Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale
When Sword Art Online Season 2 finished airing in 2014, I put the series to rest having thoroughly enjoyed it but unsure as where they would go from there in terms of interesting new plots. I dabbled in reading the progressive novels and played the PS Vita game, Hollow fragment, but figured the chance of extra content (not including the one-off specials) was unlikely. Then Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale was announced and I was intrigued. Where could they take the universe next? They had, in my opinion, exhausted the Virtual Reality concept and could not take it much further. So when given the chance to attend a showing, I went along with high expectations as a fan of the previous content but also with a few reservations in regards to what they could possibly do next.
Ordinal Scale is set in the year 2026, 4 years after the NerveGear was invented. A new technology known as Augma has been created as an alternative to Virtual Reality (VR). Augma is an Augmented Reality (AR) device that projects its visual display on to the real world, allowing the user to remain conscious during its use. Augma has a variety as uses, such as answering texts or playing games and is lauded as a safer alternative to VR. The creation of Augma creates a debate between the main cast members in regards to the benefits of AR vs. VR.
As we see AR become more readily used, the main cast of the film discover that the Augma may not be as innocent as originally advertised. What follows is a fast paced development of events drawing on familiar themes and characters from the previous entries into the series whilst also adding fresh ideas to keep things interesting.
So, reservations aside, one of my first impressions of Ordinal Scale was the fantastic sound quality – it’s clear the creators have put a lot of effort in to adding in clear, crisp and even realistic sounds in to the movie, all the way down to the way the clashing swords sounded – hands down, this is the best sound design I have ever come across in anime. An award that there is a lot of competition for.
This made the viewing in general, very enjoyable. That’s not to say the visuals disappointed – there are several great fight scenes with a healthy mix of traditional animation and computer generated graphics. I also very much liked the music throughout the movie, which was composed by Yuki Kaijura, and the theme song – performed by LiSA – was stuck in my head for days after.
Sword Art Online has received a lot of criticism from its audience in the past for being “too mainstream” and it was seen to have lost its momentum quickly. Personally, I think Ordinal Scale is a return to form for Sword Art Online and anyone sat on the fence ought to give it another shot as this redeems any of the bad points of the previous series. However, a sound understanding of previous events is definitely required as the movie draws heavily on events that have happened in the previous two seasons.
Overall, I highly enjoyed Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale. It felt a breath of fresh air from the previous two seasons. Some side characters were given more of a spotlight and it had its fair share of heart-warming scenes for fans of the series. The movie was given a final wrap up with a sneak peak of the next addition to the Sword Art Online franchise after the credits, something definitely worth waiting around for.