Sword Art Online is a mixed bag of a franchise. The series starts strong with one of the most powerful stories of any anime with characters fans fell in love with and connected to. Unfortunately, it seems the original author Reki Kawahara should have stopped when he was ahead. Many didn’t bother returning for the second season as they felt the series had hit a zenith. Why bother coming back if the first season ended so definitively?
What the franchise needed was an over the top display of excellence to win back everyone. A way to remind them why they enjoyed Sword Art Online in the first place. Does the movie, Ordinal Scale succeed in this feat? For the most part but not without taking a few steps back.
A new system, the Augma, which utilizes AR (augmented reality) is sweeping the nation. Asuna, Silica, and Lisbeth are all onboard but Kirito isn’t one to jump on the bandwagon as he prefers previous games.The group continues to play the new game Ordinal Scale they soon find themselves wrapped up in a conspiracy which dates back to their time in Sword Art Online and the return of an old friend who wants revenge for being forgotten.
The movie banks on the idea more people enjoyed the first arc of the story than the ones which followed. It starts slow by making references to the arc for story purposes but by the end goes full force and even finds a way to duplicate the “people may die from playing the game” circumstances. This is the big negative against it as it really feels like it relying too much on what has already been done in an effort to tell a good story.
The film does have a lot to offer though and is very entertaining. There is an impressive amount of action scenes scattered through the film. Not enough to make things too overwhelming but not too little to make things dull. Also, despite the cop out of repeating previously mentioned circumstances, it is incredible to see the characters return to their Sword Art Online personas. Applause and cheers erupted from the theater audience when this moment occurred. It was here many forgot the same peril had to be used to arrive at this point and became swept up in the action scenes again.
Another entertaining factor is the attention to the relationship between Kirito and Asuna. The film doesn’t forget their relationship is what helped get their audience in the first place. Kirito once again has to fight against all odds to save Asuna or risk their relationship falling apart. Kinda like he did in the second half of the first season but it’s absent a creepy guy trying to marry her. Above all their adorable and seeing them trying to work towards being together is always a treat.
The art design doesn’t slack off in the movie. Yes, previous designs from the show are utilized but a lot of new characters and creatures are introduced to balance this out. The film goes as far as to ensure each of the cast members has a new costume for the Ordinal Scale Game. There also are a few new characters introduced which find a way to slide into the mythology behind the series without being distracted or retconning too much of the existing story. Ordinal Scale’s mascot character Yuna resembles Hatsune Miku and even go as far as to explore the popularity such a character possesses.
Series composer Yuki Kaijiura makes a return and finds a way to work her magic in the series soundtrack. The five songs in the film song by Yuna (song by Sayaka Kanda) are varied so much they don’t get overplayed or obnoxious. A hazard which can come from having a character which is a singer. The songs are catchy and the fim’s theme song (by LiSA) really helps to wind the story down as the credits play and fans enjoy some post movie images which serve as an epilogue.
The movie is good, entertaining, and makes you want more Sword Art Online. In these ways it’s a winner. Which is good because the end of the film does tease there will be more of the series in future. Yet, moving forward, how many more of these stories will feature the cast in danger playing games? You won the audience back Sword Art Online: The Movie: Ordinal Scale, but how much more will fans stomach before the underlying burning question of “Why don’t they just play a board game? It would be safer.” becomes too powerful to ignore.