SAO fans will be thrilled by this latest episode of Reki Kawahara’s bestseller. But those new to the story might find Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale too implausible.
Virtual Reality gaming is on the decline because of a new Augmented Reality device called the Augma. Kirito and his friends use it to try a new MMORPG called Ordinal Scale, and Asuna quickly rises to the top ranks. Unknown to them, their identities as Aincrad survivors are specifically targeted by the new game, and one after another, they are robbed of something dear to their hearts. Upon investigation, Kirito discovers the Augma is as deadly as the NerveGear that previously imprisoned him previously in Aincrad. He also realises that unlike Asuna and him, not survivors cherish their time in the virtual world.
Like many popular Anime, the story of Sword Art Online could be appreciated on two levels. Beneath the swashbuckling tales of survival in ultra-realistic Virtual Reality (VR) worlds, SAO examines the human necessity for fantasy. One way or another, the characters of SAO depend on their virtual personae to come to terms with the frustrations of their real lives. In some cases, they become so reliant, they opt to forsake reality altogether. The resulting catastrophes then form the backbone of the various story arcs.
Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale continues this discussion, albeit from a different direction. In stark contrast to protagonists like Asuna who cherishes memories of her virtual adventures, there is now a survivor who was so disgusted by his time in Aincrad, he seeks to eradicate all memory of it. This makes for an intriguing twist, and would have worked quite well had the execution been less clumsy. Instead of VR, Augmented Reality (AR) is now the tech fad. While this reflects real-world tech developments, it’s just very hard to comprehend how AR works in the movie. How on earth do Kirito and his friends accomplish the same stunts and techniques they use in the virtual world with their real bodies? Yeah, I know they are fit and young. But to fight as they do in the virtual world? Would any government actually sanction such dangerous gameplay, given what happened in the earlier stories?
Make belief or not, I think the problem with Ordinal Scale is that it trod a little too far from plausibility. Moreover, it was repeatedly highlighted in the Anime and books that Kirito and gang greatly depend on virtual enhancement when fighting in virtual worlds. They aren’t real fighters.
Animation wise, Ordinal Scale is top notch as many reviews noted, though I personally found none of the action sequences particularly memorable. (I didn’t experience the sort of euphoria I had when watching Asuna’s first fight with Yuuki) In summary, Ordinal Scale is probably best enjoyed by fans already familiar with SAO. In a nostalgic way, that is. The movie takes exceeding efforts to feature as many characters as possible from the previous story arcs. For those fresh to SAO, the story might just be a little too bewildering. In some parts, too unbelievable and farfletched too.
Check out my other snappy movie reviews!