The story picks up with the boss fight on the fourth floor of Aincrad. Wait, what? The last movie, Sword Art Online the Movie- Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night, ended with beating the first-floor boss… Uh, anyway, after heading up to the fifth floor and celebrating a little, Kirito and Asuna do some treasure hunting. A booby trap separates our dynamic duo, and Asuna ends up overhearing a meeting between two nefarious figures—PKers (player killers). Their plot is to cause a rift between the two leading guilds by guiding one to acquire a powerful drop item from the fifth-floor boss. There’s an obligatory hot springs scene, then Kirito, Asuna, and friends try to beat the boss first and keep either guild from getting the drop item. Mito, Asuna’s movie-original friend from the first film, arrives in the nick of time to clench victory. Afterward, Kirito and Asuna celebrate the new year (2023!) and have an ominous encounter with a man in a black poncho.
Well, that was…yeah. The issues with this adaptation of the SAO Progressive novels are starting to show. Notably, the first film only dealt with the first floor of the game, meaning this film skips over a ton of action in order to pick up at the end of floor four. There are multiple characters, like Argo the info broker, who should have been more fully introduced previously, but who instead just kind of show up here out of the blue. This film pretty much just assumes you already know everything, making it much less accessible, even if you’ve seen the first SAOP film or the main series anime. Another issue is that the movie seems to be trying to avoid a HUGE subplot of the SAOP novels, and dancing around it further contributes to the rushed, disjointed vibe of this film. Finally, a big part of what I love about SAOP is what an endearingly dorky first-person narrator Kirito is, and so much of his funny commentary is lost in the transition to a visual medium.
Okey-day, so I think this film has major pacing and storytelling issues, but what is there to like about it? Well, there are still quite a few entertaining moments of comedic / sweet / flirtatious interactions between the two leads. The voice acting for the dubbed version of the film was solid, and the visuals were good, too. There were some excellent fight scenes. And of course, the soundtrack was delightful, as expected of SAO.
As a rabid SAO fanboy, I enjoyed watching, but that doesn’t mean I think this is a good film that I can recommend. It’s probably not worth you price of admission unless you’re a diehard SAO fan who has already read the SAOP novels so that you’ll have some idea who the characters are and what’s going on. Of course, if you are such a person, you might just be annoyed at how the story has been butchered, so I can’t really recommend it to you either. In my regretful opinion, this film doesn’t live up to the quality of either the source material or the main series anime.
Sword Art Online -Progressive- Scherzo of Deep Night is released by Crunchyroll and is currently in theaters.