A look at where we have gone and a fun little adventure before we begin anew.
What They Say:
In the near future, a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online has been released where players control their avatars with their bodies using a piece of technology called: Nerve Gear. One day, players discover they cannot log out, as the game creator is holding them captive unless they reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. However, if they die in the game, they die in real life. Their struggle for survival starts now…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Sword Art Online was first broadcast, I ended up skipping on the show as the general idea of it was something that didn’t just grab me since the whole trapped in video game things wasn’t compelling. One of our other reviewers tackled the show on a weekly basis for the first twelve and just couldn’t hack it as it was completely not their thing. So I ended up marathoning the first twelve episodes in order to catch up so I could take over the simulcast reviews. And to my surprise, going through it over the course of a day, I fell in love with it. Hard. Though the second half of the series didn’t win me over as much as the first half – in simulcast form at least – it was definitely enjoyable and I thoroughly loved revisiting it all on Blu-ray, which is also where I found the ALfheim Online arc to work a lot better for me in what it explored. So when the Extra Edition special was announced I was pretty interested in seeing what it was all about since it was a return to characters that I really liked.
What surprised me was that while I expected a thirty minute special, we instead got a hundred minute feature. That was, admittedly, a bit daunting at first. But when you realize that a good chunk of it is recap, that sort of makes it easier. Considering the series came out a few years ago, and this was a way to capitalize on its general popularity and set the stage for the new series that will come out this spring, Sword Art Online manages to at least find a fun way to cover the recap material. Taking place in the summer after the events of the first series, it has us following the group in the school that is acclimating and catching up with their studies after the two years they spent in the game. This is one of the off days though and Kirito has come to the school with Sugu as she’s meeting up with a few of his friends that survived the game such as Asuna, Silica and Lis. They’re all helping Sugu learn how to swim since she never did learn and they have a quest coming up in ALO that requires them to swim.
That sets for a good bit of fanservice to be sure with the girls all in very different swimsuits and obviously body types and personalities that will lead to viewers enjoying the experience. This is spread throughout the first eighty minutes or so of the episode as one of the things that separates the recap side of the series. The other thing that separates it is a nicely done in-show kind of approach for covering the recap material. And that’s having one of the Ministry officials coming to talk to Kirito in order to get a bit more of an understanding what happened in the game during those two years. It’s expected that a lot of people are shutting up, a lot of people are being oblique in what they say and others are simply lying to protect themselves. Interestingly, all the Ministry has is the in-game data that says who was where and when, but little in terms of the “story” that happened between the players. Kirito’s position is unique because of what he did so gaining more understanding is definitely important.
Kirito’s story is one that certainly covers different parts of the game in a very limited way and for those that are quite well versed in the show, she certainly makes some interesting omissions along the, especially when it comes to Kayaba. His tale covers a good bit of the general concepts of the game, but it’s not all told from his perspective which helps to change it up a bit. While he tells his tale for the official recording, the girls out in the school pool talk with each other about their own initial meetings with Kirito since it’s something that Sugu wants to know about. They all have very different meetings with him and there are a few fun connections, though the one that I like the most (outside of Asuna since I’m a huge Asuna fan) is with Sugu since the second half of the series was her working through her issues with their relationship from when they were younger, the truth behind the family and how she was letting him go and moving on to someone else, not realizing that it was actually Kirito all along. It’s a fun little tragedy that was all tied up in rescuing Asuna that left us with a Kirito that was singly focused and didn’t get dragged down into much, allowing Sugu to really cope and work through it herself.
While I can certainly understand why the recap aspect of this will bother a lot of people, I really enjoyed it overall – even after just finishing the last Blu-ray release from Aniplex USA last month. For me, it was just fun to revisit it with the new material spread across it that was relaxed, mellow and fanservice filled. But it also all leads to the new segment at the end, which runs about twenty minutes or so, similar to the length of a normal episode, wherein we get to see all the main characters get together in ALO for a mission that’s designed to show Yui something that she’s never seen before. This is a very fun thing in that it shows that Kirito, Asuna and the others from SAO can manage to get back into the game and enjoy it even after their experiences and to reinforce the bonds that are there between all of them, such as Agil, Klein and more. And it gives us our first real time with Asuna in ALO, which is different from her SAO avatar being stuck in there. She’s still the same but the interactions with the other women is definitely very fun to watch and the mission overall allows us to see the kind of party that really clicks well here and is simply fun.
And that’s what Sword Art Extra Edition was for me. Fun. And a fun that lead to the announcement of a new series that takes us down the path of a couple more of the light novels. Sword Art Online was a show I didn’t expect to like but it’s become one that I will be a fanboy about it because it ticks all the right boxes for me in how it comes across. The concept of time moving forward in the original game, relationships formed within it that have real world consequences and the fallout from it all as it moved forward. Beautiful animation, great character designs and engaging and interesting worlds that I would love to play in myself, and I say that as someone who used to be a GM in an expansive text-only multiplayer RPG game back in the 90’s when it was all dialup. Sword Art Online Extra Edition does recap pretty well here and slides in more than enough fresh animation, fanservice and a full story at the end to tie it all together. Definitely more than I expected and exactly what I wanted.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Apple TV via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.