Spoilers for all previous Sword Art Online works will be left unmarked.
Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale is a 2017 anime movie based on the light novel series Sword Art Online by Reki Kawahara. The film features a new original story written by Reki Kawahara and is produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Tomohiko Itō. The music is once again by Yuki Kajiura. It was released in Japan on February 18, 2017.
The film is an interquel taking place between Mother's Rosario and Alicization light novel arcs. In 2026, four years after the NerveGear incident, a new, safer, Augmented Reality (AR) technology known as Augma is developed as an alternative to NerveGear's successor AmuSphere. The most popular game on Augma is Ordinal Scale, an ARMMORPG. Our heroes soon join the game, only to find out that the game isn't just simply a game, and their pasts are all related to the game of Ordinal Scale itself.
See the recap page for a more detailed recap.
This film provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: In Ordinal Scale, the titular augmented reality game actually has a pretty extensive in-universe plot, but it's available in a Japan-only pamphlet, without mention in the series or the movie. Though that story is also used in the Ordinal Scale related Extra Stories in Memory Defrag.
- Art Shift: The film uses noticeable more realistic and detailed art for its character models and action scenes, which many have praised. This is also the first entry in the franchise to utilize Kentaro Waki as composite director, resulting in a completely different compositing style compared to the previous entries.
- An Aesop: A two-prong one about the importance of memory, both because those memories, good and bad are what made you who you are, and because those we love who we lost live on in the memories we have of them. Best shown with SAO survives losing their memories of the game and Eiji's rejection of that part of his life as well as Eiji and Shigemura's relationships with Yuna, and in a short moment dripping with symbolism Asuna's relationship with her late best friend Yuuki.
- Augmented Reality: A headset-like device called the Augma is the central device to Ordinal Scale. It creates "dungeons" out of real, physical, landscapes and players fight monsters while conscious and active. Kazuto, the Virtual Reality nerd, finds it exhausting but others enjoy it immensely.
- Badass Crew: Klein's guild, Fuurinkazan, is reborn in the world of Augmented Reality and shows flawless coordination against the Samurai King boss and the ogre that is dropped on them later. Even with his exosuit, Eiji had to resort to trickery and sucker punches to beat them.
- Backup from Otherworld: Yuuki appears in spirit to help Asuna in attacking the 100th floor boss with an even stronger version of her Mother's Rosario attack.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Eiji and Tetsuhiro Shigemura form an alliance. It would have been a triumvirate, but all Yuna wants to do is sing and thus ultimately sides with Kirito.
- Bittersweet Ending: The day is saved, Asuna regains her memory (as well as other Survivors attacked by Eiji), but Yuuna has disappeared along with the SAO server data and Shigemura is reeled in by Kikuoka to help in developing Underworld Online.
- Bookends: The first boss of SAO was finished off by Kirito and Asuna charging it together, and the last boss of SAO gets beaten the same way. Many of the lines that Kirito and Asuna exchange in battle even seem reminiscent of the first fight.
- The film begins in 2024 the grassy hills of Level 22 in Aincrad on under a romantic star filled night-sky, with the just-married Kirito and Asuna promising to see go see a meteor-shower together in the real world... and the film ends on another grassy hill in 2026, with Kirito, Asuna and their daughter Yui fulfilling that promise together as a family, watching the night sky romantically light up with shooting-stars.
- Call-Forward: Asuna's urging of Kazuto to meet her mother is one of these to a segment in Alicization - Beginning, because he still hasn't mustered the nerve to do it by then.
- The Cameo:
- Kayaba's Virtual Ghost pops up again to converse with his former mentor.
- Yuuki appears in spirit when Asuna performs Mother's Rosario against An Incarnation of the Radius.
- Cassandra Truth: After realizing that Asuna has lost her memories due to the Augma, Kirito tries to advise other SAO Survivors to avoid fighting the SAO legacy bosses. None of them believe his warning, and some of them accuse him of trying to hoard the bonuses for himself.
- The Cavalry: Yui brings in players from ALO and GGO to support the Main Characters in the final boss battle.
- Continuity Cavalcade: Happens near the end of Ordinal Scale. For starters, the main characters are seen with their SAO outfits and weaponry, except Sinon who is given her GGO look. And of course, a good chunk of supporting characters, from General Eugene to Sinon's PK squad to the spirit of Yuuki, show up to help take down the boss.
- Continuity Nod: Naturally, a few episodes from the anime are alluded to in the film.
- Shigemura brings in a lot of classic SAO floor bosses to attack the concert of SAO survivors, including The Gleam Eyes and The Skull Reaper, among others.
- Fukaziroh from Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online is namedropped by Dyne during a news segment, revealing that he's a fan of her and asking if he could buy her a new grenade launcher.
- While making pasta for lunch, Kirito asks Asuna if she could make him some ragout rabbit stew next time.
- After Asuna loses her memories of Sword Art Online, Kazuto takes her to get scanned by a Medicuboid, the same as Yuuki Konno had been using. Afterwards, Kirito and Yui try to jog them by showing her one of her signature sandwiches.
- Fairy Dance Arc Villain Noboyuki Suguo is mentioned as being a student of Professor Shigemura during The Stinger.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Played for Drama after Asuna loses her memories of SAO; while she and Kazuto are waiting in the hospital lobby, she starts moving her hand as one would to open a menu in VR, as though she's hoping the events are something she can log out from and negate.
- Deus Exit Machina: Suguha/Leafa is sidelined for most of the film, attending a kendo training camp. Since she's a top-four national-level kendo practitioner and the film takes place in the real world using Augmented Reality, Suguha being present would have completely negated Kirito's physical disadvantage at several key moments.
- Epic Fail: In his first OS event boss battle, Kirito makes a daring sprint towards the Samurai Lord but instead trips on a walkway threshold, and sprawls at the boss's feet. He has to make an undignified dodge to avoid instant K.O.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Yuuna was actually the daughter of Shigemura and Eiji's former lover, who perished in the Sword Art Online incident. The reason why they want to steal the memories of SAO surivors is because they want to implant them into AI!Yuuna, completing her "resurrection".
- Evil Plan: Shigemura uses Ordinal Scale as a ruse to pit SAO survivors against floor bosses from SAO in order to force them to recall their time in Aincrad. This enables him to scan/steal their memories of Aincrad and use them to build an A.I. of his daughter, Yuna, who died during the game's run. Eiji helps him hunt the SAO Survivors because he is in love with Yuna and wants her back just as badly. The AR Idol Singer mascot of Ordinal Scale is named after Yuna because it will be her for real once they are done. This requires the probable death of every other SAO survivor due to the intensity of the final brain scan.
- Final Boss: To stop Shigemura's plan, Kirito and his friends and allies FullDive into one of the Ordinal Scale drones, which contains the 100th floor of Aincrad and the original final boss of Sword Art Online, "An Incarnation of the Radius".
- Gainaxing: When Yui pops out of Leafa's cleavage to restore their skills and outfits from Aincrad for the final boss fight, Asuna's breastplate — not her actual chest but the solid steel breastplate — bounces into existence.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Many past friends and allies from ALO and GGO are summoned as The Cavalry by Yui to take part in the battle against the Final Boss.
- Guardian Angel: Proving that love and friendship transcend even death, Yuuki's spirit descends from heaven to help Asuna perform a twelve strike Mother's Rosario.
- Irony: Back at the start of the Phantom Bullet Arc Kirito, talked about his goal of tearing down the boundaries between the real and virtual world's through augmented reality, but here when that dream has more or less come true, he finds himself to not be much of a fan of the results.
- Kirk Summation: Yuna's A.I. tries to talk her father out of his Evil Plan by underscoring the suffering he's causing and how she doesn't want to be revive through the deaths of others. Unfortunately, Shigemura gives her a Shut Up, Kirk!.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Many SAO survivors suffer memory loss while playing Ordinal Scale including Asuna. It is specific to anything they did or experienced in Aincrad. It is played with in that the victims remember that they were in Aincrad and that they met friends there, they just can't remember how they met. It is also speculated that the amnesia might get worse over time.
- Product Placement: Ordinal Scale has a lot of these, with Sony, Tokyu Hands, Lawson and Tower Records logos seen in many parts of the film. Justified, as the bulk of the movie's events take place in the real world rather than an MMO world.
- The Promise: Back in Aincrad, Kirito and Asuna make a promise to go to a certain hill in the real world and watch the stars. Asuna's losing her memory of this promise and Kazuto striving to fulfill it underscores their character arc for this movie. When it is fulfilled, Kazuto formally gives her another ring.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The subtitles seem to alternate between "Yuna" and "Yuuna." This is an averted trope: the spelling distinction is crucial. "Yuuna" is the proper spelling of the original human Yuuna Shigemura, while "Yuna" is the name given to the "Black Yuna" AI idol singer and the "White Yuna" AI ghost fragments of the original Yuuna's memories.
- Shut Up, Kirk!: Shigemura's response to Yuna's Kirk Summation is that he doesn't care about the lives of others and would even sell his own soul to revive her.
- The Stinger: Kikuoka leads Shigemura to a room and helps him develop Underworld Online.
- Wham Line: Eiji whispers "Switch" to Asuna while aiding her and the others during the first boss fight, confirming that he's a fellow SAO survivor.
- Wham Shot: Kazuto finally gets a moment to have an extended conversation with the hooded girl he's been seeing all over. After their conversation ends, she tells him it's 'time to wake up', and snaps her fingers... and Kazuto has a Catapult Nightmare reaction out of a bush in the park he'd been walking in earlier. Despite the Augma's AR selling point, it has a full-dive VR function... and Kazuto's failure to realize that means it's not as diluted as the AmuSphere's. Now what was the big reveal about the NervGear in the first episode of Aincrad?