Catching the Moment!

Long time no see, guys. Ever wondered what good old Hime-senpai’s up to these days? Uhh, quite a lot, actually. First off, the job hunt has been pretty taxing. To paraphrase Itami Youji’s words of wisdom, you gotta work to support your hobbies. Hobbies can only come with cash, and cash normally only comes with work. Luckily, I managed to snag a few writing gigs in Upwork, so there’s a start. Secondly, most of my non-working time is being consumed by the gaming trinity of Overwatch, League of Legends, and Shadowverse, plus TCGs like Vanguard. I still occasionally practice my other skills such as drawing/sketching and, believe it or not, the violin, so that’s quite a lot of stuff to do. Sometimes I wonder how I end up with so much free time at this rate. Guess it’s an effect of not having a full-time job.

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Yay Shadowverse. Credits to Artist.

But we’re not here to hear me talk about my life. We’re here today to hear me share about my experience watching the premiere screening of… You guessed it, Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale.

Now, I’ve made it clear on my post in the gaming blog of NOHK that I am a huge, huge fan of the series. Is it any surprise that I watched the movie on the very first possible day? Heck, mere minutes after SM announced the premiere screening, I had my tickets secured, and boy I was certainly glad I did.

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W O W

Now that’s something I didn’t expect in the slightest. What we have here is a full house cinema. Despite a price tag that’s more than a hundred bucks more expensive than (or in my case and other premium watchers, more than double) the regular ticket price, plus an identity as a niche movie (given that it’s mostly just our humble PH anime community that would probably watch it), tickets were sold out. It reached the point that SM had to open a second run at 8pm (and extended screenings the following day). Well, about that….

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W O W (2)

We did it, guys. I don’t know what else would convince those guys at Odex that anime movies can have a strong demand locally, stronger than what everyone could have initially perceived. Bravo. Stand up, everyone, and give each other a pat on the back. We did it.

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I still miss their Aincrad attire

Most anime fans need no introduction to the world of SAO. People play video games, get stuck inside, in-game death means real death, edgy OP hero ft. harem clear the game, and the story goes on. I’ve talked about it more than enough on my other post that reviewed Hollow Realization, so I won’t talk about the premise much in this post.

What I would talk about is the premise of Ordinal Scale. You see, years after the SAO incident, the developers in the SAO universe believe that virtual reality gaming’s time is up, and it’s time to move on to augmented reality. Enter Augma, a whole new device created for augmented reality (think Pokemon Go) and its most popular game, Ordinal Scale, which uses a very lucrative ranking system among players. Of course, our hero, being the unfit shut-in he was growing up, finds himself sucking in this new game. Well, mostly because your actual physical conditioning kinda matters now in Ordinal Scale.

Must be hard being a super gamer then suddenly feeling the full effects of lag courtesy of real life. All of the sudden, you’re a noob again.

As expected, it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong. Bosses from Aincrad start appearing as event battles in Ordinal Scale. This coincides with the appearance of two figures: Yuna, dubbed the Diva of Ordinal Scale, and Eiji, the number 2 player in the game. If the bosses weren’t enough hints at this point, I’ll straight up spoil you a little and say that it’s the cast’s memories from Aincrad that serve as the backbone of the plot.

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Even the name sounds like “edgy”

Now I won’t be spoiling any more of the plot for now, but let me just tell you that the movie truly captures the essence of what makes the series what it is.

What we got is what you’d expect from a SAO movie: new video game becomes popular, villains have motives involving the game and a contrived/convoluted plot revolving around it, some harem comedy and drama, Yui Ex Machina, and our hero going full hax, achieving some god mode skills and saving the day in the climax for the happy ending. This movie also features quite some character development, specifically the relationship between our main character duo.

Overall, it’s the perfect movie for couples who want popcorn entertainment with a romantic flavor.

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Pick your haremette

Personally speaking, I loved SAO for three things: the character designs and interactions, the presentation, and the themes of the virtual life being intertwined with reality. I am pleased that all of these got attended to in the movie.

Talking about production values, the character art and design look gorgeous as usual. While I usually joke about A-1 and QUALITY, the team doesn’t disappoint in big time situations (see: Persona 3 movies). Art without great sound is nothing, so that’s where Yuki Kajiura comes in. Expect to hear familiar tunes such as a remix version of Swordland and Luminous Sword. Hey, the vocal tracks aren’t too bad too. LiSA returns to bring us the theme, Catch the Moment (and the basis for the post title, hue). Yuna’s songs, which weren’t any shabby either, were mostly used as battle BGM in the movie. I loved some of them so much that I immediately got a copy of it when I got home haha.

Moving on to that, let’s move on to the themes.

As I said, the third reason I loved the movie (and the series, as an extension) is because their theme revolves around something that resonated with me.

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No, not that.

It is how memories and experiences of the virtual world are very real to people involved. Whether it be happiness, pain, or sorrow, those feelings experienced online are very real. Cheesy as it may sound, even the bonds and friendships forged from a game would serve as your strength once it’s game over and you’re fighting in the new stage called real life.

Being a person who “lives in the Internet” and feels a lot more comfortable interacting with people through the Internet, it’s something I can relate with. Heck, there’s a reason why I’m here doing all these and sharing my thoughts with you guys behind the computer screen under a weeb handle. There’s a reason why most of the friends I’m close with now are people that I have mostly interacted with through either a geek hobby or an online community. Seeing a movie that tells me how these virtual bonds that I have built are real and as important as the ones in real world touches a soft spot in my heart.

You see, at the end of the day, SAO might be a shallow show compared to its more thematically-deeper peers, but when it comes to the message, I would dare say that it is just as rich in a relative standpoint to a modern day shounen manga. Just like the good old mainstream shounens, it still places a lot of emphasis on people bonding and becoming stronger for each other. The main difference now is that the medium is something closer to our era, which is the Internet and modern media.

I haven’t even talked about the movie experience itself. Being inside the cinema with hundreds of fellow fans gave me the time of my life, no joke. It was so fun because the whole audience was so involved. With every cool scene, funny scene, or fanservice scene, the crowd would erupt into laughs, cheers, and similar reactions. The energy from the room became contagious, and by the end of the film, everyone’s clapping in unison, especially during the climax. It was comparable to being in a trance. A fervor, if that would explain it better. I would say with all honesty that this environment multiplied the enjoyment from watching the movie. Now that’s something you definitely won’t experience by watching a subbed copy (which won’t be available until half a year or so at the very least).

Alas, all good things have to end, and two hours after entering the movie house, it’s time to go. But wait, the show’s not over! The ticket I bought came with freebies, so it’s time to line up once again. As usual, the lines were not too well-organized, but at the end of the day, I was able to claim my loot for the day: a paper bag, a shot glass, and two signature cards with printed autographs from Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and Haruka Tomatsu, voice actors for the main duo.

All worth it.

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Loots for the day.

So ends my day at the premiere screening of Ordinal Scale. Through this event, I was able to meet a lot of friends from the community that I haven’t really been in touch with for a while, as well as enjoy a movie with hundreds of fellow SAO fans. Overall, just a day well spent. Haha, I’m still quite high from it, if you ask me. Good job, Odex, and thank you so much for bringing this movie to our local cinemas.

On another note, looks like this movie re-ignited the local fanbase’s love and hype for SAO again. The same goes for me, who remained a loyal fan through the years.

Oh, and did I say this is just the premiere screening? The actual roadshow would be somewhere in March or April.

Actually…. News just hours ago announced that SM decided to just start the regular screening this Wednesday, February 22. Whoa, that’s quick. Needless to say, reception has been very positive, and rightfully so.

Time for round 2 then!

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