Anime is becoming more and more mainstream. Once confined to Japanese and the most dedicated of geeks, the craft has become popular thanks to an online culture lauding up TV series, Manga books, and riveting cinema.
For movie-goers, Studio Ghibli is the most recognised anime house, providing entertainment such as My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and, of course, Spirited Away.
But there has been a sub-culture of anime gently rising thanks to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu – anime TV series have found a strong base in America and the UK. So popular are these shows that even Hollywood is remaking them for their own audiences (See: Death Note, Ghost in the Shell etc.) With a large wave of original anime movies, and adapted TV shows, more and more Western audiences are dropping into cinemas to watch these films.
One such product is Sword Art Online. Following the natural course for anime (Manga, TV Series, Movie,) the film Ordinal Scale brings a phenomenal and possible conclusion to the show. Following Kirito after his, sometimes tragic, adventures in the titular Virtual Reality MMORPG, the now favoured game is augmented reality, bringing fantasy and internet life into the real one. However, there is someone with a grudge and a dying need for revenge who will manipulate the game to win. Soon, what was once harmless, becomes a deadly battle…
Sword Art Online has had several seasons and different “arcs” which has caused a divide between anime fans. Despite this, the film directed by Tomohiko Itō decides to veer on a new route.
As someone who watched this completely blind, knowing the backstory of Kirito and Asuna’s journey would wildly help establish character and narrative depth, there is work here to provide an entertaining action anime flick without necessarily needing the previous entries. The opposite reaction to this, however, is that the film is so ridiculously enjoyable that you’ll want to explore more of Sword Art Online and the characters at the helm of it.
Sword Art Online may not be powerful or thought-provoking anime that ardent film-goers are used to; it isn’t going to change your life like Your Name or make you glassy eyed like Grave of the Fireflires. But Ordinal Scale provides a hell of a lot of pleasure. With stunning action sequences set to an unforgettable soundtrack (provided by mysterious character Yuuna,) you’ll be awash with an abundance of energy that will set your pulse hammering and ease you into thrilling film. There’s also a terrific antagonist that is sketchy, ruthless, and cruel but with a backstory you can empathise with.
There is also this notion of augmented reality and virtual reality that seems dangerously close to how our society is at the moment. Though I’m not one to be aghast at social media and technological advances that could make VR a likely possibility, there’s this interesting, albeit terrifying, notion of “what if?” Within the exhilaration are nuggets of philosophical debate, including these possibilities, the subject of grief, and the nuances of revenge.
For fans of the manga or show, Ordinal Scale provide a raucous feast of colourful augmented antics and a riveting narrative that’ll meet or exceed your expectations. Though it wavers the line into distaste (the sound-effect on a boob bounce is just a little ridiculous,) there is enough power behind the cinematic adaptation for fans and non-fans alike to enjoy.