Sword Art Online Volume 2 DVD Review

Following the release of the first seven episodes last month, Manga Entertainment have released the final part of the first arc in this set on DVD and Blu-Ray a lot quicker than most would have expected, with a mere one month passing since the release of the first set. This volume contains the last seven episodes of the first arc of the anime and the focus is primarily on Asuna and Kirito’s relationship and how they are both dealing with life inside the world of Aincrad.

The next few episodes seem to take place over what seems to be a course of several months and possibly even years, a fact we are left to deduce through the aid of such things as dates that flash on the screen, a brief narrated action still/sequence or through the use of a brief bit of dialogue. Granted whilst this method is good for covering vast periods of time in a short sequence it can lead you to feel a little bit disconnected with the characters as you do not see certain skills or parts of their characters develop, they are just there. Luckily for Sword Art Online though, they tend to do this mostly for the minor characters and when they do do this for Asuna or Kirito it is only used very scarcely, enough so that you are still able to bond with the pair.

The main focus of this arc though at least in a thematic sense seems to be on how our heroes have decided to settle for a life within Sword Art Online due to the perceived impossibility of completing the task in front of them and the risk that completing it would mean to their lives and that of those around them. This is a compelling point that you as the viewer find yourself thinking about and pondering on what you would do in this situation and whether sometimes in today’s modern world we hide ourselves in games or online because we feel unable to deal with the realities of the world we live in. It is in creating these issues that the series manages to make itself more than just the traditional hack and slash anime that it could quite easily have been.

SwordAtOnlineCVRCredit has to be given to director Tomohiko Ito for managing to keep this anime adaption close to Reki Kawahara’s manga, which was originally released as a light novel back in 2002. As a result you are able to easily relate to the themes and characters. The anime also manages to avoid creating too many of the usual clichés and so you do find yourself surprised, especially by the end of the final episode, which leaves you slightly confused as to how they will continue from where you are left but almost definitely wanting more.

Another stand out moment on the disc is to be found in episode 12 and without giving too much away, it is a moment that even the most emotionally challenged person will have trouble not shedding a tear at. It is also another point where Sword Art Online shows one of its strengths, in that over a short period of time it is able to make you bond with a character without realising you have and then in a heartbeat have something happen that makes you realise the bond you have. Whilst this is not the first instance of the series doing this to the viewer (the last being in episode seven on the previous set) you still do not expect the series to do it again and that is another one of its charms. It has the ability to not only engage you, but also surprise you and make you care about its world and the characters who occupy it.

What is also unique about the dub of this anime is Cherami Leigh and Bryce Papenbrock cast in the main roles of Asuna and Kirito respectively. Despite having been in anime in the past they manage to deliver performances completely different from what they have done before. As such you do not find yourself thinking that you recognise that person from their previous work, all of which can sometimes cause you to be distracted from the performance they are delivering at that moment in time.

Visually too Sword Art Online can have its moments when it is truly a sight to behold and the styles of art are brilliantly used to distinguish the differences between that of the real world and the game world. For example, when we see glimpses of the real world they are shown to be bland and somewhat drab in comparison to the dramatic and bright colours of the virtual world that they are trapped in.

Overall even though the way this volume ends does leave you feeling that you wish you could have explored more of the world, the series will still have you hooked. It is a good thing then that Manga are releasing the next volume on February 24th, which even though is sooner than normal, will still seem like forever.

Sword Art Online Volume 2 is available on DVD and Blu-Ray priced at £19.99 and £24.99 respectively courtesy of Manga Entertainment from Monday 27th January.

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