Blu-ray Review: Sword Art Online – Part 4

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The emotional conclusion to Sword Art Online has arrived, but what exactly did we think of the episodic content and it’s Blu-ray presentation? Find out in our Blu-ray Review of Sword Art Online – Part 4.

Synopsis:

Kirito and Leafa have finally reached Central Arun, the largest city in Alfheim by the foot of the World Tree. Kirito is determined to face the dangers of the Grand Quest to rescue Asuna.

With the support of the Sylphs and the Cat Sídhes, Kirito will face the dangerous Grand Quest. Will Kirito save Asuna in time or will he be crushed by Oberon’s evil plans?!

Our View:

The fourth and final part of Sword Art Online brings the series to an emotional conclusion, with Kirito finally being reunited with Asuna, Leafa coming to terms with her true feelings and Sugo’s twisted intentions made clear. It’s a selection of episodes that brings a lot of emotion to the field, but it also brings some intense fights, questionable content and a satisfying conclusion to a rather varied, but entertaining, series.

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To begin with this fourth instalment resumes where the third part left off, with Kirito and Leafa racing towards a meeting place in order to stop the Salamanders from attempting to kill the leaders of the Sylphs and Cait Siths. Kirito of course arrives in explosive fashion and manages to pick a fight with the salamander general, Eugene. Despite this entire episode being relatively “off-topic” from the main objective this quest does add some value to the series, and not just for Kirito’s benefit either.  For instance it provides one of the most entertaining fights of the series and it sees blood being depicted in various forms. It’s a side of Sword Art Online that hasn’t been shown before and it works quite well.

This more violent trend continues throughout the remainder of the episodes and it makes the series seem more realistic as you can actually see the characters in pain, especially when Kirito attempts the Grand Quest by himself and ends up being severely beaten by the guards. You could say these final episodes are the turning point of where SAO goes from a narrative driven series to a more mature adult themed one, as not only are the remaining fight scenes more ‘descriptive’ and ‘violent’ but there is several rape attempts on Asuna. A darker, more sinister version of Sword Art Online is on offer, but to counter-balance this an emotional happy ending is presented, even if it is relatively drawn out over two-to-three episodes.

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In total six episodes are included within this fourth instalment of Sword Art Online, and interestingly they can be broken down into segments. The first episode can be considered stand-a-lone, as the events within it are completed. The next two episodes on the other hand foretell the attack on the tree (the Grand Quest) as well as the emotional self-discovery that Leafa (Suguha) is going through. The final three episodes meanwhile bring the series to its rather emotional, but disturbing, conclusion but that’s not before a few familiar faces appear for one last send off.

Extras:

Those hoping to find something different in the extras menu will most likely be disappointed, as the only extras on offer are various Episode Web Clips, which relate to the episodes on disc and act as next episode previews, and a selection of text less songs.

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It’s the traditional list of extras for a Sword Art Online release, however the lack of extra content is not the issue; the real issue is the text less songs, as they are the songs from the first half of Sword Art Online and not the latter half. The songs used in the second half of Sword Art Online are no-where to be found in text less form on this disc, so those hopping to watch them in text less form will be greatly disappointed.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50
Region: B
Running Time: 2:23:34
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:

Sword Art Online – Part 4 brings the remaining six episodes of the series onto one disc to provide a conclusion to an emotional, but distressing, love-story. An MMO Death-Game might be the backdrop, and the antagonist may want to control the virtual world, but the real storyline here is the love between Kirito and Asuna, something which is portrayed beautifully throughout the final episodes of the series.

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It’s not just the love story between Kazuto (Kirito) and Asuna that’s portrayed either, as Kazuto’s sister Suguha starts to express her true feelings towards him both offline and online and in turn causes another emotional backdrop for the main cast. Of course there is more to the series than relationships, as the inclusion of intense fight scenes and a more a darker sexualised approach brings the series into new uncomfortable depths that when combined with everything else offer a balanced viewing experience.

While the episode content itself is entertaining the disc menu presentation, disc format and additional content could all be done with some major improvement. First of all the disc menu is exactly the same as the previous volumes, despite the fact that all of the characters have changed appearance, furthermore the text less songs are those from previous instalments and are not the newer ones.  These two issues lead me onto the next problem, the chapter points are yet again not included, so when you press the “next chapter” button the entire episode will be skipped. Both the menu layout and the chapter marking flaws have been available in every release of the series so at least there is some consistence in the volumes, even if they are bad points.

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Disc problems aside Sword Art Online – Part 4 provides a love-story like no other, it throws in explosive entertainment and questionable scenes to make it a rather unique viewing experience that a lot of the anime community will enjoy, even if you aren’t a romantic type.

Score: review-stars-4

Sword Art Online – Part 4 will be available on Blu-ray & DVD from the 31st March 2014.

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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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