Every anime fan has probably heard of—or even watched—“Sword Art Online”. Some hate it while others like it, but its fame is definitely undeniable. Due to its immense popularity, it has produced many anime seasons, spin-offs, and films. “Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale” is one of the films based on the series, featuring an original story by the light novel’s author.

The events of the film take place between the second and third seasons of the “Sword Art Online” series. Admittedly, I was not a big fan of the second season, so I barely have any recollection of it, while the first season aired many years ago. For better or worse, knowing the events of the second season did not matter that much to understand the story—or maybe I simply did not catch the references due to my lack of knowledge.

Contrary to previous Sword Art Online stories that revolved around virtual reality, the film is based on augmented reality. The flagship game of this new system is the eponymous “Ordinal Scale“, which is played by wearing a headband-like gadget and features boss monsters from “Sword Art Online“. Anyone who’s familiar with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) would know that there is a fundamental difference between the two, especially with games. Kirito, who is famous in VR games for his agility and skills, became a complete newbie who was clumsy and couldn’t move his body as he does in virtual reality. However, aside from Kirito, all of his friends move no differently than they do in VR. Furthermore, like many other shonen stories, Kirito magically gets better in a snap without even training his body.

The story, in my opinion, progressed at a good pace. It spent more than half of the film building the foundation and foreshadowing the conspiracy behind “Ordinal Scale“. The hints were big enough to keep you interested and wondering what the conspiracy is, but also small enough so you won’t be able to guess and spoil yourself. Unexpectedly, it was the “climax” that was bad. They suddenly whip out a random powerful monster for our heroes to beat. Just like any shonen stories, at first, they were beaten very badly without any hope in sight. However, all their friends from previous virtual reality games they played come join them, and suddenly the tables are turned and the boss monster gets defeated.

What I like about the movie, however, is how touching the ending was. They introduced a completely new character who was never before seen in previous seasons of the anime. Even in the story itself, she only appeared a handful of times. But using only a few scenes, they were able to develop her character, make the viewers attached to her, and make them sad to see her go. It is rare for me to see an anime that evokes so many emotions, especially from a shonen anime. Another commendable aspect of the movie is the original soundtrack used. Many fans know that anime is home to many beautiful songs, but I rarely appreciated them and usually skipped listening to the intro songs. However, this movie bombarded me with such wonderful music that I have no choice but to admit how great they did in this aspect.

In the epilogue, the film shares with us a beautiful quote I liked very much, “We must never forget the nameless players“. “Sword Art Online” and many other shonen anime are always about the main character. The side characters only serve as a foil to the protagonist. However, this movie gave the spotlight to the nameless characters in previous seasons of the anime—the nameless professor who plotted his revenge after losing his daughter to “Sword Art Online“, the nameless bard who died due to the virtual reality game and triggered her father’s conspiracy, and the nameless player who used to be meek in “Sword Art Online” but became a cold-blooded top player in “Ordinal Scale“. The nameless people are not powerless; they are their own main characters in their own stories.

Story: 7/10
Characters: 6/10
Music: 8/10
Animation: 9/10

Overall Rating: 7.5/10