Movie Review – Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale

Written by Bananaowns

Images Courtesy of A-1 Pictures

Sword Art Online remains a perennial favorite for anime Youtubers to tear apart at every opportunity.  On the r/Anime subreddit alone, a video criticizing this series always seems to be present in some capacity.  For those that are looking for a review that seeks to tear apart the series for simply being Sword Art Online, then this is not the video for you.  Despite having a myriad of flaws, I actually enjoy the Sword Art series quite a bit.  It was my gateway into this current period of my life where I am watching a ridiculous amount of anime.  Much like with the main series, Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale is not perfect by any means, but comes together to form an entertaining watch.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.

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Story and Characters

From the first few minutes, it is quite apparent that this movie is a love letter to those that loved the Aincrad arc from the first season of Sword Art Online.  This is one of the significant strengths of the movie.  For most, the Aincrad arc was solid due to the fantasy setting and the development of the relationship between Kirito and Asuna.  Ordinal Scale almost acts as a direct sequel to the events of the arc.  It features a variety of references to this first arc and the main plot thread is a direct result of the events of Aincrad.

Fans are sure to be happy that the relationship between Kirito and Asuna is the main focus of this movie.  This relationship is often played down in latter story arcs and it was nice to see it as the main driving force of the film.  However, for every good moment of this relationship, there was a moment of awkwardness.  At times, Kirito seems to present an aura of indifference which makes some of his interactions with Asuna come across in a weird way.  It may be a cultural difference, but at some times, the level of apathy exhibited by Kirito makes it seem like he is very uncaring with regards to Asuna.  Thankfully, Kirito eventually finds his drive and the relationship goes back to how it was during the Aincrad arc.  However, I feel like there was a wasted opportunity to develop this relationship in a meaningful way.  The main antagonist carries out a plot that should have fundamentally changed their relationship, but the effect was negligible on the relationship, which I felt was a misstep.

As for the main plot, Ordinal Scale actually has a pretty interesting plot in some regards.  The newest craze is the Augmented Reality game known as Ordinal Scale.  This AR game sees the main cast of characters traveling to real life locations in order to play the game and quite a bit of comedy arises from the out-of-shape Kirito attempting to play Ordinal Scale.  Of course, this is a Sword Art series and this AR experience soon goes awry and begins to threaten the safety of its players.  Fans of the series will be happy with this plot because it brings back all the regular tropes of the series.  The main cast interacts quite well, with my favorite being Klein.  Kirito again becomes an overpowered protagonist to a ridiculous degree, but that is expected by this point.  The greatest strength with the plot comes from the main antagonist.  This is a nebulous tightrope to walk in regards to spoilers, but the main antagonist is one of the best of the series so far.  Unlike the previous villains, this antagonist has a very real motivation that stems from a tragedy regarding the same Aincrad incident that forever changed the lives of the main cast.  It is quite the confusing plan, but on emotional terms, it hits all the right places.  I actually sympathized with this antagonist to a major degree.  This series does nothing to drastically change the Sword Art formula, but I would say it is one of the strongest stories this series has told up to this point.  Overall, Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale still has some of typical Sword Art problems, but the movie is highly entertaining with a pretty good story.

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Animation and Sound

Thankfully, Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale continues the high quality animation and sound design of the Sword Art series.  The quality of the animation for this movie is pretty great due to the variety of large set pieces combined with the excellent movement of the characters.  The backgrounds are astounding and convey a high level of detail as well.  One of my favorite scenes to showcase the overall package of animation, background design, and action is the first introduction to Ordinal Scale.  The lighting in this scene is astounding, featuring a low glow that adds a contrast to the bombastic action scenes.  Speaking of bombastic action scenes, the last major battle is one of the most visually appealing fights of the entire series.  I won’t spoil it because it is a huge moment, but for those that have seen the Boruto movie, it is very similar to the long action scene featuring Naruto and Sasuke going all out against a common enemy.  My friends and I were audibly gasping in the theater with the sheer ridiculousness of this display of action by Kirito and his friends.  The animation quality is worth the price of admission alone.

As for the music, the score is composed by Yuki Kajiura, who also composed the music for the main anime series.  Her musical pedigree is absolutely ridiculous and she continues the high level of work that she is known for.  The music is perfect in every way.  My favorites are the variety of fight songs that play on the familiar motifs showcased in the music for the main series.  These songs are so action packed and perfectly fit the mood, providing the necessary degree of seriousness and fear that these battles needed to display.  Of course, the movie features a new song by LiSa and it does not disappoint either.  Given this movie’s references to the Aincrad arc, the new song by LiSa continues this trend by creating memories of Crossing Field, the first opening song for Sword Art Online.  Overall, the presentation and sound do not disappoint and give every Sword Art fan an experience that is worthy of the big screen.

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Final Thoughts

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale has its share of problems, but the strengths outweigh the weaknesses to create a highly entertaining product.  The movie is a love letter to the fans of the first arc, many of which likely have fond memories of their first watch like I do.  The Kirito and Asuna relationship has some awkward moments, but is on full display here and is one of the main plot threads of the movie.  The story features a sympathetic antagonist and is one of the stronger stories that this series has told.  The animation maintains its high quality with some amazing set pieces and action sequences, while the soundtrack continues to display its high pedigree.  I give Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale a Watch Rating.  It has some problems, but the good outweighs the bad, especially if you are a fan of the series.  It was entertaining and well worth a watch.  I’ll be back soon for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Watch Rating

 

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