Sword Art Online Extra Edition

Sword Art Online Extra Edition

234005323e969d62078d0c5537b4c30a1383871116_fullI’ve reviewed the Sword Art Online series before, and I was pretty impressed with it. Now a 100 minute special/movie has been released in anticipation of another season.

With every popular anime, there’s going to be a lot of criticism along with all the praise. I’m a big fan of SAO. It has it’s moments that make you think ‘really?‘ but overall it was a good ride and I really enjoyed it. It’s the kind of anime that I’m naturally drawn to – just like I was with the .hack franchise and how I was with Log Horizon (which I really hope has the second series that was hinted at the end of the first).

But anyway, I digress. Unfortunately, so does the ‘plot’ of this movie.

imageMaybe I should have gone into this more informed, but I was under the impression that this was an actual SAO movie, perhaps an alternative take on the original plot, like with the Fate/Stay Night movie, or continuing on from where the plot left off at the end of series two, with the characters recovering in their special school after living two years of their lives inside the Sword Art Online MMORPG.

I was half right, I guess. There were some clips of the characters in their school in the real world. Unfortunately, that was interspersed with lengthy clips taken directly from the series used in either ‘reminiscing’ flashbacks or Kirito going over past events with a government official. Of the 100 minutes (apart from the last twenty), I would say that about 80% of it was old clips from the show. As you can probably tell, I was disappointed. I know that it was meant as a part of a ‘bridge’ to refresh the most important events before potentially bringing the series to a third season, but even so, I don’t want to re-watch everything I’ve already seen (and remember. It really wasn’t that long ago). Essentially, this is the anime movie equivalent of a really big ‘breather’ episode that doesn’t actually progress the plot. It’s just fanservice and clips from the show and it doesn’t advance the story at all.

But it’s not a complete write-off. The last twenty minutes or so (I persevered) is new animation where everyone takes a trip to ALfheim for a big and not-very-well-known quest. It’s such a shame that most of the movie isn’t like this, because the fight scenes are what really makes SAO what it is.

imageHaving said that, what was interesting about this movie was that it allowed the main characters to interact in the ‘real’ world, which was something that the anime, by design, was missing. It was good to see them talk to each other, what their experiences were like, the others’ reaction, and generally establishing some of their characteristics that were glanced over in the main story – particularly when it comes to Lisbeth and Silica.

For me, unfortunately, these recaps were just too long. In fact, I even skipped across some to get to the new footage. I am patient and, for the most part, watch ‘breather’ episodes without complaint – especially with Naruto Shippuden. If this movie had found a better balance for this, instead of cramming all the good stuff in right at the end, this review would be very different.

imageThe Extra Edition is a good attempt to prepare the audience for the oncoming Sword Art Online II, which was announced at the same time. This is because it does exactly what it should: it recaps the big stuff, reminds us of some of the small things, and introduces all the characters again.

Generally speaking, it isn’t very vital to watch it before the next season, but I’d certainly recommend it. The writing and plot are pretty good considering it’s a glorified recap episode. There’s fanservice and character moments alongside the nice plot.

imageLike I mentioned earlier, the point of SAO The Extra Edition is to re-establish the plot for SAO II. It isn’t vital to watch, as it is just a glorified breather episode. It’s watchable, but I would just inform everyone who isn’t already aware that it’s not an advance on the plot – it’s essentially just recaps and a small award at the end for sitting all the way through it.