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Sword Art Online – Ordinal Scale Collectors UK Anime DVD Review

9 min read

SAO is loved or hated, but a lot of the reasons for the hate are nullified in this surprisingly intense movie…

What They Say:
In 2022, the world of virtual reality was upended by the arrival of a new invention from a genius programmer, Akihiko Kayaba. Called NerveGear, it was the first full-dive system and with it, came endless possibilities to VRMMORPGs.
In 2026, a new machine called the Augma is developed to compete against the NerveGear and its successor, the Amusphere. A next-gen wearable device, the Augma doesn’t have a full-dive function like its predecessors. Instead, it uses Augmented Reality (AR) to get players into the game. It is safe, user-friendly and lets users play while they are conscious, making it an instant hit on the market. The most popular game on the system is “Ordinal Scale” (aka: OS), an ARMMORPG developed exclusively for the Augma.

Asuna and the gang have already been playing OS for a while, by the time Kirito decides to join them. They’re about to find out that Ordinal Scale isn’t all fun and games…
Contains the film on Blu-Ray and DVD with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles. Presented in Collectors packaging.

The Review:
Audio:
This is a dual release so for this review as a change of pace will be reviewing the DVD variation. As it is a movie version it has 5.1 options for both English and Japanese and thus there were no complications of the audio throughout the release and the 5.1 option definitely comes through well with no need to adjust default settings on the audio system I was using. There were no problems with the video synching in with subtitles so definitely acceptable as a DVD release.

Video:
Similar with the audio, the video is set in 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio via NTSC transfer to PAL format – with DVD releases nowadays the effect definitely seems more grainier compared to HD but due to the movie quality of the release it really felt like a Blu-Ray release due to the superb animation (albeit with times when it was obvious CGI was being used) lots of dark colours and intense atmosphere, the motif and transitions give you flashbacks of the series ranging from SAO to Rosario but with improved animation and sound to give it a real kick.

Packaging:
There was no packaging for this test release; however, the Blu-Ray release has collector’s packaging.

Menu:
The menu on the DVD version is very standard albeit with Blu-Ray speed in selection – we have an image of AR Kirito looking determined in the foreground with a concerned amnesiac Asuna in the background in a much larger image – the selections are Play Feature, Scenes, Set Up and Extras, all quickly come up and don’t transition into another menu, it pops up as quick as a Blu-Ray which is pleasant to see (albeit doesn’t actually have popup menus) and flows through very well for a DVD release.

Extras:
The only extras we have are Japanese and English trailers for the movie.

Content:
Sword Art Online is both one of the most popular anime in most recent years and also one of the most divisive. For every great arc or character, there is an arc or character on both good and bad sides which annoy everyone and comment that the anime is poor or overrated. For me, I liked the SAO arc, was meh on the Fairy Dance arc (mainly as it relied way too much on the Damsel In Distress trope…not bad until you remember the damsel was Asuna, the 2nd most badass character in the show…), Phantom Bullet recovered a bit thanks to Sinon and Mother’s Rosario owned it thanks to my favourite character of the franchise Yuuki…

…excuse me, sorry, every time I say her name I wipe a tear…

Ordinal Scale is a movie that is set after Mother’s Rosario which now has a safer new Augmented Reality technology as a successor to the previous system AmuSphere. Ordinal Scale is a new game based on it, which ironically Kirito isn’t that hot at because he’s not so good at real-life movement compared to in-game movement. However, he gets interested (read: henpecked by Asuna, Lisbeth, and Silica) when he learns there are Aincrad (SAO) bosses appearing. Along with fan favourite Klein, we learn that a very popular AI idol named Yuna is hosting the events (and is performing a concert many of our heroes are going to later) – whilst Kirito does struggle, Asuna is flourishing but another play seems to be the real star, a ranked #2 player named Eiji who is like an acrobat. However, when he uses a term from SAO to fight, Asuna recognizes it…and it is clear Eiji has some sort of relationship with Yuna despite being AI…mystery emerges…

After a nice tender moment between Asuna and Kirito (though Kirito is in old man mode when it comes to people not playing ALO much because of Ordinal Scale), Asuna is asked to join Klein for another battle however one member isn’t with them (as they were taken out discreetly by Eiji in the previous battle) so they wait…and get ambushed by another boss whilst Asuna is fighting the original one. Eiji is involved and takes out all the members with Klein being the last, with Asuna wondering where they are…

Kirito starts to practice for OS but meets a mysterious hooded girl who points at a direction which Yui translates as to search and the plot thickens as Asuna realises that Eiji was a member of the old Knights of Blood guild under a different name – however whilst he is aggressive in OS he was quite reserved and timid back then and with Klein missing, they wonder what is going on. However, it all becomes clear when the gang go to fight another monster and Asuna confronts Eiji. However, during the fight, Silica is nearly ‘killed’ and Asuna takes the fatal blow…and then things get weird as Asuna seems to lose her memories of SAO and after visiting Dr Kurahashi (Yuuki’s (sob) doctor) they discover that other SAO survivors (such as Klein) have been suffering the same thing. Despite Kirito’s warnings other players ignore him so he decides to try and take them out himself (with a bit of help from Suguha’s kendo training though this is the one thing I was a bit annoyed by as Kirito seems to pick it up way too fast) but thanks to Sinon (who wasn’t in SAO so her memories can’t be affected) they get back on track…

Yui realises the encounters with the hooded girl are leading to a particular place – Touto Institute where Professor Shigemura who designed the OS system works – the confrontation seems hopeless until Kirito sees a picture of a girl that looks like the AI Yuna – where he finds out Shigemura’s daughter Yuuna was killed in SAO and was also Eiji’s girlfriend….

Eiji contacts Kirito for a one on one battle on the day of Yuna’s concert and whilst he wins, his plans is confirmed – the concert will be swarmed with monsters, consuming memories of every-one there to use to rebuild Yuuna as an AI (Eiji, however, suffers a fate worse than death when Shigemura tells him HIS memories will also be taken…) – however the AI Yuna who clearly was also the hooded girl doesn’t want that and defends Kirito and company and needs to log into SAO to defeat the 100th floor boss, with Asuna also risking her life in doing so and in one of the best moments of the franchise full stop, this isn’t just Kirito doing the work, EVERYONE gets involved. Klein, Silica (who feels terrible about what happened to Asuna), Sinon, Lisbeth, Agil, Klein, Leafa and the coup de grace, the final blow is done by Asuna’s Rosario attack…guided by the spirit of Yuuki…

*sob* Last time I promise…

A voice from the past (Kayaba) congratulates them and Kirito gains a giant sword, who is now back as the Black Swordsman and destroys everything in sight with Yuuna singing to keep the crowd calm and stop the emotion meter from rising stopping Shigemura’s plan, Yuuna returns the memories (including Asuna) and it ends with Kirito and Asuna fulfilling a promise and a ring being properly given….but there is a twist at the very end as Shigemura is lead to do something else…

As mentioned, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the SAO franchise, and for the most part it has been positive, but there are things I don’t like about it – and for the most part, the movie actually manages to avoid most of the issues I have the show. The biggest one is that Kirito tends to be the token protagonist and is the one that decides to do everything along with the fact he gets his harem throughout. This movie actually nullifies both of these – it is clear Kirito and Asuna are fully in love and the new girl Yuna isn’t interested in him at all (in fact, considering she kisses Asuna on the cheek you could argue Asuna has the true harem considering Yuuki (sob) in the previous arc) – pretty much everyone gets their licks in the final fight (yes, Kirito does deal the final blow but that’s his main involvement and that was still a double team move with Asuna), Asuna tends to take command a lot more considering the initial problems that Kirito has with the new system, and the side characters get prominent moments (Lisbeth, Silica, Sinon and Klein in particular) throughout outside of Asuna and Kirito.

The villains also are a lot more interesting despite the short length than the Leafa arc – perhaps because for the first time they can be quite sympathetic – Shigemura for example whilst the way he wanted to do it was bad, his goal was to bring his dead daughter back to life after she was killed in SAO, whilst her boyfriend Eiji definitely has the same vibe, skilled, a bit of a jerk but again, wanted to bring her back unaware of his own memories getting screwed with. His flashbacks to SAO with his then more defensive strategy and now he is going all out because of his goal, it gives the movie an edge in terms of a competent villain.

The losing memories story is also done well – it’s strange because Asuna does get upset about it but it affects Kirito far worse, which gives him a goal to work to when he learns Suguha’s kendo (perhaps the weakest part of the movie is how quick he adapts to it as it felt like it was going to be a key point but was relegated to just a few scenes in the end) to fit into AR. Seeing all these elements it makes it a good time as the couple have had their ups and downs with the fans but this is definitely the best I’ve seen as them as a couple throughout the franchise. That coupled with the gorgeous animation makes this perhaps not just one of the best entries of the SAO franchise, but one of the best anime movies in terms of a franchise to a movie – it isn’t like, say a non canon Shonen Jump movie, it is a canon, in-depth storyline with a cliff-hanger to set up the next arc and my mixed feelings about the series itself, I can say really enjoyed this movie. It’s certainly not perfect but it does enough well and tells the story in just enough time that it is memorable and that final battle…ooh golly…

In Summary:
Sword Art Online: OS continues in the positive after the excellent Rosario arc with a complex story about Asuna and other SAO players losing their memories to bring back one. A villainous scheme helped by interesting villains and a great new character in Yuuna/Yuna, the Kirito/Asuna relationship feels more fragile and personal, combined with some excellent animation and a great battle where everyone gets their moment in the sun, the fact a lot of the issues of SAO are nullified here makes this come through much better than I anticipated. Whilst Kirito can still have his moments, overall this movie is one of the best have seen from an existing franchise and honestly, presently surprised. Recommend for SAO fans as you need to really have seen the series though…

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: April 30th, 2018
MSRP: £14.99
Running Time: 120 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widsecreen

Review Equipment:
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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