Sword Art Online Volume 3
“You should treat a muse like a fairy.” – Paulo Coelho
At the end of Part 2 we witnessed the video game “Sword Art Online” being completed and coming to an end. Now the series moves onto a different game, with different features, and different challenges for Kirito.
Part 3 starts with him recovering from what happened before, with the help of his kendo-loving sister Sugu (although we later find out that actually this is a white lie and they are cousins). Kirito learns that Asuna, the girl he loves and whom he married in SAO, was one of 300 people who never woke up after the game finished. Kirito also learns that a man called Sugou Nobuyuki, a man who now runs the company responsible for the SAO servers, wants to marry Asuna himself. However, as she hates him, Sugou plans to be adopted by her father into the family (this is a common practice in Japan where 98% of adoptions are of young adult men by businessmen who want to keep the business in the family).
However, Kirito discovers a photo of Asuna trapped in another video game, “ALfheim”, in which players take on the role of fairies and have the ability to fly. Kirito decides to enter the game so he can rescue Asuna. In this world he immediately finds allies. Yui, the artificial intelligence that he and Asuna adopted from SAO, has survived and now works for “Daddy” as a “Navigation Pixie”. Kirito also meets the more experienced player Leafa who guides him around the world. Ironically it turns out that the person playing Leafa is closer to home than Kirito realises.
In comparison to the first storyline, the ALfheim arc is widely seen as being the weaker of the two. This is true in terms of the ending, but with regard to the beginning, ALfheim is superior. This is because – while the first few episodes of SAO are a selection of unrelated stories which could be seen as filler – in ALfheim the story rolls along quickly. After the situation is set up in the first episode, everything moves on at a decent pace.
There are some annoyances with this release, primarily in terms of the production of the discs. There appears to be no scene selection for example. Extras are relatively few as well. Other than textless opening and closing the only other things on offer are a selection of online trailers and clips which are basically episode previews.
Other than this, however, much of what is on offer is decent. The soundtrack is nice, although whether “nice” is good enough is something up for debate. Some say it does not carry the tone of the series quite right, but then again it is a about a video game about faries so perhaps it is suitable. The animation appears to be of a good quality, nothing too shonky, although it should be mentioned that again perhaps everything does not quite fit together with the music and so on. But overall, it is a relatively OK release.