Movie Review: Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale

Animated by A-1 Pictures, with an original story written by series author Rei Kawahara, Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale, otherwise known officially as Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, is, in my eyes at least, a ‘thank you’ message to the fans; and from my perspective at least that message has been received loud and clear.

Unlike Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, which was a feature-length-film that retold the events of the first season, Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale is a stand-a-lone animation production that takes place several months after the events of Sword Art Online II and acts a continuation to the overall story within the Sword Art Online universe. This being said knowledge of Sword Art Online II is not needed; as while selective characters from SAOII do appear – especially Sinon – flashbacks to prior events, as well as a quick recap of events from first season, help inform newcomers to what they’ve potentially missed out on.

To be blunt you don’t necessarily have to see Sword Art Online II to understand the basic principals of this feature-length-film; but it does help in generating the best experience, especially when it comes to the various terminologies that exist within the film. As long as you’ve seen Sword Art Online, and in some aspects have some knowledge of the technology used within it’s second season; you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself within this particular story… and yes it’s a good one.

Taking place several months after the events of Sword Art Online II we find that a successor to the Amusphere, a full-drive virtual reality headset that replaced the Nervegear, known as Augma has been released into the public market. Unlike the Amusphere, which sees players minds transported into a virtual space, the Augma device uses Augment Reality and brings the virtual world to the real world. This popularity of being always connected in a virtual space, but without being confined to a single room, meant that the Augma quickly became popular amongst all types of users within Japan. Unlike the Amusphere the Augma device requires users to actually move their body to preform actions within the virtual world that the Augmented reality has created; much to annoyance of Kirito who still prefers the full dive system.

For a fictional animated universe it’s very in-depth explanation and after this, relatively lengthy, introduction of the Augma device, as well as a comparison between VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augment Reality), it’s here where the film reality starts to come into it’s own element… by reuniting us with our favourite group of characters. Basically everything we ever needed to know about the past of Sword Art Online, and in turn the future with the comparison of technology, is explained to us so that we can sit back and enjoy the story that is about to unfold and like I mentioned before it’s a good one.

Without spoiling too much the film sees a scientist use floor boss data from Sword Art Online and incorporates it into the AR MMORPG that is played out through the Augma headset in order to retrieve memories from SAO Survivors for his personal desires. In discovering that floor boss monsters from SAO are being used in Augma’s AR MMORPG Kirito, accompanied by Asuna, Silica, Elizabeth and Sinon, venture out to these special events in hopes of finding out the truth behind these monsters appearance within the game. The punch line however is that SAO Survivors who die by the hands of these bosses will loose their memories of their time spent within Sword Art Online and when Kirito discovers this fact he attempts to do everything he can to stop it. Of course the reasoning behind this deceitful plan is because the scientist who created the Augma system wants to use the memories from SAO players in order to digitally recreate someone that died within the game.

It’s a rather emotional story for two separate reasons; the struggle of trying to keep precious memories and the struggle of loosing someone important. Both are apparent within this ‘ever-twisting’ story and it only gets more interesting with the scientists support character; a mysterious ‘Rank 2’ player who purposely goes out of his way to make sure that the top-ranking-players who lead the charge within SAO suffer an agonizing defeat within this Augma variation of an MMORPG; of which generates some rather shocking moments with physical pain being dealt to our favourite cast of characters.

That’s pretty much the plot of Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale in a nutshell; but yet the film offers so much more than a quest for restoring life or revenge on players that were remembered as heroes; and I think this is where the film manages to excel. For instance the romantic relationship between Kirito and Asuna may not be as ‘cringe-worthy’ as the TV series but it is done in a way that constantly presents the affection between the two characters on screen without being dominant over the plot of the film. Of course Kirito and Asuna’s relationship is one of the major talking points of the film and in-some instances helps it carry the story forward to it’s dramatic conclusion.

This also rings true for the pacing of the film with dramatic scenes and in-tense-action scenes flowing naturally with one another and never out-staying their welcome. Of course these scenes wouldn’t have any merit without a soundtrack and thankfully this soundtrack doesn’t disappoint either with quiet monotone songs used for dramatic and tense moments while explosive, action scenes will see various songs sung by Yuna (the digital idol within Augma) mixed with revariations of classic SAO sounds we know and love. Everything just fits perfectly in place and when the final battle comes around you’ll be begging for it not to stop. Unfortunately however our screening of the film did not feature any song translations so although the ‘vocal songs’ went perfectly with what was displayed on screen we will never know what vocals were actually said as part of the song; and at times some vocal tracks had importance to the ‘background plot’ of the story – a small disappointment that will most likely be fixed by it’s home video release.

In my eyes Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale is what I would call a ‘proper movie’ with it’s perfect pacing and presentation; it has a beginning, a middle and an end along with several twists (and a teaser after the film’s credits) to keep the viewer interested. More importantly the relationship between Kirito (Kazuto) and Asuna, which has often been part of the SAO franchise, is also put to the test and delivered to the big screen in spectacular fashion that is not over-powering but thoroughly enjoyable alongside the story being told.

But why exactly did I say this was a ‘thank you’ letter to the fans? Well every character has their own share of screen-time, including several cameo appearences from SAO II characters; but not just that the final battle sees every character from within the Sword Art Online universe in their original costumes with their original skills teaming up to take down the floor 100 boss of aincrad. It was a completely mesmerizing battle that highlighted each characters skills and abilities with Kirito delivering the final blow with his dual-wielding-skill from Sword Art Online.

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale transcends well to the big screen and manages to keep the momentum from start to finish to deliver an exceptional movie experience that is catered for the fans but can be enjoyed by all and in my eyes at least it’s the best SAO experience to date!

Score: review-stars-5

Sword Art Online: The Movie – Ordinal Scale will be available in UK Cinemas from the 19th April 2017 with tickets available to book online from the official website.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK, but in the past he has produced content for 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 Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

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