SAO: Ordinal Scale Review

The anime adaptation of Reki Kawahara’s light novel series Sword Art Online originally started airing back in 2012. For those still struggling to grasp the magnitude of the passage of time (like most 90s kids apparently do), that was five years ago. The first half-season shattered expectations and widened eyes, while the second half burst blood vessels and caused vows of memory blockage. After two long years, SAO the anime came back in 2014 with a second season, and was once again an epic dance of action and emotion. Now, in 2017, we have a movie. This is what happens when a popular anime is adapted from a popular series of light novels by a guy with so many popular series that he is chronically behind on basically every project he has.


Unlike SOME people, Mr. Kawahara has to sleep eventually. (We know you’re a robot, Sanderson!)


Via the convenient medium of Facebook and the fact that I had “liked” their fan page at some distant point in the past or future (but past is statistically more likely), I started seeing promotions for “Ordinal Scale”, that it would be playing in select theatres nationwide, with a first showing in Hollywood three days after the Japan release, and a nationwide one a week later.

I looked at my girlfriend. She looked at me.

She was like, “What?”

I was like, “There’s an SAO movie coming out.”

She was like “I guess I’m buying tickets right now then.”

And so the plan was set.

There is some intervening info it would be good to know going in, modified slightly so people not super conversant in SAO can follow:

Ordinal Scale takes place after the end of Season 2. The Amusphere (a popular, second gen virtual reality gaming machine) is starting to be driven out of business by a new, high powered, discreet AR (augmented reality) headpiece called the Augma. The developer of the Augma is leading a charge against VR technology, claiming that AR is much safer, as it does not require it’s users to be rendered immobile/unconscious to operate it like the Amusphere does. What’s more, the Augma has become increasingly popular due to a hard hitting new game called Ordinal Scale, in which players can use a few peripherals to fight battles against monsters in augmented reality using their own bodies. Like, running around and swinging a tiny wii-mote through the air only you see it as a sword or spear or whatever, and you’re fighting giant robots or dragons or whatever. Kinda like Dark Souls GO, except you don’t actually die if you die, and the community of asshat PKers is apparently nonexistent?

If this sounds like your average gamer’s dream come true/worst nightmare… you’re not wrong. I get asthmatic just thinking about it.

Popularity for the Augma is also bolstered by what appears to the first AI Idol ever to exist, who is only viewable while wearing the Augma headset, and who has been known to make appearances at certain limitted battle events in Ordinal Scale.

If this doesn’t make sense to you… Japan Idol culture is a whole thing. Basically, pretty/cute/young girl who sings songs and dances and is popular in order to generate money for a company, usually.

Player power is regulated based on a ranking system, whereby the higher your player rank is, the better your stats.

Obviously our boy Kirito has been all over this thing and is already the biggest baddest boy in the park, right?


Unlike his friends, who have been using the Augma for a while by the time the movie begins, he’s been avoiding using it as much as possible. He honestly prefers VR, even though most of his traumatic experiences in life can be tied to things that happened inside it. Also he is out of shape, because he is a proper sunlight fearing gaming demon.


Right voice actor, wrong game fanatic

Right voice actor, wrong game fanatic


However, because this is still SAO and certain themes have to be maintained, he and his friends inevitably discover that playing games…

*puts on shades*

… isn’t all fun and games.

Wait no come back

To my great joy, the movie turned out to be everything I wanted it to be: a frenetic hurricane of spectacle and emotion.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled a lot. I experienced fear, and anticipation, and gratitude for genre savvy characters.

To my great frustration, I’m not sure there’s much more I can say without HEAVILY spoiling the movie, other than to say EVERYONE is in it, and I mean EVERYONE.

You’ll watch and be like “wow, that guy made it into the movie?”

And then you’ll be like, “oh hey, nice cameo”

And then you’ll be like, “wow, literally everyone is here”

And then suddenly you’ll be like “… no. No. NOW, everyone is here,” as a tear rolls down your cheek and you try not to sob.

This movie heavily features a) Asuna being an enormous badass, and b) Kirito and Asuna’s relationship, as STUFF HAPPENS that makes you CARE ABOUT THINGS.

Also Kirito, being Kirito.

If you are on board for that kind of movie, then SAO: Ordinal Scale is more than worth your while.

A few pro-tips:

1) Watch it on the largest screen you can.

2) Watch with surround sound if possible, and turn that shit up. There is a fight you will want to experience through your bones.

3) Don’t skip the credits. There are juuuuuust a couple of things you’re going to want to see.

Hurry up and go see it so we can talk about it together. I HAVE FEELINGS I WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS, AND SO WILL YOU.

Rowan Hansen

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