Once upon a time, an idealistic Diva watched a little show called Sword Art Online. A Diva loved the show so much that she watched the second season…and wished she hadn’t. Fast forward to 2017. The powers that be decided that same Diva needed to see Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale. As a certain Diva sat waiting for the movie to start, she wondered if whole ass governments would finally stop relying on Kirito. Perhaps, folks would finally let Kirito and Asuna chill in their little cabin with their little AI daughter Yui and just be. Only the next two hours would tell.
Set in 2026, the movie takes place four years after the initial SAO event. Kirito, Asuna and their friends have moved on from their ordeals in seasons one and two. After the debacle that has come to be known as the SAO incident, it makes sense that people would be wary of VR games. So it’s no surprise that society as a whole has moved on from the VR, virtual reality, worlds of SAO, ALO and GGO to the AR, augmented reality, world of Ordinal Scale. Players access Ordinal Scale through Augma, a wearable device that gives this Diva eerie Google Glass feels, that transmits visual, audio and tactile sensation data to players while they are awake. Augma has been billed as a safer alternative to the NerveGear of the first season. But don’t think this is for lightweights. Crossfit has nothing on physical toll of Ordinal Scale. Users are using their actual bodies in the game. The pain and exhaustion characters feel is real.
Asuna, Suguha & Sinon have fully embraced the new tech. And this Diva can see the appeal. Gaming points earned can be used in real life situations, like discounts and free product. It also monitors the user’s’ health, gives diet & exercise recommendations. In fact, our girl Asuna rises through the ranks easily, as expected. There is one person who is not interested in Augma — our friend Kirito.
The smartest thing we see is Kirito’s reluctance to dive into the latest gaming technology. Considering his past experiences, this Diva does not blame him. Seriously, how many ways and how many times do you have to get messed up in a game before you leave those Caucasian ass immersion games alone? Of course, Kirito ends mastering the new tech in order to save the day. Let’s be honest. This is SAO. It was inevitable. However, this Diva appreciated the fact they acknowledged how problematic VR, and eventually AR games, have been for Kirito and friends.
So a Diva knows that you are probably wondering about the “big bad” in this movie. It was a tale as old as time. Boy and girl get trapped in a death game. Girl dies. Boy works with the girl’s father to resurrect her by targeting SAO survivors. Seriously, Ordinal Scale’s main protagonists, Eiji and Doctor Shigemura Tetsuhiro, hold grudges against SAO as a staff, record label and as a muthafukking crew!
The SAO incident left emotional shrapnel everywhere. Doctor Tetsuhiro embodies creator’s remorse, feeling the full weight of his daughter’s death in SAO because he gifted her the NerveGear. Eiji, a SAO survivor himself, feels responsible because he wasn’t strong enough to prevent her death. A weakling in SAO, Eiji trains and propels himself into a powerful position so he can avenge his friend’s death. On top of that, they resent strong players like Asuna, who was Eiji’s guild mate, and Kirito because they survived. So they work together to set up special boss battles with bosses from SAO in an elaborate scheme to scan the minds (and steal the memories) of SAO survivors. While their motivations may have been pure, their method were tired. There has to be another way for a villain in this franchise to wreak havoc other than manipulating the gaming technology. It would have been more satisfying for them to delve deeper into the aftereffects of living in SAO for two years without using another gaming system as the main plot device.
Speaking of emotional shrapnel, Kirito, though surrounded by people that love him and understand what he has been through, seems to be dealing with PTSD. (Disclaimer: This Deadly Diva is not a medical professional and does not have the requisite knowledge to make any type of diagnosis. This is simply an opinion.) In fact, it takes Asuna falling prey to Eiji’s scheme to spur the Black Swordman Kirito into action. Oddly, Asuna and the rest of the crew seem to be a little too happy-go-lucky for this Diva’s liking. There is a case to be made that they are faking it until they make it for Kirito’s sake, especially when we consider Asuna and Kirito’s relationship subplot. Don’t misunderstand this Diva. Kirito and Asuna’s romantic subplot was cute. Asuna repeatedly tells Kirito that her parents are interested in finally meeting him. Kirito repeatedly finds way to delay that meeting. With all they have been through, it’s easy to forget that these are young adults who just want to do things that other young people who have not been subjected to multiple death games do.
Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale is a logical take on the events that should have happened after the events of season 1. At its core, this movie is the Miyazaki-esque season 2 that we should have gotten — complete with heavily reiterated lessons. It admonishes us to be mindful of how much we share with so-called “friendly” tech. Also, you cannot forget the unspoken mandate to disconnect and enjoy real life, with real people creating memories that do not live on a server.
Long story short, Sword Art Online fans will enjoy this movie… Even if the pacing is a tad slow for the first hour. The final battle more than makes up for it. If you are new to the SAO franchise, there’s a clear recap at the beginning and only three new characters to worry about. So immerse yourself in this world and have fun.
Last but not least, be a good movie viewer and sit through the credits. There’s an infuriating teaser with that blasted Kikuoka that you do not want to miss.
You can watch the English subtitled version of SAO:OS now (premiered 9 March) and the English dubbed version starting on 22 April 2017. Check out the SAO Movie site to find your nearest showing.