Neomo concludes his SAO project, by watching the movie.

Finally, this Sword Art Online torture is over for me…okay, so it wasn’t all torture. I’m sure a third season will come along or something. Anyway, Ordinal Scale. I was going into the cinema expecting an extended episode. Well I got precisely that, and a little more.

About a year has passed since season 2, and now VR games are struggling to survive thanks to the new augmented reality system, the Augma. Along with news, entertainment, exercise and free coupon apps, it introduces the game Ordinal Scale, which is something that appeals to the SAO survivors, as they can relive the time they spent in Aincrad whilst knowing that they can still be a part of real life. While Asuna and her friends use it 24/7, Kirito is reluctant to it as he is too used to VR.

As more planned battle events take place, Kirito, Asuna and co. notice that high-level bosses from SAO begin to appear, but Argus (the company who created SAO) has been shut down, so where did they come from? Why are some SAO survivors ending up in the hospital? And who is the idol and the hardcore player who seems to show up everywhere? The main theme in the movie is memories, in particular the ones of what the SAO survivors had to go through, and still go through as they readjust to the real world. It’s a very mature topic for this franchise to touch on, and it’s almost as if the stories/arcs become more mature as time goes on. At the start of SAO, it was all about surviving in the death game, and now with this movie, we are shown the aftermath, and how SAO will always be a part of their lives, whether they like it or not.

The action and adventure in this movie is not really any different than what I’d expect in any of the more action-oriented episodes of either season; what Ordinal Scale does excel at is how scientifically possible it could be. True enough, we could well get large-scale MMOs in our VR headsets in 10 or 20 years time, but the Augma wearable device is different in that it is not only more accessible to everyone (and not just the hardcore gamers), but it goes on the bridge between the virtual world and the real world. There were even a couple of times when, halfway through, I was reminded of that one scene in Inception where main character Dom (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his wife wake up after so long in an induced sleep, and she has serious trouble accepting the real world after being so used to life inside a dream.

Ordinal Scale brings the SAO action to a platform that it is better suited for (the big screen), but the movie is not perfect; it does have some flaws, and they are flaws that I easily saw in seasons 1 and 2. There are quite a few pacing problems, and having flashbacks to what Kirito and Asuna did in SAO and ALO didn’t help at all. In addition to this, everyone seemed to lack that personality I noticed in the shows. I made several complaints about Kirito, but at least I noticed he was one passionate guy; here, not so much. The ending was a bit of a letdown and rather hollow; we all knew what was going to happen, and so it was just a matter of waiting for it. Finally, it’s just so long, too long; the whole story could be crammed into 90 or so minutes, so 2+ hours did feel like an eternity sometimes.

This is a movie for the fans only; as the history and lore of SAO is so central to this, newcomers would have serious trouble understanding over half of what is going on. This was the Kirito and Asuna show, firmly, so my ‘most-liked’ character, Sinon, didn’t have that much of a role; she just acted as ‘the new friend’ to the party. It made me think back to the Calibur arc in season 2, in that her story in the Phantom Bullet arc had been told, so there was little use for her. Sadly, any of my complaints would fall to deaf ears to the fans…UK cinema-goers only clap at movies that they really like, and considering the theater was full of what was obviously fans of the show, you can only guess that anything this jaded guy would say to them would mean nothing. I mean The Black Swordsman, Lightning Flash Asuna and Yui all make a comeback in this, and that was what they were all waiting for. Especially the two who showed up to the cinema in cosplay…

So what is my final thought on this whole franchise? Well I am glad that it can be ticked off my ever-growing list. I have no interest in watching any future outings, or reading any of the LNs, or playing any of the games. I think that where the franchise has shined, was in the hidden messages, like coming-of-age, or readjusting to the real world…and where it has fallen flat, it has been with the sometimes sloppy pace and the not-so-great portrayal of women.

Move along for the next franchise for me to moan about…

Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale was released in North America on March. 09, and in the United Kingdom on April. 19.