Last Wednesday was the US premiere of Sword Art Online the Movie – Ordinal Scale and today marked the nationwide theatrical release. I was able to watch the film at the premiere and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I am a fan of the anime series, though I feel the first half of season 1 is probably the best. However, if you are not familiar with the series, you can still enjoy the film as a stand alone. There is some recap at the beginning of the film that will fill you in, but not too much to make you feel bogged down. The main loss to not being familiar with the series is that the cameos will not have much meaning and there are some amazing cameo moments!
Kirito and Asuna are back along with their friends, and the film follows them as they:
…explore the world of “Ordinal Scale,” a new hit game utilizing augmented reality technology. Players are about to find the line between the virtual world and reality beginning to blur and their worst nightmares coming true… As his fellow players find themselves in danger, the hero is called upon once again – can Kirito save his friends, or is this going to be game over for him…?
With the recent phenomenon of Pokemon Go, the film is highly relevant because, though the characters still do some virtual reality gaming, augmented reality (“AR”) is the new hit thing. There are even prizes at local businesses for using your AR device similar to some creepy targeted advertising that currently exists.
At the premiere there was a Q&A with the Japanese filmmakers. Reki Kawahara (author of Sword Art Online) said he incorporated AR because, “I wanted a new element for the movie and, at the same time, I wanted something that would continue on for the TV [series].” Then to much laughter, he added “I deny any influence coming from Pokemon GO.”
The filmmakers were asked what their experience was like watching the film with an audience and they all commented that Americans, apparently, are very vocal about our reactions to a film. This was not a bad thing for them but rather enjoyable, though they were puzzled when we laughed at moments they did not expect to be funny. You could argue that this boisterous behavior happens mainly at premieres or special events; though there is definitely something to feeling the crowd around you react in a similar fashion.
One big change for the film from the anime series is there is more Asuna. YAY! Also, the film brings the focus back to the relationship between Kirito and Asuna. Kawahara addressed the question of whose idea it was to have more Asuna by saying, “This was always going to be the story of the tale of Kirito and Asuna from the get go, so that is how I started writing the story. However, the producer (Shinichiro Kashiwada – Aniplex Producer) read my plot and said, ‘There is not enough Asuna. Give me more Asuna’.” So we all should thank the producer for making sure this strong female character got more screen time. She is an amazing character in season 1 but a frustrating plot line happens in season 2 which pretty much removes her from the main story line (no, don’t worry she doesn’t die). The director, Tomohiko Ito, mentioned how when a series becomes a movie, you can have the guest characters become the main characters, but the heart of SAO is based on the story between Kirito and Asuna.
Another element that is refreshing and amusing is that with this AR style of gaming, Kirito is not the best anymore. They even make jokes that he needs to exercise more because AR relies on real world physicality. Asuna and the rest of the gang are all up to par with this new system and are enjoying it but then it turns out that maybe it is not as safe as they thought. The bad guy in the film has quite a few layers of mystery and the reveals along the way are pretty cool. The battle scenes start off slow but climax in an epic battle that made the audience cheer!
So, if you are a fan of SAO, you need to check out this film. If you do not know this great anime, the film is still worth watching, but check out the anime first if you can.
The end of the film has a tease to a second film, only really saying ‘they will be back’ idea, and the English dub will be coming soon.
You can see my interviews with the English dub director and cast here.
For more information visit Aniplex USA
Comment below what version of SAO would you want to play or tweet me @karidlane