What They Say:
News spreads among the players that the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur has been discovered inside ALO. This was actually the very sword that Kirito and Leafa found in the underground realm of Jotunheim several months ago when they saved Tonky. Hearing the news, they decide to acquire Excalibur before the other players. Summoning Asuna, Klein, Sinon and the others, they set off for the dungeon in Jotunheim for an exciting new mission!
ARC 3: MOTHER’S ROSARIO
Hearing rumors about an undefeated player known as Zekken, Asuna decides to mount a challenge. Zekken has been seeking opponents to duel for an ultra-fast 11-hit combo original sword skill. Not a single challenger has been successful so far, will Asuna succeed where so many have failed?
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in both Japanese and English instead of a 5.1 release is still an acceptable quality but a bit of tinkering of the volume was needed to make it of an acceptable quality, though there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video.
Video is set in full screen format for this review – standard ratio settings, no issues with syncing in with the sound or with the video quality – there was no shading with pausing for example, and the combination of hand drawn and computer generated animation does project flawlessly onto the screen. There were no issues of slowdown, and the variation of colour with the Alfheim Online games of fairies and foliage, there is a good showcase for the animation – as far as I noticed there was nothing noticeable in terms of video quality being flawed.
There was no packaging for this test release.
As only one disc, the menu is standard and very basic– the image is of Uror (though considering her sisters and Norse mythology, I stick to calling her Urd – old school Ah My Goddess fan representing…) emerging from the lake as Kirito and Klein look on episode select of 15-19 is on the screen so no menu episode select or play all function (if you select episode 1 it is basically play all), set up and extras. No issues with selections and time delays from your selection, or returning to the main menu, just pretty basic.
The only extras were a clean version of the new opening and ending.
The last arc of Sword Art Online II concluded the Gun Gale scenario and brought us a new friend into the Kirito gang in Sinon/Shino which was very welcome as she was a wonderful character, but one thing I mentioned was that it felt that she was a better female lead than the previous one Asuna, and that she had been degraded since the very first SAO arc. Well, looks like someone may have listened as it suggests with one more arc left she is being brought back to the forefront and with her own awesome new friend as well….
Interestingly though, most of this disc is actually two arcs – the second half being the interesting one, and the first half sadly maybe kind of a filler arc or at least the SAO equivalent. There is a little potential plot depending on how they go with it, but on the plus side, it does bring a lot of old favourites back together with the addition of Sinon so it certainly isn’t all bad.
We return to the world of ALO after Suguha shows that the legendary sword Excalibur has been discovered, so Kirito wishes to go find it. They bring Asuna (and Yui) and Sinon together, along with other old friends, Klein, Silica and Lizbeth to head to the dungeon in the sky (Jotunheimr) and using the help of plot device off screen (Suguha/Leafa befriending a monster named Tonkii who can fly them up there, though leads to a comic sequence of Klein and Kirito not enjoying the trip) but as they travel they see that Tonkii’s fellow monsters are being killed by various players – this leads to a sub quest by Uror/Urd, a Lady of the Lake type character saying if the beasts are all killed, it would lead the giant Pyrm to invade alfheim and wishes the gang to retrieve Excalibur. As that was what Kirito wanted anyway, two birds with one stone but if they fail in the quest, an event known as Ragnarok will happen destroying ALO.
A lot of showcasing their skills (Sinon using a bow which is rarity in ALO but perfect for her skill as a sharpshooter, almost the reverse of Kirito using a sword in GGO) and Kirito bringing up yet another new skill (this arc has a few of these things where skills/powers/coincidences happen off screen a lot) they advanced to the final boss, but not before Klein releases a woman in a cage named Freyja. This seems obviously a trap but her beauty convinces him to release…does it screw the team?
Surprisingly not – despite Klein being the comic relief it is a good judgment, though to his disappointment, the woman eventually transforms into Thor after a golden hammer is retrieved during their fight with the frost giant king Thrym. Thor even gives the Mjolnir hammer to Klein which may or may not perhaps focus in the later episodes (ATM Klein laments that he has no hammer skills so…) – through getting Excalibur, Tonkii saving them (again, out of nowhere as wasn’t established that he knew where they were) and Sinon having both badass and amusing moments (tells Kirito when she saves Excalibur he can have it but he must think of her every time he uses – cue jealous looks from the other girls) – they save Alfheim and Urd and her two sisters Verdandi and Skuld thank them, and Kirito gains Excalibur. It leads to the final part of the arc, with Shino developing a device for Yui to interact with the gang in real life, which again wasn’t something established earlier in the episodes so almost felt like a throw away. So the arc is definitely fillerish, with some potential moments and good fight scenes, but with so many off screen actions which helped them out and some unlikely coincidences, it did feel like this was put together swiftly. Sinon after being a major part of the last arc was brought in at the last minute and she does get her moments but again, the cast feels relegated to Kirito – Klein seemed to get the most screen time of the group which were amusing, but it feels like it is settling into a pattern which is getting predictable.
Cue the next arc immediately debunking that. (Or at least I hope…)
Asuna and Kirito are on a date at Andrew’s café and he mentions that the floors of the new ALO update including the 22nd floor, which was where Asuna and Kirito’s old home was that they previous purchased. They do this so her, Kirito and Yui are a family again back n their old home – however mixed in with this are two main things. 1) Asuna seemingly unhappy home life and 2) a new player named Absolute Sword who is seemingly unbeatable. This arc at the moment is pulling away from Kirito and bringing Asuna as the main lead which for me enjoying her character in SAO is much recommended. It is one thing that Leafa and Lisbeth are defeated by this player, but when Kirito is beaten, that makes Asuna’s eyebrows rise. Combined with the player betting a powerful 11-hit original sword skill if they lose, Asuna is interested in challenging the player. What is interesting is the player isn’t an SAO survivor because Kirito admits that if they were, the dual blades skill he got would have gotten to this other player…they are even more skilled than Kirito…
So now we get a bit on Asuna’s current life – she is a girl who is being set to high standards, yet you can see she is clearly not happy. Being the perfect host to her family’s parties as well as trying not to panic over the hungry glares over her good looks (which considering what happened to her in the previous series is totally understandable) she has a confrontation with her mother who is clearly not happy with her gaming or her relationship with Kirito. She wants her to apply for a higher school and has hired another tutor for her – which considering what happened the last time, Asuna quickly objects to. This gives a great contrast to her online persona – one of the strongest players in the game yet powerless in the real world and she really hates that. It is a clearly insight to Asuna’s character and reminding viewers that she is a lot more complicated than she seems to be.
However, the kicker is when she goes into ALO to face off against this Absolute Sword – who the group have built up to this knight character, all armoured, buff, manly, etc. So she arrives….and it is an adorable and energetic young girl named Yuuki. (Which leads to a fun moment when Asuna accuses Kirito of going easy on her because she was a girl). Yuuki is someone different – she is extremely skilled but not cocky, she is excited to fight good players and has a lovely design as people cheer for both of them.
The fight between Asuna and Yuuki is even at parts, but when their skills activate, it is clear Yuuki is on a different level with continuous sword skills compared to Asuna’s one time uses. Despite this, Asuna isn’t defeated completely and manages to hold off better than expected. In fact, before Yuuki can win, she stops and is happy with the fight – and literally grabs Asuna as a worthy foe as ‘she is the one’ and flies off with her, confusing everyone. The last thing she says though is that she wants Asuna’s help on something…
The Yuuki character is a design I fell for – she is quite a breath of fresh air – of course there are the nice fun girls like Lisbeth before, but Yuuki is also a complete badass that even Kirito can’t beat. There is clearly something with this character but there isn’t enough info as of yet, but it is set up perfectly so you have to wait for the next (and last) disc and see what she is about, and hopefully this also gives Asuna a true chance to shine as it has been a while since that has happened as she has either been a damsel in distress or just pushed to the sidelines (granted Sinon was a great replacement but still…).
So I have mixed feelings with this disc – over half of it is for a very filler style arc which basically has deus ex machina after deus ex machina, and becomes very predictable. Aside from withholding many Ah My Goddess jokes, the only major thing is that it reminded us characters like Klein existed, and he and Kirito have mythical weapons which may or may not become important in the current arc – it was fun to see Sinon interact with the group and how accepted she is (despite that moment of jealousy) and that she served a purpose both in battle and outside with her skills to showcase Yui seeing the real world, but again it felt like the focus is mostly on Kirito. And yes, he is obviously the main character but in the first arc he shared that with Asuna and now even in arcs which aren’t as character or story driven the focus is mostly on him getting Excalibur, with the sub quest just trying to give a bit more determination to save ALO – yet it doesn’t really work as the arc (bar the Freyja/Thor part) is very predictable and combined with a lot of coincidence that save the day, it isn’t very focused or memorable.
That said, the last two episodes definitely have the beginning of a good last arc. There is clearly something about Yuuki which will hopefully be developed considering how much of a badass she is online, and coupled that with Asuna getting focus on her life since she recovered from SAO and seems to be thrown into the high society against her wishes (combined with obvious bad flashbacks with people perving on her and another tutor being hired potentially to wed her – considering how well THAT turned out for her last time…) – even Kirito is put on the backburner as Yuuki clicks with Asuna far better (maybe Kirito should be jealous ^^) and drags her off to the next plot – only thing is that Sinon currently hasn’t been involved in this arc but then again this seems to be an Asuna arc which I have no complaints about.
The animation is still gorgeous, the colours are vibrant as we return to ALO, and there are some genuine fun moments (mostly involving Klein who is part comic relief, part actual badass) and whilst the arc is mostly forgettable, the set up for the final arc is pretty spot on and hoping that it doesn’t disappoint…
SAO is one of those series that I can understand why it is popular – fun, action and some interesting characters. For a lot of this, whilst the action and fun part is on the nose, the characters are returned and proceed to not be important bar Kirito for the most part – however, past that we get the beginning of a new arc that suggests is going to be Asuna focused, and with all signs suggesting I am going to love the new Yuuki character, it sets it up perfectly so this set is definitely not a waste.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening And Ending
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: April 11th, 2016
Running Time: 125 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.78: Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.