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Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

October 21, 2013 by  



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“Sword Art Online” is an exciting, addictive anime series that is well-written, well-acted and now with the release of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III”, you get the continuation and new direction for the series.  If you are in the series for the long run and are a collector who loves Aniplex swag, “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” is highly recommended!

Please purchase this release from Rightstuf

Image courtesy of © REKI KAWAHARA/ASCII MEDIA WORKS/SAO Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: Episodes 15-19 (125 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: October 15, 2013

Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Directed by Tomohiki Ito

Script by Munemasa Nakamoto, Naoki Shojo, Shuji Iriyama, Yoshikazu Mukai, Yukie Sugawara, Yukito Kizawa

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima, Yusuke Takeda

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna

Kanae Itō as Yui

Kouichi Yamadera as Akihiko Kayaba

Ayahi Takagaki/Sarah Anne Williams as Lisbeth

Ayahi Takagaki as Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Lee Morris as Leafa

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Lee as Suguha Kirigaya

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Agil/Andrew Gilbert Mills

Rina Hidaka as Silica

Saori Hayami/Xanthe Huynh as Sachi

Takehito Koyasu as Nobuyuki Sugō/Oberon

Toru Ohkawa/Marc Diraison as Heathcliff

Although Kirito cleared SAO and returned to his real life, his adventure was far from over. Asuna is in a coma in the hospital, and Nobuyuki Sugou of RECTO, the company that took over SAO’s property, is trying to get married to her!

Hearing that Asuna has been spotted in the virtual game Alfheim Online (ALO), Kirito decides to dive into the virtual world once again. With the help of Leafa, Kirito rushes to the World Tree where Asuna is supposedly imprisoned.

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It has been two months since Kirito (Kazuto Kirigaya) had beaten Akihiko Kayaba and freed everyone from “Sword Art Online”.

While his sister Suguha worries about him, Kazuto worries about Asuna, who like other 300 players have not woke up after the SAO incident.  While visiting Asuna at the hospital, her father reveals to him that he has arranged a marriage between Asuna and Nobuyuki Sugou.

But Kazuto realizes that Nobuyuki Sugou is not a good guy and his company, RECTO Progress Inc. has been keeping Asuna alive since Argus (the developer of SAO) went bankrupt and that he will be marrying Asuna in a week and tells Kazuto to never see her again.

But when Andrew sends Kazuto an e-mail of Asuna inside a locked cage in the game “Alfheim Online” (ALO),  determined to not give on Asuna and save her, Kazuto returns to a new VRMMORPG, determined on saving Asuna.

Find out how Kazuto’s new journey in a new VRMMORPG in episodes 15-19 featured in “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III”!

“What is Sword Art Online”?

In 2002, writer Reki Kawahara wrote a novel series titled “Sword Art Online” under the name Fumio Kunori.

While Kawahara would receive critical acclaim for his novel “Accel World” in 2009, which earned Kawahara an ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize and winning the Grand Prize in 2008, the popularity of “Accel World” would lead to “Sword Art Online” being republished and featuring the art work of abec.

This time using his real name on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeku Bunko label from April 10, 2009 and a spin-off series in 2012. The series has since spawned a total of five manga adaptations (“Sword Art Online: Aincrad”, “4-koma”, “Fairy Dance”, “Girls Ops” and “Progressive”). The anime series produced by A-1 Pictures was released in Japan between July and December 2012 and airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami in July 27, 2013.

A video game series was released in Japan for the Sony PSP and now, “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” (featuring the first seven episodes) will be released in North America courtesy of Aniplex of America on August 2013.

The anime series was directed by Tomohiko Ito (“Occult Academ”, “Silver Spoon”), featuring music by Yuki Kajiura (“.hack” series, “Eat-Man”, “My-HIME”, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, “Noir”, “Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE”), character design by Shingo Adachi (“Megaman Star Force”, “Rockman.EXE Beat”) and Art Direction by Takayuki Nagashima (“Durarara!!”, “Real Drive”, “Steins;Gate”) and Yusuke Takeda (“Berserk” films, “Armitage III”, “009-1”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, “Golden Boy”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing”, etc.).

“Sword Art Online” is set in 2022 and many are playing the Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), “Sword Art Online” (SAO for short). The game comes with a virtual reality helmet known as a Nerve Gear which uses the five senses of the brain and so players can control their characters with their mind.

The anime series focuses on protagonist, Kirito, one of the 1,000 beta testers of the Closed Beta version of SAO. On November 6th, the game is released to the public and Kirito is enjoying the game and meets Klein, who has experience playing RPG’s but learns from Kirito about the basics of the game.

While the two are talking, suddenly they are transported to the main courtyard and are unable to log out. They are told by the creator of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba, that all of the people playing are stuck in the game. If anyone takes of the virtual reality helmet of a player, they will die.

As for those playing the game, if they want to be free of the game, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. But if their avatars (their game character) dies in the game, their bodies will also die in the real world. And so far, people in the real world have died by having their Nerve Gear removed.

Determined in beating the game, so he can be free, “Sword Art Online” focuses on Kirito and his adventures of beating the game but also the people he meets in the game, may it be those who are experienced or non-experienced, those who have different “jobs” within the game but also solving mysteries as certain players have become people for hire and also become “player killers”.

In “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set II”, Kirito and Asuna have fallen in love in the game and manages to beat the final boss, the creator of “Sword Art Online” and freeing everyone who is stuck with the game.

But now in “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III”, 300 players including Asuna have not waken up from SAO for some reason.  But when he receives a tip that Asuna was seen in the game “Alfheim Online” (ALO), locked inside a cage,  Kazuto (Kirito online) is determined to free and rescue her.

He ends up joining with Leafa in “Alfheim Online”, not knowing that her true identity is Suguha Kirigaya, his cousin. And for Suguha, after she learned that Kazuto was not her real brother, she has developed feelings for him but knows that he is in love with someone else.  Meanwhile, she has been playing “Alfheim Online” and has teamed up with a player named Kirito and joins him online, not knowing that Kirito is Kazuto in real life.

Alongside with Yui (an artificial intelligence program in “Sword Art Online” who looks at Kirito and Asuna as her father and mother), who is also a support character in “Alfheim Online”.  The three work together, taking on new antagonists in “Alfheim Online” but most importantly, Kirito tries to find a way to save the person he truly loves!

The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” are:

  • Kirito/Kazuto Kirigaya – The main protagonist of the series. The solo player who saved thousands in the game “Sword Art Online” and was romantically involved with Asuna in SAO, after seeing a picture of Asuna locked in a cage in the VRMMORPG “Alfheim Online” (ALO), Kirito is determined of rescuing her.
  • Leafa/Suguha Kirigaya – Suguha is Kazuto’s cousin who has feelings for him.  She is very good at kendo but also plays “Alfheim Online” as the character Leifa.  Not knowing that Kirito is Kazuto, the two join forces in “Alfheim Online”.
  • Asuna Yuki – A person who fought alongside Kirito and has fallen in love with him in the game.  She is being kept alive by technology used for ALO but is being held against her will inside the game by Nobuyuki Sugou.
  • Nobuyuki Sugou – The main antagonist during the “Alfheim Online” arc and the one holding 300 Nerve Gear victims including Asuna as prisoners in the game, despite SAO ending.  He is determined to marry Asuna, while she is comatose and attempts to take over RCT Progress Inc., owned by her father.
  • Agil/Andrew Gilbert Mills – The axe wielder in SAO, he runs a shop known as “Dicey Cafe” and a location for Kazuto and friends in the real world.

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” features episodes 15-19 of “Sword Art Online”:

  • EPISODE 15 – Two months after leaving SAO, Kazuto continues to visit Asuna in the hospital, and finds out that her father is planning to have her married (while comatose) to Nobuyuki Sugou.
  • EPISODE 16 – Andrew receives info. that Asuna was seen inside a locked cage on top of the World Tree in “Alfheim Online”.  Fearing that she and the other 300 people who have not awaken from SAO, are being held against their will in ALO.  So, Kazuto using the name Kirito, beings a new game in ALO and notices that his stats are almost identical to SAO and that Yui’s in-game data can be activated.
  • EPISODE 17 – A character named Leafa is grateful to Kirito for saving her, so she teaches him how to fly.  Kirito joins her to meet with others in Sylph Territory to find out how they can get on top of the World Tree.  But they learn that the person who is holding Asuna in a cage is the game master, Oberon the Fairy King.
  • EPISODE 18 – Suguha thinks back on how she joined “Alfheim Online” and online, she and Kirito continue their adventures, but some mysterious group is following them.
  • EPISODE 19 – Kirito and Lefa take on a large group of Salamander players.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the Sword Art Online game, there is a good balance between well-painted buildings and interiors and also beautiful painted backgrounds for outdoor scenes. Black levels are nice and deep but its the colorful palette and the beautiful backgrounds that captivate you.

Colors are absolutely vibrant and I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding during my viewing of the episodes.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 English and Japanese linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. Both Yoshitsugi Matsuoka, Ayana Taketatsu, Haruka Tomatsu and other cast members have done a fantastic job.

With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on! Both Bryce Papenbrook and Cherami Leigh did an awesome job as Kirito and Asuna, as with Cassandra Morris as Leafa/Suguha. But the casting for this anime series for the English dub was fantastic. Everyone did a magnificent job with their character role.

Subtitles are in English and you can choose from complete English subtitles which include dialogue and Japanese kana translations or a selection to choose just kana translations or no English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline 6 – (10:30) Featuring Leafa in super deformed format discussing the events in ALO and ALO trivia and more.
  • Sword Art Offline 7 – (13:57) Featuring Leafa discussing the Sylph, trivia and more.
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 18-20.
  • Audio Commentary 16 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Kanae Ito (voice of Yui) and Art Director Takayuki Nagashima and Yusuke Takeda.
  • Audio Commentary 17 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Sound Director Iwanami and Ducks Music, Konno.
  • 2nd Season Textless Opening

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • ソードアート・オンライン Vol. 7 Original Soundtrack vol. 2

The following is a 27-track soundtrack (57 minutes long) featuring all-instrumental tracks by Yuki Kajiura. The soundtrack was included with the fourth Blu-ray volume release in Japan and included in the U.S. Aniplex Inc. release of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III”.

  1. swordland ~to be continued    0:35
  2. friendly feelings    1:47
  3. sorrowfully    1:25
  4. critical phase    1:58
  5. victory    1:30
  6. a new world of fairies    2:12
  7. fly higher and faster    1:42
  8. in time of peace    1:41
  9. fly, if you can    2:04
  10. fight with a devil    2:20
  11. she is still sleeping    1:45
  12. past sadness    2:00
  13. is this love?    2:26
  14. town in the morning    1:35
  15. climbing up the world tree    2:12
  16. I wonder    1:42
  17. Yui    1:56
  18. is this love? ~piano only ver.    1:58
  19. Oberon    2:04
  20. in the cage    1:59
  21. got to win    2:09
  22. aerial fight    2:34
  23. false king    2:10
  24. last flight    2:06
  25. reconciliation    2:15
  26. dance with me    1:47
  27. aincrad    1:34
  • 16-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet – Each page features illustrations with characters from the series.
  • Set of Pin-Up Illustration Postcards – Featuring five different illustrated postcards.
  • Exclusive Bushiroad’s Collectible Card #1 – I’m not sure if each set is random but the card that came with this limited edition release featured Kazuto and Sugu.
  • Rigid Box illustrated by abec (Original Character Design) – A slipcase which houses both Blu-ray cases.
  • Clear BD cases with 2-sided Japanese Cover Design

Read our Q&A with “Sword Art Online” creator Reki Kawahara and our interview with “Sword Art Online” music artists Luna Haruna and Aoi Eir

As episodes 1-14 of “Sword Art Online” were riveting, exciting and just all-out awesome, with the release of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III”, the series has an all new vibe courtesy of the the new VRMMORPG game “Alfheim Online”.

While the quality of the animation and also the action is retained, there is a difference because of a different game, when it comes to looks and also character design.

With “Sword Art Online”, the game focused on Kirito and his adventures in the game during a span of two years.  Seeing how his character has grown in power but also the relationships he has with other players, primarily with Asuna and how the two eventually become lovers in the game.

But that was then, and now the new storyline features a rescue attempt by Kirito and Leafa (both are unaware that in reality, both Kazuto and his cousin Suguha are playing the game together) to save Asuna but also all 300 players who are comatose and are being kept inside ALO.

While I did enjoy the storyline within “Sword Art Online” much more, I suppose that I wasn’t used to the new shift of another VRMMORPG game with a different style.  But fortunately, Kirito retains his stats and skills (except the dual-sword skill) and also, was able to bring Yui into the game as well.

So, while this latest set features episodes 15-19, in someways, it seems like a new beginning that takes getting used to.

As a person who loves Japanese RPG games, back in early 2000’s, I was captivated by the “.Hack” series, fast forward over a decade later and I started hearing praises for this story about people trapped in a video game world. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it because I figured that it would be a copycat anime series but I was wrong.  The series is addictive and highly enjoyable so far.

“Sword Art Online” features a storyline that draws you in and makes you, the viewer, wanting more and more.

As for the Blu-ray release, this is an Aniplex Limited Edition which means… “Aniplex Swag”!

If there is anything about Aniplex that they have been true to fans who have purchased their limited editions, the company delivers in giving fans special swag that was released in Japan.

In the case of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III”, not only do you get the slipcase and irreversible covers on a clear Blu-ray case, you also get a 27 song soundtrack featuring the music by the wonderful Yuki Kajiura.

Also, you get a booklet of illustrations, postcards and a limited Bushiroad playing card.

As for the Blu-ray release, as one can expect, the series looks wonderful on Blu-ray. While I wished for a more immersive lossless soundtrack, a lot of anime TV series are originally in stereo and for the case of “Sword Art Online”, the soundtrack is purchased in Dolby Digital 2.0 and Japanese Linear PCM stereo. But both soundtracks are well-acted and for the Japanese soundtrack, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Haruka Tomatsu, Ayana Taketatsu and Kanae Ito do a wonderful job!

And I was also very impressed by the English dub with Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito, Cherami Leigh as Asuna, Cassandra Morris as Leafa/Suguha and Stephanie Sheh as Yui.

As for special features, you get the “Sword Art Offline” animations, several audio commentary featuring the Japanese seiyuu (voice actor and actress of the series) plus the original web previews and more.

I can now understand why there was so much hype built around “Sword Art Online”.

“Sword Art Online” is an exciting, addictive anime series that is well-written, well-acted and now with the release of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III”, you get the continuation and new direction for the series.

If you are in the series for the long run and are a collector who loves Aniplex swag, “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” is highly recommended!

Please purchase this release from Rightstuf






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