Blu-ray Review: Sword Art Online – Part 3

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With Aincrad now gone and Akihiko Kayaba missing what’s next for our main protagonists in Sword Art Online, well quite a lot actually and with Asuna needing help Kirito has got his hands full. But what exactly can we expect from this third instalment of the Sword Art Online saga? Find out in our Blu-ray Review of Sword Art Online – Part 3.

Synopsis:

Although Kirito cleared SAO and returned to his real life, his adventure was far from over. Kirito found that Asuna was in a coma in the hospital. Meanwhile, Nobuyuki Sugou of RECTO, the company that took over SAO property, tries to get married to Asuna while she is in a coma. Hearing that Asuna has been spotted in the virtual game called Alfheim Online (ALO), Kirito decides to dive into the virtual world once again. With the help of Leafa, Kirito rushes to the World Tree where Asuna is supposedly imprisoned.

Our View:

It’s been two months since the events of Sword Art Online transpired and since then our lead protagonist Kirito, or rather Kazuto Kirigaya, has been trying to put these events behind him. However with Asuna still in a coma Kazuto believes that Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of Sword Art Online, is still plotting something. With Kazuto in a fragile state he not only helps his family around the house but also frequently visits the hospital to see Asuna and while there he encounters Asuna’s farther along with Nobuyuki Sugō, a close friend of Asuna’s farther and an employee at the RCT Progress Incorporation.  This chance encounter allows Nobuyuki to reveal a harsh reality to Kazuto, in seven days Asuna will get married to him, whether she is awake or not.

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It’s a twisted, rather uncomfortable moment, especially as Nobuyuki starts sniffing Asuna’s hair but this is one of the starting points for the second story arc of Sword Art Online. It’s now a race against time for Kazuto to find a way of returning Asuna back to her body, otherwise Kazuto will never be able to be with the women the he loves. With no idea on how to rescue Asuna, Kazuto is feeling helpless, that is until he receives an e-mail from Gill which shows a girl that looks similar to Asuna trapped inside a cage in the new VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) ALfheim Online, which coincidentally is developed by RCT Progress Incorporation.

With this new found information Kazuto sets out into the world of ALfheim Online in hopes of finding Asuna and returning her home, however it’s not long before he starts to uncover some dark secrets surrounding this “new game” and attracts unwanted attention from other players. As you may assume another fight for survival begins – and even though players don’t die permanently the risks are still as high, with Asuna as the prize.

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Unlike the previous episodes this “Alfheim Online” Story Arc takes a more direct approach to progressing the story and with only a week until Asuna is forcefully married to Nobuyuki Sugō you can understand why. Each episode is a few hours spent within the game, which is the complete opposite to the previous instalments whereby each episode was set several months apart. It’s a nice change of pace and feels more natural and fluenent, if anything the Alfheim Online Story Arc seems more suited to be a true sequel to the Sword Art Online storyline.

This segment of the Sword Art Online story arc also has an alternate agenda, as while Kazuto (Kirito) is trying to fight his way to Asuna, whose locked up in the birdcage atop of a tree,  we also get to see Kazuto’s younger relative, Suguha, in action. Suguha supports Kazuto in the real world but deep down she has feelings for him and is annoyed that he has found love with Asuna, even though they are related. Sugha also brings the “comedy” side into the anime, as she easily gets flustered around Kazuto as she can’t understand her true feelings, something which gets even more complicated when she has starts getting attracted to Kirito in the online world of ALfheim Online. Yep that’s right Sugha plays ALfheim Online as Leefa, a somewhat veteran to the game, and she reluctantly agrees to join Kirito on his adventure of rescuing his friend.

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Prepare for a new adventure in a very familiar world as Kazuto, who re-uses the online name of Kirito, meets some familiar faces, makes new friends and uncovers some life-changing secrets, all of which effect both the real world and the online world. This is Sword Art Online at its best and it can only get better.

Extras:

Following the trend set by the previous Sword Art Online instalments the only extras included are for various Web Trailers and textless songs.

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The extra features included on this third part personally make me chuckle, mainly because content that (in my eyes at least) should be on Part 1 are included on this disc.

  • Web Trailer 1 to 5
  • Web Trailer 15 to 19
  • Textless Opening (Innocence by Eir Aoi)
  • Textless Closing (Overfly by Luna Haruna)

The Web Trailers for Episode 1 to 5 are basically the next episode previews for Episodes 1 to 5 and while it’s nice having them included it just feels daft that they are included on this part of the series rather than the first instalment. Meanwhile Web Trailers 15 to 19 are yet again Next Episode Previews and just like the other ‘Web Trailers’ listed above they were not included on the initial broadcast but later shown online.  All of the ‘Web Trailers’ are only available in Japanese with English subtitles, this is because they were not dubbed into English and are just included as an extra.

To round out the extras is the inclusion of the ‘new’ textless opening and closing songs, but whats even more amusing is that the textless closing song (Overfly by Luna Haruna) has actually been used as the disc menu background for the past three parts.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50
Region: B
Running Time: 1:58:20
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio:  LPCM 2.0 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

The third instalment into Sword Art Online series introduces a brand new story with new characters and familiar faces, but don’t let the charming ‘fairy’ appearance fool you as there is plenty of deceit, danger and mystery surrounding every corner. It maybe a new world but it’s still Sword Art Online and our main protagonists find that out the hard way.

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This second story arc of Sword Art Online flows more naturally than the original Aincrad Story Arc and feels like a true story driven series, rather than the previous storyline which kept jumping across a timeline. To make this second story arc even more interesting is the appearance of reoccurring characters, namely Kazuto’s younger relative Sugha and her online presence Leefa who help Kirito out in his quest.  This is how Sword Art Online should have been from the start, a progressive story that sees characters fighting towards a physical goal, not to mention the developing relationship between all of the characters is much more noticeable and entertaining.

While this second story arc of the series receives high praise it’s this Blu-ray that I find rather questionable. Ok the picture and audio quality is outstanding and worthy of a High Definition release, unlike some other titles, but (and it’s a big one) 5 Episodes for a suggested retail price of £24.99 is asking a bit much. I Know Manga Entertainment UK are enforced to release it this way but for the lack of content (including the next episode previews and textless songs) you don’t exactly get much for your money. That isn’t the only problem, as the Chapter points still cover the entire episode. For example if you wanted to skip the introduction or opening sequence it would instead skip to the next episode, its a problem that has been in all of the previous Sword Art Online releases and its quite annoying, mainly because you expect it to have them.

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So what exactly do you get with Sword Art Online – Part 3, well it’s a brand new story arc with new characters and familiar faces but unlike the previous story arc the overall quality is better and much more enjoyable. It’s just a shame that as soon as it gets good there is nothing left to watch and this is due to the limited episode count, but this is down to issues outside of Manga Entertainments control. For me Sword Art Online – Part 3 is currently the best the series has to offer and is definitely worth watching, it’s just a shame that it took 13 episodes to get here.

Score: review-stars-4

Sword Art Online – Part 3 will be available on Blu-ray & DVD from the 24th February 2014.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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