Film Review: Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale
I didn't go into this movie liking Sword Art Online, a popular anime series about people trapped in an MMO game. When you die in the game, you die in real life. I watched about 9 episodes and stopped, because the show just simply failed to hold my interest after a while, even though it had a promising beginning. But bad anime series sometimes have awesome movies, so I thought I'd give this one's film, Ordinal Scale, a shot. Turns out, it was a good idea.
Warning: Spoilers for the Series and Film.
When I went into this, as I said, I hadn't seen all of SAO. The movie though does a good job of covering the important points of the plot of the series, because it takes place after everyone is free from the titular video game and back in the real world. But, an augmented reality game becomes increasingly popular, but Kirito grows suspicious of it. His instincts were right; the whole thing is a setup to lure in "Sword Art Online Survivors", in order for this show's Gendo Ikari to use their memories to resurrect his daughter who died in the game, using AI technology. The daughter, Yuuna, shows up first as a mascot character in the game, as an idol similar to Hatsune Miku. Eventually, Yuuna gains more self-awareness and becomes disturbed by her father's plans, so she works to help the SAO survivors, including Kirito and Asuna, stop him. But doing this means facing the worst things they faced inside the game, all over again, and they have to deal with a new enemy altogether too. Will they save the day, or is it "Game Over" for all of them?
This movie was good. It's not super deep, but it does make you feel. It made the theater audience react strongly. It was artistically skilled and looked amazing.
Themes and Concepts:
Ordinal Scale was mature and deep in dealing with the theme of memories and how we handle the past. The "mad scientist" guy thinks the "Sword Art Online Survivors" would be happier without memories of their traumatic event. And when we go through traumatic experiences, we sometimes do wish we could erase those painful memories. But, the movie is saying that we have to fight for those memories, because with the bad things that happened to us comes good things, and things that make us what they are. Kirito fights for his memories because he and Asuna met and became a couple in the game, and Asuna means a lot to him, so that part was very emotionally impactful. This movie is saying that even if parts of the past are painful, preserving it is still important.
As with the rest of the series, the film delves into the issue of reality vs. virtual reality. In modern western countries, we tend to escape reality with video games, anime, movies, comics, etc. We have a problem when those things make us see reality as dull and negative in comparison, when we would rather live in a fantasy than deal with it. Sword Art Online isn't an attack on gamers, nerds, and otaku, but it does recognize certain dangers from not having a healthy respect for real life in addition to being infatuated with our favorite media.
Kirito and Asuna are the power couple of Sword Art Online, and they really shine in this movie. Other characters are supportive and don't do a whole lot, but look cool and have cool-looking attacks in the final fight scene. Yuuna is an interesting character, embodying both the "idol girl" and "mysterious waif" tropes, with a touch of "mad scientist's beautiful daughter". She's also basically this world's equivalent of a Matrix glitch, and an exposition fairy. She comes up to tell Kirito what's going on, what he needs to know to save the day. I think Yuuna complements the themes of Sword Art Online. She embodies the fear of the past in her father's attempt to resurrect her as an AI, because he cannot accept the reality of her death. She has a "virtual" self that's the shining idol girl who sings pop songs and dances like Hatsune Miku, and her real self, who is desperate and sad. The movie explores the division between reality and illusory computer reality through her as a character, and it's beautifully done.
- Nice art.
- Asuna is awesome!
- Asuna and Kirito are such a cute couple, and this movie will tickle your feels if you're into romance even a little. And it's a surprisingly, refreshingly mature take on young romance.
- The fighting scenes are really fantastic-looking.
- Kirito doesn't do everything alone.
- Not sure if the exposition would be enough to work for someone who hasn't seen the show.
- The characters who aren't Kirito and Asuna don't matter that much. All the main side characters are there, but they don't do a lot.
- Like with the series, the movie's plot is a little predictable, and Kirito is sort of overly powerful. He never really seems like he's in over his head, and never really doubts himself or needs a pep talk.
I liked it. It may not be my favorite anime, but this movie made me see what other people see in Sword Art Online. It's a good, but not great, movie. It's moving, but not like great literature people will be talking about in a classroom in 80 years. It's pretty, entertaining, and fun, not immature, stupid, or vulgar. The word that comes to mind is "nice", like a Thomas Kinkade painting. It's not pushing the boundaries of the medium, but it tells its story well, and you care about the story being told. This movie gave me great hopes for Sword Art Online in the future.