Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale (“Ordinal Scale”), the first film adaptation of the popular anime and light novel series, Sword Art Online, is a highly anticipated film surrounding the topic of augmented reality. Directed by Tomohiko Itō and produced by A-1 Pictures, Ordinal Scale sees the return of Sword Art Online main characters, Kirito and Asuna, along with their group of friends.
Ordinal Scale takes place after the Mother’s Rosario arc in Sword Art Online II Volume 4. The year is 2026, four years after the invention and popularisation of the NerveGear, the first full-dive system, which allowed for endless possibilities when it came to Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (“VRMMORPG”). Now, a new machine, the Augma, has been created to compete with the NerveGear. Unlike its predecessors, the Augma does not utilise the full-dive function and instead uses Augmented Reality (AR) for its games, providing a safe, user-friendly experience that allows users to play AR games while conscious. An instant hit within its local market, the Augma is used primarily to play the Augmented Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (“ARMMORPG”), Ordinal Scale.
Like the anime series, Ordinal Scale includes a mysterious villain, taking advantage of players and using them for their own personal gain. Like Sword Art Online II, there appears to be a more sinister reason behind the mysterious injuries plaguing Ordinal Scale players, which makes for an intriguing storyline. Ordinal Scale certainly did a brilliant job of not revealing too much until the very end, which kept me in suspense and at the edge of my seat.
In this iteration of Sword Art Online, it’s refreshing to see Kirito as a late adopter of the Augma. Compared to the anime series, in which he is an advanced level user of the NerveGear and is incredibly powerful in each of the virtual reality games, Kirito is an Ordinal Scale beginner and struggles to become accustomed to the Augma. Where his friends previously weren’t as experienced as him in the earlier games, Asuna and gang are far more skilled in Ordinal Scale compared to Kirito. This was a nice change, as it showed Kirito in a different light. As a character, he is more relatable as a young, unfit man who has to train to advance his skills.
Many of the characters are largely as we remember them from the anime series, with Asuna returning to her ‘badass’ self with her sword fighting skills and quick movements, and Yui playing much more of a role. Throughout the entire film, it is Asuna that we feel more of a kinship towards and we cheer her on. This could be partially due to the change in dynamic, wherein Asuna is the skilled warrior and Kirito is the secondary warrior. However, by the end of the film, both Asuna and Kirito work together to once more be the incredible team that they were in the original Sword Art Online game.
One of my favourite aspects of Ordinal Scale is the many throwbacks made to the original series with several instances of the Ordinal Scale game including monsters from the world of Aincrad, the central location in the first game, Sword Art Online. Not to mention other notable inclusions from games such as Alfheim Online and Gun Gale Online. Of course, I couldn’t help but cheer at some of the special cameos, which I won’t spoil for you all.
Visually, Ordinal Scale is fantastic! With striking colours, a stunning art style and epic battle scenes worthy of adopting into a video game, Ordinal Scale was an eye-catching and appealing watch. The soundtrack used in the film was also equally brilliant and allowed me to truly experience being immersed in the world of Sword Art Online once more.
What makes Ordinal Scale so good in my book is that it brings back the core ingredients of the original series, the very essence of the anime which made the series so great. Instead of an over-exaggeration, Ordinal Scale remains true to the concepts and characters of Sword Art Online, something that many big screen adaptations of popular anime series and manga have failed to do.
If you haven’t already seen Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale, you should, most definitely do so.
Running Time: 119 MIN
Director: Tomohiko Itō
Starring: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Haruka Tomatsu, Ayana Taketatsu, Kanae Itō, Rina Hidaka, Ayahi Takagaki, Miyuki Sawashiro, Hiroaki Hirata, Hiroki Yasumoto, Kōichi Yamadera, Sayaka Kanda, Yoshio Inoue, Takeshi Kaga
Production Studio: A-1 Pictures
Distributor: Madman Entertainment