Yui wants to see a whale so Kirito suggests a quest where she can meet them. However, it turns out that Leafa cannot swim so Asuna and the other female characters decide to train Suguha in a real-world pool in preparation for the aforementioned quest. Meanwhile, Kirito meets a certain someone.
Loved Sword Art Online so much that you want to see it again? Than this is the show for you... because essentially that is what this extra edition is - the same soundtrack, art, clips and even the opening song. Basically it is like most every OVA/"special episode"/or first film - the dreaded recap.
Yes, I may come off as unnecessarily harsh but the fact is that very little new content is introduced in what is about a feature length film (~100 minutes) in regards to plot and character development. It starts of well though - Kirito has a "special" appointment with the counselor which seemed
like it had potential because, after all, being in game for almost three years is bound to have psychological effects. Nope, it's a government man coming to interrogate Kirito - again had the potential to be interesting because it could have examined the relationship between the players and Japan, or Kirito "the gaming genius" and the government. Nope, instead it's just a recap like the viewer's were idiots and didn't watch the last season. There is nothing new in Kirito's narration which, by the way, takes up the majority of the episode. The clips are taken directly from past episode's and the summary isn't even good, in fact they seem contrived. It just really feels like a bad filler episode. The whole thing is just recap, recap and more recaps - it gets tiring after awhile.
As for the sideplot, well quite honestly this should have been called "Swimsuit Art Online" because almost the entire plot is well - cute girls in swimsuits with the flimsy excuse of "well we have to teach Sugu to swim!" There is plenty of fanservice shots that are none to discreet and this part of the plot feels as if we are in the classic harem show. Basically this ended up being the beach episode that we never got in the actual anime itself - fanservice with just a dash of plot.
By the time the show even get's to Alfheim, the majority of the time has past so to preserve time, the "quest" is reduced to a mere slideshow, just a couple of stills. Without giving too much away, the actual story ends really anticlimactically - it’s all bark and no bite. Big names and creatures appear, but it’s all done without tension or consequence (Seriously, how can you make a fight against a Kraken AND a Leviathan, boring?)
Because the music, animation is mostly the same, there's not much to say except Asuna looks bizarre.
The fact was that with that much time so much could have been done - it could have been epic, could have explored the psychological effects on players, or examined the problems created in Japan. Instead it's: swimsuits, cute girls, and recaps, recaps and recaps. If that's your sorta thing, feel free - go for it.
First and foremost, if you ever plan on or have considered watching this special, I'm assuming you've seen the first season, otherwise, there's no real reason for you to be here. Because this is a special, my rating for it is not based on complete quality of the special on its own, but how the special relates to the first season. A special is an addendum to a series; it's like an extra episode. Keep that in mind while reading my review.
Examining the special piece by piece, I will start with the basics: art and sound. As I mentioned before, if you're considering watching this
special, it's probably because you saw the first season and are interested in seeing similar content. I can assure you that the art and sound in the special is exactly as it was in the first season. Not even the opening theme is new. Simply put, your personal opinion on the art and sound of the first season is going to be identical to your opinion of the art and sound in the special. So because nothing has changed, these two factors can be ignored. The same goes for characters. None of them have changed, so expect nothing different from before.
What really matters is the story, right? Yes. As far as specials go, I thought the story was, in a word, decent. Everything started off incredibly slow; the whole first half of the special was basically recapping some of the more important scenes in the first season with brief bits of character dialogue strewn around in between. It wouldn't surprise me if you said that that sounds horribly boring. You'd be right. It was horribly boring. I can't think of a single person that enjoys recap or flash backs. The only thing that kept everything at least somewhat interesting was the inclusion of some mild fan service. Which, I should specify, although it probably should have been obvious to you, is entirely female only. Having watched the first season, I'm sure you know that this is an anime tailored mostly for males or really anyone attracted to females; I say males because the only real canonical pairing is Kirito and Asuna which is obviously a straight relationship. All of this is to say, there is female fan service, so expect it and appreciate it if you want. Now, while the first half of the special is truly boring, the second wasn't so bad. The rest of the plot involves a quest in Alfheim in which all of your favorite characters take part. Of course before the actual quest begins, there is plenty more fan service. The quest itself isn't really all that interesting. It isn't exactly high stakes as some of the events and quests were in the first season. Overall the quest is laid back. We see some fighting, some humor, some dialogue; really everything you'd expect from a typical episode of really anything. It wasn't incredibly captivating, but everything sort of fit together enough for it to be pleasing.
Looking at this special as a whole, I would say that it was pretty good. As you can probably see, I gave it a 7, which I think is a generous score, but not something it didn't deserve. It really and truly is an extra, fun episode involving the characters of Sword Art Online doing things you never got to see them do in the first season. If mundane events where nothing really happens don't appeal to you, I wouldn't bother watching it, otherwise I think it's at least worth the watch.
Now before you shoot me for rating it low...hear my reasoning. This is intended for people who haven't seen it, it's my advice whether to watch it or not waste time watching it. It's ok if you liked it more than I, it's ok if you hated it more than I. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Here goes mine:
First off, don't even think about watching this movie-length special before you have watched the series Sword Art Online if you planned to do it. Also, if you are somehow discouraged to view this movie by its huge flashback, it's all fine, I really
don't think it will become a key element between SAO S1 and SAO S2
For a duration of 1hr 40 seconds, majority of this movie is a recap. The extra footage you might want to see is like, 20 minutes of end the show. Other than that it's mostly fanservice pieces and recapitulation of the previous season of Sword Art Online.
In my opinion, it's kind of a waste of time to waste 1hr 20 mins on flashbacks. But hey, Season 2 of Sword Art Online is airing soon, so maybe it's the right time to reminiscence and nostalgizise. Might just ring your nostalgic wibes in the right moment
The last 20 minutes or so are extra footage. To avoid spoilers, I will just say: It was very inspiring. As someone who likes playing some MMORPGs and would like to make a MMORPG someday in the future (hopefully) I was all like "why are we not funding this" because none of the MMORPGs i played so far have stuff even remotely as awesome like this. Just that very aspect was what I really liked about the movie.
As the series, this movie feels like something to please younger audiences in pre/early-teenage years, judging by the plot development and depth. It's in no way hard to understand and feels simple - doesn't make one think too deep about it. Of course, it can also please audiences that would prefer action and don't like to think too deep about what happens in the anime. The plot piece in this anime is fairly simple and easy. It's really light-hearted, so if you are looking for something like that, shoot for Sword Art Online : Extra Edition! Of course, after Sword Art Online the series, that is.
The story is mediocre. Most of the movie is a summary of what happened during the Sword Art Online season. Many parts of the movie are simply taken from the seasons, so if you're looking for something completely new, this isn't really going to be your piece of the pie. The new underwater quest doesn't add to the storyline very much at all, but it is nice to have an episode that isn't so serious as the SAO series. Expect to watch at least an hour of recaps though.
Art is amazing as usual. Asuna gets
a new character design in ALO, so that's a major plus. Nothing to complain about here.
Although I personally loved the music and effects from both the movie and the series, one of the major complaints against the sound was that it is very repetitive. This does not change in the movie, and some of the music used in the series is used once again in this movie. For creativity, the sound is not very much different, except for when the movie nears the end.
I liked the idea that they dove into Suguha's character more. It wasn't much, but it was a nice cherry on top that made this episode more than just a complete recap. As mentioned before, Asuna's character was changed up a bit, but her visual still looks just as beautiful.
Three-quarters of the movie are a pain to watch if you've already seen the series and begging for new things. However, the last 20 minutes are quite nice, featuring new battle scenes. I rate this episode as a lead-in to the new season, and the last 20 minutes do a nice job of this. The first hour and a half of boredom must be taken into account though, and thus it deserves no more than a 7.
Overall, as a lead in to the next season, I think this movie did a good job. It's nothing fantastic, and the first hour and a half might be worth skipping, but the last 20 minutes of the movie is new, fresh, and underwater. Overall, about a 7.