Resurrection of the Black Swordsman – Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale

They may have survived the Death Game, but that doesn’t mean it’s over.

 

SWORD ART ONLINE: THE MOVIE – ORDINAL SCALE
Created by: Reki Kawahara
Production Companies: A-1 Pictures, Kadokawa Pictures, ASCII Media Works, Genco
Distributor: Aniplex
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Theatrical Release:  February 18, 2017 (Japan),  March 9, 2017 (USA – Limited Screenings)
Blu-Ray Release:  September 27, 2017 (Japan),  December 19, 2017 (USA)
Sub Version Available:  Yes
Dub Version Available:  Yes

What You Need to Know:
Ordinal Scale takes place after the events in Sword Art Online II, not long after the “Mother’s Rosario” arc. As such, the film anticipates that its viewers will be familiar with the characters and the basic concepts of the world in which they live. The story is set in late spring of 2026, a little less than two years after Kirito (aka the Black Swordsman) defeated Kayaba Akihiko, cleared SAO (Sword Art Online), and thereby saved over 6,000 people. SAO’s first-generation virtual reality, or “full-dive,” technology (NerveGear) was quickly replaced with a safer version called the AmuSphere even before the game was cleared. The AmuSphere is the technology used by every VRMMORPG player for their online gaming.

What You’ll Find Out:
In the year 2024, on an unspecified night near the end of Aincrad, Kirito and Asuna sit together on the top of a mountainside in Floor 22, looking up at the virtual stars. Asuna comments on how pretty they are, while also lamenting the fact that they’re always the same every night. She admits she’s never seen a shooting star, due to the bright lights of the city, and Kirito teases her about being a city girl before telling her there’s a spot near his hometown not unlike where they’re sitting. Good for seeing shooting stars. He promises to take her there when they get back to the real world ‘someday.’ That when he does, he’ll give her a ring for that world, too.

Now, in 2026, the latest reality-altering technology is taking over Japan. Instead of being another device offering a virtual reality (VR) experience, this new device offers what they’re calling an augmented reality (AR) experience. The device itself is an Augma, which wraps around the back of the head, forms around the left ear, and one extension hangs below the left eye to alter the user’s visual perception when activated. One of the biggest selling points for the Augma is that it works when the user is conscious, allowing them to experience AR while living day to day life. Examples include using it to enhance exercise at the gym by taking away the treadmill and replacing it with a giant stone boulder chasing you.

No new reality-altering technology is complete with an accompanying game designed specifically for it, and the Augma is no exception. In coordination with the launch of the Augma was the launch of the AR game, Ordinal Scale. Almost identical in theme to the fantasy-styled VR games before it, but combining gun options as well, the Augma enables players to arm themselves anywhere they find a monster and engage it in combat. As the name ‘Ordinal Scale’ might suggest, players, are ranked in a top-down format. If a player is ranked ‘ten,’ that means they are literally the tenth strongest player in all of Ordinal Scale. An added incentive to attract participants is the seemingly endless ability to earn coupons or free gifts of all types by playing mini-games or earning points. Both the Augma’s and Ordinal Scale’s popularity have rapidly increased since their recent launch with the debut of Japan’s first AI Idol, YUNA. Though presented as a mere AI, there is a constant rumor that YUNA, too, is a player – or at least somehow being portrayed by a human behind the scenes – as her behavior and mannerisms are too realistic.

For reasons unknown, every student at the SAO survivor school received a free Augma, as well as tickets to YUNA’s upcoming concert. Asuna, Liz, Silica, and Kirito gather at the mall after school and stop at a café to grab a snack. The girls play a quick game of Pac-Man to earn free desserts while Kirito watches with blatant disinterest, even commenting that maybe they’re playing too much. Liz balks at the idea that he of all people would say such a thing, prompting the conversation to turn around to all the benefits of the new Augma devices. Pointing out all the cool coupons and other points, which can later be converted into monetary earnings, that are available. As well as the more obvious fact that thanks to the Augma they can all more freely interact with Yui, and Yui can interact with them even in their world. The desserts arrive, tailored to each girl’s tastes, and Kirito teases that he’s heard the Augmas also track what kinds of foods the users eat. Liz glances at her screen to see it warn her that her cheesecake is unhealthy, confirming his words.

Done eating, the group continues through the mall, with a text message from Liz popping up on Asuna’s AR display, asking if she’s figured out what she’s getting for Kirito yet. To which Asuna replies that she hasn’t because she wants to find him the perfect gift. And Kirito, having noticed she’s stopped walking, leans into her line of sight to call her attention, startling her. They catch up with the others and one of the girls asks Kirito if he plans on attending YUNA’s upcoming concert. He hedges, admitting he’s not much of a fan and thus hasn’t made up his mind. The answer is clearly not a popular one among his present company. But Liz takes the opportunity to poke fun at Silica, who happens to be a huge fan, and proves her point by cueing up an AR karaoke stage with one of YUNA’s songs. Silica fails to resist and breaks into song and dance, drawing a crowd. She becomes humiliated at the song’s end when the crowd applauds, stomping back to Liz with a glower.

Continuing through the mall, the conversation turns to the new game, Ordinal Scale. A game which, surprisingly, Kirito has very little interest in. The girls have been playing since receiving their Augmas, but Kirito has put minimal effort into it and mostly been sticking to VR gaming. But someone mentions a rumor that at a recent, last-minute Ordinal Scale boss battle the boss itself was a monster from SAO. Of course, it’s an unconfirmed rumor without any real traction at this point. So their idea is that the best way to be sure is to go to the next battle, the problem being that they’re usually announced with thirty minutes or less beforehand. They would need a vehicle to get there on time. Upon hearing this, Kirito immediately turns and begins an attempt to tiptoe quietly away. Asuna catches him by the shoulder, he turns around, and all three girls call his name with a false sweetness as he’s the only one with a mode of transportation.

That night Kirito pulls up to the site of the expected boss battle with Asuna behind him on his motorcycle. Klein and the rest of his guild, the Fuurinkazan, are coincidentally standing nearby and greet them jovially. Asuna jokes that she “won rock-paper-scissors,” implying that was why she was the one who got to ride with Kirito. Klein was just impressed she got Kirito to join them at all. Knowing the time is near, Asuna and Kirito pull out the handheld piece accompanied with the headgear of the Augma and activate the Ordinal Scale interface. The associated AR takes over, altering their perception of their clothing and surroundings, and turning the handhelds into their weapons of choice. Kirito’s one-handed black sword and Asuna’s slender rapier.

Alongside Klein’s guild, they move closer to the other assorted gathered players, and it’s only moments before a large monster bursts dramatically from the ground. A towering, skeletal samurai with two blades. The boss from the dungeon in Floor 10, Kagachi the Samurai Lord. But Kirito and the others barely have time to process that the rumor was true before YUNA arrives, landing on the edge of a high bridge somewhere behind Kagachi and declaring the battle a special event. Her presence offers the players boosts, increasing their fighting abilities, and as soon as she begins to sing the monster attacks. The amateurs rush in first while Kirito, Asuna, and the Fuurinkazan hang back, watching to see if this Karachi’s attack patterns match the ones they remember. Kagachi makes short, brutal work of the long-range gunmen who, upon defeat, admit to themselves they would never have the nerve to fight a monster like that up close anyway. Then he starts taking out the ground support, simultaneously confirming that he is, in every way, the boss monster from Floor 10.

Unwilling to wait around any longer, Asuna decides it’s time to move in. Kirito agrees to go in with her, silently noting that his body feels sluggish and heavy. But he ignores it, takes a firm grip of his sword, and runs in to attack. With his focus zeroed in on the enemy he makes one slight miscalculation, his toes catch on an uneven lift in the concrete and he crashes unceremoniously to the ground. Self-preservation reflexes are all that keep him from being killed in Kagachi’s counterattack. Asuna runs up, knocking the monster back for a moment. Kirito finds his feet and they go to try again, but he realizes he’s still moving too slowly. Asuna tells him it’s because he’s out of shape. They attack again but Kirito is easily knocked back. Klein and his guild sweep in to assist, giving Asuna a moment to breathe and Kirito a chance to regroup and escape the monster’s range.

Up above, hidden in the shadows, another player watches the fight, studying the players and their patterns. He’s taking note of Klein’s guild and referencing the newly released, supposedly ‘complete guide’ to the events that occurred within the “SAO Incident.” The player clearly recognizes that he’s watching the Fuurinkazan, a floor-clearing guild from SAO, and remarks to himself that he can see why they made it so far. Their synchronicity is impressive.

On the battlefield, an unnamed player choosing to appear as a type of feline pulls out a rocket launcher styled weapon in an attempt to be the one to kill the Samurai Lord. He aims for Kagachi’s head and fires, but Kagachi dodges and suddenly YUNA, lost in song, is in danger. The player previously hiding in the shadows leaps out, effortlessly neutralizing the attack before going on the offensive and landing a crippling blow on Kagachi. When the dust settles his player rank is revealed and everyone is in awe to learn that this man is No. 2. Kagachi rises once more and Asuna rushes forward to land the killing blow. As she passes No. 2 he softly whispers “switch,” a term first developed in the battlefields of SAO for tag-team fights. Despite her surprise, Asuna lands a perfect strike and Kagachi is finally defeated. When the light show fades YUNA ends her song and cheerfully declares Asuna the evening’s MVP, landing before her to grant her an extra bonus on top of the bonus everyone has just earned for helping defeat the boss. She plants a kiss on Asuna’s cheek, to the shock of Kirito and the Fuurinkazan, as Asuna receives an additional 10,000 points.

Switch

The players quickly dissipate after that, with Kirito, Asuna, and the Fuurinkazan lingering for a few minutes. Asuna is quietly scrolling the player rankings, searching for the identity of No. 2 while the men talk. Until Klein makes a loud joke, after having told Kirito to be sure to take her home safely, that if Kirito tries anything funny she should give him (Klein) a call and he’d come to her rescue. Asuna laughingly assures him she will while Kirito glares at Klein.

On his way home from the battle, one of Klein’s guild members spots a marker indicative of an AR bonus item. He follows the markers around a corner and into an abandoned parking garage before spotting No. 2 standing a ways away ominously. Assuming the other player is there for the prize, the Fuurinkazan member draws his massive sword and promises No. 2 that just because his ranking is higher doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy fight.

After the event battle, everyone gathers at Kirito and Asuna’s cabin home in ALfheim Online, donning casual robes instead of their usual battle armor. They’re discussing the confirmed appearance of SAO bosses in Ordinal Scale until it slips that YUNA was also there and Silica derails the conversation in her jealous excitement. The topic shifts to YUNA’s upcoming concert, which Asuna, Kirito, Liz, and Silica all have tickets to through the Survivors School. Klein laments his lack of ability to acquire a ticket for himself, as does Leafa. Agil boasts that he managed to score a couple for himself moments before Sinon more quietly states she has a pair as well. Klein and Leafa shamelessly beg to be their respective plus ones, each eventually relenting, but Leafa realizes with dramatic devastation that she can’t go anyway. She has kendo training camp out of town.

The next morning Kirito greets his little sister, Suguha, as she’s slipping on her shoes to leave for training camp. He’s still not dressed for the day and she chides him about taking better care of himself. He tells her he’s got colleges to research but he might get to it later, not leaving her with a lot of hope. Wishing her good luck at camp he heads upstairs and does some reading on Touto Institute of Technology, the same school Kayaba Akihiko once attended. He learns one of the professors is the inventor of the Augma. Eventually, he gets tired and logs into ALfheim Online, meeting up with Asuna in the cabin. They talk only briefly, mostly about Kirito’s limited cooking abilities and his fear of meeting her mother, before receiving notification that the upcoming PVP tournament they had both signed up for has been canceled due to low attendance. Yui confirms that VR logins everywhere have been drastically reduced since the introduction of the Augma. Leading some, including Kirito and Asuna, to worry about the future of virtual reality.

That night Asuna is in the bath when she gets a text from Klein saying the next boss battle is near her house, asking if she’s interested in joining them. She assures him she is, contemplates inviting Kirito, but decides not to as she knows he’s not particularly invested in AR. She climbs from the bath to prepare and rushes over, finding Klein and most of the Fuurinkazan waiting just outside the designated area. When she asks where their missing member is they admit he hasn’t responded yet, so they’ll join her and the battle once he’s arrived, sending her in ahead. She promises to take all the bonuses if they don’t get there in time and continues to the venue.

Fuurinkazan

The boss is revealed to be The Storm Griffin, Floor 11 boss from SAO. YUNA makes another appearance to sing for them, providing the players with special bonuses. Klein and his guild haven’t shown up yet, but the battle’s begun, so Asuna lets instinct take over and quickly falls into old habits. She takes command of the battlefield, running around and giving orders to the players based on player and weapon type. Recognizing the change in the monster’s attack patterns she orders tanks forward, ranged weapons to strike, melee fighters to rush in when it crashes. The Storm Griffin makes a final, desperate rampage, startling the others, but Asuna is ready and tears it apart with a single, perfectly aimed strike. The monster defeated, everyone cheers and one of the other players asks her if she’s got experience from other games, which makes her uncomfortable. YUNA comes over to declare her the MVP once again and Asuna runs away before YUNA can kiss her.

While Asuna and the others are taking on The Storm Griffin, Klein and his guild members are growing increasingly concerned about their missing friend. He hasn’t answered any of their calls or texts. They want to wait for him, but they don’t want to miss the battle. Then, to their surprise, a monster appears before them. A lava-like creature rising from the ground. Though they’re caught by surprise, they easily regain their composure and form up to face it head-on. What they don’t know is that they’re being watched by No. 2, who’s decided they’re his targets that night. They battle the lava creature, pushing it back and beating it down fairly well. When they seem to have it defeated No. 2 steps in, taking advantage of Klein’s distraction to brutally beat the rest of his guild down. Dropping them all, one-by-one. Klein hears the last scream over the settling noise of the defeated monster and turns to find his team all scattered, beaten and mostly unconscious, on the ground. Obviously at the hands of another player. Enraged, he yanks off his Augma and rushes forward to beat No. 2 in an old-fashioned brawl.

No. 2 dodges Klein’s every move as if he could see them coming, with inhuman speed and reflexes. Finally, he grabs one of Klein’s outstretched arms and spins it up and around, turning Klein’s body in the process as well as breaking the arm. He shoves Klein to the ground, slips the Augma back onto Klein’s head, and taunts him. The AR reactivates as No. 2 lifts Klein up by the neck, enabling Klein to see the lava creature rise again and lurch forward to consume him. Terrifying him as his HP is reduced to zero.

At the end of the battle, Asuna returns to the area where she’d last seen Klein and the Fuurinkazan. They’re nowhere around. In the distance, an ambulance is rushing away, but she pays it no attention.

The following day Kirito is standing on the tiered stairway where Asuna’s battle with The Storm Griffin had taken place the night before. He’s there to meet up with her for a date. Yui pulls up several holo-screens at his request, including his calendar, and sees the date May 4th blocked out. Curious, she asks why, and Kirito explains that he and Asuna will be going to Saitama Mountain to watch shooting stars. Yui becomes excited and asks to come, to which he assures her they were planning to bring her with them. While waiting for Asuna, Yui suggests he practice, saying he should stay in shape for Mommy. Pressured now, Kirito activates Ordinal Scale and begins to swing his sword around, practicing as Yui insisted. But he’s quickly interrupted when he turns around and nearly swings his sword into a girl in a pale blue hoodie. Both are so startled they fall backward. Kirito finds his feet and apologizes, reaching to help her up, but his hand passes right through hers. She stands on her own, turns, points off into the distance, and says something he cannot hear. He turns to follow her finger, looks back to her, but she’s already gone. He takes off his Augma to see if he can see her without it, but there’s no one there at all. He barely has time to put the device back on and ask Yui if she saw the apparition, too, before another hand lands on his shoulder, startling him. He spins around to find Asuna, who is equally startled by his odd reaction.

The couple regroups at a small outdoor café, but instead of telling Asuna about the ghost-girl, he asks her if she’s heard any rumors about hauntings in the area. Or in Ordinal Scale. Asuna freaks out and gets mad, reminding him sternly that she doesn’t appreciate this topic of conversation because she’s afraid of ghosts. Kirito awkwardly apologizes and drops it. Asuna tells him about her thoughts on No. 2, how she thinks she knows him from SAO but she can’t be certain. She reflects back to her memories with the Knights of the Blood Oath, telling Kirito she thinks No. 2 is a player who went by the name Nautilus. That Nautilus was terrified of dying in battle and so stayed away from the frontlines. As a result, she didn’t know him particularly well. But she’s as certain as she can be. Then Yui pops in with urgent information – she’s figured something out about the Ordinal Scale event monsters.

Kirito and Asuna gather at their cabin with Liz, Silica, and Sinon to see what Yui has discerned. Yui explains that she’s plotted the data of each previous Ordinal Scale battle event which has contained an SAO boss. A virtual map of Tokyo appears to accentuate her point, showing the physical locations of each. She lifts it up and immediately the survivors in the room understand her point. The pattern of each physical location laid out matches the dungeon location of each floor in Old Aincrad, the world of SAO. Yui further announces that because of this she can now anticipate where and when the next event will occur. This is great news for the others, as it gives them a chance to actually participate. Though Silica is still disappointed that she won’t get to ride on the bike with Kirito.

Yui switches topics enthusiastically, announcing that they need to plan for their trip to Saitama Mountain. Kirito quickly lurches forward and hushes her while Silica and Sinon make sounds of confusion. Liz jumps to her feet, brushing off what Yui said in favor of plotting their victory over the next SAO boss, wanting to show off what a real SAO vet can do. Kirito declines the offer to join the battle, startling the girls and making Liz ask if he was really that bad before. He offers a noncommittal response, Sinon says she won’t be able to join, either, due to work, so Liz grabs Asuna and Silica, declaring that the three of them will just be the ones to get the glory. While they make their plans, Kirito takes Yui outside to quietly explain that he and Asuna are keeping their plans a secret from the others. Yui immediately apologizes. He then asks her if she can send all the prediction data to his cell phone.

Home by himself, Kirito is left to prepare his plain pasta – the dish Yui had earlier outed him on – when Asuna calls for a video chat. She’s surprised to see he really does make himself simple pasta, so he replies she could always come make him another ragout rabbit stew. Asuna promises to make him something similar in the near future, which piques his interest, and Kirito takes both plate and tablet to the dining table to eat while they talk. Asuna tells him she asked around about his earlier inquiry regarding the Ordinal Scale spirit, which surprises him. And she did find a rumor about a girl in a pale hoodie. She asks if he saw this girl and he swears he didn’t, switching the topic by saying that he found his family’s old camping gear and it all looks good. Obviously happy to hear this news, Asuna asks him to thank his father for lending it to them, adding that she can’t wait to see the stars like he promised.

Time for the night’s Ordinal Scale boss event has arrived and Asuna meets up with Silica and Liz, the three laughing together as they wait for it to start. YUNA arrives, exciting Silica as well as most of the crowd, and announces another special event field as the monster bursts onto the scene. This time it’s The Strict Hermit, Floor 12’s boss. Liz is mildly surprised to see that they really are reusing SAO monsters somehow. But it’s time to fight, so Asuna leads the charge.

Kirito has decided to go to the boss battle, but to look for something, not to fight. He doesn’t have a good feeling about the involvement of old SAO monsters. When he gets there he finds a large crowd watching the fight, which is fine, because he’s looking for No. 2, and he finds the mysterious player, watching from the shadows on the other side of the battlefield.

Silica hides behind Liz and Liz’s shield during an angry flurry of claw-stabbing attacks from the crab-like monster. Liz can’t progress, though her shield holds, until all of a sudden the monster is thrown backward by a thrust from Asuna’s rapier. The girls thank her before joining other players in rushing in to take advantage of the opening, but Asuna pauses, having also spotted No. 2. She still feels the need to confirm her suspicion about his identity, so she sheaths her blade and approaches him. He greets her as Lightning Flash, both surprising and confirming for her that she knows him. So she addresses him as Nautilus, the name she knew him by, and with an air of annoyance, he shows her his new name: Eiji. He tells her Nautilus doesn’t exist anymore. That he’s changed, as he sees she has, too. He sees she’s “mellowed” since her days as Vice Commander of the Knights of the Blood Oath. Asuna is mildly surprised by the description but doesn’t refute it.

While Asuna is talking to Eiji, Liz, Silica, and the other players are doing their best to beat down an angry hermit crab. In the chaos something else strikes the ground behind the group of players, causing several of them to look back with caution. A little dragon appears, looking almost identical to Silica’s VR pet, Pina. Silica, believing it to be Pina, runs over with relief. But when ‘Pina’ doesn’t jump into her arms Silica realizes her mistake, and then the tiny dragon transforms into a massive, fierce dragon, with her sitting right at its feet. With a heartbeat to spare, Silica scrambles back in a blind panic.

From the upper level of the plaza area, where the crowd has gathered to watch, Kirito sees the new development and moves closer for a better look. Yui starts to panic, exclaiming he needs to hurry, that Asuna and the others need to escape. The dragon that’s just appeared is the boss that would have appeared on Floor 91, Dorz’l the Chaos Drake. Understanding Yui’s urgency, Kirito rushes to help, but the crowd is dense and standing between him and the only way down. He does his best to push through anyway, unwilling to leave Asuna to fight such a dangerous enemy without him.

Having barely escaped the dragon’s initial attack, Silica runs for some sort of safety and crashes into Eiji unexpectedly. She has enough time to look up at him before he throws her forcefully back into the path of Dorz’l. Silica cries out and rolls, seeing the dragon coming and knowing she can’t move fast enough to get away. Asuna, having seen Eiji throw her friend to the monster, cries out and rushes to Silica’s aid. All she can do is use herself as Silica’s shield, so she pulls the younger girl into her arms and curls around her, taking the force of the dragon’s attack. It slices through her, easily depleting her HP, and as she sees her HP fall to zero she finds herself reliving the moment of her should’ve-been death at the hands of Heathcliff back in SAO. The memory jars through her and a small, golden light at the base of her Augma’s earpiece shoots up, unseen, into one of the numerous overhead drones that hover over the city to provide the graphics and data for the AR.

The dust is barely settling when Kirito screams out, having finally pushed through the last of the crowd. He runs to Asuna’s side, where Silica has pulled a semi-conscious Asuna into her lap in concern. With Asuna, non-responsive Kirito turns his rage on Eiji, whom he saw throw Silica at Dorz’l, with every intent to fight him. But Eiji is literally thousands of ranks above Kirito and covers the distance between them in the blink of an eye, immediately putting the tip of his sword to Kirito’s throat. Voice smug, Eiji remarks that he’s disappointed this is all the legendary Black Swordsman amounts to in the real world.

At Sword Point (Angle 2)

Simultaneously, the timer on YUNA’s special event battle runs out and both monsters disappear, just barely saving the rest of the players from Asuna’s fate. YUNA herself also departs, distracting a would-be group of players Liz had gathered to help Kirito beat down Eiji. Eiji also disappears. With the enemy gone, Liz and Kirito return to Asuna’s side. She’s awake now but still dazed. Kirito tries to lift her spirits with a light joke, the kind that usually riles her, but she shows no response at all. As if she doesn’t hear him, or doesn’t understand. His concern is plain but he doesn’t push it in the moment, instead letting Liz and Silica help her to her feet.

A short while later Kirito drops Asuna off at home, with Asuna seeming to have regained at least most of her normal composure. But before he can drive off Asuna stops him to ask if he remembers the day they met. He says it was the day of the boss meeting on Floor 1, which she echoes with familiarity, and he laughs, adding in retrospect he can’t believe he had the nerve to speak to her. They part ways with a simple goodnight and Kirito drives off.

After her nightly journal entry Asuna goes to bed but quickly falls into strange nightmares of blurred memories. What started as mixed memories from her time in SAO shift, with other players losing their distinguishing features until she’s chasing after Kirito in the darkness. He turns to her but his face, too, is just a blur. Asuna startles awake in a panic, trembling.

In the middle of the night, an actually asleep Kirito is awoken by the ringing of his cell phone. It’s Asuna. He immediately logs in to ALfheim Online, meeting her in their cabin and noting she hasn’t even turned on a light. He asks her what’s wrong, as it’s very unlike her to call so late. She asks him when they bought the cabin. He answers awkwardly, thrown by the question. His answer obviously disturbs her and she quietly admits that she seems to be losing her memories. At this declaration Kirito startles and moves up to her, grasping her by the shoulders as if to hold her together. She proceeds to tell him more specifically that it’s her memories of SAO that are missing. She hasn’t noticed a problem with her more recent memories, but everything from there is just … gone.

The first thing the next morning Kirito takes Asuna to Dr. Kurahashi, the doctor who had formerly treated their late friend, Yuuki Konno. Dr. Kurahashi uses the same machine, the Medicuboid, to scan Asuna’s brain. Once the scan is completed he sits them down to explain his findings. The test indicates that her brain had been recently scanned, particularly in a specific area. The technique used to scan these specific memories is likely what has caused her loss of them. The worst part, however, is that at this point he can’t rule out the possibility that she won’t slowly continue to lose more memories. He also adds that similar reports have been coming in all over town, from other SAO survivors. Asuna and Kirito, both in a state of shock over the news, move to sit in the hospital lobby. Kirito starts to say something, trying to stay positive for her, but Asuna lifts her right hand and makes a silent, eerily familiar motion. As if she’s trying to open her SAO menu. Confused and worried, Kirito calls out to her, hoping she’ll snap back to herself, but instead she collapses.

Once he’s back at home, still shaken from the day’s events, Kirito decides to call Klein. Klein doesn’t answer, though, and Kirito realizes he hasn’t heard from Klein in a couple of days. So he texts Agil, saying he’s worried about Klein and asking if Agil can find out anything. Then, still concerned over the new information not only regarding Asuna but also Ordinal Scale and the Augmas themselves, Kirito attempts to warn his fellow survivors – and the others players – by posting a warning message in the main forums. No one takes him seriously, though, laughing off his warning as just a player trying to hog all the bonuses. Or an idiot falling for bad intel.

A little later he meets Asuna again online, this time taking her to several memorable locations in Aincrad to see if they jog any memories for her. Eventually, they head back to the cabin and she sadly admits she hasn’t remembered a thing. She embraces Yui, who has taken her human form, apologizing as she knows those are their “precious memories.” She promises it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still a family. Kirito joins the embrace as well. After a short while, he offers to get Asuna some more tea but she insists on doing it, wanting to be useful. Kirito and Yui, now again in pixie form, remain outside patiently until they hear the clattering of dishes inside. They rush to the door, but Kirito only cracks it, seeing Asuna kneeling on the ground and crying. Somehow he senses she wants to let this out privately, so when Yui goes to comfort her mother he holds her back, silently shaking his head. He closes the door to give Asuna the privacy she wants, his hand clenching into a tight, helpless fist at his side.

That night, knowing no one has heeded his warning about the dangers of fighting the SAO bosses, and wanting his own answers, Kirito heads out alone to fight in the next boss battle. He tells Yui to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. They want to figure out as much as they can about whatever’s happening to the survivors, or if it’s even strictly survivors. Just before the battle starts Kirito is joined by Sinon, who dismisses his insistence that she leave by reminding him she isn’t an SAO vet. And if he’s wrong about it being only survivors then he’ll just have to protect her. Recognizing when he’s lost, Kirito agrees to let her help, and the pair activates their Ordinal Scale equipment as the event kicks off. But the boss that arrives, The Dire Tusk of Floor 18, is not the one they were expecting. It was supposed to be the boss from Floor 13, according to Yui’s prediction data. Yui double checks the system and realizes multiple events are currently active, scattered throughout the city. And they seem to have randomized the order of monsters as well.

In the end, it makes no difference, though, because Kirito still needs his answers. He cautions Sinon on what to expect from the Dire Tusk and tries to warn off a couple of impatient players who get too close, too. The players don’t listen and things soon get out of hand. The chain which initially restrained the monster snaps free, as Kirito anticipated, and Dire Tusk’s limited attack range switches without warning to long distance. In the melee, several players are knocked back and one of the fallen players appears to have been an SAO survivor, as he falls, dazed and unresponsive.

While Kirito and Sinon fight the boss Yui spots the small golden ball of data and chases after it. She follows it inside the hovering drone, determined to figure out where it’s going and for what purpose. But halfway through she’s blocked by a firewall.

 

Kirito is forced into defense as Dire Tusk continues to swing his massive chain, the players around him scrambling and unorganized. Sinon takes up position and manages to shoot out the chain, destroying it with a single shot. This distracts the boss, opening him up, and Kirito moves in for the kill. Soon the beast falls, the players around them both excited with victory and disappointed that YUNA hadn’t arrived. Kirito spots the hooded girl a short ways away, but she disappears before he can reach her, though she was still pointing somewhere. Yui returns as Kirito and Sinon regroup, telling them about her experience and what she was able to discern from it. Namely that whatever is scanning and damaging players’ memories is definitely targeting specific players.

Upset, Kirito punches a vending machine before using a coupon for a free coffee. The sight of his real-life anger startles Sinon. In a moment of strained silence, an idea strikes Kirito and he asks Yui, who had earlier told him she thought the silent word the hooded girl said was “search,” to map out the direction the girl continued to indicate. Yui calls up a holographic map and overlays it with lines from both positions where they’d seen the girl. The lines intersect at Touto Institute of Technology. So, that night, Kirito emails his government contact, Kikuoka, for a favor.

The next day Kirito attends a lecture a Touto Institute of Technology, presented by the inventor of the Augma, Professor Shigemura. Shigemura spends much of the time lauding the positives of the Augma, and AR in general. Praising its superiority over VR despite the atmosphere’s safety improvements. When he calls for questions Kirito poses the danger of the Augma’s ability to damage brain tissue, specifically memory, and with nothing to counter it Shigemura dismisses the class. Shigemura and Kirito retire to Shigemura’s office for a private conversation, revealing that Kikuoka had arranged for Kirito (likely at Kirito’s request) to have Kirito sit in on a lecture. Shigemura is less than pleased with having his presentation and product challenged. Kirito questions Shigemura about the Augma, specifically whether or not he knew of the device’s ability to scan a user’s specific memories and thereby damage the brain. Shigemura claims such a thing to be impossible but redirects the conversation to argue that even if it were, he believes those who survived such a horrific incident would be grateful. They wouldn’t want to remember those events, anyway. Kirito tries to push the issue, but Shigemura decides they’re done and instructs Kirito to leave. On his way out Kirito notices a box of odd tech parts and a picture of a young, vaguely familiar girl on Shigemura’s desk.

In the parking lot, Kirito calls Kikuoka to ask for information about the girl and Shigemura’s potential reasons for interest in SAO survivors. Kikuoka explains that Shigemura had a daughter who passed roughly two years prior – a victim of the SAO Incident. Her name was Yuuna.

Shortly after Kirito’s departure, Shigemura calls Eiji in frustration. In somewhat cryptic terms he states that Eiji is taking too long and people are starting to ask questions. Eiji assures him he’s almost ready for the main event and seeks confirmation that Shigemura will hold up his end of the bargain, which Shigemura promises he will.

Barely off the phone with Kikuoka, Kirito receives a call from Asuna, who admits she was only calling because she wanted to hear his voice. Having her memory messed with is freaking her out to the point that she’s afraid to leave the house. Kirito asks if it’s okay for him to come over for a visit, as he happens to not be far away and he’d like to see her, to which she says yes. No one else is home when he arrives at Asuna’s house – the first time he’s been inside – and Asuna takes him upstairs. On their way up he tells her about the theory Shigemura presented him with on how some survivors may prefer to forget. Asuna says she disagrees. That despite the trauma and nightmarish parts, those two years were significant and have formed them into who they are now. They shouldn’t be forgotten. She takes him into her room before leaving again to get them tea. Kirito looks around curiously, having heard about this “future room,” and accidentally bumps into her nightstand, which pops open the top drawer, revealing her diary. He opens it to the bookmarked page, the most recent entry, and reads it.

In the entry, Asuna talks about her feelings for Kirito and her fear of her memory loss. Not only of what she’s already lost, and of how sad it’s made her, but of what she may still lose. She’s scared she may one day lose her entire memory of him and she can’t fathom living without him. The entry is dedicated to “the me of tomorrow,” in the hopes that she can remind her future self how much she loves Kirito.

Asuna returns to the room as he finishes, tray of tea and cups in hand, and he startles, embarrassed at having been caught. She assures him she has nothing to hide and doesn’t mind him reading it. Kirito is overcome with emotion after having read her journal and as soon as she’s set the tea down he runs to her and tackles her in an awkward embrace, knocking them both onto the bed. He lands on top of her, his face squarely in her chest, and without looking up he apologizes repeatedly for letting this terrible thing happen to her. She hugs him briefly before he sits up and declares his love for her in return. After a brief kiss, he vows to do whatever it takes to restore her memories and she smiles, her faith in him apparent.

Kirito's Vow

That night Kirito goes out, walking through the park, for reasons unknown. He’s oblivious as the hooded girl comes up behind him, reaching for his Augma. Suddenly his reality shifts, him in his Ordinal Scale uniform and standing in a vastly different, unfamiliar space. The area is deserted save for the girl in the hoodie, now standing several paces ahead of him, on a bridge. He walks quickly up to her and demands answers about what’s going on, certain now that this girl is the real Yuuna somehow and definitely connected to Asuna’s memory loss. She evades his initial questions, stepping away when he gets too close, and begins to sing a song that immediately strikes Kirito as familiar. After a minute she stops and finally tells him if he wants to stop what’s happening he needs to get stronger; his current rank is far too low.

Kirito comes to in a bush with a concerned policeman shining a flashlight in his eyes. They both startle and the policeman dismisses it all as some silly kid and their virtual reality games, telling him to be more careful. Kirito’s barely back on his feet before his phone rings and he sees it’s Agil. Agil has news about Klein – it seems Klein’s in the hospital with a broken arm and some concerning memory loss. Knowing now what he has to do, Kirito heads out to increase his rank as quickly as possible. With Yui guiding him from one boss battle to the next, Kirito tears through the city, letting familiar rage and determination take control as he fights. He slaughters boss after boss, doing his best to take them on solo to maximize the reward he receives. In his fight against Waheela the Black Wolf, the boss from Floor 28, he nearly gets himself killed and becomes just another memory-wiped victim. But he manages to pull out another win and his rank increases yet again. Taking him up to 9th, and with that, he receives a message from Eiji. An invitation of sorts to meet him at YUNA’s concert the next day if he wants to get Asuna’s memories back.

In the meantime, the girls hit a local karaoke to brush up on YUNA’s songs in preparation for the concert. Silica is plagued by guilt over Asuna’s memory loss and being extra cheerful in hopes that her cheer will lift Asuna’s spirits. Liz and Sinon are out in the hall while Asuna and Silica sing along, video chatting with Suguha. Suguha feels horrible for not being there to support everyone with all that’s going on, despite that Liz explains Kirito told them all not to fight anymore due to the risks. Sinon outs Kirito for fighting anyway, which the others hadn’t known, saying how she helped him defeat a boss and she’s sure he’ll continue to insist on fighting. Liz is pulled away by Silica, leaving Sinon to finish the conversation. Suguha laments her inability to help fight but vows to at least offer some video tutorials for her brother. She asks how Asuna’s doing and Sinon peeks inside, where it looks as if Asuna’s enjoying herself.

Before the concert, Kirito takes the time to visit Klein in the hospital. Klein admits he’s lost his memory of SAO, saying when he tries to think back on all that everything goes hazy. He shrugs it off, adding absently that he figures ‘it wasn’t all fun times, right?’, though he can’t meet Kirito’s gaze when he says it. Kirito doesn’t respond.

The day of the concert arrives and Silica, Asuna, Liz, Sinon, and Agil find their seats in the bleachers. Asuna asks what happened to Kirito, as he’d arrived with them, and is told he’d said something about running to the bathroom. In truth, he’d taken an elevator down to the basement level, where he has set up to meet Eiji in the hopes of getting Asuna’s memories back. Upstairs, overlooking the concert venue, Professor Shigemura watches as he also prepares for the final step in his goal of bringing his beloved daughter, Yuuna, back to life.

The concert begins with YUNA appearing on stage and all the fans, Augmas firmly in place, jumping to their feet in excitement. In the basement Eiji greets Kirito smugly, revealing that he’d lied about restoring Asuna’s memories in order to goad Kirito into a fight. He claims the memories can’t be restored and, in fact, when Kirito falls his memories, too, will be taken. Kirito seems less than surprised at the deception and the two engage in a swordfight. Despite Eiji’s status as No. 2, Kirito isn’t easily overpowered. But something seems to be giving Eiji a different sort of edge. The inhuman agility and reflexes Eiji had previously exhibited are putting Kirito at a disadvantage, a disadvantage that doesn’t make sense given the parameters of the game. Until Kirito spots a vaguely familiar device on the back of Eiji’s neck. He’d seen something like it in Shigemura’s office. Guessing it to be important, Kirito manages to get around behind Eiji and rip it off with his free hand. The loss of the odd device makes all the difference, and Eiji is quickly defeated, making Kirito the new No. 2. Still, Eiji maintains his confidence in his ultimate victory. He explains to Kirito that it’s too late. By now the scan will have started – the largest memory scan of all – and in the process, it will likely fry everyone’s brains, not unlike the original NerveGear had done to its victims. So Kirito has already lost. After Kirito leaves, however, Shigemura betrays Eiji and has Eiji’s memories scanned, too.

While Kirito and Eiji fight, YUNA’s song ends and she disappears. The crowd is struck with disappointment that she would vanish after only one song, but then a horde of AR monsters appear, turning the venue into a single, massive boss battle event. The Ordinal Scale players quickly switch to battle mode, thinking it some sort of surprise event. But upstairs Shigemura monitors a counter, rapidly climbing up in the high thousands. Counting up to the moment when the fatal memory scan will strike, absorbing all of the survivors’ memories of Yuuna and giving him the data he needs to restore his daughter. Or the closest semblance of her that technology will allow. Behind him, the girl in the hoodie – Yuuna’s AR ghost – appears, pleading with him to stop. She repeats consistently that this isn’t what she wants, but Shigemura dismisses her pleas as ‘self-preservation programming’ which will go away once he’s done. He blames himself for his daughter’s death, as he had manipulated his position within ARGUS in order to get a NerveGear and copy of Sword Art Online for his daughter all those years ago. And this is his way of fixing that mistake. All he needs is for the counter to hit 10,000 and his scan will begin.

Down in the stadium, with monsters scattered everywhere and several players running for safety while others embrace the battles, Asuna sits in her seat, frozen with fear. The group has all transformed into their Ordinal Scale uniforms, armed and ready to defend, but they are all reluctant to leave Asuna in her condition. She is not ready for another fight. Silica tries talking to her, to persuade her to leave her seat, promising they’ll all protect her, but in that moment The Gleam Eyes, the boss from Floor 74, manifests directly beside the group, sending several flying into nearby seats. Silica puts herself between the monster and Asuna, prepared to defend her, but is easily brushed aside. Asuna comes face-to-face with this monster she no longer remembers, but before it can attack Kirito calls out to her from above the bleachers and leaps down, easily tearing through the creature before crashing into several seats. Asuna is relieved to see him, as are his friends, but the reunion is interrupted by the arrival of The Fatal Scythe. Before Kirito can react, the monster’s weapon is deflected by Yuuna, who has arrived and created a large, sturdy shield.

Yuuna holds The Fatal Scythe at bay while she apologizes to Kirito and the others, explaining briefly the full danger of what they’re facing. Then she explains the true way they can stop it. Kirito has to use the Augma’s hidden full-dive function, return to Aincrad – the world of SAO – and defeat the 100th Floor boss, An Incarnation of the Radius. Kirito agrees, and he’s joined by Agil, Silica, Liz, and Sinon, all volunteering to go along with him to fight the final boss and hopefully save everyone in the stadium. They all take a seat in the bleachers and Asuna claims a seat beside Kirito, wishing him luck. Knowing time is short, Kirito takes her hands and places a diamond ring in her palm as an unspoken promise to return. Then the group calls the standard phrase, “Link Start!” and Asuna is left with Yui, Yuuna, and a stadium full of monsters.

Kirito and the others fall into the Ruby Palace from above, with Agil commenting on how surreal it is to be returning to Aincrad after two years, and in this manner. They crash through a colosseum style roof, landing at the foot of a gigantic monster – An Incarnation of the Radius. Aincrad’s original final boss. Everyone takes up their weapons and leaps in, knowing it will be a hard fight with such a small party. Still, they manage to do some damage, also managing to enrage their foe. Unfortunately, the damage activates the monster’s ability to self-heal back to full health. They’re going to have to hit it a lot harder, a lot faster, if they ever want to kill it. In the meantime the monster ups its attacks, thick roots shooting out of the ground from all angles while firing energy blasts from above. One after another, everyone is pinned, trapped, or caught up in the enemy’s grasp.

Asuna sits, conflicted, as she watches Yuuna struggle against The Fatal Scythe while Kirito and the others remain in the virtual world. Their bodies defenseless at her side. She remembers what Yuuna said about the looming threat of the memory scan, and how it will likely kill them all. Worried for Kirito, she reaches out to remove his Augma, knowing if she does so she can save him, despite that it almost surely sacrifices everyone else. Yui lands on his shoulder, arms outstretched, blocking her reach. In her firmest voice, Yui tells her she can’t, that he’s trying to save her (Asuna). Asuna looks back to Yuuna as if finally realizing this ghostly AR girl isn’t any more real than the monster she’s fighting and talks to her about SAO. Almost as if she’s building herself up, Asuna tells Yuuna that if she died in SAO, it’s because she left the safe zone. It’s because she fought. Because she was trying to make a difference because she found something worth fighting for. Yuuna looks back at her, surprised, and Asuna asks her to please watch over them. Then she reclaims her seat beside Kirito and tells Yui she’s going in to fight beside him. Because memories or no memories, she can still fight. Yui nods and promises to meet her there soon before Asuna, too, heads off to fight the final boss.

An Incarnation of the Radius has everyone pinned down, crushing the life out of them, when something unexpectedly crashes into it from above, successfully taking out an eye and releasing several of the others. The dust clears as Silica starts to fall and everyone is startled to hear Asuna’s voice call out to the younger girl. Asuna catches Silica mid-fall, where Silica finally confesses her guilt. Asuna embraces her, apologizing for making her feel so guilty, and everyone regroups on one of the massive vines the monster has left behind. Kirito lands beside her, asking if she’s all right, and she promises she is. Telling him much the same thing she’d told Yui. The group prepares for another attack, but in the next moment a powerful blast blows in another wall, and a burst of players come flying in to help. Klein is one of the ones leading the charge, shouting his excitement about being “invincible in VR!” Leafa follows him and Yui comes with her, declaring that she ‘brought the cavalry,’ as literally, every player they’d ever fought beside takes up position to help them. Then Yui hovers in front of Kirito, Asuna, and the rest of the group who were already fighting, adding that she’s got another thing for them. A burst of light comes forth and Kirito, Asuna, Liz, Silica, and Agil are transformed into their avatars from SAO. As a “special bonus” Yui also managed to give Sinon her previous Gun Gale Online avatar as well.

With a huge party full of healers, tanks, mages, ranged and melee fighters, as well as an impossible power-up, Kirito leads the charge for a final assault. After first-round damage is incurred the monster activates its healing ability, and Asuna calls for the magic users to block it. With the healing tree crippled the attack force moves in for the kill. Kirito blocks a heavy attack with his infamous dual blades, having Asuna switch with him for the first strike. Asuna uses her inherited Mother’s Rosario, Yuuki’s memory washing over her as she lets loose on the monster. The monster stumbles back from the force of the attack and Kirito jumps in with his one-of-a-kind dual wielding skill, tearing the monster apart. An Incarnation of the Radius shatters, defeated, and in the aftermath, the disembodied voice of Kayaba Akihiko congratulates Kirito on his victory as a massive sword floats down to his hands.

Yuuna’s shield shatters and The Fatal Scythe sends her flying, chasing after her to finish the job. Exhausted and defenseless, Yuuna expects this to be her end and is surprised when a projection of Kirito – still technically in full-dive mode, and still donning his old SAO armor – now ranked No. 1 and wielding his new, enormous sword appears. He disperses The Fatal Scythe with one swing before turning and grinning at her. Seeing that he’s succeeded, Yuuna gets up and takes to the stage, singing one final time for the survivors of Aincrad. Her singing encourages the fighters while Kirito, in true ‘God Mode,’ swings his sword around, destroying rows of monsters at a time.

 

As the monsters disappear, and Yuuna continues to sing, the counter rapidly decreases. Professor Shigemura watches forlornly until an image of his daughter, as she was before Sword Art Online, comes to him, promising to always be with him in his memory. The AR falls away, revealing that Shigemura was never really at the stadium, but the abandoned ARGUS facility. Moments later Kikuoka and a group of armed men, who had been searching for him, storm the room and take him into custody.

Once everything is over, all the monsters defeated and the crisis averted, Yuuna approaches Kirito and the others, who have now all returned from their dive. She reveals to them that her data is tied into that of the old SAO servers and now that it’s been properly defeated, and is being deleted, she, too, will disappear. She expresses her gratitude in the same breath as she apologizes for all the trouble. And before she leaves, as a gift, she restores Asuna’s memories.

Several days later, Suguha meets up with Liz, Silica, Sinon, Klein, and Agil at Agil’s café to catch up on everything she missed. She admits she’d had to smuggle in her AmuSphere and sneak out of training camp that night, as her kendo camp didn’t provide WiFi. Klein makes an absent-minded comment on how games aren’t for meeting girls, after all, leading to an argument with Agil, and through the argument, it’s revealed that Klein’s memories are once again all intact. Someone asks why Kirito and Asuna aren’t there and Liz brushes it off with a casual, non-committal, comment.

May 4, 2026, Kirito and Asuna, with Yui via shoulder camera, make it to the mountainside to see the meteor shower. Just as promised back in SAO. Sitting side by side in a clearing that night, Asuna presents Kirito with a gift, explaining she felt silly only accepting a present from him but not getting something for him in return. He smiles and accepts it, turning back around to find her holding the ring out in her hand as if returning it to him. For a moment he’s rendered speechless, but Asuna quietly says she wants him to put it on properly. Kirito’s face lights up, he lifts the ring and slides it carefully onto her ring finger. Their fingers lace together and they lean in for a kiss, caught up in the moment before Yui excitedly exclaims that she sees a shooting star. The couple startles apart and watches the night sky for a long minute before leaning in for a romantic kiss anyway. When Kirito took Asuna home the next day he finally faced his fears and let Asuna introduce him to her mother.

Engagement Kiss

Sometime after Shigemura’s arrest, Kikuoka takes him to a secret facility. Shigemura expresses his gratitude for having the charges dropped but admits to being confused as they walk down a long, fluorescently lit hall. Kikuoka leads him into a mysterious computer room, one other, unnamed man in the room, and explains that he was impressed with Shigemura’s work with the Augma and AR. He has no actual need for a “top down” system, but he sees a lot of potential in Shigemura’s abilities, so in exchange for having the charges dropped, Kikuoka has brought him into his own organization. He ends with saying “Welcome to Rath.”

What Just Happened?

So much! But I’ll save the gushing for later. Instead, let’s simplify everything. As with real life, we saw the progression of Sword Art Online’s future technology. From virtual reality to augmented reality in just a few short years. Of course, being that this franchise is more about the virtual angle, the AR stuff got a bad beat here. However, the parallel is fairly spot on – a new technology/fad catches on, then promptly explodes (socially), and is quickly, and repeatedly, ‘improved.’

What really happened, however, was that a technological genius who had access and information pertaining to the original data from SAO used these things for his own selfish, ultimately villainous, gain. In other words, a guilt-driven father used his unique circumstances to try and recreate a life-like remnant of his daughter to make up for leading her to her death. A cause many could likely sympathize with were it not for the over 6,000 survivors he fully intended to sacrifice to accomplish his goal. The lingering result of this will be his likely inclusion in the promised third season of Sword Art Online.

In a more impactful and lasting sense, two things happened: Kirito (or should I say, Kazuto) and Asuna are officially engaged. In the real world. Secondly, the after credits scene with Shigemura and Kikuoka very deliberately leads into the arc which is intended to be the focus of the third season for the anime – when it finally returns.

Rating: 10/10

Final Thoughts: My heart has just exploded in joy! Let me say, before I dive in here, that when I first saw this movie in theaters I was bouncing-off-the-walls giddy for at least twenty-four hours after. I haven’t left a movie that ‘over the moon’ in a long time, and it was nice to feel that way again.

I’m gonna work a little backward in order to explain that giddiness so you don’t just think I’m outright crazy. First, you have to understand, when it comes to certain subjects – like SAO – I’m an unabashed fangirl. And I’ve been hooked since I first discovered the anime around the fall of 2013. Keeping all that in mind, as the anime built and extended past the first arc (which is by far my favorite), I began daydreaming of increasingly silly, self-indulgent ways in which the newer characters could really see my beautiful couple ‘in action.’ ‘In action,’ of course meaning at the height of their kickassery (yes, I just made that up) in the final days of SAO. Because I like crazy storylines where newer friends get to truly understand how awesome the main characters are. I even, on several occasions, used Yui and her often-mysteriously-convenient connection to the game system as a way to make this happen in my daydreams. Some kind of ‘the only way they can win is if I give them this ability I’ve been holding on to for a special occasion!’ and poof, Black Swordsman, and Lightning Flash. In the, well, virtual flesh. But it’s always been on my Most Self-Indulgent Fangirl Daydreams list. Until now. Until this movie, written by Kawahara himself, legitimately made it happen! That was it. It was over for me. I mean, by then I thoroughly loved the movie already, but that moment cemented it into my soul.

As if that weren’t amazing enough, I even got another thing I didn’t expect to get to satiate my not-so-inner fangirl. This side note is that, in general, and in all things media that I watch/read/etc, whenever there is romance involved as a significant part of a storyline I have a minimum two expectations: a kiss (doesn’t have to be ‘hot’) and a confession. Because that’s kind of what makes a romance, you know? Certainly what makes one satisfying. So I found myself immensely confused when I was re-watching the Fairy Dance arc one day, during the big fight scene where Kirito is basically killing himself trying to plow through the guardians, and it struck me that he’d never said it. Or, more accurately, that we’d never seen him say it. Yet it didn’t bother me. I tried to make it bother me, assumed it would now that I’d thought of it, but it didn’t because his feelings for Asuna were just so glaringly obvious that the words seemed … superfluous. Once I accepted that I let the thought go and moved on. So much so that in the movie, when he finally did say the words, I nearly missed it! Like some part of my brain was like, ‘yeah, Kirito, we all know,’ and obviously it was a good time to be saying that, so okay – wait! He said the words! Out loud! ‘On camera,’ so to speak! Cue the seat kicking, happy squirming fangirl moment. (Sorry to the strangers sitting on either side of me!)

So anyway, yeah, this movie made one thrilled fangirl. Which is a very important factor, I think, for estimating the value in something that is, at the end of the day, designed for the fans.

Speaking of fans, to those of you who enjoy SAO for the sword fighting action stuff more than the romance, don’t worry. There are monsters and sword fights and yeah, Kirito screaming at things in a blind rage like he tends to do. Also for points, Asuna being a badass with a rapier, as well as Sinon, getting her sniping action on. We even get to see the less-frequent sight of Silica and Liz actually fighting. Go girl power and all that. Plus we see Klein and his guild, his actual guild as opposed to Kirito and the ‘harem,’ fighting together. That was fun.

Yeah, we all know there are SAO haters out there. They’ll find something to nit-pick. But for the rest of us, the ones who know how awesome the anime is and who’ve missed it since SAO II ended? You’ll be happy you didn’t skip this one. Even if your favorite character is Eugene.

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