By Jared Cyhowski / January 5th, 2014
It’s been about a year since any new Sword Art Online has premiered on television, so it seems fitting that a New Year’s special was created after such a break. Sword Art Online: EXTRA EDITION is a 100-minute special that features about 30 minutes of new content, while the rest is a series recap. Well, it’s almost a series recap. The other objective here was to promote the announcement that Sword Art Online II: Phantom Bullet will be launching sometime in 2014. Girls-with-guns folks, here we go:
But let’s get back on track. There’s something to be said about SAO and the characters we’ve seen thus far throughout the series. I should remind you that I’ve never read any of the novels, but I did follow the original airing of the series.
Sword Art Online: Extra Edition is a perfect introduction to the series for those who don’t want to watch the series’ first 25 episodes. And I don’t blame you, since there’s a handful of episodes that just don’t stick out, especially in the ALfheim Online arc. The special begins with Kirito, Asuna, Suguha, Lisbeth, and Silica heading to their school’s swimming pool. They want to help Sugu learn how to swim because back in ALO, Yui wants to go underwater and ride a whale. Kirito misses out on the fan service fun and reports inside to what he believes to be a counselor meeting. Instead, he’s greeted by Seijirō Kikuoka (菊岡誠二郎, Kikuoka Seijirō), a higher-up in SAO and ALO’s internal affairs committee. Kikuoka’s goal is to have Kirito recount his experiences in SAO and ALO in order to learn more about Kayaba Akihiko and his motives for trapping thousands of players inside a virtual world.
We get a few revelations on how Kirito was able to retrieve his Nerve Gear in order to reenter ALfheim Online, along with Kikuoka admitting how he and others weren’t able to keep an eye on Sugou’s secret team throughout ALO’s events. The special cuts back and forth between Kirito retelling his experiences and Sugu and the girls having conversations about how they met Kirito for the first time. Sword Art Online is sort of a harem series where Kirito finds himself with the ladies quite frequently, so we’re reminded of this for a good chunk of the episode. Even the awkward love that Suguha felt (and still seems to feel) for her cousin/brother are present once again, but she seems to convince the other girls that there’s nothing really there.
The recap segments feature many of the more interesting battles from SAO and ALO while cutting out a good chunk of the narrative found in ALO (probably because it was boring). But the creators choose enough content to really keep you interested even though you’ve already seen it all before. It’s hard to recommend EXTRA EDITION for someone new to the series, though, because they skip over some really key parts. One example is how Kirito learns that Heathcliff was Kayaba all along, and it lacks a full explanation on how Kirito was able to defeat Sugou at the end of ALO. To credit the small narrative that EXTRA EDITION presents, Kirito held back his explanation of how he defeated Sugou so that Kikuoka wouldn’t know of Kayaba’s remaining existence within the game. Present this to a newcomer, and there’ll probably be a few questions left to be answered.
The latter part of the episode features even more fan service, with Asuna and the ladies back in their swimsuits, although this time, they’re in the world of ALfheim Online. Now that Sugu/Leafa knows how to swim, they start an underwater quest for a chance to see a whale, all so Yui can ride one. The quest plays out with the revelation that it’s still awkward for Kirito to be logged into the game with Sugu, but soon, this barrier is broken when he goes to save her from falling into a death trap of a whirlpool.
Later on, it’s revealed that the party has been tricked on their quest to recover a stolen pearl and that they instead accidentally stole an egg for their quest-giving NPC to have. The NPC turns into Krakken, who is probably the strongest monster Kirito and the others have ever faced. It’s clear they are about to lose the battle when the sea king Leviathan appears to put an end to the battle. They have a conversation that’s actually pretty interesting, to the point where I wanted to learn more. It reminded me of how MMOs tend to refer to past events that you’ve never experienced, as well. The special quickly ends with Yui finally being able to ride a whale with the others back to the surface, safe and sound.
If anything, the later story segment was fairly interesting, and I enjoyed seeing some new content in the Sword Art Online universe. It has perked my interest in seeing the world of Gun Gale Online in Sword Art Online II, but I think the special would have done better by leaving out the recap material. It almost lost me for a bit, since I didn’t think there’d be much new material, but thankfully, I stuck around until the end. I also enjoyed being introduced to Seijirō Kikuoka, and I want to know a bit more about his motives in relation to Kirito and the World Seed that he possesses. As the special ended with Kikuoka trying to get ahold of Kirito once again, I wonder what effect he’ll have on our main character in the next season of SAO.
Overall, it’s worth the time to check out the series once again, but I can’t recommend checking out EXTRA EDITION unless you, like me, haven’t seen the series since the last time it aired. But for fans of the show who are more into it than me, I can see this being a unique look into some of the events after the ending of ALO.
One thing, though. Even though Yui was finally able to ride a whale at the very end, she decided to still ride on the back of Pina. Good times, Yui, good times.
Sword Art Online: EXTRA EDITION is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
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