Sequel to Sword Art Online II / SAOA: GGO
Genre(s): Action, Game, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Romance
Age-Appropriateness: 14+ (Violence, language, partial nudity)
Episodes: One 2 hour movie
TheAwersome Rating: 8.4 / 10 (Solid installment in the series)
Premise: Virtual Reality games are losing popularity due to the introduction of the Augma device which uses an Augmented Reality system, allowing users to use it while still conscious. The most popular application of it is the fantasy RPG Ordinal Scale, due in part to its spokesperson Yuna, an A.I. pop idol. While it may seem a harmless game, Kirito and his friends soon find that it is not all that it seems…
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: Two thumbs up over here. Unlike many anime movies based on a series (glares at Shonen giants) Ordinal Scale doesn’t feel like a fan-fiction! We have a lot of that same terrifying weight of the first season, but again in its own flavor and fashion. The animation is also kicked up a notch in quality, as is the music. This movie serves as a not-so-subtle commentary again on the benefits and dangers of an increasingly technologically-integrated society. There is a lot of the good solid relationship development which is honestly one of my favorite things about SAO; it’s really one of the first ships I’ve cared a lot about.
That all being said, Ordinal Scale is guilty of more than a few plot holes, and near the end tries to just duct-tape them together with a cool final fight. Not quite as ad hoc/deus ex machina as a Dr. Who episode, but more so than anything else we’ve seen in SAO thus far, so just don’t think too hard about it and just roll with it.
TLDR: Some plot holes, but a very solid installment in the SAO series.
The next SAO installment is Sword Art Online: Alicization.
Something SAO demonstrates here more than anywhere else is its ability to be culturally relevant without simply trying to ride fads. This movie came out barely a year after the Pokemon Go boom, when the line between reality and video games blurred harder than ever before. It came out right as Facebook and other social media giants were at the media forefront for questionable use and distribution of personal data, and touches on all those themes quite heavily. It came out right as Kizuna AI, a Virtual YouTuber was making waves as a self-proclaimed AI who later went on to have her own concerts and has since become Japan’s official ambassador for the Japan National Tourism Organization as well as Akihabara (in addition to starting the quickly growing trend of VTubers in general).
And as a good piece of art, Ordinal Scale asks questions that you have to answer for yourself. It doesn’t paint a horrid YA Novel dystopia that preaches “Fire is bad, technology is evil, Thomas Edison was a witch” as is too often the case in near-future sci-fi stories, but rather a very plausible window into a decade or so down the road. How far are you going to integrate yourself? How much can you afford to? How much can you afford not to?