By Frank Hurtado
It’s no secret that the Sword Art Online of today is not the Sword Art Online of yesterday. The changes in tone and setting, for better or worse, are definitely up to the viewers if they enjoy it. Good or bad there is no denying that Sword Art Online The Movie -Original Scale- has a devoted fan base and has reached the heights of notoriety of One Piece and Naruto. The film attempts to take fans back to Aincrad and try to recapture the magic and feeling of the series’ first arc
Sword Art Online The Movie -Original Scale- Story
The story for Sword Art Online The Movie -Original Scale- is definitely a call back to the original arc. There is a new Microsoft HoloLens-type tech called the Augma, which is a headset for augmented reality that projects digital images onto the real world. The Augma is used primarily for exercise but is now hosting an Aincrad game using AR. The company hosting the game invites all of the Aincrad players to join the game. It then gives them all tickets to an end game concert with the game’s mascot, an Idol named Yuna in the vein of Hatsune Miku. However, this wouldn’t be SAO if there wasn’t some evil mastermind behind every video game. (The game is stealing the memories of Aincrad from the original players.)
While that sounds great in theory, there are a lot of issues with that. If it’s just an AR game, how does in-game battle damage result in so much impact for characters to get blown back 10 feet away? Or how can characters leap into the air and jump 3 stories? These things would be fine if the game didn’t take place in the real world. The movie even explains that Kirito is bad at the game. He doesn’t have enough physical stamina due to constantly playing games. However, the movie goes on to throw away physics whenever the plot demands it. The movie also literally has a character ask the question, “Can people get run over on the street while playing this game?” and then immediately refuses to answer it.
The film goes in an interesting direction at first. It tells us that Kirito has to work at being good at the game. And it also lets the other characters have some moments in the spotlight. However, the movie decides that Kirito out of nowhere can play the AR game with the same mobility as his avatars in Aincrad and Alfheim.
Visually, Sword Art Online The Movie -Original Scale- is beautiful. The animation is great and robust, with only a few imperfections. It is colorful and vibrant in every scene, even in the scenes where all the characters do is drink coffee. You can tell they took the extra step to increasing the production value of the visuals to make you feel like this is more of an event rather than just another episode. Sometimes the way characters were oriented within a scene was inconsistent. Sometimes a character would be facing one direction and then be in a completely different place in the next scene. While this may not be a problem for some, it did take me out of the movie for a second or two during my viewing.
Fans of the series will be happy that all of the original voice actors have returned. Taking the movie to the big screen had to be a big undertaking as the sound mixing definitely needs work. There were times when I would be watching a scene play out and the background noise, such as explosions, would overpower anything else in the scene. It felt as if Michael Bay took over the sound editing for a few seconds to make sure that explosions, sword clashes, and gun shots overblow the sound. I definitely feel for the Japanese audiences who had to watch this. If I had to watch this without subtitles it would have definitely gotten on my nerves. Especially if I had missed any important dialogue.
The music isn’t too bad, but it’s very forgettable. It feels like a misstep to go through the trouble of having the story revolve around an idol and not having a memorable track that gets stuck in your head.
Sword Art Online The Movie -Original Scale- is definitely a step closer in the Aincrad direction. But this movie is at best, the worst parts of Aincrad and at worst, the best parts of Gun Gale. It doesn’t commit to anything that would put the characters into a corner, robbing the movie of any tension. The movie also feels the need to always default to the show’s “When in doubt, randomly overpower Kirito” trope. It makes the opening premise of the film utterly pointless. Why do it if they were just going to default to the series’ safe space? The only emotional points of the movie revolve around Kirito and Asuna’s relationships. But that only holds emotional water if you forget that in every previous season, Kirito toes the line of cheating on Asuna with every new female character.
Ordinal Scale doesn’t know what it wants to be and refuses to commit to anything remotely interesting. So who is this movie for? Outside of the diehard fans willing to ignore any issues with the series, I couldn’t say. If Gun Gale left a bad taste in your mouth, then this film won’t do much to restore the Aincrad magic.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Atoms
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