Sword Art Online Part Four DVD Review

All good things must come to an end, so the phrase goes, and with this release from Manga UK the first season of this hit series reaches its conclusion.

Part Four features the final six episodes that has our hero Kirito reach the final stage of his journey to rescue his trapped beau Asuna from the clutches of the somewhat deranged Oberon. The episodes also wrap up the on going plotline between Kirito and his sister, Suguha.

Those who have bought the series so far will notice that I wrote ‘six episodes’ and not seven, as in previous volumes. This is due to the whole series being only twenty-five episodes and so in order to give the anime a balanced release the final two DVD releases saw Part Three contain five episodes while Part Four contains six. Whilst this is an understandable move, that fact that you are still paying the same price as the previous volumes could leave you feeling a bit cheated. During a recent panel at MCM Birmingham Comic Con, Manga Entertainment’s community liaison Jeremy Graves revealed that the decision to release the content in this manner was actually part of their licence agreement. This same agreement also prohibited them from releasing the whole series as a box set and so this was the only way the UK could see the series for now – as individual volumes.

Moving on to the actual anime itself and whilst the first arc was enjoyable and left you wanting more, this arc is at times both frustrating and creepy. The main frustration here comes from the fact that Asuna has been relegated to that of a damsel in distress, despite being a strong female character in the first fourteen episodes of this arc. In essence she has become Princess Peach to Kirito’s Mario. Heck, she is even trapped in a castle of sorts. Whilst you can understand this as Kirito does need a motivation to visit this new realm, you can’t help but feel that you could have swapped Asuna with the sister and still had similar motivation. It would have also allowed for Asuna and Kirito to explore their love for each other when they are in a new environment and would have helped to give their love more depth.

Speaking of the sister, Suguha, as we were, this is where the previous point about the story being creepy comes in. As a large part of these episodes deal with Kirito’s sister revealing her love for him and because *Spoiler Warning* they are not actually brother and sister, it is okay. This is definitely not the case as he has always seen her as his sister and the fact that she is trying to make him feel bad for not reciprocating these feeling might make for an uncomfortable viewing experience and lends itself to creepy undertones.

This aside the battle sequences are fantastically animated to the point that in the large battles you truly feel the scale of them. What is also good about the ending to this arc is that it resolves all outstanding plot points and as such leaves the viewer with a sense of completion, which also means that we will be getting a completely new story when Season Two airs in Japan later this year.

SwordArtOnlinePart4

It seems that the overall message of this series is that you can find love anywhere, even in a virtual environment. It is a message that the writers have managed to blend with the technically driven world we currently live in and so will certainly resonate well with audiences.

Overall, despite the above points, Sword Art Online is one of those rare occasions where an anime lives up to all of the hype that has come before it. Special praise must also go to Manga Entertainment for releasing a volume every month, a move that has allowed fans to be treated to the whole series in a mere four months. When you consider that this used to be the time you waited between volumes, this a welcome move and one that is hopefully used for future releases. However, again, this could have been part of the aforementioned licensing agreement and if this is so then it is surely a welcome sign that Japanese companies are beginning to understand that viewers are tired of the long wait between volumes.

Sword Art Online Part Four is now available from Manga UK and the series as a whole is one that should be on any self respecting anime fan’s shopping list. If it isn’t already that is.

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