Label: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: 27th January 2014
Running time: 175 minutes
Release Type: DVD, Blu-ray
It’s been 2 years since 10,000 players got themselves trapped in the Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game Sword Art Online. Within that time nearly 4000 players have died in the attempts to reach the 100th floor of Aincrad and clear the game. For everyone else it is a struggle to clear the remaining 15 or so floors of the game and return to the real world.
Kirito along with the various guilds make up the attack force who are on the front lines. Their mission is to clear the levels and defeat the boss monsters with the overall goal of completing the game. A set of circumstances make Kirito take a break from the frontlines in order to pursue a romance and in game marriage with another player Asuna. However it is not too long before the are both called back together in order to resume their duties which leads to a way in order to finish the game sooner than expected.
While Part 1 of Sword Art Online had pacing issues with it’s narrative time skipping between episodes, Part 2 settles on a time frame and sticks to it. The 7 episodes contained in this set follows Kirito as his relationship develops into an ingame marriage with fellow player Asuna and the events that lead up to the end of Sword Art Online. As part 1 focused on Kirito participating in quests that gave more focus on the development of side characters, part 2 focuses squarely on Kirito and Asuna.
The main focus of this set of episodes is their relationship, which also gives a bit more depth to the characters than the previous set of episodes. Here it is explained why Kirito plays as a solo player but still helps those who he sees are in need and explains some of his choices in the game. Since it’s shown that Kirito’s player level is incredibly high and there is not much left for him to do to get stronger, the series decides to thrown in some character development but also something that breaks the balance of the entire game.
Sword Art Online does get back on track with the main goal of clearing the game but gets sidetracked somewhat with the whole romance angle that is introduced. Kirito’s love interest Asuna has made appearances in the episodes in the previous collection. Although within those episodes their encounters were mainly to do with clearing dungeons and solving the player killing mystery. Here their actions are more social with them spending time alone together both in Asuna’s home and in exploring dungeons in a party together. This leads the way to Kirito exposing he has a secret skill which is unique to him, which in turn leads to him being forced to join the games strongest and largest guild. As Asuna is a member of this guild she feels guilty for Kirito being forced to join.
This leads the way to an incident which results in Kirito and Asuna getting married and taking time off from the guild. From here we see Kirito and Asuna forget about the hardships of clearing the game to enjoy a brief time of rest within the game. Although it isn’t too long until this quiet time is cut short as they encounter a strange young girl wandering alone in the forest. From this encounter the pair are quickly reminded about the people trapped in the world and who are relying on those strong enough to get them out. The idea of children trapped in the world is briefly touched upon but goes no further than showing that they are taking up residence in a makeshift orphanage on the first floor of the game.
From this point on is when Sword Art Online starts to have cracks in it’s narrative and starts to contradict itself slightly. Up until now Sword Art Online‘s MMO systems have been rather fair and players have adhered to these laws. However there are few instances within these set of episodes that kind of throw things into disarray. The first one being the unique skills that Kirito and another character possesses. Anyone familiar with MMORPGs will know that these games are designed in a way as to not give one player a huge advantage over the others. The idea of a player having a unique skill only usable by them is quite common in traditional RPGs but not ones that are played online.
This in turn leads to the problem that Sword Art Online has had since it’s beginning, Kirito is far too overpowered. This part confirms it by giving him a skill that practically designates him as the true hero of the entire game. Along with this everything surrounding the final boss encounter seems to happen too conveniently and doesn’t really make sense when it is analysed. This in turn leads to quite the disappointing finale that breaks a few rules that are already established in the series in order to conclude the story.
The romance angle can be seen as a happy convenience too. Since the start of the series jumped between events there were only two major events that showed Kirito and Asuna spending any time together before the episodes of this collection. There were a few moments here and there in those episodes that could suggest a relationship was forming between the two but most of it stems from Asuna being really aggressive when it comes to pursuing it.
Which leads the way to Sword Art Online‘s biggest problem or biggest source of enjoyment depending on your stance. It’s pure fantasy wish fulfillment. The main character is overpowered, gets the strongest and most popular girl player as his wife in the game and even becomes the designated hero chosen by the games system. While those wanting an anime properly exploring all the facets of being trapped in a game may see Sword Art Online as a completely shallow experience those wanting only a pure fantasy and action series will still find a lot to enjoy. This being the visually impressive fight scenes, the whole premise of being stuck in the game and the mechanics of it they show.
Sword Art Online Part 2 continues to entertain. While it may falter slightly with the romance aspect and resolution of the story arc it still provides a fantasy action series that it’s viewers can get lost in.