Review – Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night

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Sword Art Online is back with another film that starts to cover the Progressive light novels. This film focuses on the opening events of the Sword Art Online series from Asuna’s point of view and shows us a slightly different side of Kirito. Check out the trailer and our review below.

One month has passed since Akihiko Kayaba’s deadly game began, and the body count continues to rise. Two thousand players are already dead. Kirito and Asuna are drawn together to face challenges.

Review

Aria of a Starless Night adapts the Progressive lite novels covering the first arc of Sword Art Online (Aincrad) but from Asuna’s point of view. This different view of the events leading up to the realization from players that they can’t log out was a nice new look at the events leading up to it. We get closer and earlier look at Asuna’s home life dynamic prior to the events of SAO and how she got involved in the game in the first place. Our introduction to Kirito was different than the original series as the lite novels are looking at the events from a different point of view. We also got an anime original character with Mito, a real-life friend of Asuna who convinced her to play the game.

Let’s talk characters for a minute. We see Asuna in a much more naive and vulnerable state with this film, as we realize she was anything but a gamer from the start and really had very little experience in gaming coming into SAO. When she meets Kirito in this take on their meet-up, he is less brash and self-confident as we remember being introduced to him. Instead, while still a solidly good player at SAO, he is guilt-ridden and scared. He continues to put on a brave face in front of others, but Asuna sees his vulnerable side early, which is a shift from their dynamic in the original series.

The film also brings in Mito as an anime original character. This felt un-needed and too much focus on it for my taste. While I do agree it helps to set up Asuna’s distrust in beta testers and is a platform for her to grow a bit, there was plenty of content in the source material to make that happen that didn’t require a new character. The animation quality is everything we have come to expect from A-1 and SAO in general so nothing here to gripe about.

Another thing the lite novels do here focuses a bit more on the idea of a death game. In that, they explicitly state that while this is a game, it’s not something you ‘play’. That concept throughout SAO is something that has always made things more impactful than just some VR anime series where the stakes are the highest score. They are living in SAO and its life or death. Plus let’s face it, they are still kids. Even as we dive into real-world attempts at full dive technology, one has to wonder if we would ever get to the point of high stakes like SAO. The answer is no, but full dive itself is still possible.

The movie feels short when it’s finished as far as the overall progress it makes in the story, but there is more to come. This film is 100% geared towards fans of the Sword Art online series already. If you are new to the series, we recommend watching the first half of season 1 of the anime before diving into this film to get a good concept for the story.

Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night is in theatres subbed and dubbed this Friday (12/3). You can buy tickets here.

Robert Prentice