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DVD Review

DVD cover

Sword Art Online
Part 4


Starring (voice): Haruka Tomatsu, Kanae Itō, Kouichi Yamadera and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 03 March 2014

Kirito and Asuna, having survived being stuck in a virtual reality game, where losing meant death, return to the real world where Kirito discovers that Asuna is comatose in hospital and plugged into Sword Arts spiritual successor. Determined to rescue Asuna, Kirito immerses himself in Alfheim Online (ALO), to beat the game, climbing the tree of life in an effort to save his friend...

Sword Art Online: Part 4 (2012) is an ongoing anime show directed by Tomohiko Ito. With the release of this disc, the first season comes to its close with episodes twenty-one to twenty-five.

I’m guessing that the makers of the show were hoping that changing a few elements, but pretty much repeating a very similar story, would have the effect of producing a persistence of vision, a bit like repeating something often enough to burn itself into your retina. The idea that Kirito has to rescue Asuna from yet another virtual reality game starts to beggar belief. At least the first game had the advantage of killing the players who failed to survive the game, but the idea that the parents and government would allow three hundred comatose survivors to be plugged into another game, stretches credulity past breaking point.

Had the show explored the ramifications of what happened and its effects in the real world, it would have been far more interesting. What we actually get is a couple of mad megalomaniacs trapping kids in games with seemingly no consequences, except what can be provided by playing the game, you can almost end both parts of the story with a Scooby-Doo moment complaining about pesky kids.

Having stolen its central idea from The Matrix, the show does, nonetheless have few faults with how the story is developed and with a lot of fights involved the pacing remains brisk throughout. There are some things that have to be taken on faith, with the players using avatars; they look very different in the game to what they look like in the real world. This creates situations where people who know each other in the real world do not know each other in the game, surely if you knew you were trapped in a game you would share your real identity, trying to find allies?

What the show lacks in originality and questionable logic it makes up with some of the best anime art around, variable at times, the latter half of this season shows of the show to its best advantage.

The DVD is presented with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the colours are strong, with no noticeable errors in the encoding. Audio is either English of Japanese 2.0 with English subtitles. There are a couple of extras on the disc with web clips for episodes twenty to twenty-four as well as the textless opening and closing sequences.

In the end the look of the animation does not make up for the paucity of ideas in the show.


Charles Packer

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