[REVIEW] SWORD ART ONLINE: ORDINAL SCALE

Alright guys, I promised I’d write about Ordinal Scale, also this is probably one of my last SAO posts for awhile. As I type this, I literally just came out of the theaters 20 minutes ago. The theater was PACKED FULL. Also, this review probably seems off the cuff because  I wanted to capture everything I was feeling and the thoughts I had of the film as soon as possible without overthinking it too much. I wanted my thoughts to be fresh as possible.

I’m quite pleased with the film, and it was incredibly enjoyable to say the least. I was surprised at how enjoyable this film was. I expected it to be “just okay”, but I was very surprised. Now, I’m going to try my hardest to not fangirl over the film. I don’t find myself to be a huge fangirl of the SAO franchise, but I couldn’t help but love the film. I realize that this isn’t exactly a popular show to a lot of ani-bloggers; and while I don’t think SAO is a perfect masterpiece, I still enjoyed the show and I really enjoyed the movie despite it’s flaws. I’m also the type of person that can laugh at these flaws and not dwell on how horrible it is, because this is all for entertainment and fun!

Bottom line: If you are the slightest bit of an SAO fan, you’ll like it; but if you’ve hated SAO from the beginning then you’d probably hate it; and I’d question your motives for wanting to see the film and further anger yourself.

Also, I’m not sure if any of the below is considered SPOILERY, so proceed with caution! I heavily discuss our character’s and their roles; but I don’t talk about events in exact detail. I may mention one scene but I still don’t talk in full detail about it.

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I’m not sure how to approach this review; my thoughts are all jumbled because of all the things I’m remembering. So, first thing’s first, synopsis:

In 2022, the world of virtual reality was upended by the arrival of a new invention from a genius programmer, Akihiko Kayaba, called NerveGear. It was the first full-dive system, and with it, came endless possibilities to VRMMORPGs.

In 2026, a new machine called the Augma is developed to compete against the NerveGear and its successor, the Amusphere. A next-gen wearable device, the Augma doesn’t have a full-dive function like its predecessors. Instead, it uses Augmented Reality (AR) to get players into the game. It is safe, user-friendly and lets users play while they are conscious, making it an instant hit on the market. The most popular game on the system is “Ordinal Scale” (aka: OS), an ARMMORPG developed exclusively for the Augma.

Asuna and the gang have already been playing OS for a while, by the time Kirito decides to join them. They’re about to find out that Ordinal Scale isn’t all fun and games…- Aniplex

Ordinal Scale is an original story by the author Reki Kawahara, and the events of the film take place after Season 2. I have to say, this story felt pretty solid, and before you scoff at me for saying it, at least hear me out. Some of the stuff said in the movie will make you scoff because, in typical SAO form Kirito is akin to a savior, but I’ll discuss that more later. In terms of story, it’s a great look at augmented reality, a break from what we’ve seen in the last two seasons of SAO with its Nervegear and Amusphere. It’s solid because the topic of augmented reality is compelling in itself, because it’s relevant technology that’s within our grasps as of today.

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Although the films revolves around the Augma gear and augmented reality the film is very much Asuna/Kirito-centric. If you loved this duo in the series, you will love them in this film. This entire film was a culmination of their relationship; to the point I teared up a bit due to happiness. Most of you will roll your eyes and call it cheesy, but I felt it to be heartwarming.

I list Asuna first because I believe this movie revolved around her more than anything. If you felt that Asuna was slighted as a character throughout the series, this movie will kind of rectify it.  For half the film Kirito takes the backseat as a background character and Asuna takes the main stage. Asuna has fully embraced the world of Augmented Reality whereas Kirito isn’t fully convinced it’s the way to go; he would much rather be with his amusphere and full dive technology. So we see Asuna go into battles around Tokyo solo, or with other party members from the SAO cast. But when she’s solo, boy does she shine. A natural born leader executing an attack plan with complete strangers in battle; man was she magnificent. It was clear she was a force to be reckoned with in the game ‘Ordinal Scale’ and players admired her and respected her for her talents. I’m so glad I featured her as my WCW this week. There’s a lot of push and pull between the duo in this movie and sometimes their scenes either made you smile, laugh, or even cringe out of cheesiness, but man they are so great together. Unconditional love at it’s finest; a true partnership.

So, lethargicramblings had asked me how I felt about Asuna being considered a “Damsel in Distress” in the fairy dance arc of season 1, and I want to address it again here because well, it’s still relevant. I’ve never found Asuna to be the type because she doesn’t RELY on Kirito to save her. She actively tries to get herself out of her own jams, but sometimes she needs help. That’s the key difference. A “damsel in distress” doesn’t actively try to get out her predicament.

The classic damsel has been kidnapped or captured and is locked away, awaiting rescue and afraid for her life and virtue.

The thing with Asuna is, she never really has to ask for help, because Kirito knows Asuna is capable. If Kirito thought less of Asuna he would accompany her all the time to battles, but he doesn’t. I think that says volumes about their relationship. So, things happen in Ordinal Scale that will make Asuna look like the “damsel in distress” but again, she’s not. She tries to deal with it on her own and doesn’t make any mention of it to Kirito, because it hasn’t she probably didn’t think it was necessary to involve him. But eventually it’s too much of a burden for her to bear and she ends up spiraling into depression. So Kirito will come in looking like a Knight in Shining armor to save her, but please. It’s a disservice to Asuna to even believe that. Kirito wants nothing more than to protect Asuna and honestly Asuna is the EXACT mirror of Kirito in that regard. They find strength in each other, and with that being said Asuna rises like a phoenix because of this bond. And honestly, I think she’s the Knight in Shining armor between the two based on the film’s events.

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As much as Asuna is wifey-material; Sinon is bae. Sinon was always my favorite girl in SAO. In the so-called Harem of Kirito, Sinon is the least desperate for Kirito’s attention. She respects the relationship of Asuna and Kirito and is truly a great support character in that regard throughout the film. She and the rest of our SAO cast, Silica, Lisbeth, Leafa, Yui, Klein and Agil are all present, but they’re appearances are few and far between. They arrive at major events and help along with some of the plot, but they’re more background noise than anything. Granted they are there fore mere comedy effect and a bit of fanservice; but that’s to be expected.

As for our evil-doers. Eiji was interesting, I was always wondering what his motivations were for creating drama for SAO players, his role in the grand scheme of things, and why he held such a big chip on his shoulder. To be honest, his character has a real flawed sense of pride. His pride in his strength is based on a lie, a gimmick. So for him to exude the level of arrogance he had, was a tad ridiculous.  His relationship with Yuuna, another face you’ll see in the movie poster, is intriguing; who was she to him and why is she important. For the most part the mastermind of the entire thing is hidden till about midway through.

That goes without saying, there are some flaws in Ordinal Scale. I know, I said it was sturdy plot wise, but that’s because of the content and theme was intriguing and relevant. But for the most part the plot was kind of predictable. It’s almost formulaic to SAO as to why the mastermind has something they’re trying to accomplish and usually it’s for an incredibly selfish reason. As much as I found the subordinate Eiji interesting, I felt his character arc to be anti-climactic with no real sense of resolution. He could’ve had a lot of potential but I’ll take him for what he’s worth; he was kinda cute at least.

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Also, I like Kirito, but when they brought him back into the fray I couldn’t help but feel it was a cop-out in character development. Kirito was always the strongest in the VR world, “the black swordsman” for anyone that encounters him “once he draws his second blade no one is left standing”. But in AR and Ordinal Scale (name of the AR game) he’s not fully engaged with it enough.  He’s slow, and the everyone teases him for basically being out of shape. So with that being said, in a 2 hour movie, where in 1 hour he is non-existant and not actively participating in battles, does it make sense for someone “out of shape” to jump in ranks so quickly in a matter of minutes which is at best 2-3 days within the film? His rise through the ranks was just really unbelievable. How much does a player have to grind to get into the top 10 when you’ve barely played at all? Wouldn’t that take weeks? Especially when these battles are timed specifically and not something you can wander about trying to level up like you would grind in an open world. But in a day? Highly unlikely. I mean, this really stuck out to me because as much as I like Kirito, he’s too overpowered for his own good; so much so that  I couldn’t help but laugh at just how overpowered he was.

Also, how does trouble and mystery always surround Kirito? He always, always, always is the one to find the one kink in the armor of a system and investigates it; in Ordinal Scale, he’s reached out to with the problem; uncovers it, addresses it and fixes it. Of all the people that play in Ordinal Scale, they chose Kirito? I guess it could fall back on his role as “The Black Swordsman” in the original SAO, someone who was sought after. But, still Kirito is placed on this impeccable pedestal that’s sometimes too perfect..

The middle of the film got a bit slow with the drama. I felt bad during these scenes because my Dad, who was a trooper and went along with me dragging him to see it, fell asleep during these parts. He was basically awake for the action. The drama that drove the plot felt like it flew over my head because the jargon they used just was mind boggling, because Science! Overall some of the dialogue will make you LOL because of it’s corniness or because of the cliché’s you’ll find. But take that for what it’s worth I guess.

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But! on a lighter more awesome note. The final boss scene (I hope this isn’t spoilery) was pretty freaking epic. It was a nice way to integrate all that we know of Sword Art Online into one incredible scene. Thinking back on it, it kind of doesn’t make total sense, but I still loved what it represented. It was definitely action overload with sooo many familiar faces! I felt like this scene was just an epic tie in and call back to the origins of SAO and both seasons overall. This scene is also a culmination of the entire story of SAO and feels like the perfect way to end the chapter of Kayaba Akihiko and Sword Art Online.

If you see the movie, please please please stay till the end credits. The end cards shown throughout the credits were snapshots of the film, but there were a few there that will make you giggle and maybe go “awwwwwww”. I stayed through to the very end of it thinking maybe, just maybe, there would be an easter egg similar to that of Marvel films and there were! Everyone in the theater bursted in cheers and I couldn’t help but ride the wave with them.

I think that’s about all I have to say, and for this last part, I can already feel the eye rolls and groans coming from those that completely hate SAO. So if you haven’t seen the news circulating around the internet then I’ll break it to you: SAO Will Return for Season 3.


Thanks for reading! This is probably my wordiest post yet! Any comments? Questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below! But fair warning, I’m not the argumentative type, so if you say something rude I probably won’t reply. #hatersgonnahate