Sword Art Online II (Caliber) Review

Following the much dragged-out Phantom Bullet arc is the Caliber side story arc. This will be my brief thoughts about these few high-spirited episodes.

Kirito and Leafa discovered the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur a year ago, but could not acquire it due to guardians blocking the path. Well recently, towards the dawn of New Year’s Eve, Suguha discovers that the “Caliber” quest has been unlocked to the public. Kirito immediately bands with his friends Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica, Sinon, and his sister’s avatar Leafa to conquer the castle Thrymheim in Jotunheimir and claim the most powerful weapon in ALO before the year is up!

The whole GGO experience lacked the traditional SAO feeling of ‘playing’ in a game, considering the high stakes. Now, Sword Art Online II brings back the basic concepts of gameplay to add a very crafty and cool mechanical undertone. Many people do not like ALfheim Online, and for obvious reasons I can understand why, but this arc doesn’t dig up those brash emotions and opinions for the Fairy Dance arc; this here, fellow cafe-goers, is traditional RPG, and with its playful references to game terminology envisioned in unique, colorful and appealing animation. This change of pace is absolutely necessary to Kawahara’s planned plot progression and character development, whether we like it or not. Besides, it’s just the characters doin’ what they do best and love!

It’s always wonderful to see the older characters, but I have to spotlight Sinon and Asuna in particular. Upon entering this new fantasy world, Sinon dons the Cait Sith cat attire, complete with cute little ears, and becomes flying fan service! She’s not all fluff, though, as she uses a magic bow to target enemies from far away. This subtle yet crucial decision is very befitting for her sniper-like character.

And Asuna, dayum! She is given the front lines for parts of the fight against King Thrym, pulling out hidden rapier for combat, and might I say that Asuna battles with the swift furiousness of a true KOB commander once again; however, it’s not quite enough to make up for her time served as “Titania.”

So if ALO is a Norse-based world, then why the hell Excalibur of English legend?! The World Tree design in SAO is by far favorite, and the consistent “-heim” worlds add to the Norse feel, but I don’t know why they chose Excalibur; is there no other legendary weapon from Norse Mythology?

*spoilers ahead* Now this side story was pretty mediocre, so what made me change my view was the way Sinon let it end, or rather, didn’t let it end. Thrymheim begins to collapse, and ultimately Kirito is forced to leave the heavy Excalibur behind. Sinon, disagrees, and whips out her bow, calculates distance, takes aim and fires a retrieval arrow at the holy sword, hoisting it back up by a magical rope then giving it Kirito as a token of remembrance in her honor. This on-the-spot action was just so freakin cool, as it made the whole arc worth it. Seriously, Sinon is waifu material :3

Last thing to mention was the new opening, “courage” by Tomatsu Haruka, Yuuki Asuna’s voice actress. It is matched in its fast beat with crisp, brightly colored visuals of Alfheim and the characters. It’s a really respite-filled and cheery song, so give it a listen!

Thanks for reading! Check out my Sword Art Online II (Phantom Bullet) Review for more thoughts on SAO’s fun and adventurous sequel. You can watch the entire anime for free at Crunchyroll. Till next time,

– Takuto, your host

Sword Art Online II (Phantom Bullet) Review

It’s funny that I do this review before the prequel, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen the first season and I didn’t want to half-ass a review. Enjoy ~

It’s been one year since Kirito escaped the deadly game that is Sword Art Online. Meanwhile, ALfheim Online has gained much popularity, for it serves as a peaceful outlet for Kirito and his friends to escape from real world troubles.

Evil doesn’t die so easily, though. Roaming around another famous VRMMORPG by the name of “Gun Gale Online” (GGO) is “Death Gun,” a cloaked man rumored to kill individuals in real life through the game’s avatars. Kirito once again risks life and limb through virtual means to apprehend the mysterious assassin, but he’s not alone – the best sniper in the game, Sinon, with her highly destructive PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II, proves worthy of battle herself in this world of guns. As the world tournament Bullet of Bullets commences, Sinon, Kirito, saber in hand, and Death Gun enter the arena among many other foes, guns locked and loaded.

After the events of last series, SAO had a little repairing to do, and GGO was the best tool to do so. This arc in the light novel series by Reki Kawahara made up for the lack of action and strength in the first season’s Fairy Dance arc. Phantom Bullet reminds us of the quality characters and themes that the SAO series was famous for; a powerful sequel that matches the strong will and survival feel of the first arc, Aincrad. Sword Art Online II is engaging and thrillingly eerie through to the end of the arc.

Kirito logs into GGO as a . . . girl? Yep, and it’s just great. His particular model possesses long dark hair, and his breastplate, well, yeah, adds emphasis. While he continues his unwavering badass style, he crumbles when he finds out that Death Gun must be a member of the “Laughing Coffin” guild, a player-killing group from SAO. The vibe from the first season returns as Kirito realizes that he could actually die in this harsh, cold, foreign world. He starts to recall haunting memories of the PK-ing he committed himself when fending off the Laughing Coffin members. This new revelation builds on past his one dimensional superb fighting skills.

Asada Shino is weak, quiet, and had shot someone when she was very young, and that terrifies her. She can’t even hold a weapon without trembling and then vomiting. But in GGO – a virtual world, she’s not actually killing anyone, so she masks her fears through Sinon, the cerulean-haired, lime-armored heroine. In the gun world, she’s stronger, faster – better. She doesn’t have to worry anymore, because Sinon protects her and fights for her. Sinon puts a new spin on “the will to fight” that makes her my favorite character. When she meets Kirito, she thinks they are both girls, and acts in a friendly manner, but quickly goes tsundere when she finds out the truth.

Kirito and Sinon balance each other out very well – I couldn’t have asked for better pairing besides maybe Asuna, who supports Kirigaya Kazuto on the other side of the amusphere. Sinon does, however, fall to Kirito’s irresistible charm when she becomes weak, but hey, that’s just her real-world self breaking through, not a whole new and sudden change.

I would tell anyone to watch SAO for the character costume designs alone because holy sh*t this is where it’s at! Match these colorfully crafty armor and weapon designs with fluid visuals pumped with action and A-1 Pictures really has something going on! As mentioned previously, there are many more battle scenes in this sequel, and quality never dipped once. The landscape of GGO is give a desolate color palette to that of a ruined desert city. Graphically and artistically, the anime does take me to the mature and virtual world of GGO.

Yuki Kajiura adds to this unique universe by providing an adventurous soundtrack. There’s not really much to say, as it is still just as amazing as the first season’s. She did, however, take the “Survive the Swordland” track, the epic main theme, put it on flute, and up the tempo to add a new sense of glory to the Kirito and Sinon action. Nice 🙂

While the opening “Ignite” by Eir Aoi was befitting for a show with this quality of animation, the true delight is in the lovely ending, “Startear” by Luna Haruna. It features Asada Shino young and old along with her avatar, Sinon, providing a reminiscent feel of childhood and maturation.

Sword Art Online II is a strong follow up to its first season, as it contains much action, brilliant music along with fluid animation, and reminds us of the themes the very first arc held. I recommend all of the SAO series to young viewers because of its genuine romance and characters. While more mature viewers might get bored of the concept , I still recommend this season for its high quality animation and soundtrack. This second series definitely lives up to the hype, so I’d get aboard the SAO train before it’s long gone.

You can watch all of the anime for free at Crunchyroll! Sword Art Online II continues to cross the bridge between the virtual and real worlds, proving to us that they might not be as different as people think. “The virtual world is just a different form of reality.” – Asada Shino
It has been tons of fun following this thrilling adventure! Till next time ~

– Takuto, your host