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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!

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Death Note Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Compelling, dark, twisted and awesome! Both “Death Note” films get the Blu-ray treatment in HD and lossless audio.  If you love the manga and anime series, you’re going to enjoy both films.   Slightly different than the original series but the films yet manage to capture the thrilling spirit of the series.

Images courtesy of © 2006 “DEATH NOTE” FILM PARTNERS © 2003 Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata . All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Death Note Collection

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2006

DURATION: 120 Minutes (Death Note), 140 Minutes (Death Note II)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: VIZ Pictures

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 24, 2010

DEATH NOTE:

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko

Based on the Bestselling Japanese Comic by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Screenplay by Tetsuya Oishii

Music by Kenji Kawai

Cinematography by Hiroshi Takase

Lighting by Koichi Watanabe

Production Design by Hajime Oikawa

Produced by Takahiro Salute, Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kobashi

Executive Produced by Seiji Okuda

DEATH NOTE II:

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko

Based on the Bestselling Japanese Comic by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Screenplay by Tetsuya Oishii

Music by Kenji Kawai

Cinematography by Kenji Takama

Lighting by Masamichi Uwabo

Production Design by Hajime Oikawa

Editor: Yusuke Yafume

Produced by Takahiro Salute, Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kobashi

Executive Produced by Seiji Okuda

Starring:

Tatsuya Fujiwara as Light Yagami

Kenichi Matsuyama as L

Asaka Seto as Naomi Misora

Shigeki Hosokawa as FBI Agenty Ray

Erika Toda as Misa Amane

Sujui Fujimura as Watari

Takeshi Kaga as Soichiro Yagami

Nana Katase as Kiyomi Takada

Michiko Godai as Sachiko Yagami

Hikari Mitsushima as Sayu Yagami

Yu Kashii as Shiori Kashino

Shido Nakamura as the voice of Ryuk

English Dub Voice Actors:

Christopher Britton as Soichiro Yagami

Shannon Chan-Kent as Misa

Brian Drummond as Ryuk

Brad Swaile as Light Yagami

Matt Lagan as Lind L. Taylor

Death Note
Law student Light is upset with the justice system and when he finds the Death Note dropped by a death god, he vows to rid the world of evil. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies. As criminals all over the world begin to mysteriously die, a world-renowned detective known only as “L” is put on the case to stop this serial killer that the public calls “Kira.”

Death Note 2: The Last Name
The battle between Light and L continues as Light joins the investigation team. L suspects Light of being Kira while Light attempts to learn L’s real name. Time becomes even more crucial with the appearance of a second Kira. Whose name will be the last written in the Death Note?

Both films are compelling, dark, twisted and awesome!

Based on the popular manga and anime series that has captured the attention of viewers worldwide and the live action “Death Note” films (including the third, “L” film) have been popular among fans who have enjoyed this film featuring a battle of wits between Light Yagami and L.

With the “Death Note” films previously released on DVD from Viz Pictures in the U.S., many have wondered if there would be a Blu-ray release due to the films being released on BD in Japan.

“Death Note” is an adaption of the popular manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata and stars Tatsuya Fujiwara (known for his work in the popular “Battle Royale” films), directed by Shusuke Kaneko (known for the 2006 hit film “Gamera”) and the theme song “Dani California” (for “Death Note”) and “Snow (Hey Oh)” (for “Death Note II: The Last Name”) by the popular rock band RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS.

The film focuses on Light Yagami (Fujiwara), an intelligent student who wants to work in criminal law and follow his father’s footsteps and catch criminals. But one day after hacking into the police department’s computer system, Fujiwara is just sickened to know that the police has released criminals who should be incarcerated. One night, Yagami discovers a notebook called “Death Note” that has specific rules:

-The human whose name is written in this note shall die.

-This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their
mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will
not be affected.

-If the cause of death is written within 40 seconds of writing the person’s name,
it will happen.

-If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart
attack.

-After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

-This note shall become the property of the human world, once it touches the
ground of (arrives in) the human world.

-The owner of the note can recognize the image and voice of its original owner,
i.e. a god of death.

-The human who uses this note can neither go to Heaven nor Hell.

Anxious to test this book out, Light writes the name of a criminal, thinking that the book is a joke. That is until the person’s name that was written actually dies. Thus Light finds a way to get justice and does what he can to rid the world of all evil and become “the God of the new world”.

He also meets the owner of the Death Note, a shinigami (God of Death) named Ryuk, who is fascinated by Light of his ways of killing the criminals but the way his mind works.

Light who uses the name “Kira” starts writing the names of criminals in the Death Note and each die by heart attack and thus causing a frenzy in the media and the police force who now need to go after the person killing the criminals. But Kira is not your average criminal, as he is quickly generating a large fandom of people who support Kira’s goal of eliminating criminals.

Of course, the police force led by Light’s father, Soichiro Yagami, has no idea of how to go after this criminal but unbeknownst to them is a mysterious person that goes by the name of L. An intelligent detective who has an unorthodox way of catching criminals and so far, has been very succesful with his cases worldwide.

The cat and mouse chase has begun as L goes after Kira and Kira realizes his greatest enemy is L and thus the battle begins.

The film stars an all-star cast with “Battle Royale” actor Tatsuya Fujiwara as Light Yagami, Kenichi Matsuyama who starred in films “Linda Linda Linda” and “NANA” as the mysterious detective L.

Joining the two is one of Japan’s most popular actress, Asaka Seto as Naomi Misora, a former FBI agent who’s fiance is killed by Kira. Model and actress Yu Kashii as Light’s girlfriend Shiori Akino. Shigeki Hosokawa as FBI Agent Raye who is hot on the trail of catching Kira, actress Erika Toda who plays the character of pop star Misa Amane and Takeshi Kaga, best known for the host of the original “Iron Chef”, who plays the role as Light’s father and head of police, Soichiro Yagami.

In the second film, “Death Note II: The Last Name”, we learn that another individual has the “Death Note”.  Her name is Misa Amane, a pop star and TV talent who has shortened her life span for the eyes of the shinigami.  This allows her to see the names of the individuals and thus easy to write them down on the Death Note.  She is a follower of Kira and all she wants is to be with him.  And thus, she murders innocent people in order to get the attention of Light.

Upon meeting Misa, Light realizes that with her “eyes”, he can use her to finally kill his nemesis L. But with L and the police suspecting Light as Kira and Misa as Kira II, Light devises a plan.  With Misa Amane captured by the police force, he submits himself to being captured and being held by the police.  But he has given Misa’s Death Note to another person.  A newscaster named Kiyomi Takada who also idolizes Kira and his mission and is willing to further his plan of eliminating criminals.

Now the police force who has both Light and Misa in custody in order to find out if they are both Kira now have a new threat in the outside world.  Who can outwit the other and who will become the victor – Kira or L?

The film is 140 minutes long, pacing was indeed well done and overall, despite being different from the manga and anime series, both Shusuke Kaneko and Tetsuya Oishii managed to come up with a thrilling, dark and gripping storyline that remains faithful to the overlying theme of the film.

VIDEO:

“Death Note” and “Death Note II: The Last Name” are presented in 1080p High Definition and everything about these two films on Blu-ray looks much better and more vibrant than its DVD counterpart.

You can see the detail for example on the wooden grain of Light’s bedroom doorway, the metallic finish of his cell phone to the pixels of the screen on his cell phone and the strands of Light’s hair much clearly.

The film features a fine layer of grain, Colors pop out much more especially during the day light sequences, blacks are nice and deep and I don’t recall seeing any major compression artifacts or DNR.

Probably only one scene where I felt there was a bit of low-light noise seen on the blacks and reds (a scene before the ending credits of “Death Note II”) but for the most part, the picture quality for both films are very good.

My main interest was to see how the CGI would be for the shinagami Ryuk and Rem. And how that would translate on film and the two shinigami look exactly like it does in the anime and manga series but Rem seems to look more less detailed than Ryuk. But overall, the CG works with the film.  It’s important to note that the CG was created in 2005-2006, so one should not compare this to 2009 “Avatar” or Pixar-based animation with heavy detail.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Death Note” and “Death Note II: The Last Name” are presented in Japanese and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   As for the lossless audio, this is another highlight of the Blu-ray version as I found the dialogue and musical soundtrack to be crisp and clear through the front and center channels.

The gunshots and crowd and overall ambiance (doors latching, stairs being climbed, etc.) is well-featured throughout the film through the surround channels.  I was pretty impressed of how much the audio stood out through the surround channels versus when I watched both films originally on DVD.  Ryuk and Rem’s voice echoes through the surround channels, certain movements can be heard through the surround channels and also certain parts of the musical score are played through the surround channels as well.

I found that “Death Note II: The Last Name” had a bit more surround sound usage with vehicles crashing, thunder, gun shots and a bit more destruction utilized in the sequel.

As for LFE, I didn’t really catch any major booms through my subwoofer during the more action-based scenes but mainly during the bass sequences of the music-filled sequences or during a sequence when Light had touched a Death Note.

I typically dislike English dubbing of Asian language films but what brought a smile to my face was that VIZ used the original voice actors of the anime series (which had great English dub work) on this series.

So, for those who are fond of Brandon Swaile’s Light, Alessandro Juliani’s L, Brian Drummond’s Ryuk, Shannon Chan-Kent as Misa and the other English dub voice actors will be happy to know that they did the English dub for the live film.That surprised me and definitely major kudo points for Viz Media for keeping things consistent in the voice acting

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The “Death Note Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Making of Death Note – (50:00) Featuring the making of “Death Note” and interviews with the director, talent and behind-the-scenes of the making of various scenes from the original film.  A weekly video journal of various scenes and how they were shot.
  • Making of Death Note II: The Last Name – (50:00) Featuring the making of “Death Note II: The Last Name” and interviews with the director, talent and behind-the-scenes of the making of various scenes from the sequel. A weekly video journal of various scenes and how they were shot.
  • Viz Pictures Presents – Featuring trailers for upcoming and currently released Viz Picture films.

First, let me say how happy I was to find out that both “Death Note” films were coming out on Blu-ray and even happier when I found out that they would be bundled together.  I enjoyed both films when they came out and although different from the manga and anime series (as you can only fit so much into two 2-hour films), the writers managed to craft two films that were fine on its own despite its difference from the original storyline.

But even with the slight changes, everything worked out. The pacing was well done, the CGI of Ryuk was well done. But those changes from the original series is what gives the film it’s own life.

Unlike the manga and anime series, Naomi Misora (Seto) has a slightly different role, as does Shiori Akino (Kashii) that plays a major pivotal role early in the series of how demented Light has become, even with a followup comment by Ryuk. Fantastic!

But the plus for this film was the talent involved. Tatsuya Fujiwara is such an impressive actor that it was great to see him take on the role of Light Yagami. To see Fujiwara’s acting show the believable and caring Light Yagami evolve into the killer known as Kira was just fantastic. Kenichi Matsuyama as L was also well done.

But of course, the addition of other talents such as Asaka Seto. She’s such a popular TV drama and film star that it was great to see her as the vengeful Naomi Misora and it’s great to see Mr. “Iron Chef” Takeshi Kaga as Soichiro Yagami.

I was extremely pleased with the first live action film and the treatment it has received on DVD. I enjoyed watching it in Japanese but watching it again with the voice actors of the original anime series. Again, I’m not fond with English dubbing for a lot of Asian films but VIZ was smart in utilizing the voice actors for the anime series on this live film. Well done!

“DEATH NOTE II: The Last Name” was extremely popular in Japan. Having been #1 in the box office for five weeks and earning 5.5 Billion yen in Japan, the film was a major success.

I enjoyed the film a lot and the pacing was much better with the second film but if anything was amazing, it was Tetsuya Oishii’s screenplay.

It is challenging to get so much storyline from the manga and making a live action film.  There is so much story in the “Death Note” manga that it would be difficult to translate all that in two films.  So, there had to be major differences in the live film versus the manga and unfortunately, for many films based from a long manga series, they don’t succeed because they try to condense everything into one film.

As for “Death Note II: The Last Name”, Oishii manages to create a new storyline that is so different from the manga series but yet manages to stay within the confines of the main focal point.  Kira vs. L and finding a right conclusion. Having the storyline so different from the manga, I was pleasantly surprised by it but by the film’s end, I was rather pleased.  Both Kaneko and Oishii pulled it off.

What I love about this film is that Kira and L are two individuals who are intelligent and the way they try to outdo each other, is always amazing.

In a way, it’s like a chess game between these two as they do what they can to outwit each other. Also, I enjoyed seeing how many other characters were integrated into the overall storyline.  And knowing how different this film is from the manga and anime series, I was satisfied with the conclusion of the film and overall, I really enjoyed the sequel.  Good storytelling by Oishii and managing to pull of a storyline that is just as satisfying as the manga but yet quite different.

If you enjoyed the first live film, then you will definitely want to pick up the sequel.  “Death Note II: The Last Name” is a thrilling, suspenseful and enjoyable film.

Overall, this collection is pretty awesome because you do get both films in one set, you also get the films in HD and lossless English and Japanese audio as well.  And you also get the special features in a third disc and there was no skimping by Viz Pictures for their first major Blu-ray release.

It’s important to note that the special features that were on the original DVD release are not the same.  The special features on the Blu-ray are longer and actually feature the making of, whereas the first “Death Note” DVD featured only the interview with the director and “Death Note II” DVD featured a 23-minute interview with the director and talent of the film.

I know there are some people who wish the “L” film was included with this set but this collection focuses primarily on “Death Note” especially the psychological battle between Light Yagami versus L.  And although not as heavy on the details like the manga or animated series, these two films turned out quite well on its own and is definitely recommended!

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