With the calendar ticking over to the 9th of March 2017, Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale got its theatrical release in Australia. Many fans of the original show ‘Sword Art Online’, or abbreviated to ‘SAO’, came flocking from all over to catch the first glimpse of SAO’s first ever movie. The TV anime debuted back in 2012, which makes it 5 years since we first saw these characters, about time they earned their own movie. Luckily SAO didn’t succumb to the horrible trend of anime getting movie adaptations that just try to condense the whole show into a 2 hour movie; basically just a retelling. No, this is an actual continuation on the story picking up a little after the second season.
Flashy new AR device, the Augma
Ordinal Scale tells the story of a new virtual experience taking Japan by storm, only it’s not VR this time, it’s AR. That’s right, throw away transporting to a fictional world with virtual reality and trade it in for the “safer” augmented reality bringing fiction into reality. The world of SAO has had some rough times with full-dive VR technology, putting people’s lives at risk because of it shutting down your ability to move in the real world, as if you were putting your consciousness into a virtual body. Thus the birth of the Augma, the ability to play virtual games with the security of you and your body being fully conscious. The Augma is an augmented reality device that has integrated into society just like smartphones, even to the point of almost replacing them.
Black Swordsmen and Lightning Flash back at it.
The movie follows key main characters Kirito and Asuna and their experience with the new Augma system and the event that unfold because of it. The central focus piece of the story is a promise between Kirito and Asuna. While they were still trapped inside Sword Art Online, in the events of the first season, they made a promise to each other that when they got back to the real world, Kirito would take Asuna star gazing and propose properly in the real world with a ring. FYI, Kirito and Asuna fell in love while trapped inside of Sword Art Online and Kirito, like a baller, asked Asuna to marry him. Following some growingly disturbing event in Ordinal Scale this promise becomes at risk and is the spark that launches Kirito into the game world of Ordinal Scale which until now he has hardly touched cause of his preference to VR over AR.
Ordinal Scale is a good movie and fans of the anime should watch it but having watched the show, nothing in this movie is surprisingly new. We follow a similar progression from an exciting new game that everyone is playing to there being a secret the developer has snuck into the system. Our hero Kirito again starts from scratch and quickly works his way up to being an untouchable god by the end. So, nothing new there but SAO has never been known for ground breaking stories. Where this movie really shines is its action and focus on Kirito and Asuna’s growing relationship. Yeah remember all the way back at the beginning of the first season when it was still a romance story, No? Well I don’t blame you cause since SAO’s first season Kirito and Asuna’s relationship has taken a bit of a back seat.
Say what you will about the story but Ordinal Scale delivers some incredible action and stunning visuals. Action has always been SAO’s strongest point and its certainly the same in this movie; it’s not long before we get our first taste of this action and it does not disappoint. It was funny to see Kirito trip and fail in this first fight since he isn’t used to fighting in the real world, which was a welcome change to the master swordsmen he usually is. Though this doesn’t stay the case for long.
The movie is produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Tomohiko Ito, the people behind the original show. So everything looks how you remember it except for an upgrade on the visuals that comes with a larger budget. The movie also does a good job capitalising on fan nostalgia and not in a bad, forced kind of way, particularly towards the end of the film. I won’t spoil it but its a pretty special moment during the final fight.
It’s worth mentioning that Ordinal Scale brings back a familiar soundtrack by composer Yuki Kajiura, who composed the music for the anime. Performer LiSA also made a return for the films theme song “Catch the Moment”. LiSA is known for performing the opening themes for the Sword Art Online anime amongst other shows.
There are things I would love to tell you but then we start rolling into spoiler territory and no one likes going there. Just so that I don’t keep you here longer than you’d like, I’ll leave you with this final point. This is a movie for fans. While it does a decent job of making it welcoming for new viewers and can technically be watched and enjoyed without prior knowledge, there are still parts of the film that only make sense if you have watched the show. But what can you expect when it is a continuation of the story, you can’t 100% please everyone.
So far Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale has been successful in Japan, so here’s hoping that it’s a success here too.