Slowly but surely we’ve made it into the age of videogames. Many years ago playing video games was something only certain people did and, for the most part, it was quite a niche market…not anymore. “Sword Art Online” is an Anime that originally began as a light novel series written by the very popular novelist Reki Kawahara (Fumio Kunori), it eventually became popular enough to warrant an Anime adaptation and from then on in the popularity of the series soared to even greater heights. With its videogame-based storyline (which is quite appealing in this day and age) and its semi-relatable characters, it is easy to see how and why this Anime has become such a favoured series in the hearts and minds of many Anime fans around the world. Madman Entertainment has been releasing the series down under and luckily for me I’ve been given the chance to review it.
“Sword Art Online – Volume 3” starts off pretty much exactly where Volume 2 ends. The world of “Sword Art Online” is dead and gone along with a whole bunch of its trapped players and its evil overlord but our hero Kirito made it out alive in a turn of events that I didn’t particularly like but seeing as that took place in a different volume I wont be getting into it now. Kirito regains actual conciousness and instantly goes looking for Asuta despite his muscle atrophy which just goes to show that love heals all afflictions…right? The two star-crossed lovers finally meet for the first time in the real world but unfortunately not the way that Kirito wanted to.
Asuta is still locked into her “NERV Gear” and, although the world of
“Sword Art Online” no longer exists, she has yet to gain consciousness. The good thing about Kirito’s reaction to this was that he didn’t automatically think she was trapped in another game even though…that’s exactly what happened. After a couple of months out of “SOA”, Kirito is sent an e-mail containing a screenshot from the new game “Alfheim Online” and even though the image is extremely blurry, the woman in the picture looks a lot like Asuta. Kirito takes the game and immediately jumps in using his old “NERV Gear”, it’s a brand-new game and he still somewhat fears being locked into another virtual world but this time he’s doing it to save his beloved and it seems as though he’ll do anything he can to set her free.
I am NOT a fan of this at all. The fact that a “Volume 3” and a new game within the anime exists is something I do not take kindly to. Essentially the anime is starting all over again seeing as how we now have to sit through Kirito doing everything that he did in the first part of the series…again. I felt like this portion of the series in its entirety is one hell of a stretch for story. The series introduces his sister as the supporting character and she almost automatically became my favourite character because of her good dialogue and because of the fact that she is nothing like Asuta who annoyed me quite a bit during volumes 1 and 2.
What also irritated me to no end was how every single character spoke as if they were locked in “Sword Art Online”, the difference between this storyline and the one before it is the fact that everyone (including Kirito) is just playing the game…they’re not locked in the virtual world, in fact, you’re shown people logging in and out constantly yet each and every one of them talk like a normal fantasy character of their type would and they all take death seriously even though it is not a one way street this time around. I can understand Kirito thinking in a similar fashion to how he did in “SOA” because he was part of the crowd that lived the hell of being trapped but the rest of these players? It just wasn’t believable. I understand some people take their online gaming very seriously but I’ve never come across anyone who would take it to this degree.
I will give “Volume 3” a great deal of credit for its aesthetics, having it in Blu-ray copy really allowed me to soak it all in and to truly realise that this is an absolutely brilliant looking series. Essentially it is animated and designed to the same calibre as its predecessors but that’s absolutely no reason to discredit how good it still looks and how well it is still animated. What honestly kept me watching this series was not the fact that I have to review it but instead just how beautiful the series looked and I’ll say this much; I actually really enjoy the art style of this series, I’m not a fantasy fan or anything like that and I’d usually go for more of a gritty style of anime but “SOA” really had me enchanted.
The actual costume design was also extremely well-done, especially that of Kirito’s battle uniform which greatly resembled his outfit from “SOA” but was different enough for me to pick up on and commend. In fact, the whole world of “ALO” (Alfheim Online) gave off that exact vibe; it seemed enough like “SAO” to have people be familiar with the terrain but it was just different enough for those same people to realise that this is a different game. It makes sense though considering that, in the story, this game was based almost entirely on what remained of the last game. Watching it on Blu-ray meant I didn’t get that subtle grain that you’ll usually see while watching an anime on DVD, it really showed me just how crisp the animation was and just how vibrant the entire world on “SOA/ALO” is.
Auditorally “Volume 3” was fantastic, I’m not even talking about the soundtrack or anything along those lines, at this point in time I’m speaking strictly about the voice acting which I something I hold in such a high regard. What made these characters believable was there great voice acting, even though they sometimes had some really unnecessary dialogue to try and sell to us…I often didn’t buy it but that doesn’t mean the voice acting wasn’t great. I took to the character of Kirito’s sister quickly because of her voice acting, the character had some nice dialogue and it was acted out brilliantly, no, not just brilliantly; realistically!
Even though some of the character in the last volumes did really get to me, they’re not in this volume so they didn’t even have the chance to annoy me, instead there were a few more characters introduced and despite some of them purposefully having an annoying nature and personality none of them truly got to me, they were all just voice acted incredibly well. I may get into a bit of strife for saying this but I really cannot make much of a comment about the soundtrack seeing as I really didn’t think it was that memorable. You have your typical fantasy tracks spliced in with your hard rock ballads during fight scenes and that’s great but it just didn’t hit me as well as it did in past animes. I could have possibly been focusing too much on the voice acting to even hear the music in the background but that’s my take on it.
Once again this release does not feature any real on-disc extras apart from the usual textless opening and textless closing sequences that come with every Anime release. It does, however, continue from what Volume 1 and 2 did previously and it does come with a set of six postcards that feature art from the series which looks to be done by several different artists considering they’re each in a different style. These extras are fantastic for those of you out there who absolutely love the series and the characters because each of the postcards depicts another character or group of characters in settings not entirely seen in the series. Usually standard Anime releases come with no physical extras so Volume 2 Aincrad Part 2 gets points for trying but I’ll take points away for it being a Blu-ray release and NOT coming with any nice on-disc extras since it has the space for them to be included.
Out of everything you could possibly take away from this review I beg that you please take away that I do believe this to be a great anime series, what I didn’t enjoy was the fact that it continued into a story like this but, at the end of the day, it is my opinion and my opinion alone, you may enjoy the turn that this series has taken in volume 3 even though I didn’t. Fact is; it’s still a great anime all around, it has some brilliant visuals and some fantastic audio, despite there not being much action even though it is set in an action/RPG game I think people will still find it highly enjoyable, especially those of you who are really into the series, I doubt that you will be upset that it has continued on this path.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.