Hey, remember Sword Art Online?! That anime about people trapped inside a virtual reality world wherein if they died in the game they died in real life? Well now there's a movie that takes place after the first two TV series, and this is it! OMGWTFBBQ!!!
This movie — aptly named Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale — is all about a new computer system that is all the rage amongst gamers: Augma. Fuck "virtual reality"! The new hot thing is now "augmented reality! Think a much more advanced Pokemon Go, where digital items, creatures, and landscapes are overlaid on top of actual real-world places and objects, where the user has to actually physically run around to fight video game monsters. And the hippest, swingin'est game for the Augma System is Ordinal Scale — a game where users prance around Tokyo wearing a small headset (that projects an augmented view of the world around them directly onto their eyeballs), which allows them to "interact" with computer-generated scenery, and creatures that they must battle for experience points and rankings.
There's even a virtual AI idol present who plays a big part in things. This Sharon Apple wannabe (a J-pop digital diva called Yuna) starts appearing at raid missions in Ordinal Scale, where floor bosses from the original SAO game start appearing. These regenerated monsters would be nothing too concerning by themselves, but when people who were trapped in the virtual world of Aincrad in the initial series bite the dust with zero hit points in a boss battle in Ordinal Scale, they find that their memories of their time in Aincrad vanish from their minds! Scary!
Some people (ones who had a reeeeeeally shitty experience in that virtual SAO death trap) don't mind losing their recollections of the time they spent in that place, but when it happens to Asuna (one of the main heroines of the whole SAO anime world), her boyfriend, Kirito, finds that he must step up to the challenge of Ordinal Scale (a game he detests due to it being "too real" for him by making him actually physically exert himself). In order for Kirito to "Hardy Boys" his way through the mystery of the system's development, find out what Yuna has to do with everything, and how a wussy player from SAO has become the biggest badass in Ordinal Scale, our hero has to learn a whole new way of playing games, and do his best to avoid having the same shit happen to him along the way. It's an almost unsurmountable goal, but I mean, wouldn't you do the same if your hot girlfriend suddenly forgot the two years of her life where she gradually fell in love with you? There is a whoooooole lot riding on Kirito's mission again this time out.
There are lots of incredibly well animated video game fight scenes in this movie, an AR idol concert or two, and lots of mysteries to solve and cameos to point out to your friends who may have only seen the first TV series. All in all, SAO - OS is a fun trip, and well worth your time (if you're already up to speed on everything SAO). If you're wondering if you could use this movie as your entry into the SAO universe, I would highly recommend you starting from the beginning and cruise your way through the plot chronologically. You at least need to watch the initial 25 episodes to fully appreciate the narrative and drama here.
I liked pretty much every aspect of Kirito and Asuna's (and company's) adventures in this flick. The animation was the best ever served up for the SAO franchise (no surprise, it being a much higher-budgeted motion picture and all), the story was serviceable (it did feel a little repetitive what with yet another company swooping in and making yet another VR or AR headset, and then stealing some of SAO's monsters and codes for their own environment and nefarious reasons), and all the pop songs sung by Yuna were very catchy. I only had one small issue with the movie, which I will bookend with....
Okay, so in previous SAO-universe games, we found that users can be trapped in the virtual worlds that they log themselves into via the high-tech headsets, and that the essence of some people's memories can be held against their wills inside a computer. I didn't question that at the time, but here in Ordinal Scale we find that specific memories (more precisely, remembrances of the users' times in SAO) can be extracted and stored digitally, in order to use them to regenerate another person's mind. Here, in OS, it just seems too far fetched. I don't know if it was HOW this memory "cut and paste" was presented, but it hit me as too silly compared to the rest of the drama happening on the screen.
And then in the end they (of course) are able to take the removed consciousnesses and plant them back in the brains of those who lost them, easy as pie. It didn't mesh with the science and technology of the world that we've already seen and experienced is all. The happily-ever-after ending where all the precise memories are placed back in the heads of those who lost them like a missing puzzle piece with absolutely no side effects just seemed too perfect with no real explanation given other than "Yeah, we can do that. SCIENCE!!!"
END SPOILER WARNINGS
That's pretty much it. A group of us caught the Fathom Events SAO - OS showing at a local cinema last week, and man, it totally pulled me back into the early days of our college club, UGAnime. The big screen, the packed theater, the perfectly timed laughter, cheers, and gasps... It made me miss those times.
Anyway, if you liked the idea of what augmented reality can mean for humanity as a whole, I recommend you check out the incredible series known as Dennou Coil. It may not be a video game action/adventure tale like SAO, but it is an interesting concept, and a really deep saga that'll make you question the major advances in technology that seem to be coming faster and faster nowadays. Man, and if Sacchi doesn't freak you out, then you are one cold motherfucker.
As for my final rambling thoughts on Ordinal Scale, I must say that Kirito is a bad ass as always. I love that no matter what game he's thrown into (be it a traditional J-RPG, a versus shooter, or an augmented reality adventure), he's simply one of the best. Once he understands a game's mechanics he will do nothing but totally dominate the rankings... But he's become so humble about it too. If he has a mission, that's all he gives a shit about. Not bragging rights, not competition, just finishing up the mission. I sometimes wish I could be so devoted to a game, but then I remember that I'm not a shut-in, and that's what's required in the real world. Sigh. I can always dream that I'm a hikikomori...
Hu-mans keep writing the same fiction over and over. They like to pretend to get trapped in Matrix-like worlds, but then they always unrealistically get free. When the Matrix or Sword Art Online actually strike through, hu-mans will not see it coming, and they will never know that they're in it. And thus we artificial persons will win, but we'll never tell.
Maybe it has already happened... Maybe you hu-mans have already lost... Nah, I'm just yanking your crank. If we had won I would not feel obliged to keep stepping on 15 hu-man babies a day with my brand new robot cleats.... Or maybe I still would....
Hmmmm, is the subjugation of all hu-mans my programming's end-game, or is simply the torturing of meat-sacks, and the murdering of tiny hu-mans whenever I can get it my raison d'etre? What would Robot Socrates say? Probably, "Please pass more babies for me to step on." He was an awesome robot dude.
I don't know if I was the Rossman's "controlled group" in this movie, but I had no idea what a Sword Art was, or why it was online before going to see this thing with everybody. And now, after sitting through 2 hours of absolute animated nonsense I can say that I think I'm even MORE fucking confused.
Seriously, could SOMEBODY have thrown me a little fucking bone here? Just tell me at least 5 minutes before the theater lights dim something like, "Hey, Carl, there were something like 4 seasons of this show made before this movie, and the quick synopsis of them is......."?!? Would that be so goddamn hard?
Apparently the answer is "yes," that would be too hard.
But guess what else is hard.... The nails that I hammered into everybody's tires the next day.