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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!

Sky Wizards Academy – The Complete Series (A J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sky Wizards Academy – The Complete Series” is an anime series that is easy to follow, is a lot of fun and fully of action.  If you enjoy magical academy anime series and are looking for an anime series with a shorter duration, “Sky Wizards Academy” is worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sky Wizards Academy – The Complete Series

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 1-12) 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: November 8, 2016


Originally created by Yu Moroboshi

Directed by Takayuki Inagaki

Series Composition by Hiroshi Yamaguchi

Music by Daisaku Kume

Original Character Design by Mikihiro Amami

Character Design by Osamu Horiuchi

Art Director: Hirofumi Sakagami, Hiroshi Kato

Art Design by Hiroshi Kato, Shingo Yonekawa

Anime Production by diomedia


Featuring the following voice talent:

Iori Nomizu/Dawn M. Bennett as Rico Flamel

Nao Tōyama/Megan Shipman as Lecty Eisenach

Nozomi Yamamoto/Tia Ballard as Misora Whitale

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Joel McDonald as Kanata Age

Chika Anzai/Lynsey Hale as Amie Mustung

Hiroki Yasumoto/Chris Guerrero as Real Nua

Ibuki Kido/Sarah Wiedenheft as Christina Balcuhorn

Jiro Saito/Jeremy Inman as Gail Whitale

Mami Kamikura/Alexis Tipton as Sasha Nielsen

Mari Misaki/Bryn Apprill as Lily Lancaster

Nichika Omori/Michelle Rojas as Coela Viper

Rina Satou/Morgan Garrett as Socie Whitale

Risa Taneda/Jad Saxton as Yuri Flostre

Saeko Zōgō/Alexis Moore as Freon Flamel

Tetsuya Kakihara/Ricco Fajardo as Lloyd Alwyn

Yuki Yamada/Megan Emerick as Chloe Sevegny

Yukiko Yao/Ryan Reynolds as Greg Hastuck

Yuko Hara/Kristen McGuire as Beach


Catch the newest magical academy series from the studio behind World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman!

Once known as the Black Master Swordsman, Kanata Age has fallen in favor with the people of Misutogan after a harrowed battle against the Devil Beetles. Deemed a traitor, he has earned the scorn of his peers and classmates. Kanata is happy enough to fade into the background, until one day he is asked to become the teacher of Fireteam E601 aka the F’ed up Fireteam.

Rico Flamel, Lecty Eisenach, and Misora Whitale make up E601 and have yet to see a single victory. But it’s hard to work together when your team is made up of a self-proclaimed goddess, a coward, and an incapable leader. Not to mention when they mistake him for a pervert. But, Kanata must take these three failures and turn them into winners. Will they trust the man known as a traitor? Or is there more to his story that he just forgot to mention?


Back in 2013, writer Yu Moroboshi and illustrator Yuka Nakajima created the Japanese light novel series “Kusen Madoshi Kohosei no Kyokan” (which translates to “The Instructor of the Aerial Combat Wizard Trainees”).

With a manga adaptation serialized on “Monthly Comic Alive” since 2014, a 12-episode anime series adaptation was created by Diomedea and aired in Japan from July through September 2015.

The series takes place during a time where humanity was driven off the land by magical armored insects forcing humans to live in floating cities in the sky.

To protect humanity, wizards fight the insects with magic in mid-air.

In the city of “Misutogan”, Kanata Age was known as the “Black Master Swordsman” of the elite S128 Team.  But because of circumstances, he was branded a traitor because he stopped going on missions and has received a bad reputation and no longer part of the elite team.

Kanata has now been assigned as the instructor of Fireteam E601, a team that has suffered 100 consecutive defeats.  Can Kanata turn this team around and get them to winning?  And what is the true reason why Kanata stopped fighting on missions?

Fireteam E601 consists of:

  • Misora Whitale – Misora is the leader of Platoon E601.  She has very good speed and stamina but because of her impulsive attitude, she is not good at giving orders nor is she good with her weapon.  Misora wants to be a sword sorcerer to honor her late mother.
  • Lecty Eisenach – A close combat fighter who is great with her weapon but because she is too shy, lacks confidence and can’t look at people that she doesn’t know, it prevents her from becoming an effective fighter. So, as part of her training, Kanata has her working at a maid cafe to develop her social skills and confidence.
  • Rico Flamel – Intelligent and a great sniper but she is narcissistic and calls herself a goddess and doesn’t feel that she should be a team player nor should she practice.  This prevents her from being a good fighter but Kanata must find a way to develop Rico’s will to fight and be a team player.

VIDEO:

“Sky Wizards Academy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Animation from diomedia is good as character designs are well-done, art backgrounds are also well-done and detailed.  Mechanical designs feature good shading and CG looks good.  The anime series is colorful, vibrant and I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sky Wizards Academy” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. The series for the most part features crystal clear dialogue and music. The English dub has the edge with its 5.1 surround soundtrack but both voice acting for Japanese and English are well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sky Wizards Academy – The Complete Series” features the following special features:

  • Chapter 1 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tia Ballard (voice of Misora), Dawn M. Bennett (voice of Rico), Megan Shipman (voice of Lecty) and Joel Mcdonald (voice of Kanata).
  • Chapter 7 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Alex Moore (voice of Freon), Chris Guerrero (voice of Real) and Megan Emerick (voice of Chloe Sevigny).
  • OVA – Lecty, Animal Caretaker – (24:30) Featuring an OVA (only in Japanese with English subtitles) about Lecty discovering and caring for a Garuda chick that she names Tweetie, a chick that absorbs magical powers and the Sky Wizards are wanting to destroy it.
  • Promotional Videos – Japanese promo videos for “Kusen Madoshi Kohosei no Kyokan”
  • Commercials – Japanese anime CM for “Kusen Madoshi Kohosei no Kyokan”
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer for “Sky Wizards Academy”.

EXTRAS:

“Sky Wizards Academy – The Complete Series” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series plus a slipcover.


Fireteam E601 is considered as the worst wizard team in the academy.

Misora is a team leader than doesn’t know how to use her weapons, Lecty is an excellent weapon user but too shy to engage her enemy and Rico is a narcissist who is an excellent sniper but can’t get along with anyone.

And someone needs to turn this team around.

Enter Kanata Age, once dubbed the strongest Sky Wizard of the elite Platoon S128 until after a major mission, he decided to never take part in any more missions.  Because of his refusal to take part in any missions to fight the insects, he has been dubbed a traitor to all wizards.

While his friends Chloe and Lloyd of Platoon S128 still support their friend, many don’t.  But when Kanata is assigned a new job and that is to be the new instructor of the terrible Fireteam E601, can Kanata Age find a way to turn this team around and make them one of the best Sky Wizard team?

The anime series is quite entertaining and action-packed but some may find the storyline to be quite simple as Kanata tries to teach these three to work as team and find ways to use their abilities.  And of course, it also has a harem vibe as each of Kanata’s students has a crush on him.

But with only 12-episodes, the series is easy to follow and for the most part, fans will find this series to be enjoyable, fun and full of action.  And no doubt, there is a lot of potential for multiple seasons, considering the storyline is ongoing in Japan.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful, while lossless audio is very good, primarily for the English soundtrack having a 5.1 surround track, while the Japanese track is 2.0 but both are well-acted.  As for special features, you get two audio commentary and the OVA episode, plus promotional videos, commercials and more.

Overall, “Sky Wizards Academy – The Complete Series” is an anime series that is easy to follow, is a lot of fun and fully of action.  If you enjoy magical academy anime series and are looking for an anime series with a shorter duration, “Sky Wizards Academy” is worth watching!

Absolute Duo : The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Absolute Duo : The Complete Series” is action-packed and entertaining and after all was done, this series made me want even more! Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Absolute Duo : The Complete Series

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 1-12) 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9), English DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

Release Date: August 9, 2016


Originally created by Takumi Hiiragi-Boshi

Directed by Atsushi Nakayama

Series Composition by Takamitsu Kouno

Music by Yatsushi Hirasawa

Original Character Design by Yu Asaba

Character Design by Kana Ishida, Keiichi Sano

Art Director: Kenta Masuda

Chief Animation Director: Keiichi Sano, Norie Tanaka

Anime Production: 8 bit


Featuring the following voice talent:

Nozomi Yamamoto/Bryn Apprill as Julie Sigtuna

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Ricco Fajardo as Tor Kokone

Natsuki Hanae/Anthony Bowling as Aoi “Tora” Torasaki

Ayaka Imamura/Ashleigh Domangue as Miyabi Hotaka

Haruka Yamazaki/Caitlin Glass as Lilith Bristol

Yui Horie/Felecia Angelle as Sakuya Tsukumo

Yukari Tamura/Jennifer McDaniel as Rito “Uta-Sensei” Tsukimi

Tomomichi Nishimura/Kent Williams as Equipment Smith

Manami Tanaka/Lara Woodhull as Otoha Kokonoe

Yoshihisa Kawahara/Tyson Rinehart as Tatsu

Whitney Rodgers as Tomoe Tachibana

Takahiro Sakurai/Z. Charles Bolton as K


Welcome to the prestigious Koryo Academy of Absolute Duo! A special school where students train to fight with weapons that are manifestations of their souls. On the outside, Tor Kokonoe seems like a regular academy student. But while his classmates carry swords, kunai, and axes into battle, his soul becomes a shield. As the students pair up in order to reach their full potential, Tor is partnered with the mysterious and exotic Julie. What he doesn’t realize is that their partnership means they’ll have to do everything together—fight, attend class, and even sleep in the same room! As the strangely affectionate girl begins pushing his boundaries to the limit, the other girls in his class start taking notice. While he’s fighting to make the grade, he’ll have to fend off the advances and attention from the tomboyish Tomoe, the meek Miyabi, and the exceptionally talented Lilith—a shield might be just what he needs after all!


In 2012, writer Takumi Hiiragiboshi and illustrator Yu Asaba created the Japanese light novel series “Absolute Duo”.

Published by Media Factory’s MF Bunko J since 2012, the light novel series was adapted into an anime series by 8-Bit in 2015.

The anime series was directed by Atsushi Nakayama (“”Dog Days”, “Rewrite”, “Dog Days”), series composition by Takamitsu Kouno (“Ayakashi”, “Cheating Craft”, “Lamune”), music by Atsushi Hirasawa, character designs by Kana Ishida (“Aquarion Evol”, “Mahoka Koko no Rettosei”) and Keiichi Sano (“A Certain Magical Index”, “Strike the Blood”, Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru: Futari no Elder”) and art direction by Kenta Masuda (“sin Nanatsu no Tazai”, “Comet Lucifer”).

And now the series will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation.

The series begins with Tor Kokonoe, who has enrolled at Koryo Academy after the death of his younger sister Otoha.

Koryo Academy is a high school in which students must battle with weapons known as Blaze in order to become future peacekeepers.

As the students must participate in battle for the first day as a freshman in order to qualify enrollment at Koryo Academy, the majority of them manifest melee weapons as their Blaze.  But for Tor, he manifests a shield, and thus making him an “Irregular”.

As Koryo Academy uses a Duo System, Tor is paired with Scandinavian student, Julie Sigtuna.

And as Tor and Julie become closer as they are fighting partners, other female classmates also vow for Tor’s recognition and also want to be closer with him.

But as the students become friends and become teammates, someone infiltrates the school and Tor and friends must prepare themselves for the great battle that lies ahead.


“Absolute Duo” features the following characters:

  • Tor Kokonoe – The main protagonist who enrolls at Koryo Academy after the death of his younger sister Otoha.  He is an Irregular after manifesting a shield as a blaze.  He works together with his partner, Julie Sigtuna, who he feels deeply for.
  • Julie Sigtuna – From Scandinavia, she manifests Twin Blades.  She enrolled at Koryo Academy after the death of her family and wants to become stronger.  She is partnered with Tor and carries very deeply for him.
  • Tomoe Tachibana – A classmate of Tor and Julie.  She is smart, athletic and very good in martial arts.  Her partner is Miyabi Hotoka.
  • Miyabi Hotoka – A classmate of Tor, who she really likes.  Miyabi is shy and wants to become stronger as her Blaze, which is capable of large scale destruction is too heavy.
  • Lilith Bristol – A transfer student from England who comes from an affluent family and gets what she wants.  But because she is an “Exception”, she wants Tor to become her partner. She is extremely athletic and her blaze is a rifle.
  • Rito Tsukimi – Toru’s homeroom teacher who has two personalities, the energetic maid cosplayer with bunny ears and the other is foul-mouthed and ruthless.

VIDEO:

“Absolute Duo” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. Colors are absolutely vibrant, black levels are deep.  There is slight softness, but that is expected with anime TV series.  But overall, due to the detail, 8-Bit did a great job with this anime series!

I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Absolute Duo” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Dialogue and music is clear through the front channels for the lossless stereo soundtrack but because the English is 5.1, there is better use of the surround channels.

In fact, I found myself listening to the English dub track for “Absolute Duo” much more than the Japanese soundtrack because of the 5.1 but also, FUNimation did a magnificent job with the casting of this series for the English dub.  Both Ricco Fajardo and Bryn Apprill did a wonderful job playing the role of Tor and Julie.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Absolute Duo: The Complete Series” features the following special features:

  • Episode 10 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Caitlin Glass (Co-ADR Director) and voice dub actors: Felecia Angelle and Anthony Bowling.
  • Episode 12 Video Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Zach Bolton (Co-ADR Director) and voice dub actors: Ricco Fajardo and Bryn Apprill.
  • Textless Opening Song: “Absolute Soul”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Believe x Believe”, “Appuru Tii no Aji”, “2/2”
  • Promotional Videos – Japanese promotional videos for “Absolute Duo”
  • Commercials – Japanese CM for “Absolute Duo”.
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Absolute Duo”
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

EXTRAS:

“Absolute Duo: The Complete Series” comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version.


For those who love action-drive anime series, will enjoy “Absolute Duo” as it manages to balance out the almost harem-storyline (as all females have a thing for the protagonist, Tor) and its action.

For a good number of episodes, the storyline focuses on the partnership of Tor Kokonoe and his partner Julie Sigtuna.  And how this slowly develops as both start to have feelings towards each other and Tor’s feeling of revenge starts to transition into him wanting to be strong in order to protect Julie.

Meanwhile, his classmates Tomoe, Miyabi and the wealthy new student, Lilith, all want to be close to Tor as well.

But as these friends all have fun at the beach, shopping and somehow find themselves in some sort of predicament in which they must engage in some battle, things change quickly when a mysterious person known as K with soldiers, start to attack the students and the academy.

And with only 12 episodes total, for those who don’t like very long anime series will find “Absolute Duo” to their liking.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good for a TV series and features a good solid lossless soundtrack.  The Blu-ray release comes with two hilarious audio commentaries, Japanese promotional videos, commercials, textless opening and ending songs and more!

Overall, “Absolute Duo : The Complete Series” is action-packed and entertaining and after all was done, this series made me want even more!

Recommended!

Saekano Blu-ray Set 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

saekano-2

Hilarious, fun but also more dramatic for the second half series, “Saekano” is an entertaining anime series for those who want to get a glimpse of the challenges involved in creating a gal-ge video game.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Fumiaki Maruto, Kurehita Misaki, KADOKAWA FUJIMISHIBI/Project Saenai. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Saekano Blu-ray Set 2

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episodes 6-12 (175 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition/16×9, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: May 31, 2016


Originally Created by Fumiaki Maruto

Directed by Kanta Kamei

Screenplay by Fumiaki Maruto

Music by Hajime Hyakkoku

Original Character Design by Kurehito Misaki

Art Director: Natsuki Kusakabe

Anime Character Design by Tomoaki Takase

Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Utaha Kasumigaoka

Kiyono Yasuno as Megumi Katō

Saori Ōnishi as Eriri Spencer Sawamura

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Tomoya Aki


After many agreements and disagreements, the members of Tomoya’s gal-ge production team “blessing software” are finally working hard! Eriri is really into the game’s character design as Utaha is devoting herself more to the scenario than her own novels, and even Megumi exerts her “stealth ability” on the internet. However, there is one problem – who is doing the music? Tomoya tries to convince his cousin, Michiru, who plays in her own band. But Michiru doesn’t only show a lack of interest in games but tells the members to stop being otakus and get a life. Is blessing software breaking up without completing the game!?


As Tomoya tries to organize his team to create his gal-ge video game, he still needs someone to make the music and probably need some help in programming.  Who can Tomoya turn to as their deadline to have a game made before Winter Comike is coming up?

Also, find out more of the history between Tomoya and Utaha and Eriri.

Find out what happens in the second and final volume of “Saekano” on Blu-ray!

What is “Saekano”?

In 2012, Fumiaki Maruto and illustrator Kurehito Misaki created the Japanese light novel series, “Saenai Hiroin no Sodatekata” a.k.a. “Saekano”.

The light novel received a manga adaptation and in 2015, A-1 Pictures would create a television series adaptation for FujiTV’s noitamina block.

The anime series is directed by Kantai Kamei (“Dimension W”, “Bunny Drop”, “Nanana’s Buried Treasure”), a screenplay by creator Fumiaki Maruto, music by Hajime Hyakkoku (“K-ON!”, “Jewelpet: Magical Change”), character designs by Tomoaki Takase (“Wagnaria!!”) and background art by Natsuki Kusakabe (“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, “Ro-Kyu-Bu! SS”, “Date A Live”).

The anime series features voice acting by Ai Kayano (“Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma”, “Aquarion Evol”, “Lagrange – The Flower of Rin-ne”), Kiyono Yasuno (“Macross Delta”, “Ushio & Tora”, “Wake Up, Girls!”), Saori Onishi (“The Irregular at Magic High School”, “Active Raid”, “Strike the Blood”) and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (“Sword Art Online”, “Love Lab”, “Yowamushi Pedal”).

And now the second volume featuring episodes 6-12 has been released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

The series revolves around Toyogasaki Academy student Tomoya Aki, an otaku who works part-time to fund his lifestyle of watching anime, playing dating sims and more.

One day, he encounters a beautiful girl during spring vacation and a month later, finds out that girl is his classmate named Megumi.

Tomoya wants to create a visual novel computer game, so he recruits the beautiful high school students, his childhood friend and student novelist, Eriri Spencer Sawamura to design the art and Utaha Kasumigaoka to write the games scenario.

Needing a heroine, he recruits the naive Megumi Kato as the “heroine”, who will be the main character’s love interest.

But with deadlines looming and the personalities of the girls all clashing, can Tomoya get them all on the same page in order to meet the deadline (and release it at Winter Comike) and will he find the additional people to join his gal-ge team?


The main story focuses on:

Tomoya Aki – Tomoya is a student at Toyogasaki Academy and is a otaku who loves reading manga, watching anime and playing galge (pretty girl games). He wants to create a visual novel, so he tries to recruit the people needed for the game by Blessing Software.

Eriri Spencer Sawamura – Tomoya’s childhood friend and is half British and half Japanese. While she is popular and refined, she also has a secret otaku lifestyle of playing video games. She creates adult-themed manga and goes by the name Eri Kashiwagi and is part of the group, “Egoistic-Lily”. She is tsundere, cruel and sadistic.

Utaha Kasumigaoka – An up-and-coming young novelist going by the name of Utako Kasumi, her first light novel “Koisuru Metronome” published under Fushikawa Fantastic Bunko sold over 500,000 copies. She is beautiful and intelligent and popular.

Megumi Kato – Tomoya’s classmate who is ordinary, knows nothing about otaku culture and is the person that Tomoya wants to recruit as his “heroine” for his visual novel.

Izumi Hashima – Two years younger than Tomoya but she looks up to Tomoya for introducing her to otaku culture.  Eriri looks at her as a rival because Tomoya always wants to help her out.  Izumi is the youngest sister of Iori, who represents the dojin circle, Rouge en Rogue.

Michiru Hyodo – Tomoya’s cousin.  She likes to hardly wear anything when she’s home and has a band known as Icy Tail (a pun on the Japanese word, “Aishiteru” which  means love).


VIDEO:

“Saekano Blu-ray” features gorgeous animation by A-1 Pictures. Character designs are well-done and well-shaded, while backgrounds and structures are well-detailed. Overall, picture quality is vibrant and the series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo. Dialogue is crystal clear and subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Saekano” vol. 2 comes with the web previews for episodes 6-12.

EXTRAS:

“Saekano” vol. 2 comes with a slipcase, eight illustration post cards and reversible cover.


The life and struggles of those who try to create a gal-ge game (a visual novel/dating sim which focuses on a guy meeting different female characters and by selecting the right choices, you will end up with one of the female characters at the end of the game).

As the first volume focused on Tomoya bringing together a talented writer and artist, but also choosing a (quiet and shy) girl to be his protagonist’s voice actress, he still needs additional help in finalizing the game before it’s deadline and presentation at Winter Comike.

But still tensions still persist as the girl’s do not all get along but also issues that each of the girl’s have with Tomoya.

With the final six episodes, the series focuses on the past that Tomoya had with Tomoya and Eri, his friend Izumi, his cousin Michiru (who he wants to convince to make music for the video game) and more.

By far, these last six episodes are much deeper as the episodes explore the feelings these girls have towards Tomoya.  And being the naive guy he is and his focus on creating a video game, he is of course, blind to the fact that each of them have feelings towards him.

And despite the more emotional tone set by a few episodes, for those who love the fan service, will still get plenty of it in volume 2!

My favorite episodes in this latest episode are episode 9 as we learn how Eriri and Tomoya were friends, and how they were very close when they were younger but why there was a rift between the two.  Also, episode 11 when Tomoya introduces everyone to his cousin Michiru.  Of course, it doesn’t hel much that Michiru hardly wears anything and she’s Tomoya’s age and now living with him.

The second volume is in my opinion much better than the first half, because the storyline shows a more dramatic element, retains the humor and fan service style, but the episodes were better written this time around.

The Blu-ray release features vibrant animation and voice acting for the series is quite solid and you have Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, voice of Kirito for “Sword Art Online” playing the main character role of otaku, Tomoya. It’s important to note that the anime series is in Japanese only, there are no English dubs included.

Special features includes the web previews for episodes 6-12 and also comes with a slipcase, eight postcards and a Blu-ray case with a reversible cover.

Overall, “Saekano” is a fun and enjoyable series about a group of high school students who have very different personalities, trying to work together to create a visual novel.

Hilarious, fun but also more dramatic for the second half series, “Saekano” is an entertaining anime series for those who want to get a glimpse of the challenges involved in creating a gal-ge video game.  Recommended!

Saekano Blu-ray Set 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

saekano

“Saekano” is a fun and enjoyable series about a group of high school students who have very different personalities, trying to work together to create a visual novel. It’s too early to tell how this series will shape up to be, but for these first six episodes, “Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” is worth giving a try!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Fumiaki Maruto, Kurehita Misaki, KADOKAWA FUJIMISHIBI/Project Saenai. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Saekano Blu-ray Set 1

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episodes 0-5 (150 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition/16×9, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: March 29, 2016


Originally Created by Fumiaki Maruto

Directed by Kanta Kamei

Screenplay by Fumiaki Maruto

Music by Hajime Hyakkoku

Original Character Design by Kurehito Misaki

Art Director: Natsuki Kusakabe

Anime Character Design by Tomoaki Takase

Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Utaha Kasumigaoka

Kiyono Yasuno as Megumi Katō

Saori Ōnishi as Eriri Spencer Sawamura

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Tomoya Aki


“I’m gonna make you into a heroine that no one can resist!”

One day, an otaku high school student Tomoya Aki has a fateful encounter with a girl amidst the beautiful cherry blossom trees. This meeting inspires Tomoya to design his very own “gal-ge” (dating-simulation PC game) featuring a heroine modeled after the girl he saw. In order to make his desire a reality, Tomoya must persuade a few eccentric “creators” such as the ace member of the art club and his childhood friend, Eriri Spencer Sawamura and the school’s top student, Utaha Kasumigaoka to join his development team. Meanwhile, Tomoya is shocked to learn that the girl he idolized as his muse for this whole project was none other than Megumi Kato, who is a super low-profile girl who he doesn’t even notice that she is in the same class! But, this doesn’t dissuade Tomoya. He is determined to make Megumi an ultimate gal-ge heroine!


In 2012, Fumiaki Maruto and illustrator Kurehito Misaki created the Japanese light novel series, “Saenai Hiroin no Sodatekata” a.k.a. “Saekano”.

The light novel received a manga adaptation and in 2015, A-1 Pictures would create a television series adaptation for FujiTV’s noitamina block.

The anime series is directed by Kantai Kamei (“Dimension W”, “Bunny Drop”, “Nanana’s Buried Treasure”), a screenplay by creator Fumiaki Maruto, music by Hajime Hyakkoku (“K-ON!”, “Jewelpet: Magical Change”),  character designs by Tomoaki Takase (“Wagnaria!!”) and background art by Natsuki Kusakabe (“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, “Ro-Kyu-Bu! SS”, “Date A Live”).

The anime series features voice acting by Ai Kayano (“Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma”, “Aquarion Evol”, “Lagrange – The Flower of Rin-ne”), Kiyono Yasuno (“Macross Delta”, “Ushio & Tora”, “Wake Up, Girls!”), Saori Onishi (“The Irregular at Magic High School”, “Active Raid”, “Strike the Blood”) and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (“Sword Art Online”, “Love Lab”, “Yowamushi Pedal”).

And now the first six episodes (0-5) will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

The series revolves around Toyogasaki Academy student Tomoya Aki, an otaku who works part-time to fund his lifestyle of watching anime, playing dating sims and more.

One day, he encounters a beautiful girl during spring vacation and a month later, finds out that girl is his classmate named Megumi.

Tomoya wants to create a visual novel computer game, so he recruits the beautiful high school students, his childhood friend and student novelist, Eriri Spencer Sawamura to design the art and Utaha Kasumigaoka to write the games scenario.

Needing a heroine, he recruits the naive Megumi Kato as the “heroine”, who will be the main character’s love interest.  But can he get these three very different personalities to work together?

The main story focuses on:

Tomoya Aki – Tomoya is a student at Toyogasaki Academy and is a otaku who loves reading manga, watching anime and playing galge (pretty girl games).  He wants to create a visual novel, so he tries to recruit the people needed for the game by Blessing Software.

Eriri Spencer Sawamura – Tomoya’s childhood friend and is half British and half Japanese.  While she is popular and refined, she also has a secret otaku lifestyle of playing video games.  She creates adult-themed manga and goes by the name Eri Kashiwagi and is part of the group, “Egoistic-Lily”.  She is tsundere, cruel and sadistic.

Utaha Kasumigaoka – An up-and-coming young novelist going by the name of Utako Kasumi, her first light novel “Koisuru Metronome” published under Fushikawa Fantastic Bunko sold over 500,000 copies. She is beautiful and intelligent and popular.

Megumi Kato – Tomoya’s classmate who is ordinary, knows nothing about otaku culture and is the person that Tomoya wants to recruit as his “heroine” for his visual novel.


VIDEO:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” features gorgeous animation by A-1 Pictures. Character designs are well-done and well-shaded, while backgrounds and structures are well-detailed.  Overall, picture quality is vibrant and the series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo.  Dialogue is crystal clear and subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” comes with the textless opening and ending, promotional videos and web previews.

EXTRAS:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” comes with a slipcase, six illustration post cards and reversible cover.


How does an otaku accomplish his goal of creating his own visual novel?

How about hiring the top writer and illustrator, who happens to be two popular high school students.  And for the main love focus, an ordinary school girl?  Will it work?

This is the case for “Saekano”, the anime adaptation of the popular light novel series by Fumiaki Maruto and illustrator Kurehito Misaki.

The first six episodes of “Saekano” are pretty much introductory episodes of the mannerisms of each character.

Episode 0 begins with five individuals going on location scouting for their project but seeing how each of these girls are determined in creating an enjoyable game.

The first episode is about how Tomoya is inspired to create a visual novel game, thanks to him meeting Megumi and also recruiting an artist and a writer for his project.

The second episode shows the struggles Tomoya faces in trying to recruit Megumi in order to help her understand what a visual novel is.

The third episode features the challenges Tomoya must go through in order to create a draft before deadline, while episode four features Tomoya wanting date advice and deciding on a release date for the game.  Episode five shows the struggle of Eriri to create a sketch of Megumi because she doesn’t show any emotions.

So for now, the first initial episodes on “Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” is about the development process, how Eriri and Utaha are constantly at each other’s necks, but also Tomoya as the creator, trying to work with his game’s “heroine”, Megumi who is quite monotone and rarely shows any other expression and for the most part, she is an average person who knows nothing about the otaku life.

For now, the anime series is on a good start but like most anime series, the initial first episodes are focused on character development and showing viewers the types of mannerisms of each character.  The series is quite lighthearted, while episode 0 tends to display quite a bit of fan service.

The Blu-ray release features vibrant animation and voice acting for the series is quite solid and you have Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, voice of Kirito for “Sword Art Online” playing the main character role of otaku, Tomoya.  It’s important to note that the anime series is in Japanese only, there are no English dubs included.

Special features include the textless opening and ending, promotional videos and web previews.

Overall, “Saekano” is a fun and enjoyable series about a group of high school students who have very different personalities, trying to work together to create a visual novel.

It’s too early to tell how this series will shape up to be, but for these first six episodes, “Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” is worth giving a try!

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!

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