Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (2013)
The Sequel to the Hit Anime
Let’s face it; otakus love a good swimsuit episode! In fact, most of us eagerly await its arrival each and every time we sink our teeth into a brand new anime. Over the years, that obligatory ‘beach trip’ has sorta become an anime trope, and, while serving little purpose, narratively, these fun little detours help fulfill our nerdy desires, fanboys (such as myself) rewarded a glorious twenty or so minutes (probably for sticking around to the midway point) to ogle over our favorite full-bodied females in sexy, sultry beachwear. But come on guys! A ‘beach episode’ that lasts almost two fricken hours with under 15 minutes of fun in the sun!
A television follow up to the uber-popular VRMMORPG anime Sword Art Online, produced by A-1 Pictures, this ‘extra edition’ works as a recap of sorts, sitting between the first series, simply titled Sword Art Online (2012), and the second, Sword Art Online II (2014). A blatant cash-grab by the animation studio, Sword Art Online: Extra Edition is essentially a ‘normal’ 24-minute episode disguised as a ‘feature’ — but I guess the ‘Extra’ in its title should’ve given this away as this special wasn’t sub-titled ‘The Movie.’ The biggest draw-card for this additional adventure, film, OVA or whatever, is the fact that it has bikini action, which the original series kinda lacked — seeing female protagonist Asuna parade around in a two-piece was something I (and most others) would have probably paid to see!
Helmed by series director Tomohiko Ito, with a screenplay written by creator Reki Kawahara — the dude who penned the light novels — the story starts off promising. Set on a hot summer’s day, the sounds of cicadas permeating the air, our protagonist, Kazuto Kirigaya is called to have an ‘emergency’ meeting with the school counselor. There, Kazuto — simply known as Kirito in the eponymous video game in which the show is predominantly set — discovers that his rendezvous with the ‘doc’ was, in fact, a guise, Kazuto finding Seijiro Kikuoka, an elite detective-type figure who works for the Virtual Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there to greet him instead. Having called Kazuto into the office to go over his experience in Sword Art Online, an investigation slowly gets underway, Seijiro probing Kazuto in order to resolve some unanswered questions regarding Game Master Akihiko Kayaba, the development director of SAO.
With Kazuto busy with his prior commitment, the SAO babes — Asuna Yuuki, Keiko Ayano (aka Silica), and Rika Shinozaki (aka Lisbeth) — decide to get ‘wet ‘n’ wild’ by spending the morning at the school lap pool teaching Suguha Kirigaya (otherwise known as Leafa) how to swim, the girls preparing the adoptive sister of Kazuto for their late-afternoon expedition, where they plan to embark on an underwater side quest in ALfheim Online, named Deep Sea Plunders, so that A.I. Yui can see, and ride, her very first whale, which the mission was rumored to feature.
Alas, this set-up opens the floodgates for summation, Kazuto recounting the events of both SAO and ALO in vivid detail, these intercut with footage from the prior season. Even as a simple ‘trip down memory lane,’ the material here is frustratingly dull and just plain tedious — I’d recommend either watching, or re-watching (if you’re that desperate), the entire first season as opposed to having to endure these compressed clips while waiting for something new, dramatic or substantial to eventuate. And, as testing as Kazuto’s scenario is, the girls are given a ‘replay’ storyline of their own, each recollecting their first encounter with the heroic swordsman. Sure, there are a couple of underwear and swimsuit scenes interspersed here and there, but, they’re few and far between, and hardly as titillating as one would hope — minus some light boob fondling, all we’re given are shots of the gals sitting around a waterhole in their bathers, looking at one another and eating lunch. Yeah, they’re cute … but seriously, talk about lag!
Once the prolonged reminiscing comes to an end, the ALfheim expedition is, at long last, initiated. With the crew gathering on the sandy shores of Thule Island, viewers get to ‘perv’ on the curvaceous ladies a second time over, the beauties now in their ‘online’ swim trunks. Here, the gang reunites with Yui, along with male players Klein and Agil, who, just like the audience, enjoy a good gawk over our scantily clad heroines. As rousing as this sounds, by this point, something of greater interest should’ve been happening — where’s the ‘action?’ Sigh. After what seems like forever, the characters finally get ‘Kraken,’ diving to the bottom of the ocean to explore the Undersea Temple, their task, to retrieve a pearl thought to have been stolen by a band of thieves having taken refuge in the dungeon-type ruins, which ultimately leads the troop face to face with a gigantic OP squid-like creature.
While, admittedly, some of the deep-sea designs are quite inspired, the narrative content is average as best — even on stand-alone episode terms. There are no prominent fight sequences, nothing overly thrilling (nor groundbreaking) takes place, and, as a throwaway ‘beach’ romp, I’ve honestly seen better — and that’s saying something. What’s more, making viewers wait over an hour for a middling ‘episode’ just makes the whole experience all the more annoying!
Yes, there are pretty girls in spiffy bathing suits, but that’s about it. That’s all you’re getting here. Look, for those avid SAO enthusiast, Sword Art Online: Extra Edition is probably worth one’s time, even if (quite frankly) it’s not worth the price tag attached. For everyone else, however, don’t be fooled by the enticing cover art as this small screen ‘bonus’ works as exactly that — a bonus, which should’ve been included (minus all the superfluous flashback stuff) as an ‘extra feature’ on one of the home release disks. Let’s just hope Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, released later this year, comes glitch free, delivering on what this Extra Edition failed to serve — AAA excitement.
2 / 5 – Average
Reviewed by S-Littner
Sword Art Online: Extra Edition is released through Madman Entertainment Australia