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Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (a J!-ENT Anime Film Review)

March 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline. I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film! A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of  2017 © REKI KAWAHARA/PUBLISHED BY KADOKAWA CORPORATION ASCII MEDIA WORKS/SAO MOVIE Project. © RK/KC AMW/SM


Originally created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

Scenario by Reki Kawahara, Tomohiko Ito

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design: Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima

Chief Animation Director: Shingo Adachi

Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami

CGI Director: Ryuta Undo

Director of Photography: Kentaro Waki

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Haruka Tomatsu as Asuna Yūki

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Kazuto Kirigaya/Kirito

Ayahi Takagaki as Rika Shinozaki/Lizbeth

Ayana Taketatsu as Suguha Kirigaya/Leafa

Hiroaki Hirata as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto as Andrew Gilbert Mills/Agil

Kanae Itō as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro as Shino Asada/Sinon

Rina Hidaka as Keiko Ayano/Silica

Sayaka Kanda as Yuna

Takeshi Kaga as Professor Shigemura

Yoshio Inoue as Eiji

Kouichi Yamadera as Akihiko Kayaba


2022 – The NerveGear, the world’s first dedicated full-dive device developed by the genius programmer, Akihiko Kayaba. It was a revolutionary machine that opened up infinite possibilities for the world of VR (Virtual Reality.) 4 years later…. A next-generation, wearable multi-device called the Augma has been released to compete with the NerveGear’s successor – the Amusphere. A cutting-edge machine boasting the ability to enhance AR (Augmented Reality) to the maximum, the Augma offers a safe, user-friendly experience, as it can be used while the player is awake, making it an instant hit. Its killer title is an ARMMORPG developed exclusively for the Augma, “Ordinal Scale (a.k.a. OS).” Kirito is about to join Asuna and the others as an Ordinal Scale player, but…


The year 2026.

Two years after the “Sword Art Online” fiasco perpetrated by SAO creator Akihiko Kayaba which left many gamers injured or dead, a new technology is to be released.  A technology that is thought to be safe and nothing like the Nerve Gear that was used in “Sword Art Online”.

Now people can use the Augma, the successor to the Amusphere full-dive system which allows a player to play a game that simulates reality while the player is conscious (via augmented reality).

And one of the popular games created for the Augma is “Ordinal Scale”.  A game which has quickly gain popularity that Asuna, Lisbeth and Silica are playing it, but surprisingly Kirito hasn’t jumped aboard to play the game just yet until now.

As people get into the game, part of the main appeal to “Ordinal Scale” is the game’s mascot, an AI idol singer named Yuna who appears during the game to increase the stats of players.

While everyone is playing, the #2 ranked player Eiji helps the Kirito, Asuna and team defeat the level boss but Eiji uses the words “switch”, a term that was used in SAO to Asuna.

Meanwhile, Asuna tells Kirito that Eiji is most likely a member of the Knights of the Blood Oath named Nautilus, Yui tells them that the appearance of Aincrad bosses in “Ordinal Scale” are similar to the line up with the SAO dungeon maps.

As Asuna goes to play the game with her friends again, immediately Yuna and Eiji appear and Eiji pushes Asuna towards the level boss.

When Asuna is hit, she passes out and suddenly, Asuna starts to realize that her memories from SAO are starting to disappear. Concerned, Kirito takes Asuna to the hospital to get checked out and it is learned that the Augma device has scanned her brain for SAO memories, and it may have happened to other SAO players that are playing “Ordinal Scale”.

With Asuna’s memory loss of SAO, that means her memories of her friends, but most importantly her memories of Kirito will disappear.

A desperate Kirito tries to search for answers and promises that he will do whatever he can to get Asuna’s memories back.  But what will his search unveil?

What is “Sword Art Online” about:

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 also winning the Grand Prize in 2008, the popularity of his “Accel World” storyline would lead to “Sword Art Online” being republished and also featuring the art work of illustrator, 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 ten manga adaptations, two anime series, one TV film, five video games and now an animated film.

The original “Sword Art Online” series 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.  Also,  people in the real world who were stuck in the game have died by someone removing their Nerve Gear.

In the first series, Kirito and Asuna have become an online couple and while Kirito was able to succeed and free everyone by defeating the final boss of “Sword Art Online”, he has been utilized by law enforcement to assist in troubles that have affected users (as seen in “Sword Art Online II”).

In reality, Kazuto Kirigaya (Kirito) and Asuna Yuuki (Asuna) have continued their relationship outside of the game.  Asuna dreams of marrying Kazuto and having a family with him in the future.

And with the 2017 animated film “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, with Asuna’s memories of SAO fading, the dreams of her and Kirito being together may now be in jeopardy.


If there is one thing that “Sword Art Online” has proved over the years, that Reki Kawahara’s light novels and the anime adaptation inspired from it, are popular among many fans worldwide.

I had no doubt in my mind that “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” would do well as a theatrical release, not just in Japan but other countries worldwide, especially the United States.

Considering the film is not a Studio Ghibli film or an animated film with no Disney or Hollywood movie studio connect, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” grossed $1.35 million in the first four days of its North American run.

In fact, the film set an opening weekend record for an Aniplex of America theatrical release and has played in 560 theaters nationwide.

And that is for a film that debuted in American theaters with Japanese voice acting and English subtitles.  And for those who dislike reading during their films, Aniplex of America will be releasing the film with an English dub soundtrack in April 2017 for a limited theatrical engagement.

Watching “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, it has everything that fans have loved in the series.  A lot of action, a lot of humor but also emotional drama as viewers have watched and seen the relationship between Kazuto (Kirito) and Asuna evolve and in this film, you really see how far their love for each other has blossomed.  And so, this film has become a fight for love and Kazuto doing all that is necessary to make sure that the young woman he loves is saved from losing her memories due to a new threat.

Fans will also love seeing characters from the past making their appearance in the video game but one will no doubt be anticipating the next SOA storyline as the ending teaser (after all the credits are done) shows us another menacing threat that will surely surprise fans of the series.

Animation is fantastic as A-1 Pictures did a wonderful job with capturing emotion in the faces of the characters but also within action sequences.  Voice acting is wonderful in its original Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles were easy to read.  And having watched the original series in both Japanese and English, I’m expecting the English dub to be equally fantastic when the English version of the film is released in US theaters this April.

If there was anything that I didn’t get into all that much in regards to “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is the overuse of AI idol singer Yuna.  Music plays a big part in the film and where idol singers through battle is something we are accustomed to seeing in “Macross” anime series or film, it was not something I expected all that much in “Sword Art Online” and felt it was done a little bit too much for my tastes but at the same time, I’m sure it benefits Aniplex for music soundtrack sales and I’m sure fans who loved the music in the film will no doubt be seeking to purchase the soundtrack.

But I also hope that Aniplex, a company known for giving fans a lot of swag with their limited edition releases, will include the film’s soundtrack with the Blu-ray release of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”.

I absolutely enjoyed “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” but I do recommend people who know nothing about the series to at least watch the SAO series before jumping into the film.

Overall, I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline.  I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film!

A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

January 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

swordartonline-rosario

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is a series that longtime fans will no doubt love.  A captivating, heartbreaking and emotional storyline that maintains its action-packed setting and a Blu-ray limited edition set that will make the fans even more happy.  I absolutely enjoyed the conclusion of “Sword Art Online II” and I highly recommend checking this set out!

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


TITLE: Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 18-24 (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: January 19, 2016


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko 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

Art Design by Yoshinori Shiozawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Sinon

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Aoi Yūki as Yuuki

Asami Tano as Nori

Atsushi Tamaru as Talken

Ayahi Takagaki as Lisbeth / Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Leafa / Suguha Kirigaya

Daiki Yamashita as Jun

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Houko Kuwashima as Urðr

Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kyôji Shinkawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tecchi

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Silica

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijirō Kikuoka

Yu Shimamura as Siune

Yuko Minaguchi as Freyja


Hearing rumors about an undefeated player known as Zekken, Asuna decides to mount a challenge. Zekken has been seeking opponents to duel for an ultra-fast 11-hit combo original sword skill. Not a single challenger has been successful so far. Asuna comes very close and is barely defeated. To her surprise, Zekken asks Asuna to join the guild called Sleeping Knights. What is Zekken’s real intention?


The “Mother’s Rosario” arc begins as the final episodes of “Sword Art Online II” revolve around Asuna.

As ALO attracts Asuna’s curiosity with rumors of a popular swordsman known as “Zekken” accepting any battles against anyone and even Kirito losing against this person, Asuna decides to challenge the swordsman.

The swordsman turns out to not to be a male character but a female character named Yuuki.  And as Asuna is able to show that she is an excellent fighter, she holds her own against Yuuki.

This excites Yuuki who takes Asuna to visit her friends, a group known as the Sleeping Knights.

Each of them have one final goal before they go on their separate ways and that is to defeat the next floor boss with one party in order to have their name etched on the Monument of Swordsmen

Their request, for Asuna to join them in this final battle, as they need another person for their group, someone who is very strong.  And Yuuki believes Asuna is the one.

But as Asuna really wants to help the group out, her personal life is not going well as the events of “Sword Art Online” made her a year and half behind in her school studies.  Now her mother wants Asuna to stop playing any video games and is wanting to transfer her to another school and perhaps arrange her to be married with a wealthy man.

Will this be a last goodbye for Asuna to be with Kirito and her close friends?

Find out in the final volume of “Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario”!

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.

And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television. And now, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

The anime series was directed by Tomohiko Ito (“Occult Academy”, “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.).

Which leads us to “Sword Art Online II”:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario”


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

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series. Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is a former beta-tester who fights solo and responsible for saving many lives in Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online. Kirito is recruited by Seijiro Kikuoka of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to become “Kirito” once again to enter the virtual world to investigate the cause of deaths in “Gun Gale Online” (GGO).
  • Shino Asada/Sinon – One of the best players, a sniper on “Gun Gale Online”. In real life, she has a major phobia of guns after killing a robber. She is the owner of the rare gun “PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II”. She looks at Kirito is a rival but she also wants to be closer to him because of the strength he shows in battle. But she is an excellent marksman in online games.
  • Asuna – Kirito’s girlfriend (a main character in the previous “Sword Art Online”). She thinks that Kirito is earning money as a tester, but not knowing he is investigating a Death Coffin member.
  • Yui – Kirito and Asuna’s “child” via artificial intelligence. She often helps both when they are in need.
  • Suguha Kirigaya – Kirito’s adoptive sister (younger cousin), she knows that Kirito has joined another online game.
  • Yuuki Konno – A wonderful swordsperson on ALO who has the nickname of “Zekken” a.k.a. “Absolute Sword”.  Yuuki is a member of the Sleeping Knights group and before her and her friends go on their separate ways, they ask Asuna to join them and help them beat the final boss with one party.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the 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. Wonderful anime production from A-1 Pictures.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is presented in Japanese and English linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on! With this volume, it’s great to have the original characters return for this arc. Kirito, Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica and Sinon all work together in this volume, so it’s great to have all voice talents together once again.

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 II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline II #7-9 –  Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Textless OP & ED (Mother’s Rosario)
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 19-24
  • Audio Commentary 19 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna) and Aoi Yuuki (voice of Yuuki).
  • Audio Commentary 21 – Featuring director Tomohiko Ito, character designer Adachi, Tetsuya Takeuchi (action cnimation director) and Yanagi (action anime director).
  • Audio Commentary 23 – Featuring Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), Aoi Yuuki (voice of Yuuki), Megumi Hayashibara  (Asuna’s mother) and director Tomohiko Ito.
  • Audio Commentary 24 – Featuring Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), director Tomohiko Ito, character designer Adachi Reki Nakahara (creator).

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” Blu-ray also comes with a second disc titled “Sword Art Online Radio – USA- Part 3” featuring hosts Bryce Papenbrookt, Cherami Leigh and guests Erica Mendez, Erika Harlacher and Alex von David.  Over an hour’s worth of audio.

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” also comes with a slip case, a 24-page deluxe booklet with character info, episode synopsis and more, a two-postcard set, and an exclusive Weiss Schwarz Usual Yuuki/Asuna collectible PR Card.


swordartonline-rosario-b

With the riveting “GunGale Online” storyline that kicked off “Sword Art Online II” and revolved around Kirito, the final arc to end this series revolves around Asuna.

And as the beginning focuses on all-out action, “Mother’s Rosario” is perhaps one of the most emotional arcs seen in “Sword Art Online” and also features a lot of action.

Without spoiling this arc, which is based on the seventh “Sword Art Online” light novel, Asuna must deal with two different obligations.  The first is her obligation to her family and that is to do well in school.

Unfortunately, her mother feels that the school she attends is not good enough and also, with Asuna behind a year and half in school and worried for her future, her mother wants her to marry a wealthy man and attend a more prestigious school.

But also quitting all gaming and staying away from Kirito and her friends.

And this leaves Asuna in a bad emotional state, which she keeps to herself, not letting Kirito or her friends know how bad things are at home.

Meanwhile, her second obligation is to her newest online friend Yuki and their group, the Sleeping Knights on ALO.  As the group plans to take on a final boss before they go on their separate ways and stop playing the game, they want Asuna to join them in this final battle and get their names etched on the Monument of Swordsmen.

Having been won over by their kindness, Asuna decides to join Yuki and friends in defeating a major boss in ALO.  But why is this the final battle for the Sleeping Knights?

As much as I would love to go into the series, I will stop right there with the summary because the series becomes one heck of an emotional rollercoaster.  But with each episode, I was captivated right to the very end.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, the animation looks magnificent, while backgrounds are nicely painted, CG elements are well-done and for the most part, the series continues its outstanding quality from the first series. While the lossless soundtrack remains as Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and no 5.1 soundtrack yet, the soundtrack still sounds crisp and clear as dialogue for both Japanese and English tracks and Yuki Kajiura’s music sounds crystal clear. And you also get four audio commentary with the Japanese cast and more.

And similar to the second “Sword Art Online II” Limited Edition box set, “Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” comes with a CD featuring a radio interview with several of the English dub cast.  Also, included in the set is a 24-page deluxe booklet, three postcards, a Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card with Yuki and Asuna, and a slipcase. So, Aniplex has continued to do another awesome in providing awesome swag for SAO fans!

Overall, I found “Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is emotional, action-packed and a wonderful arc that leaves me hoping for a “Sword Art Online III” featuring the “Alicization” storyline,

But fans of the series will love the fact that you get a storyline focusing on Asuna but also manages to feature every character that is important in the lives of Kirito and Asuna.

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is a series that longtime fans will no doubt love.  A captivating, heartbreaking and emotional storyline that maintains its action-packed setting and a Blu-ray limited edition set that will make the fans even more happy.

I absolutely enjoyed the conclusion of “Sword Art Online II” and I highly recommend checking this set out!

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

November 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

AOA-6403B-WR Cover

I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” to be amazing. I absolutely loved how this first arc of the second season ended and I can’t wait for the second arc in the next Blu-ray volume! If you love SAO, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” (both parts) are must buy, must have and highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 15-17 (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: November 17, 2015


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko 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

Art Design by Yoshinori Shiozawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Sinon

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Aoi Yūki as Yuuki

Asami Tano as Nori

Atsushi Tamaru as Talken

Ayahi Takagaki as Lisbeth / Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Leafa / Suguha Kirigaya

Daiki Yamashita as Jun

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Houko Kuwashima as Urðr

Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kyôji Shinkawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tecchi

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Silica

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijirō Kikuoka

Yu Shimamura as Siune

Yuko Minaguchi as Freyja


Kirito is now certain that Death Gun is also a survivor of SAO. And to make things worse, he is most likely an ex-member of the murder guild, Laughing Coffin. As the final tournament of Bullet of Bullets begins, Kirito and Sinon agree to join forces until they identify which player is Death Gun.

News is spreading among the players of ALO that the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur has been discovered. This was actually the very sword that Kirito and Leafa found in the underground realm of Jotunheim several months ago when they saved “Tonky.” Hearing the news, they decide to acquire Excalibur before the other players. Summoning Asuna, Klein, Sinon, and the others, they set off for the dungeon in Jotunheim for an exciting new mission!


The “Calibur” arc begins as the next three episodes of “Sword Art Online II” (episodes 15-17) features Kiroto and friends going on ALfheim Online (ALO) to find the legendary item, the Holy Sword Excalibur.

As Kirito, Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica and Sinon try to retrieve the Holy Sword Excalibur, Yui tells the group that the quest they were given was created by the Cardinal System’s Automatic Quest Generation Function and if they don’t succeed, a final war event known as “Rangarok” will be triggered and will destroy AKO.

Will the group reach their objective?  Find out in the latest third Blu-ray volume of “Sword Art Online II”!

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.

And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television. And now, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

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.).

Which leads us to “Sword Art Online II”:

“Sword Art Online II” is set a year after the “Sword Art Online” incident and not long after the “Gun Gale Online” arc.

One day, Suguha shows Kazuto a news article about the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur being discovered in ALO.  Wanting the legendary sword, Kazuto calls his friends Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica and Sinon to join him on ALO and challenge the dungeon in the sky of Jotunheimr, where the Excalibur is located.

But will Kirito and friends find the Holy Sword of Excalibur?


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

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series. Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is a former beta-tester who fights solo and responsible for saving many lives in Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online. Kirito is recruited by Seijiro Kikuoka of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to become “Kirito” once again to enter the virtual world to investigate the cause of deaths in “Gun Gale Online” (GGO).
  • Shino Asada/Sinon – One of the best players, a sniper on “Gun Gale Online”. In real life, she has a major phobia of guns after killing a robber. She is the owner of the rare gun “PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II”. She looks at Kirito is a rival but she also wants to be closer to him because of the strength he shows in battle.  But she is an excellent marksman in online games.
  • Asuna – Kirito’s girlfriend (a main character in the previous “Sword Art Online”). She thinks that Kirito is earning money as a tester, but not knowing he is investigating a Death Coffin member.
  • Yui – Kirito and Asuna’s “child” via artificial intelligence. She often helps both when they are in need.
  • Suguha Kirigaya – Kirito’s adoptive sister (younger cousin), she knows that Kirito has joined another online game.

“Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” features the episodes 15-17:

  • EPISODE 15 – Kirito and friends go on ALO to find the Holy Sword of Excalibur.
  • EPISODE 16 – Who is this Freyja and can the group trust her?
  • EPISODE 17 – The group must take on the King of the Frost Giants, known as Thrym.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the 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. Wonderful anime production from A-1 Pictures.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” is presented in Japanese and English linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on!   With this volume, it’s great to have the original characters return for this arc.  Kirito, Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica and Sinon all work together in this volume, so it’s great to have all voice talents together once again.

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 II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline II #6 – (11:41) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Textless OP & ED (Calibur)
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 16-18
  • Audio Commentary 17 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Kanae Ito (voice of Yui).

EXTRAS:

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

  • Sword Art Online Original Soundtrack II Vol. 2 – (45 Minutes)
  1. desolate landscape 2:42
  2. Tonky 2:35
  3. in this place 1:58
  4. Freyja 1:52
  5. Urd 2:28
  6. in another land 2:16
  7. the appearance of Thrymr 1:46
  8. defeat him and get it! 3:31
  9. in the battle field, once again 2:45
  10. a sad quarrel 1:40
  11. you are not alone #2 2:06
  12. light your sword 2:04
  13. heartbreaking reality 2:38
  14. you are not alone 2:48
  15. tears for you 1:51
  16. school days, with you 2:05
  17. you are not alone #3 2:05
  18. trying to understand 2:25

“Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” also comes with a slip case, a 12-page deluxe booklet with character info, episode synopsis and more, a two-postcard set, and an exclusive Weiss Schwarz Usual Silicacollectible PR Card.


With the riveting “GunGale Online” storyline that was awesome to watch on the last two volumes, the series takes a breather from any deep storylines and instead features a short-story arc of three episodes as Kirito and friends go on ALO to find the Holy Sword of Excalibur.

While the storyline is good for this short arc, I found it to be a bit average, as it feels like three filler episodes.  But the good news is that you get Kirito and friends together on ALO and you also get to see interesting character interaction between Kirito and Sinon, rather than Kirito and Asuna, which I found quite interesting.

And you also get to see Klein having more of a role in this arc since the first season.  But for the most part, the story arc goes quickly and wished that Aniplex would have included two or three more additional episodes, but I can understand if they want to save the fourth volume for the final arc of “Sword Art Online II”.  But the viewing for this set goes much quicker as can be expected with only three episodes included.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, the animation looks magnificent, while backgrounds are nicely painted, CG elements are well-done and for the most part, the series continues its outstanding quality from the first series. While the lossless soundtrack remains as Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and no 5.1 soundtrack yet, the soundtrack still sounds crisp and clear as dialogue for both Japanese and English tracks and Yuki Kajiura’s music sounds crystal clear. And you also get an audio commentary with the Japanese cast and more.

And similar to the previous “Sword Art Online” Limited Edition box sets, “Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” comes with a CD featuring “Sword Art Online II – Vol. 2 Original Soundtrack”, a 12-page deluxe booklet, two postcards, a Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card and a slipcase. So, Aniplex has done another wonderful job in continuing to provide the awesome swag for SAO fans!

Overall, I found “Sword Art Online II – Calibur-: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” to be enjoyable. With only three episodes included on a single Blu-ray disc and the episodes feeling like filler episodes, it was great to see Kirito and friends working together again.  And if you want the second original soundtrack, then the third limited edition volume for “Sword Art Online II” is recommended.

If you love SAO and like many others who are fans of the popular anime series, “Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” is the third limited edition volume worth the purchase.   Recommended!

Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

October 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

soa2-b-1

I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” to be amazing. I absolutely loved how this first arc of the second season ended and I can’t wait for the second arc in the next Blu-ray volume! If you love SAO, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” (both parts) are must buy, must have and highly recommended!

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

TITLE: Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 8-14.5 (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: June 30, 2015


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko 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

Art Design by Yoshinori Shiozawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Sinon

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Aoi Yūki as Yuuki

Asami Tano as Nori

Atsushi Tamaru as Talken

Ayahi Takagaki as Lisbeth / Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Leafa / Suguha Kirigaya

Daiki Yamashita as Jun

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Houko Kuwashima as Urðr

Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kyôji Shinkawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tecchi

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Silica

Souichiro Hoshi/Ben Diskin as Death Gun

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijirō Kikuoka

Yu Shimamura as Siune

Yuko Minaguchi as Freyja


Kirito is now certain that Death Gun is also a survivor of SAO. And to make things worse, he is most likely an ex-member of the murder guild, Laughing Coffin. As the final tournament of Bullet of Bullets begins, Kirito and Sinon agree to join forces until they identify which player is Death Gun.

Through the battles, Sinon learns that Kirito also suffers from traumatic memories from the past. But as Sinon sees Kirito trying to overcome them, she too tries to be strong. As BoB reaches its last stage, Kirito suspects that Death Gun may have one or more accomplices in the real world, and they may be targeting Shino Asada as their next target!


With”Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2″, Kirito and Sinon must become a team in order to survive and fight against Death Gun, a former “Sword Art Online” red player of the murder guild, Laughing Coffin who killed other gamers and now he is interested in doing the same in “Gun Gale Online”.

But both Kirito and Sinon must also learn to overcome skeletons from their own closet before taking on Death Gun.

All this and more in “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -“.

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.

And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television. And now, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

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.).

Which leads us to “Sword Art Online II”:

“Sword Art Online II” is set a year after the “Sword Art Online” incident and a new VRMMORPG known as “Gun Gale Online” has become the popular game in Japan.

But one day, a top-ranked player named Zexceed appears on a streamed broadcast as his avatar and out of nowhere, a cloaked man known as “Death Gun” fires a bullet at Zexceed’s avatar causing the avatar to convulse and disconnect.

A month later, Kikuoka Seijiro of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Virtual Division contacts Kirito for a meeting and tells him that he needs Kirito’s help. Revealing that deaths are happening in the “Gun Gale Online” game caused by the mysterious avatar known as Death Gun. He needs Kirito to go in the game and find out who Death Gun is.

While Kirito has his doubts, because he will get paid for his investigation, he joins “Gun Gale Online” and befriends a top-ranked player named Sinon in hopes it will lead him to Death Gun and what is causing his victims to die.

In Part 2, Kirito learned that Death Gun, through a tattoo on his arm, that he is part of Death Coffin, the murder guild of “Sword Art Online”.

His memories from that time is his unfortunate memories of having killed people, even if they were bad.  And now, he knows he must come face-to-face with a Death Coffin member once again and put a stop to his murderous campaign on “Gun Gale Online”.  But to do that, he needs the help of Sinon…who also has skeletons in her own closet, after she killed a robber in self defense.

Both Kirito and Sinon must confront these emotional challenges together, but will they manage to defeat Death Gun?

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2” features episodes 8-14.5 (a digest episode featuring episodes 1-14).


The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set ” are:

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series. Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is a former beta-tester who fights solo and responsible for saving many lives in Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online. Kirito is recruited by Seijiro Kikuoka of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to become “Kirito” once again to enter the virtual world to investigate the cause of deaths in “Gun Gale Online” (GGO).
  • Shino Asada/Sinon – One of the best players, a sniper on “Gun Gale Online”. In real life, she has a major phobia of guns after killing a robber. She is the owner of the rare gun “PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II”. She looks at Kirito is a rival but she also wants to be closer to him because of the strength he shows in battle.
  • Asuna – Kirito’s girlfriend (a main character in the previous “Sword Art Online”). She thinks that Kirito is earning money as a tester, but not knowing he is investigating a Death Coffin member.
  • Yui – Kirito and Asuna’s “child” via artificial intelligence. She often helps both when they are in need.
  • Suguha Kirigaya – Kirito’s adoptive sister (younger cousin), she knows that Kirito has joined another online game.
  • Death Gun – The main antagonist of “Gun Gale Online”. Whoever he kills in the online game, ends up dead in the real world.  It is revealed in earlier episodes that he is a member of the “Sword Art Online” murder guild.  But who is the man behind the mask?

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” features the episodes 8-14.5:

  • EPISODE 8 – Kirito turns to Sinon to help him with details of the BoB royale.
  • EPISODE 9 – Death Gun goes after Sinon
  • EPISODE 10 – Death Gun pursues Kirito and Sinon
  • EPISODE 11 – Kirito and Sinon try to find out how Death Gun is able to kill people in the real world while in the game.
  • EPISODE 12 – Kirito and Sinon decide to take on Death Gun, but are they ready?
  • EPISODE 13 – Kirito vs. Death Gun
  • EPISODE 14 – What happens to Sinon after she logs out of “Gun Gale Online”?
  • EPISODE 14.5 – A digest episode featuring what happened to Sinon in Episodes 1-14.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the 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.  Wonderful anime production from A-1 Pictures.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2-: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” 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 and Miyuki Sawashiro 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 Michelle Ruff did an awesome job as Kirito and Sinon. 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 II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline II #3 – (11:41) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Sword Art Offline II #4 -(12:48) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Sword Art Offline II #5 -(13:47) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Textless ED (Phantom Bullet)
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 9-15
  • Audio Commentary 8 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon), author Reki Kawahara and gun consultant Keiichi Sigsawa.
  • Audio Commentary 12 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon) and Yoshikazu Iwanami (Sound Director) .
  • Audio Commentary 13 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon) and Souchiro Hoshi (voice of Death Gun) .

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • Sword Art Online Radio -USA – Parts 1 & 2 – (39:52) Part 1 featured voice actor Bryce Papenbrook (voice of Kirito) and Cherami Leigh (voice of Asuna) with special guest Ben Diskin (voice of Death Gun).  (27:44) Part 2 features Bryce Papenbrook (voice of Kirito) and Ben Diskin (voice of Death Gun) with special guest Michelle Ruff (voice of Sinon).

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” also comes with a slip case, a 24-page deluxe booklet with character info, episode synopsis and more, a three postcard set, and an exclusive Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card.


It’s really interesting because I came with the mindset of watching “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” that there is no way this second season will measure up to the awesome first season.

Yes, I enjoyed season one a lot and enjoyed the first episodes of “Sword Art Online II”.  But watching episodes 8-14, I was captivated and impressed by each of these episodes that I’m quite torn because I loved “Sword Art Online” a lot but I have to say that this first story arc turned out to be magnificent.

The emotion, the action, the writing and the voice acting (Japanese and English dub) were amazing.

The second storyline continued the story of Kirito and Sinon working together, but this time, as a team to take on the deadly Death Gun, a member of the SAO murder guild, Laughing Coffin.  And now people are dying in the real world and Death Gun wants nothing more but to destroy Kirito.

Add in the fact that Kirito still dwells about killing people in SAO and Sinon having to deal with her skeletons in her own closet, both must depend on each other to make it through this royale in “Gun Gale Online” or die in the real world.

The storyline is so riveting but now, I wonder what is in store for the second arc of the second season?  Suffice to say, I can’t wait!

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, the animation looks magnificent, while backgrounds are nicely painted, CG elements are well-done and for the most part, the series continues its outstanding quality from the first series. While the lossless soundtrack remains as Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and no 5.1 soundtrack yet, the soundtrack still sounds crisp and clear as dialogue for both Japanese and English tracks and Yuki Kajiura’s music sounds crystal clear.  And you also get a good number of special features, such as three audio commentary from the Japanese cast and more.

And similar to the previous “Sword Art Online” Limited Edition box sets, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” comes with a second CD featuring “SAO RADIO – USA” with the English dub voicecast, a 24-page deluxe booklet, three postcards, a Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card and a slipcase. So, Aniplex has done another wonderful job providing these awesome swag for SAO fans!

Overall, I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” to be amazing.  I absolutely loved how this first arc of the second season ended and I can’t wait for the second arc in the next Blu-ray volume!

If you love SAO, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” (both parts) are must buy, must have and highly recommended!

Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

July 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

soa2-a

I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” to be exciting and it left me wanting more and more! I can’t wait for the second set and for anyone who loved the first season, should definitely give “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1” a try!  Highly recommended!

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

TITLE: Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 1-7 (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: June 30, 2015


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko 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

Art Design by Yoshinori Shiozawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Sinon

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Aoi Yūki as Yuuki

Asami Tano as Nori

Atsushi Tamaru as Talken

Ayahi Takagaki as Lisbeth / Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Leafa / Suguha Kirigaya

Daiki Yamashita as Jun

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk thornton as Klein

Houko Kuwashima as Urðr

Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kyôji Shinkawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tecchi

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Silica

Souichiro Hoshi/Ben Diskin as Death Gun

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijirō Kikuoka

Yu Shimamura as Siune

Yuko Minaguchi as Freyja


A year has passed since SAO was cleared. Summoned by Seijirou Kikuoka of the Virtual Division at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Kazuto (Kirito) learns of a series of bizarre murders linked to the popular VR game, Gun Gale Online (GGO). After being shot in-game by a player calling himself Death Gun, two prominent GGO players have mysteriously turned up dead in the real world.

As Kazuto logs into GGO and starts investigating the mystery, he meets a girl sniper named Sinon who wields a Hecate II rifle. Is she friend or foe? Kirito enters the virtual world once more for an all new adventure!


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.

And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television.  And now, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

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 II” is set a year after the “Sword Art Online” incident and a new VRMMORPG known as “Gun Gale Online” has become the popular game in Japan.

But one day, a top-ranked player named Zexceed appears on a streamed broadcast as his avatar and out of nowhere, a cloaked man known as “Death Gun” fires a bullet at Zexceed’s avatar causing the avatar to convulse and disconnect.

A month later, Kikuoka Seijiro of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Virtual Division contacts Kirito for a meeting and tells him that he needs Kirito’s help.  Revealing that deaths are happening in the “Gun Gale Online” game caused by the mysterious avatar known as Death Gun.  He needs Kirito to go in the game and find out who Death Gun is.

While Kirito has his doubts, because he will get paid for his investigation, he joins “Gun Gale Online” and befriends a top-ranked player named Sinon in hopes it will lead him to Death Gun and what is causing his victims to die.


The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” are:

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series. Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is a former beta-tester who fights solo and responsible for saving many lives in Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online. Kirito is recruited by Seijiro Kikuoka of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to become “Kirito” once again to enter the virtual world to investigate the cause of deaths in “Gun Gale Online” (GGO).
  • Shino Asada/Sinon – One of the best players, a sniper on “Gun Gale Online”.  In real life, she has a major phobia of guns after killing a robber.  She is the owner of the rare gun “PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II”.  She looks at Kirito is a rival.
  • Asuna – Kirito’s girlfriend (a main character in the previous “Sword Art Online”).  She thinks that Kirito is earning money as a tester, but not knowing he is investigating.
  • Yui – Kirito and Asuna’s “child” via artificial intelligence.  She often helps both when  they are in need.
  • Suguha Kirigaya – Kirito’s adoptive sister (younger cousin), she knows that Kirito has joined another online game.
  • Death Gun – The main antagonist of “Gun Gale Online”.  Whoever he kills in the online game, ends up dead in the real world.

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” features the first seven episodes of “Sword Art Online”:

  • EPISODE 1 – A year after SOA, Kikuoka Seijiro of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Virtual Division recruits Kirito to find a cloaked man known as “Death Gun” who is killing people on the VRMMORPG known as “Gun Gale Online” and the deaths online are leaving real gamers dead.
  • EPISODE 2 – An introduction to one of the awesome players of “Gun Gale Online”, Sinon.
  • EPISODE 3 – The life of Shino “Sinon” Asada revealed and why she has a phobia of guns.
  • EPISODE 4 – Kirito logs into “Gun Gale Online” and meets Sinon who tries to help him understand the online game.
  • EPISODE 5 – Kirito and Sinon register for the game and enter their first battle.
  • EPISODE 6 – Death Gun confronts Kirito, wanting to know if he’s the real Kirito.  Meanwhile, Kirito and Sinon end up in the finals.
  • EPISODE 7 – Kirito is rocked by seeing the tattoo of Death Gun and feeling that it may be players from SOA that want revenge for him killing those players.  Meanwhile, Sinon is disturbed by Kirito.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the 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 first seven episodes.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” 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 and Miyuki Sawashiro 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 Michelle Ruff did an awesome job as Kirito and Sinon. 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 II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline 1 – Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Sword Art Offline 2 -Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Textless OP (Phantom Bullet)
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 2-8
  • Audio Commentary 1 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon) and Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna) .
  • Audio Commentary 4 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon) and Yoshikazu Iwanami (Sound Director) .

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • Original Soundtrack CD 1 (ソードアート・オンライン II Original Soundtrack vol. 1)

The following is a 37-track soundtrack (1 hour and 11 minutes long) featuring all-instrumental tracks by Yuki Kajiura.

  • 24-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet – Each page features illustrations with characters from the series.
  • Set of Pin-Up Illustration Postcards – Featuring two different illustrated postcards.
  • Exclusive Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card  – I’m not sure if each set is random but the card that came with this limited edition release featured Sinon & Kirito (Avatar/Weapon).
  • 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

Having enjoyed the first series, I wasn’t sure if the “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1-” could retain the synergy as the first season.

Of course, being captivated by all that has happened in “Sword Art Online” and what took place in the second half of the first season in “Alfheim Online”, I wasn’t too sure how I would feel about this new storyline revolving a gun-based MMORPG.

While I was excited by seeing a few of the original characters back, I wasn’t sure how I would like this new series, especially as episodes 2 and 3 would focus on this new character Sinon/Shino Asada.  But one episode four started and seeing Kirito in “Gun Gale Online” and showing his awesome skills of adapting to different situations, it was more of a thrill to see the confrontation between Death Gun and Kirito and seeing the link to the original series (which I don’t want to spoil).

Needless to say, having watched the first seven episodes, I really like where the series is going.  I found it to be exciting, dramatic (and emotional) but because this new storyline pits Kirito in a new situation and seeing this interesting rivalry between him and Sinon, I can’t wait to watch volume 2!

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, the animation looks magnificent, while backgrounds are nicely painted, CG elements are well-done and for the most part, the series continues its outstanding quality from the first series.  While the lossless soundtrack remains as Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and no 5.1 soundtrack yet, the soundtrack still sounds crisp and clear as dialogue for both Japanese and English tracks and Yuki Kajiura’s music sounds crystal clear.

And similar to the previous “Sword Art Online” Limited Edition box sets, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” comes with an original soundtrack, a 24-page book, postcards, a Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card and a slipcase.  So, Aniplex has done another wonderful job providing these awesome extras for fans!

Overall, I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” to be exciting and it left me wanting more and more! I can’t wait for the second set and for anyone who loved the first season, should definitely give “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1” a try!  Highly recommended!

Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

January 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

soa-extra

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is worth purchasing if you are a fan of “Sword Art Online” but also are wanting to see a new storyline and new scenes. And of course, the new bikini fan service included as well! So, if you are wanting more SAO until the release of the “Sword Art Online II”, then “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is recommended!

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


TITLE: Sword Art Online: Extra Edition

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: 100 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: December 23, 2014


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Directed by Tomohiki Ito

Screenplay by Reki Kawahara

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

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijiro Kikuoka


On a hot summer day, Kazuto (Kirito) takes Suguha (Leafa) to his school, to meet Asuna, Keiko (Silica) and Rika (Lisbeth). Their mission: teach Suguha how to swim. Kazuto, however, has a prior commitment to see Seijiro Kikuoka, an officer with the Virtual Reality Section of the Department of General Affairs. Kikuoka wants to go over Kazuto’s recollection of his time in SAO and ALO, to resolve some unanswered questions.

Later in ALO, Kirito and the girls (along with Klein and Agil), embark on an underwater quest to show Yui her very first whale. But the deeper down they go, the more mysterious the quest becomes…


On New Year’s Eve 2013, “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” aired on television in Japan and then worldwide two ours later.

Extra Edition is set before the events of “Sword Art Online II” and takes place two years after the first season.

While the majority of Extra Edition recaps the first season, new scenes are also added and how Kazuto and friends are now playing an undersea quest on ALfheim Online.  But what happens when he and their friends get-together online?

Find out in “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

“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.

Having beaten “Sword Art Online”, 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!

With “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition”, the special takes place two years after the events as featured in season one of “Sword Art Online”.

As Kazuto needs to go to emergency counseling meeting, Suguha, Asuna, Rika and Keiko go swimming at school.

When Kazuto arrives and thinks he is meeting with a counselor, he realizes that Kikuoka Seijirou is waiting for him and to interview him more in-depth about the events that happened in Sword Art Online and why Kayaba Akihiko created the online world and trapped people inside.  And thus, Kazuto explains to him of what happened when he first arrived and then what happened on Alfheim Online.

Meanwhile, the girls discuss their experiences and how Kazuto changed their lives.

Afterward, Kazuto and friends head back into ALfheim Online take on a quest where they can see whales and head towards Thule Island.    While swimming underwater, they meet an NPC (non-playable character) named Nerakk, who explains to them that thieves have stolen a pearl from him.  As everyone wants to help the old man, Leafa is suspicious of him as the name sounds familiar.


The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online” 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”.
  • Yui – The artificial intelligence program from “Sword Art Online” which is a young girl who was taken in by Kirito and Asuna as their daughter. Yui tries to help Kirito in finding Asuna.
  • 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.
  • 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.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” 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.

You can also tell the difference between the newer footage versus the television-footage as the newer footage is much more sharper and vibrant.  But overall, “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is presented in 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 Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline – (13:46) A Short special offline edition featuring newscaster Asuna and Leafa
  • SAOII Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • 16-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet – Each page features illustrations and interview with Character Designer/Supervising Animation Director Shingo Adachi.
  • Double-Sided Poster

soa-extra-b

For anyone who has watched Japanese animation or dramas, the “Recap” episodes are customary, especially when a new series is not far off the horizon.

And to make sure that fans who watched the original series will want to watch the special or film, new footage is added.

So, back in 2013, there was a lot of hype about “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” as the recap episode would become a transition to the new season titled “Sword Art Online II”.  And fortunately, a new storyline was added alongside the recap episode.

In “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition”, the storyline features Seijirou Kikuoka (a member of the Second Separated Advanced Network Division, Technology Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) wanting to question Kazuto about what happened when he was trapped in Sword Art Online but also what happened on ALfheim Online.

As Kazuto does his recap of what took place during his stay in the virtual world, the girls discuss how they met Kazuto and how he helped them in the Virtual World.

When the friends get together, together they take part in an undersea quest on ALFheim Online but to their surprise, trouble has come upon them once again in the virtual world.

While “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” will appeal to the fans, especially for the new storyline.  There are some who will find the recap footage to be a bit tedious, but the good news is that the recap footage is not like one full movie.  Instead you get new story/scenes spread out through the recap portion and then getting into the storyline of the friends going online for ALO for quest.

As for the Blu-ray release, the animation is vibrant and sharp and looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  The lossless soundtrack is in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo and for subtitles you get them in English and Spanish.  For special features, you get a trailer for “Sword Art Online II” but also a “Sword Art Offline” episode.

As for Aniplex swag, you get a 16-page booklet plus a two-sided poster and slipcase with artwork designed by Shingo Adachi.

Overall, “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is worth purchasing if you are a fan of “Sword Art Online” but also are wanting to see a new storyline and new scenes. And of course, the new bikini fan service included as well! So, if you are wanting more SAO until the release of the “Sword Art Online II”, then “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is recommended!

Accel World: Set 01 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

accelworld

While “Accel World” is entertaining and much different from Reki Kawahara’s other famous work “Sword Art Online”, it’s an interesting concept with cool characters and a series that I found to be action-packed and quite delightful so far!  “Accel World: Set 01” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © Reki Kawahara/ASCII MEDIA WORKS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Accel World: Set 01

ANIME SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: Episode 1-12 (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Directed by Masakazu Obara

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Music by Hiroyuki Oshima

Character Design: HIMA

Art Director: Nobutaka Ike, Takafumi Nishima

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Haruyuki Arita/Silver Crow

Sachika Misawa/Kira Buckland as Kuroyukihime/Black Lotus

Shintaro Asanuma/Lucien Dodge as Takumu Mayuzumi/Cyan Pile

Aki Toyosaki/Michelle T. Hseih as Chiyuri Kurashima/Lime Bell

The year is 2046. Portable devices known as Neurolinkers have enabled mankind to oversee their daily life within virtual reality networks. But the advancements in technology have yet to provide a solution for the growing number of victims of bullying.

Haruyuki Arita is one such student who finds himself on the lowest social rungs of his school. Ashamed of his miserable life, Haruyuki can only cope by indulging in virtual games. That all changes when Kuroyukihime, the most popular girl in school, approaches Haruyuki with a cryptic proposal: to “accelerate” further, and beyond.

 

Haruyuki is introduced to a mysterious program called Brain Burst and a virtual reality called the Accel World. Learning its secrets, Haruyuki musters the courage to accept Kuroyukihime’s proposal and to fight alongside her as her knight.

From Reki Kawahara, the creator of the hit novel series “Sword Art Online” comes the series “Accel World”, also a hit Japanese light novel series that earned Kawahara a “Grand Prize” as ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize.

The popularity of “Accel World” would lead to several manga adaptations and eventually lead to an anime adaptation which aired in April-September 2012, and also would lead to an anime adaptation for “Sword Art Online”.

And now the first set of “Accel World” featuring the first 12 episodes is now currently available on Blu-ray courtesy of Viz Media.

“Accel World” is set in the year 2046 when Neuro-Synchronization allows humans to virtually manipulate their five senses and people can access the Internet and virtual world with a Neuro-Linker (typically worn around their neck).

The main protagonist of the series is Haruyuki “Haru” Arita, a short, overweight individual who is often bullied in school.  His only true friend is Chiyuri Kurashima, his childhood friend and also Takumu Mayuzumi, Chiyuri’s boyfriend.

No matter how much he is picked on, Chiyuri feels bad about how much Haru endures and she tries to make it up by preparing meals for him which he takes it as Chiyuri feeling pity towards him and ends up knocking the food she prepared for him.

Haru doesn’t know how to deal with the pressure of being bullied and what he did to Chiyuri, so he usually takes his frustration out in the virtual world in which his avatar is a small pink pig, which was forced on him by the school bullies.

But Haru is great at playing games, especially squash in which he has the highest score until he finds out that a person named Kuroyukihime had beaten it.

Kuroyukihime happens to be a powerful person on the online game with the name as Black Lotus.  A beautiful and popular Student Council Vice-President at Umesato Junior High School, Kuroyukihime has been a Burst Linker since she was eight-years old and she knows that Haru often gets bullied.

One day, she invites Haru to lunch and offers to cable with him (think going multi-player with a friend), which shocks many of the other students that someone so popular would hang out with Haru.

But while the two are communicating, she transfers a program called “Brain Burst” to him and after he installs it, his bully Araya shows up and is about to punch Haru for not showing up and buying him lunch like they usually force him to do.  But as Aray is about to punch him, she teaches Haru how to activate Brain Burst, and go into “Accelerated Mode”which accelerates the cognitive process of the brain and forces time around them to literally stop.

As Haru’s pig avatar comes out and Black Lotus comes out and both are looking at their own bodies and Haru about to be hit, she wants to stop Haru’s bullying so she tells him to fake being hit, to bump into her and this should end the bullying.  When they end the Accelerated Mode, Haru is hit and lands on Kuroyukihime who is hurt and bloodied by what happened and this leads to security detaining Araya.

Seeing this new mode has Haru quite interested in learning more from Kuroyukihime and he eventually learns that “Brain Burst” is a VRMMO fighting game and learns that other Burst Linkers must duel each other to obtain Burst Points, which can be spent on better acceleration powers.  Because of his low-self esteem, his avatar for the game is “Silver Crow”.  While Kuroyukihime allows him to go back to his normal life, Haru feels that he owes her for stopping the bullying but if he chooses to continue, they need to be closer together.

So close that Kuroyukihime wnats to further Haru’s popularity by telling her that she confessed his love to him and he rejected her, which of course makes Haru worry even more.  The news that the two are together starts to make Chiyuri worry that Kuroyukihime is using him, but Kuroyukihime tells her that they are dating each other and drags him to a cafe, leaving Chiyuri upset.

As the two are in the cafe, Kuroyukihime explains that “Brain burst” was created anonymously seven years ago and allows acceleration to those who were born with a neuro-linker.  So, all Burst Linkers are people 15 and under and its existence is not public.  Her goal is to meet the creator and understand why he created the game.  But she needs to reach level 10 which requires five wins over level 9 Burst Linkers.  If she loses, it would be a permanent uninstall of the Brain Burst.

She explains to Haru that two years ago, she was one of the Kings of Pure color and the level 9 Burst Linkers made a treaty not to fight each other but she did not agree to the treaty and beheaded the Red King in the game and now she is considered a traitor.  She has sealed away Black Lotus and has stayed offline and been using the schools local net with a dummy avatar.  But lately, a Burst Linker named Cyan Pile has challenged her to a duel and she does not want Black Lotus’ name to be exposed.  She wants to find out his identity and she feels that it may be Haru’s friend, Chiyuri.

As Haru goes to investigate, he goes to her home and links up with Chiyuri and he apologizes to her for what has happened and also wonders if her boyfriend Takumu knew about the bullying and she said she never told him.  He finds out that Haru is not Cyan Pule but he does find a back door connection on her computer that someone has been using and he is intent in finding out who.

Meanwhile, as Kuroyukihime finds out from Haru that he went to her bedroom, Kuroyukihime acts as if she’s jealous and Haru who is not so good at reading girls emotions dismisses it.  Students start to gossip at school about Haru and Kuroyukihime and the gossip club wants a scoop.  He explains that nothing is going on and why Kuroyukihime seems upset when Chiyuri is around and they tell him that she is probably jealous.  This shocks Haru because he doesn’t see why someone like Kuroyukihime would be with a person like him and once again, his low self-esteem starts to get the best of him and he tells Kuroyukihime that he accepts her being around him and although a person like her would never be around a guy like him, he would still be her pawn that she can use because he wants to help her out.

Shocked that Haru would say such a thing, she slaps him.  While the two are walking, a car driven by one of Haru’s bullies aims the car at them.  Before the car is about to hit them, Kuroyukihime initiates Accelerated World and she confesses to Haru that she is in love with him, but because of the current state of what will happen if a car hits them, both will be dead.  So, she will use a powerful move known as Physical Full Burst which will allow her to manipulate her real body while in Accelerated Mode and push him out of the way.  Unfortunately, the car will hit her.

Haru begs for Kuroyukihime not to do it but because she cares deeply for Haru, she does it and protects him by pushing his body out of the way.  When they come out of Accelerated World, Haru was saved but Kuroyukihime is hit by the car.

She is rushed to the hospital and Haru realizes that Kuroyukihime really did care for him.  As she is in critical condition, because her neural linker is still on her neck, anyone can use Burst Linker while she is vulnerable.  He vows to protect her from harm, especially if that person Cyan Pile ever shows up.

And as Haru stays at the hospital all night, to his surprise, Cyan Pile does show up to the hospital and unfortunately for Haru, it’s someone he knows quite well.

With Kuroyukihime in intensive care, Haru must do all he can to protect her in the Accelerated World from harm.  But without major experience and his very low self-esteem tends to get the best of him, can he protect Kuroyukihime and those who attempt to Burst Link and fight against him?

VIDEO:

“Accel World” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is vibrant, the series is colorful and the character designs for the outfits in the Accelerated World is creative and cool.  I’m very impressed by the character design, animation during the action scenes but also the background art which is nicely detailed.

As the series looks amazing on Blu-ray, I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the series. Sunrise did a fantastic job with this anime series!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Accel World” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD MA 2.0.  While I would have loved a 5.1 lossless track, most anime series are typically released in stereo.  But dialogue and music is crystal clear and both soundtracks are identical in sound.  As for the voice acting, both are very well done.  The casting for this series for the English dub track for Haru, Kuroyukihime, Chiyuri, Takumu and Yuniko Kozuki is right on the money.  If there is one primary difference is that Yuniko, for the English dub track, tends to release the F bomb quite a bit versus the character’s Japanese counterpart who is not that vulgar.

But overall, soundtrack is good for both vocal tracks.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Accel World” comes with a character art gallery and the clean opening and ending animation.

Having watched Reki Kawahara’s “Sword Art Online”, I was very excited to see how “Accel World” would be, especially as both tackle online gaming and the dangers that can come with the actual game.

While “Sword Art Online” is a bit darker due to the fact that the gamers are held hostage in the game and they can die, with “Accel World”, the gamers can feel pain and because the game is not quite public and a select few know about the Accelerated World, it’s quite fascinating to watch because of the characters.

The main protagonist, Haru is nothing like Reki Kawahara’s “Sword Art Online” protagonist, Keito.  In reality, Haru is short, stodgy guy with major low self-esteem issues but he does have a good heart and is great at games.  He doesn’t make too many friends in the game and if anything, he is a character that is most often whining.  But overtime, he starts to feel more confidence in himself because of the game and most importantly, the good-nature side of himself wants to protect everyone he cares about.

Kuroyukihime is also a fascinating character because she is popular and here she is going for the least popular person in school.  What is it about her that she felt captivated to be around Haru?  Suffice to say, when she makes a decision to save Haru’s life in episode 4 was very sad but after episode 4, that is when the real story comes out as Haru is thrust into the Accel World, having to fight on his own without Kuroyukihime around him.  He needs to make the right decisions especially when he takes on several Brain Bursters.

The first volume of “Accel World” features the first 12 episodes but these episodes are more character development driven episodes as it introduces us to the concept of the game, introduces us to the characters and their mentality but exploring Haru, Kuroyukihime, Chiyuri, Takumu and Fuuko.  So, with 12 more episodes left, I would imagine that things are going to get chaotic within the game but at the same time, Haru will realize that he’s not alone and that there are people out there who care about him, not just in the game but also outside of it.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is vibrant while the lossless soundtrack is good at 2.0 and both voice acting on the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done.  The series does not have that many special features but at least , Viz Media has added 12-episodes, as opposed to less episodes as some other anime companies tend to do.

While “Accel World” is entertaining and much different from Reki Kawahara’s other famous work “Sword Art Online”, it’s an interesting concept with cool characters and a series that I found to be action-packed and quite delightful so far!

“Accel World: Set 01” is recommended!

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

November 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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There have been a few anime series that have received a five star rating from us for 2013, but when it comes to action and adventure, “Sword Art Online” is the best anime series on Blu-ray for 2013!

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 IV

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: Episodes 20-25 (150 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: November 19, 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

Kirito and Leafa have finally reached Central Arun, the largest city in Alfheim by the foot of the World Tree. Kirito is determined to face the dangers of the Grand Quest to rescue Asuna. With the support of the Sylphs and the Cat Sidhes, will Kirito save Asuna in time or will he be crushed by Oberon’s evil plans?!

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Kazuto Kirigaya, a hero who had rescued many people by defeating the creator of “Sword Art Online”, Akihiko Kayaba.

All should have been good right after that defeat but 300 people have no wakened up.  One of those people was Asuna Yuuki, a person which Kazuto had fallen in love with during his years stuck inside the “Sword Art Online” game as the character Kirito.

In reality, Kazuto finds out that her father is having her marry Nobuyuki Sugou, the man behind RECTO Progress Inc. who took the Sword Art Online technology from Argus (the developer of SAO) and went on to create Alfheim Online (ALO).

And what no one knows is that Nobuyuki has used the technology of keeping 300 people including Asuna captured within ALO and someone was able to take a picture of Asuna inside a cage on top of the World Tree in the ALO game.

Now, Kazuto returns to the online world but this time ALO to rescue Asuna and with the help of his online daughter Yui (an artificial intelligence from “Sword Art Online” which Kazuto was able to carryover to ALO) and Leafa (not knowing that Leafa is his sister Suguha).

But now what will it take for Kazuto to find a way to climb the World Tree and rescue Asuna?  And for Suguha, who had learned that Kazuto is not her real brother and does not know that Kirito is Kazuha, with emotions that she has had for Kazuto at an all time high, what will happen when she confesses her true feelings for him?

Find out in the final volume of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV”!

“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.

Having beaten “Sword Art Online”, 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!

In “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV”, Kazuto is getting closer of rescuing Asuna, but the Salamanders are about to attack the Sylphs and Cait Siths.  To help stop the attack, Kirito pretends he is an ambassador of the Spriggans-Undines alliance and cautions the Salamanders to not attack them or they will be causing war on all four factions.  In order to stop the attack, Kirito must take on the Salamander General Eugene.

Meanwhile, Asuna tries to make an escape from Alfheim by swiping a key card that gives access to ALO.  Meanwhile, Kirito, Yui and Lefa reach the World Tree but in order to save Asuna, Kirito must go through the tree which hundreds of guardians are there to protect the area from anyone entering.

But is Kirito’s power enough to defeat them?

The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” 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”.
  • Yui – The artificial intelligence program from “Sword Art Online” which is a young girl who was taken in by Kirito and Asuna as their daughter.  Yui tries to help Kirito in finding Asuna.
  • 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 IV” features episodes 20-25 of “Sword Art Online”:

  • EPISODE 20 – Kirito vs. Salamander General Eugene.
  • EPISODE 21 – Asuna tries to escape from imprisonment in ALO.
  • EPISODE 22 – Suguha finds out the truth.
  • EPISODE 23 – Kirito’s final try to go up the World Tree, will he succeed?
  • EPISODE 24 – Kirito vs. Oberon.
  • EPISODE 25 – The conclusion of “Sword Art Online”.

VIDEO:

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

  • Sword Art Offline 8 – (12:11) Featuring Leafa in super deformed format discussing Kirito’s grand quest.
  • Sword Art Offline 9 – (11:50) Featuring Leafa discussing the Kirito the Spriggan attempting to go up the World Tree.
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 21-25.
  • Audio Commentary 20 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Sayuri Yahagi (voice of Sakuya) and Chiwa Saito (voice of Alicia)
  • Audio Commentary 22 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Supervising Animation Director and Character Designer Adachi, Action Animation Supervisor Shikama.
  • Audio Commentary 24 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Takehito Koyasu (voice of King Oberon Sugou), Director Tomohiko Ito and Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna).
  • Textless Ending
  • English Cast Interviews – (34:06) Included is a bonus disc featuring interviews with the staff and English dub voice cast.

EXTRAS:

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

  • 16-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet – Each page features illustrations with characters from the series.
  • Set of Pin-Up Illustration Postcards – Featuring six 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 “Kirito’s Strong Bond”.
  • 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

I have to personally admit that after the “Sword Art Online” and being so emotionally invested in that series, to watch the second season and now getting into the “Alfheim Online” (ALO) Arc, it was hard for me to transition to this new storyline, new online world.

But after watching “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” and watching episodes 20-25, it brought back what I loved about the series, character dynamics, action and drama but most of all, to see Asuna back again!

Watching the final episodes of the animated series, I was instantly captivated.  From Kirito’s attempts to save Asuna, Asuna trying to escape imprisonment but also growing to like the character of Suguha and seeing her find out the truth of Kirito’s identity but also the emotions that she has been keeping inside for Kazuto, the writers definitely saved the emotion, the action and the intensity of the second season for these final episodes.

While I enjoyed “Sword Art Online” for its overall storyline and characters, the second season was more about the love that Kazuto has for Asuna and how far he would go to rescue her.

One can call “Sword Art Online” an action adventure anime series but its the love story between Kirito and Asuna that keeps this series so strong because of that bond that was built in the first 12-episodes.

And the way the series has ended (for the anime), I’m quite content and very happy with how everything came together.  There were a few surprises left towards the end and suffice to say, as Reki Kawahara has created more novels that furthers the adventures of Kazuto and Asuna, I can only hope that the remainder of the novel series will be released as an anime in the near future.

While it was revealed that “Sword Art Online” will continue with a special to be shown on New Year’s Eve, I think about these four box sets that Aniplex has released so far and I just have to say that the amount of swag that has been included with each volume, especially the original soundtracks and more, “Sword Art Online” is one of the highlight releases of 2013 and one of the better anime on Blu-ray releases to be released in the past few years.

Sure, these sets are broken up into four volumes and Aniplex limited editions may be priced a little high for some anime fans, but this is as close to what anime fans have been getting in Japan and that’s limited edition releases with a lot of swag and for set IV, you get postcards, Bushiroad card, extra DVD with English dub interviews and more!

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… Yes, I will go far to say that I love this series!

“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, 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.

There have been a few anime series that have received a five star rating from us for 2013, but when it comes to action and adventure, “Sword Art Online” is the best anime series on Blu-ray for 2013!

All four limited edition Blu-ray box sets are highly recommended!

Please purchase this release from Rightstuf

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

October 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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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

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

August 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

fairytail-v5

I can now understand why there was so much hype built around “Sword Art Online”.  It’s an addictive series that is well-written, well-acted and now with the release of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I”, you get one of the better anime TV series to be released on Blu-ray for 2013.  A five-star release, “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” 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 I

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 7 Episodes (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: August 13, 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 as Suguha Kirigaya

Hiroaki Hirata as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Agil

Hiroki Yasumoto as Andrew Gilbert Mills

Rina Hidaka as Silica

Saori Hayami as Sachi

Takehito Koyasu as Nobuyuki Sugō/Oberon

Toru Ohkawa as Heathcliff

In the year 2022, next-generation game Sword Art Online (SAO) is the world’s first true VRMMORPG. A virtual reality helmet known as “Nerve Gear” has been developed, making Full Dives into a virtual dimension possible.

 SAO has generated worldwide buzz, and on its official launch day, one player, Kirito, immerses himself in its virtual world. But Akihiko Kayaba, the developer of SAO, proclaims the following to all players. “This game is inescapable unless all levels are cleared. And in this world, ‘Game Over’ is equivalent to death in the real world.”

 Contains episodes 1-7 plus original soundtrack CD 1, a 16-page deluxe booklet, illustration pin-ups, and an exclusive collectible card, all housed in a rigid box illustrated by abec (Original Character Design).

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”.

The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” are:

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series.  A former beta-tester who fights solo, because people think he’s a cheater because he was a former beta-tester and has previous knowledge of playing the game, he is often called a “beater”.  But because Kirito is a man with a good heart and willing to help people, he’s also very cautious and his high level of experience has made people fear him as rumors swirl around that he is a “Black Swordsman” due to the fact that he wears a black trenchcoat and fights with a sword in one hand.  He is determined in beating the final boss.  But part of the reason why Kirito has fought alone is because the pain of losing a team member is difficult for him.
  • Klein – A person who started playing SAO and learned quickly from Kirito of the basics of fighting.  He is the guild leader of Fuurinkazaan and is often worried for his friend Kirito, because he fights alone.
  • Asuna – A person who fought with Kirito.  She is very good at fighting and after taking the advice of Kirito of joining a guild, she became a member of the guild, Knights of the Blood.  She often gets angry at Kirito (known as tsundere behavior) but in truth, she looks to him for help.  Like Kirito, she also has a good heart and determined in beating the game.
  • Silica – A person who is a dagger-wielding beast tamer.  She is the first person to tame a Feathery Dragon named Pina and one of the active young members in SAO.  She is attracted to Kirito but also looks up to him like a big brother.
  • Lisbeth – A blacksmith in the game and Asuna’s best friend.  She is attracted to Kirito.
  • Sachi – A member of the Black Cats of the Full Moon Guild, which Kirito temporarily joined.  She is afraid that she will die and doesn’t like playing the game.
  • Kayaba Akihiko – The development creator and Game Master of Sword Art Online and the primary antagonist.  He is responsible for trapping all characters in the Sword Art Online game and killing people with the use of the Nerve Gear virtual reality helmet.

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” features the first seven episodes of “Sword Art Online”:

  • EPISODE 1 – Kirito and many other players are trapped in the Sword Art Online game by the game creator Kayaba Akihiko with the use of the Nerve Gear helmets.
  • EPISODE 2 – It has been a month and 2,000 people have have died in SOA.  No one has beaten the first level boss and while everyone is forming guilds, Kirito and a girl named Asuna team up.
  • EPISODE 3 – Four months have passed in the SOA game.  Kirito joins a guild known as “The Black Cats of the Full Moon”.
  • EPISODE 4 – Kirito helps a beast tamer named Silica who lost her familiar named Pina.  Both go in search for a Pneuma Flower which would revive it, but others are also after the flower.
  • EPISODE 5 – Kirito and Asuna team up once again to solve a murder mystery within the SAO game.
  • EPISODE 6 – A continuing storyline of the murder mystery as Kirito and Asuna join forces to figure out who is responsible.
  • EPISODE 7 – Kirito wants to upgrade his sword and goes to a blacksmith named Lisbeth, who happens to be Asuna’s very good friend.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” 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 first seven episodes.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” 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 and 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.  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 1” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline 1 – (11:00) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Sword Art Offline 2 – (11:06) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and featuring Silica, the beast tamer.
  • Sword Art Offline 3 – (11:54) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and featuring discussion about crystalite Ingot.
  • Web Version Previews  – Featuring web previews for episodes 2-8
  • Audio Commentary 1 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), Hiroaki Hirata (voice of Klein) and Director Tomohiko Ito.
  • Audio Commentary 3 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), Saori Hayama (voice of Sachi) and Shingo Adachi (character designer and supervising animation director)
  • Audio Commentary 4 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), Rina Hidaka (voice of Silica) and Shingo Adachi (character designer and supervising animation director) and Kawakami (sub-character designer and supervising animation director)
  • Audio Commentary 7 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna) and Ayahi Takagi (voice of Lisbeth).
  • Textless Opening Song
  • English Trailer – Aniplex USA trailer for “Sword Art Online”.

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • Original Soundtrack CD 1 (ソードアート・オンライン Vol. 4 Original Soundtrack vol. 1)

The following is a 33-track soundtrack (1 hour 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 1”.

  1. swordland        3:18
  2. feel uneasy        1:41
  3. everyday life        1:54
  4. quiet strain        1:58
  5. no way        1:44
  6. stand at bay        1:10
  7. weird place        2:10
  8. survive the swordland        2:16
  9. taut nerves        1:58
  10. a tense situation        2:32
  11. a strategy meeting        1:46
  12. in your past        1:38
  13. march down        1:52
  14. left in suspense        2:13
  15. we have to defeat it        1:50
  16. at our parting        1:25
  17. confront battle        2:42
  18. at our parting ~piano only        1:25
  19. luminous sword        2:29
  20. at our parting ~Vc only        0:47
  21. a close battle        1:55
  22. a tender feeling        2:07
  23. a narrow escape        1:53
  24. he rules us        2:36
  25. fight!        2:07
  26. a tiny love        1:45
  27. smile for me        1:39
  28. gracefully        1:50
  29. a squabble        1:22
  30. with my friend        1:25
  31. the first town        1:54
  32. at nightfall        1:57
  33. despaired        1:22
  • 16-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet – Each page features illustrations with characters from the series.
  • Set of Pin-Up Illustration Postcards – Featuring seven 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 Kirito & Asuna (Avatar/Weapon).
  • 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

“Sword Art Online” features an addictive storyline and one of the few anime series in the last year that had me watching it non-stop, I love this series!

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 from the amount of hype of the series in Japan and then our coverage of Sakura-Con which featured series creator Reki Kawahara and those who were involved in the musical end of the series praising the series, I had to check the series out the first two episodes for myself on Crunchyroll and I enjoyed it.

But with the announcement of the series on Blu-ray and that it would feature an English dub, suffice to say, I have been looking forward to watching the series and I was immediately captivated by its storyline, moreso than “.Hack” which I really enjoyed.

The reason why I enjoyed “Sword Art Online” was not just the characters but also the human and emotional element brought to the characters to this RPG virtual world setting.  People can die in the game and die in real life.  And for a lot of people that are stuck in the game, some never played an RPG game ever and face this reality that they can die not just in the game and in reality, or if someone tries to take their Nerve Gear helmet off their head, they will die.

Of course, there is a side to me that wonders if one plays the game for months, how will they survive in the real world without any food, sleep, etc.  But without over thinking those situations, unlike “.Hack” which tries to showcase the person behind the game and the jobs they have, this game features the actual body of the person courtesy of their Nerve Gear helmet which scanned their bodies.

And because each player is put into a terrifying situation that in order to beat the game and a powerful boss, you’ll need to level up and fight.

So, everyone is forced to join teams or fight alone and they can easily get killed if they don’t know what they are doing.  And the fact is that within the first month alone, 2,000 people have died.

I like how the series focuses on Kirito and the people he meets.  From Asuna, the tsundere character that is a very good fighter and a person that probably may be a romantic interest in the game?  Then you have Kirito meeting Sachi, a girl that is terrified of dying in the game.  Meeting one of the younger players of the game, Silica and Lisbeth, a player who thinks about love or will she ever find love and all of a sudden, meeting Kirito who has brought her emotions of love that she has never felt before.

But a harem anime series, this is not.  It’s about experiences and the characters that Kirito meet to show how the game has progressed or how he has progressed.  We learn that there are people who are hired by other players in the game for schemes.  We learn that there are players who kill other players for the fun of it.  And others who use their situation in the game for murder in reality.

“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 1”, not only do you get the slipcase and irreversible covers on a clear Blu-ray case, you also get a 33 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 I was very impressed by the English dub with Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito and Cherami Leigh as Asuna.

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”.  It’s an addictive series that is well-written, well-acted and now with the release of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1”, you get one of the better anime TV series to be released on Blu-ray for 2013.

A five-star release, “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” is highly recommended!

Please purchase this release from Rightstuf

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