Warning: may contain spoilers.
“Happiness is a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun, mama
When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm” – The Beatles
The “Gun Gale Online” arc of Sword Art Online has already been reviewed on this website. You can read the review here, but there are certain elements about this new release that are also worth a look.
For those who are not familiar with this anime, it is set in the near future and follows the adventures of gamer Kirito as he battles in various dangerous video games which involve special virtual reality equipment, allowing you to feel as if you are truly in the game. In the first series, Kirito had to escape from “Sword Art Online”, a world where if you were killed in the game, you were killed in real life, and the only way to escape was for one person to clear the entire game. During his time trapped in SAO, his life was threatened numerous times, but he also made many friends, fell in love with and entered into a virtual marriage with a beautiful girl named Asuna, and both of them found an artificial intelligence named Yui whom they adopted as their daughter. After this came “AlfHelm Online”, a world in which the players were fairy-like characters who could fly, where Kirito had to rescue Asuna from the evil clutches of another man who planned to marry her.
Now Kirito is given a new job, in the cyberpunk game “Gun Gale Online”, where there has been a series of murders by a masked player controlling a weapon known as “Death Gun”. Kirito enters the game to track the killer, but immediately hits problems. First his GGO avatar makes him look like a girl and he is constantly mistaken for one, which gets him into trouble with various other players. One is Sinon, a girl who plays a sniper in the game but in real life suffers from a fear of guns. She introduces Kirito to GGO, but is angered when she finds out that Kirito is a boy. Together they enter the “Bullet of Bullets” tournament in which Kirito hopes to track down the Death Gun.
You can read a more in-depth review of the anime in the link above. This review will be concentrating more on the actual release itself. The first key factor is that this SAO II is released by Anime Limited, whereas SAO I was a Manga Entertainment release. While Manga Entertainment is a long-established company, Anime Limited might well be on the way to becoming the most popular anime distributors in the UK due to the general quality of most of their releases. You can no doubt imagine that many anime fans will be hoping that one day Anime Limited get the licence for the first series of SAO too.
The collector’s edition of SAO II has many extras, the first of which is immediately obvious: it comes in a large box set. This appears to be an attempt to repeat the success of the box set that they eventually released for Kill la Kill, but whereas that came with the final volume, here it is with the first inbstead. Inside the box you have one smaller box inside containing the actual first part of the collection, and then a second larger box saying: “Store parts 2-4 in this space.” If you want my advice, that larger box sounds like the sort of things that “collectors of the future” might be keen on getting, as it is the type of item that many people will just bin after they get the next part, but completists will want to track it down.
The collection contains both a Blu-ray disc and a DVD disc of the first seven episodes of the series. The DigiPack that comes with it appears to have a typo on the front omitting the name of the sixth episode however, but this is a minor fault. The discs themselves seem to work fine. The extras that come with the collection include two Sword Art Offline bonus episodes, some online episode previews, and the textless opening of the main theme tune, “Ignite” by Eir Aoi (a very good tune by the way).
The best extra however is probably a special booklet that is included in the collection. This booklet contains guides to all seven episodes in the collection, guides to the characters, interviews with Aniplex’s advertising director Kenta Suzuki and marketing group members Asa Suehira and Yosuke Kodaka, and a picture gallery. All of these extras are certainly better quality than those that came with the first series release from Manga Entertainment.
Hopefully Anime Limited will still be able to keep the quality up in the next three collections.