Mar 10, 2017
Romantic18 (All reviews)
Let me frame this review before dropping into it full-throttle. I had never seen any Sword Art Online until tonight. I was invited to the March 9 one-showing select theaters event by a co-worker and decided to accept. That being said, I obviously "know" SAO and its infamous polarized reputation (what anime fan in the past five years hasn't?). I have seen enough reviews, reactions, and analytical diatribes to know the gist of the first season of SAO. I have not watched any reviews or material about Gun Gale Online (SAO II) and only know smattering of what takes place. That being said, I fully understood this movie and believe only first season knowledge is required to fully "get" it.

The story begins after the events of SAO II in the year 2026 (a few months after Gun Gale). A new creation known as the Augmented Reality device (AR) has been released on the market and is all the rage with the general population in Japan. Many have adopted the AR for exercise purposes and its enhancement to general daily living. Gamers have begun to leave the total-emersion VR games of ALfheim and Gun Gale in droves to pursue the Augma, as it melds virtual reality in a stunning new way by allowing you to see digital imaging in the real world. Players have become immersed in the freshly-released Ordinal Scale game on the AR and are all engaging in the new global ranking system in order to reach the top of the charts in their play skill. Kirito, Asuna, and company are once again thrown into a new system that is advertised to avoid the dangers and not repeat the tragedy of the original SAO server world: Aincrad. However, we all know this is not the case and soon strange things start happening to SAO veterans and survivors in OS after bosses from the original Aincrad server start appearing in the new game at special location events.

The characters of this anime are good, but basic with nothing to make them stand out amongst other shōnen anime. Kirito has become "out of touch" with the latest and greatest regarding Ordinal Scale and ultimately has to regain his mojo once again as the story goes on forcing him to adapt to the new game format. His relationship with Asuna has grown deeper in real life, but the duo still spend time at their ALfheim home when they aren't engaged in the new AR tech. The rest of the characters are returnees from SAO including their fairy AI "daughter" Yui. As a fan, I'm sure the weight of connection would have been greater if I had seen these characters throughout the progressing episodes, but for what it was, I can tell why fans have gotten attached to the OP Kirito and his company. They aren't bad, but you could copy and paste most of them into other troupe characters we've all seen before.

The sound and art of the film was good and standard fare for the enhanced budget I'm sure the movie was given. Seeing it in a theater didn't hurt the "epic" nature of the effects either.

All in all, my personal enjoyment of the film was a standard "good." I'm kind of glad I was able to see this first after these last five years of hearing nothing but ultra-love/hate for this anime. It was just fair at best. I enjoyed my time and may actually watch the show. Was the plot or characters stand-out among the anime I've seen? No, not really....but that doesn't mean you can't have a good time with this. Sure it's not a masterpiece, but it definitely isn't the lowest-most trash it is made out to be by some otakus. Take it as you will, but this film was a simple, fun romp.