Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night review – It’s exactly what you’d expect

sword art online progressive movie stillCrunchyroll

Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night, the newest movie in the franchise, is a great continuation of the anime – it’s just too bad that the anime is far from great.

Sword Art Online, despite being a rather love-it-or-hate-it anime, has remained popular all the while it has been streaming on Crunchyroll. The techno-fantasy show follows teenager, Kirito, trying to survive a video game where he’s been trapped – and “if you die in the game, you die in real life.”

The official plot of this recent film – which is a continuation of Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night – is as thus: “Asuna, who cleared the first floor of the floating iron castle of Aincrad, joined up with Kirito and continued her journey to reach the top floor. With the support of female Information Broker Argo, clearing the floors seemed to be progressing smoothly, but conflict erupts between two major guilds that should be working together. And meanwhile, behind the scenes exists a mysterious figure pulling the strings…”

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Now, as we said, Sword Art Online is a very love-it-or-hate-it show, which this film captures rather well. Unfortunately, it won’t be hard to guess what side we’re on as you read this review. Also, warning: we’ll do our best to keep things vague, but mild spoiler alert for the movie.

Sword Art Online successfully gets you onboard

Now, let’s try to begin this review with some positives. The world of the game is generic – and despite being a fantasy world, everyone is eating french fries – but it does a good job of pulling you in. The animation is pretty, the music enjoyable, and there’s enough gaming lingo and virtual visuals to make it easy to imagine yourself there.

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The opening isn’t very gripping at first – with generic soldiers, stilted speeches, and awkward claps – but it does lead into a somewhat funny fight scene, where people get caught up in trying to get glory for themselves.

One good thing about the movie is that the tension between characters never feels convoluted. People disagree and get competitive, but they never let that get in the way of common sense, which allows the film’s main conflict to actually appear intriguing rather than frustrating.

There is an inventive boss fight near the movie’s end – unfortunately, it leads into a rather anti-climactic final showdown in comparison. Granted, this scene is likely setting up future stories, but you’re left with the reminder that the main motivation for many of the film’s characters was to prevent the upcoming New Year’s Eve party from being ruined. Not exactly riveting stakes.

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The movie’s weakness lies in its main draw

The draw of the series has almost always been one thing: Kirito and Asuna’s relationship. And with Asuna supposedly being the main character of this film, you’d think that the film would make the pair enjoyable to watch. You’d be wrong.

Despite the audience being told that Asuna and Kirito are equals in combat, the franchise always likes to show that no, no one is better at anything than Kirito. And in no way does the film ever think to explore this, despite Asuna being the focus.

Furthermore, Jesus-kun Kirito doesn’t seem to feel anything, while sensitive tsundere Asuna feels everything. By the time you’ve watched her break down in tears for what feels like the fifth time as she cradles Kirito into her chest and weeps about how hard he works, while he cooly says that saving the world is no problem for him, you feel like you’re watching some sort of parody.

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But in reality, Sword Art Online is doing what it does best: making Kirito a blank slate so that any guy can slot himself into his position, and imagine that it’s his anime waifu comforting him – Asuna literally talks directly into the camera about how she’ll “always be there for you”. And the film’s tendency to revel in fan service – there’s boy talk and a bathing suit slap fight between two female characters in one scene – certainly doesn’t help make the main pairing more compelling.

So if you’re looking for waifu escapism, you’ll be plenty satisfied. But as someone who isn’t in that demographic, it’s painful to watch.

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To add insult to injury, the only relationship between two characters that really works is the one between Asuna and Mito. Midway through the film, the girls have a dual that is both exciting to watch and emotional to experience, and you see Mito go through an actually compelling arc due to her love for her friend. It makes you wish that the film was just about them, perhaps then it could be something worth watching.

Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night review score – 2/5

Ultimately, it’s hard to really hate on this movie – though we’ve certainly tried – because this is exactly what you would expect to come out of a Sword Art Online film. Therefore, it pretty much succeeds in being what it’s trying to be.

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But what it is, and what the show has been for a good few years now, is an experience we wish we could escape from too.

Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night will premiere in UK cinemas on February 1, 2023. The film will be hitting more global cinemas in February.

To find out more about the movie, read here.