DISCUSSION – After waiting for a few months, I finally had the opportunity to go and watch Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale – an anime film set on events after its main series. Despite enjoying the film, I find myself somewhat dissatisfied and wished that the film would have tried to go all out with its story progression – which is something I want to talk about here.
If you have not watched this film and do not take kindly to spoilers, avert your eyes! With that warning in, let us dive in.
The advent of augmented reality
The film Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale takes place in a future where augmented reality has found itself into society’s every day life. If you do not know what augmented reality is, a modern and recent example would be Pokemon GO where your view of reality is altered by a computer.
Augmented reality plays a major role in this film where people don this new headgear to see another form of reality. A ranking system is set in place and the only way to go up is to win games where you can claim prizes such as coupons, free drinks, meals and all of the things prize-worthy.
One of these games is Ordinal Scale which is highly similar in nature to Sword Art Online with the difference being that you use your physical body and you do not actually die – or do you?
As the film moves on, we are suddenly given a sense of urgency as the boss fights used in the game are the very same ones that appeared in Sword Art Online which begs the question: is there a relation between this game and Sword Art Online?
When Asuna starts to engage into the game more frequently, she loses and, as a result, loses her memories of the experiences she had whilst trapped in the game, Sword Art Online. This means that she still harbors feelings for Kirito but does not know the base reasons why that is the case which personally, on a psychological level, must be stirring up some existential crisis in her (if applied to an actual person).
The film later reveals that the same scenario is happening to all formerly trapped players in Sword Art Online and thus, once again, Kirito is on the case.
Kirito actually struggles for once
For the entirety of the main series, Kirito has always been depicted as the beater – a play on the words beat and cheater. He has been pretty much shown as someone who can bend the rules all for the sake of casually progressing the plot.
There are some times wherein the plot gives Kirito a handicap and tries to set a limit on what he can actually do to greatly affect the circumstances in the show. In the end, that limit is basically broken when some weird mechanic comes to play like: Kirito acquiring an admin key card, acquiring a rare item and really obvious “RNG” that is technically the game giving biases to Kirito.
In Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale, the whole concept of players having to actually move their physical bodies to play the game actually handicaps Kirito a lot. Due to Kirito’s sedentary lifestyle and physique, he has a tendency to lose his footing, get inaccuracies on his movement and the best of all – actually stumble.
I wished the film gave much more emphasis on how Kirito tries to improve himself physically rather than compress it into a really small time-frame within the supposed time set by the plot. Apparently, it all takes a few days or so for Kirito to train and gain the upper hand on the villain of the story.
It was pretty exciting to see Kirito actually struggle realistically for once and not just gloss over most of the whole progress but I wished they would have made it convincing than compress it into a really small time-frame set in the film’s plot.
Speaking of the villain, time to talk about him or them.
Two villains – the visible and the hidden
Out of all the villains, I think Eiji and Dr. Shigemura were the only few who had somewhat legitimate motivations for their actions.
In the case of Eiji, he was a former player under Asuna’s guild in Sword Art Online where he was belittled and labeled as weak by his fellow players. This guy despised all of them and had to put the fate of his life under the protection of these people who ridiculed him day-by-day.
Eiji met the bard, Yuna, in the game and somewhere along the line, she died in the game. Much to the resentment of Eiji and Dr. Shigemura. Eiji, because he wasn’t strong enough to protect her in-game and Dr. Shigemura, because he felt responsible for his daughter’s death.
Dr. Shigemura collaborates with Eiji in order to revive her daughter, Yuna, as a form of artificial intelligence by collecting the memories of former Sword Art Online players and using it to reconstruct her. He does this by enlisting Eiji to lure these former SAO players and killing them, resulting in their brains to be scanned and thus removing their memories of SAO in the process.
This includes Asuna, who was killed and forgot the memories she shared with Kirito in SAO. Basically she still loves Kirito but does not understand the cause of why that is such the case which is kind of a great mechanic for this film so far.
But as Kirito tries to fight Eiji and Shigemura, he is also questioned: the memories of these players in SAO were mostly grief and distress. Is it worth restoring them?
I think this was a great moral dilemma shown in the plot but it was never fully realized at the end. Planning to have a separate post about this concept and how it could’ve been better.
Moving back on track – Dr. Shigemura regrets giving his daughter the NerveGear and also feels responsible for her death since he was also part of Kayaba’s team of developing Sword Art Online.
But it was kind of like rushed since Kirito just went down on them in one fell swoop like it was no sweat at all.
The film, Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale, is probably one of the series’ best attempts to actually create a somewhat-realistic and compelling plot but fell short as Kirito’s over-powered strength glossed over the entire struggle which would have been great if they did not do so.
The villains had legitimate and compelling motivations but, again, was completely glossed over when they became just outright bad villains with Kirito ending their charae like it was nothing.
The ending introduced new information to the plot just for the sake of ending it which was kind of sad. Despite all of these inconsistencies, this film was an entertaining watch.
If you want a feel of the action and entertainment from this film, check out the trailer: