Sword Art Online Part 1 DVD Review

Sword Art Online DVDHave you ever spent so long on a game that you actually thought it was real? The latest anime release from Manga Entertainment, Sword Art Online, turns this concept into reality.

The story begins with a multitude of people queuing for the latest game; sound familiar?

This latest game is the titular VRMMO RPG (Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) Sword Art Online. The game is set in a fully immersive alternative reality in which your physical body is connected to your game avatar through a headset called Nerve Gear. Once in this reality you are free to do as you wish, whether it be as a hero or a villain. The anime focuses on the 10,000 people who have managed to get their hands on the game, logged on and have started to explore the new world. However, it is not long before they discover that once you have entered the game, you cannot log out. You cannot have your headset removed and you cannot let your health bar reach zero; if you do then you will die in both realities. The only way to escape is to traverse all 100 levels and reach and defeat the final boss.

This release contains the first seven episodes of the anime. We are thrown straight into the series and are shown how the people cope with their new reality and also through this we are shown the complexities of the human psyche. The anime is a great commentary on modern life. People wish to escape the confines of modern day living for something more, the only problem with the new world offered by the game is that the old world social structure must be enforced in order to keep order. This means that the new world is in essence the same as the old world but with an emphasis on strength and power.

The main character of the story is Kirito, an IT savvy teenager who we learn was one of the original beta testers of the game. As the anime begins we see him as a shy loner in the game, creating a persona as an outcast to hide his previous involvement in the game from other players who deem this as an unfair advantage. So although he rarely tells others of his past, he keeps to himself but helps others in need. As the episodes progress we see the reason why he is reluctant to work with others, but we also see him opening up to a small cast of other players.

The female lead in the anime is Asuna and from the start she comes across as a lone character unsure of where to go. We see her disappear and reappear in a number of episodes following a similar path to Kirito (wishing to become to the strongest fighter in order to beat the final boss), but her path leads her in to a guild to protect others yet be protected. Through her we are shown how you can work as a team for the greater good where as Kirito fights alone for the greater good. It is nice to see this split of the characters, showing the harsh cruelty of the world and how each path takes them on their own separate journeys to lead them to the ultimate goal.

Although these episodes give a great insight into this alternative reality, it seems very rushed skipping from one episode to the next in a disjointed fashion. I wish they had spent more episodes exploring the world and the other players, showing more kinships and alliances as you would see in an ordinary RPG.

The art style of the anime, whilst nothing different from the normal style we are used to, is still superbly drawn and done so to the highest of quality that you would expect. The DVD itself though lacks any real added features which is disappointing considering how much buzz this title had around its release and so you would have expected a little more to support the seven episodes. But all you get is the opening and closing sequences without subtitles, something that you get with most generic anime titles on release.

The other interesting feature about this release is that Manga have only included seven episodes on the disc, a model we have not seen used for a while. Whilst this could be for a number of reasons, ranging from licensing costs to wanting to test the water, you do feel that seven is certainly not enough and there I guess is the hook Manga were looking for.

Overall a must watch, but as said above the episodes leave you wanting more. If the rest of the series carries on in the same vain then it is surely going to be one of the most poignant stories to reflect modern day life. 

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1 Comment

  1. kier4n says:

    I find the trapped in a game concept really interesting, so I was excited to see SAO. I also would have liked if there was more time spent to exploring the SAO world and how the characters adapt to it, but aside from that I think it’s fantastic. It has definitely left me wanting more, so I’m glad that we don’t have to wait long for Part 2. I see it’s out at the end of the month here!

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