SAO -Ordinal Scale-

SAO -Ordinal Scale-

Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale- anime poster featuring Kirito and Asuna
SAO -Ordinal Scale- Poster

Overview

It should come as little to no surprise that I’m not the biggest Sword Art Online (SAO) fan out there. In fact, I think it’s a pretty bad anime, but at least it looks nice and serves as a good beginner anime.

So, from the start I wasn’t expecting much out of the SAO Movie -Ordinal Scale-; especially after having heard nothing good about it over the past year. However, begrudgingly, I have to admit that it was actually better than I expected going in.

But don’t misunderstand, it’s still by no means a “good” anime. If I had to compare it to anything else I’d say it’s very similar to NGNL Zero, and if you’ve read my review of that then you might have an idea of where this review is headed.

But before we get into the issues I have with this movie, let’s briefly look at the overall plot and the few things I felt the series did right.

The year is 2026, four years after the start of the events in SAO and two years after the SAO survivors were finally freed from the virtual world. Because of the SAO incident, “full dive” virtual reality (VR) has lost its appeal for many players, and now augmented reality (AR) is the new hot item.

The difference between the two is that with VR the user is essentially unconscious and fully immersed in the game, but with AR, the user has full function of their body and the game is simply overlayed on the real world around them. Think of it like the Pokémon GO Trailer.

Now, this is where we get into spoiler territory, it turns out that the popular AR game, Ordinal Scale, is actually being used to steal the memories of SAO survivors, which is where the conflict of the movie comes in.

So what does this movie do right? Well, for starters, it’s very visually appealing and the fights throughout it are fairly entertaining. It also has a decent soundtrack which is always good, but it’s by no means as good as some other movie soundtracks, such as that of Your Name.


Problems

And now, we get into the main portion of this review. But before I jump into everything wrong with this movie, let me first say that most of the issues only arise in the final act of the movie; other than that, it’s a pretty good watch and makes a decent amount of sense.

The first issue I had with Ordinal Scale came near the beginning of the movie when the gang (I think just Asuna and Kirito at this point) take on their first boss battle.

As I explained in the overview, the Ordinal Scale game is AR, meaning it’s simply overlaying graphics onto the real world. However, during this fight we see other players being swatted by the boss and go flying into buildings. How does what’s essentially a hologram have the mass to physically hit someone?

While the fact that this hologram appeared to have mass bothered me at first, I think what ended up bothering me more was how inconsistent the rest of the movie was about this. Sometimes people went flying after being hit, and other times they stood still as the hologram passed through them.

The next issue is this: players are wearing a device called an Augma which is used to display the game on the world around them, but this means that they’re still running around the real world. Isn’t it dangerous to have people running around a city swinging little batons at invisible enemies?

Even if the street were to be shut down as it appears to be during the first boss battle, there’s the additional issue of people taking advantage of the players. The antagonist literally runs around and physically assaults other players, severely injuring them, yet nobody seems to care.

While these first issues are more like minor physical plot holes, the next few things I want to mention should be considered major issues with the plot itself.

The main antagonist’s goal is to steal the memories of SAO survivors so that he can create an AI version of his daughter who died during the SAO incident. Okay, fair, I’ll suspend my disbelief for that much. However, this brings about a few major questions:

1. Why does he need to indiscriminately steal the memories of SAO survivors regardless of whether or not they knew his daughter? If they didn’t know her, their memories have nothing to contribute.

2. Why does the act of scanning memories physically steal them from their original owner? That’s not how scanning things works.

3. Why do the players need to be killed by old SAO bosses in Ordinal Scale in order to trigger their memories about SAO? These players survived, meaning they have no memories of dying to an SAO boss. Simply seeing the boss should do the trick, not dying by it.

4. Why does Kirito have to defeat the final boss of SAO in order to stop Ordinal Scale from stealing everyone’s memories? These are two separate games, and although Ordinal Scale was built off the SAO engine, there’s still no reason defeating this boss would stop the memory scan.

The more I write about this movie the angrier I’m getting at all the problems with it, but there are still more to go so let’s continue.

Next up, we have one of the stupidest parts of the movie, in my opinion, but not one of the worst issues. Apparently there’s a prophecy about Kirito which says once he has two swords he’ll be unstoppable. Why is there a prophecy about Kirito? Why is there a prophecy at all?

Seriously, just sit there for a few moments and try to come up for a reason why there’s a prophecy about how this game is going to be shut down. It makes literally no sense whatsoever. Who wrote this prophecy? For what reason did they write it?

Now it’s time to go back to some of the physical plot holes which appear near the end of the movie. The first one is the physical abilities of the players. As I’ve repeatedly said, and as the movie repeatedly reminds us, Ordinal Scale is an AR game, not a VR game.

What this means is that players can only do things with their bodies that they are physically capable of doing. And yet, we see various characters exhibiting superhuman abilities regularly. The antagonist is seen moving at lightning speeds and bouncing off walls.

Now, if you’ve seen the movie you may be thinking, “well that was explained by the robotic device the antagonist was wearing.” Well guess what, you’re wrong. There’s no physical way for a little device on that guy’s neck to augment his physical capabilities to that extent.

He essentially became Gran Torino from My Hero Academia for a scene.

Further, it’s not just him. We see both Kirito and Asuna moving at superhuman speeds at various points of the movie, as well as characters jumping off ledges multiple stories high and being just fine. This is another case of the movie being inconsistent about what AR really is.

Okay, let’s just pretend for a second that we can suspend our disbelief about the physical abilities of the characters, at least for the final fight between Kirito and the antagonist, because that’s not even my biggest problem with this fight.

As we saw throughout the movie, the antagonist has nothing against physically attacking other players. At the same time, Kirito wants to beat him up for stealing Asuna’s memories. Seems like the answer here should be obvious, they’re going to get into a fist fight.

Wrong. They both decided to fight each other using the Ordinal Scale game, because anime, I guess. But wait, it gets even stupider after Kirito wins the fight.

The Augma is needed to steal the memories of SAO survivors, and so simply taking it off renders the memory scan useless. This has been set up throughout the movie and the fact that the masses don’t think Kirito is telling the truth about the dangers of the device are very believable.

But, when it comes to the defeated antagonist, one of the people who understands exactly how the memory scan works because he’s been executing this plan from the start, he doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that he can take off the Augma when faced with a boss on his own.

Instead, we’re left assuming that his memories were stolen from him after his boss turns on him for losing. But once again, why didn’t he just take off the Augma? He knows exactly how it works and even how to stop the memory scan since he physically puts Augmas back on players he’s defeated.

I’m sure there are other issues with this movie that I’m forgetting about at this moment, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

AI Idol Yuna from the anime movie Sword Art Online -Ordinal Scale-
Yuna

Conclusion

Despite what you might think, Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale- was actually a 6/10 just like NGNL Zero. Both of these movies had different things wrong with them, but at the same time they were both enjoyable to watch.

That said, enjoyment was really the only thing going for Ordinal Scale. It was “good” at surface level, but no deeper than that. I’d also like to say that one of the main draws for the Blu-ray release of the movie was that an uncensored seen of Asuna was advertised.

I really hope that people bought the Blu-ray just for that scene because, boy, did they get baited. Technically it was uncensored, but 1 frame of uncensored sideboob probably wasn’t what people had in mind when they bought the Blu-ray release, and that thought alone brings me more enjoyment than the rest of the movie did.

Finally, here‘s the trailer for Ordinal Scale, and here’s a one-time use Crunchyroll Guest Pass which can be used to watch the first two seasons of SAO (or any better anime): Y6P3VNE7HLD (expires July 31, 2018).

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