Akihiko is just bluffing and making fake news articles.

If Akihiko were lying, then it wouldn't make sense for the players to be trapped so long, as suggested by David Mulder; people outside could just remove players' headsets. Perhaps people outside wanted to play safe after the announcement (despite the reduced credibility, since the 213 who supposedly died would still be alive) or heard a different version (e.g. "After this announcement, everyone who tries to exit the game environment will be killed."). However, this can only be the case if they had cause to believe that NerveGear was capable of killing people.

Moreover, as suggested by Killua, these scenarios would seem inconsistent with Akihiko's conversation with Kirito after SAO is cleared:

Akihiko: Just a moment ago, the remaining 6,147 players were logged out.

Kirito: What about the ones who died? What about the 4,000 who died?

Akihiko: Their minds will never return. In every world, once you die, you're gone.

By this point in time, Akihiko sounds relatively forthright, and it would be really strange for him to omit information at this point if Kirito is going to find out the truth once he logs out anyway. However, it's still possible these people instead all died "from malnutrition or the extreme stress of thinking it's the real deal". (This still leaves the 213 who presumably would not have actually died at the beginning. Again, it would be very odd story-telling if they didn't actually die and we never knew.)

It's thus worthwhile to look at Kirito's interactions after he leaves SAO.

Post-SAO, in-universe evidence

In the first episode of the second season (about 13 minutes in), Kirito questions the government official who approaches him if he was sure that the players of Gun Gale Online have really been dying of heart attacks after being shot in virtual reality-like circumstances. He wonders if the GGO cases are similar to what happened in SAO:

Kirito: You're sure it was heart failure, right?

Kikuoka: What do you mean?

Kirito: [flashback to an image of the NerveGear headset] There wasn't any brain damage?

This suggests that players could indeed die from brain damage after being killed (or having had their headsets removed) in SAO. (Kikuoka even later mentions NerveGear's ability to destroy one's brain via its microwaves.)

Moreover, it probably was the case that players did die from this mechanism. If not, it would be odd for Kirito to not be aware of the fact, or for Kikuoka to not correct him (e.g. "Sure, NerveGear is physically capable of destroying brains, but that's not what happened in SAO."), when this scene takes place more than a year after SAO was cleared. (SAO is cleared in November; the GGO arc starts in December of the next year.)

After all, Kikuoka would presumably be aware of such cases as a government official involved with the SAO case. Similarly, Kirito was involved in the investigation---by the GGO arc he has told Kikuoka everything he knew about the SAO incident---so it would be expected that he would know of such specifics a year after the case.

  • I haven't seriously followed SAO in a while, so if I'm missing something, feel free to point that out.
    – Maroon
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 3:36
  • 7
    It's also worth noting (and adding to the answer?) that if Akihiko lied, then it's odd that even after he is defeated, he did not come clean. He and Kirito still talk about "survivors" and "those who died", even after Akihiko knows his little experiment is over.
    – Cattua
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 3:47
  • 3
    And if they wouldn't have died they would simply have taken everybody's helmets off rather than hospitalizing everybody with their helmets on. Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 13:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .