Anime Reporter journeys one more time to the world of Sword Art Online for part four of the series and the finale of Sword Art Online, (though a recent revelation that Sword Art Online II is in the pipeline has been causing some excitement around the Anime Reporter offices).
If you haven’t seen parts 1-3, by all means, feel free to check out our earlier Sword Art Online reviews but be warned before venturing too far into this review: Here be spoilers.
When last we left the world of Alfheim Online, Kirito and Leafa were racing to head off some Salamanders on the verge of a massacre of many innocent players, while Asuna, as we all surely recall, waits full of hope that Kirito will come to save her. Part 3 saw the action shift to a new world, where players can fly and cast magical spells. It also presented us with a ticking clock counting down the days Kirito had left to save Asuna. What it failed to give us somewhat was the tension and panic that Kirito probably should have felt. A few episodes felt more like Kirito touring around his new environment rather than focusing on the task at hand.
This is not the case with Part 4 of the series. Leading in to the season finale, Part 4 is driven in all aspects of the tale, with emotional breaks for Kirito in his struggle to save his love and also for his adopted sister who is unwittingly his companion Leafa in the virtual world, torn between her feelings for two different men, both of whom are actually Kirito. The action, once it starts up is a delightful frenzy of overkill barrages and a great deal of mid-air agility.
In terms of Kirito, everything about these episodes hits all the right notes: action, emotion, drama and cool sci-fi protagonist bad-ass moments abound. Less satisfying are the female characters roles. Asuna, originally Kirito’s equal (at least) in battle is reduced to the role of prisoner, which is fine, up to a point as long as it serves the plot, though her status as a damsel in distress can feel overused by the final confrontation. There is also, a very regrettable and entirely unnecessary scene involving Asuna removes a lot of the subtlety of her new role as a ‘helpless female’. It’s enough to say that this scene involves tentacles to give most readers an idea of the scene. Kirito’s adopted sister, Suguha (Leafa) feels like her emotional struggle could have been given more time, though, as she only came into the series by Part 3, this feels like less of an oversight than Asuna.
The animation is more stunning than ever, with many scenes during the final confrontation feeling more like something cinematic than part of a series and the score is used masterfully to build up tension and get most viewers’ hearts really pumping during the final few episodes.
Sword Art Online Part 4 is the adrenaline-filled, battle-hungry arc we were hoping Part 3 would be and more. The lack of characterisation seen in supporting characters would be more irritating if it wasn’t for the news that a new series is on its way. Hopefully Sword Art Online II will give these characters more room to grow.
Sword Art Online is available on DVD and Bluray from Manga Entertainment from March 31st 2014.
For more info on upcoming releases, take a look at the official Twitter page (Manga Entertainment).
Also check out the Sword Art Online Facebook page
and the Sword Art Online Website,
and of course, stay with us at Anime Reporter for more anime reviews and updates!
Use of Characters: 6.5
86% – Stunning! Sword Art Online is a fitting end to a great series and will leave most viewers hungry to come back for series 2. Excellent anime- this is how it’s done!