Ah, Sword Art Online II. Many may complain about the series but I adore it, and season two features two of my very favourite arcs – Gun Gale and Mother’s Rosario. This review covers the first half of Gun Gale.
The Gun Gale arc takes place shortly after the events of Alfheim, and Kirito is asked to play Gun Gale in an attempt to find out as to why people who are being killed in-game are dying in real life – no, don’t worry, it’s not just Aincrad with guns! With only Kirito being asked to go on this adventure, Asuna and the other main characters only play a side role this arc with new girl Sinon replacing them on the frontlines. Sinon’s struggling with being an outcast due to her past, and she’s trying to overcome her fear of guns by playing Gun Gale.
Obviously this release only covers the first 7 episodes and half of the arc but it gets going immediately with action, intrigue and fanservice – Kirito’s avatar looks like a girls and i-it might be hot? It’s clear that A-1 Pictures had a bigger budget set aside for season two after the popularity of season one but once again they’ve adapted Sword Art Online brilliantly and it makes for a fantastic, thrilling and sometimes emotional watch – I’m not ashamed to admit I bawled at one point.
I’ve spoken about Kirito being asked to do some investigating and its due to his clear experience with gaming and death, especially as he was the hero of Aincrad. Death Gun, the main antagonist of this arc, makes it clear that he’s behind the murders and revels in it, taunting those who feel that the game is safe or those who wish to stop him. A-1 Pictures manage to balance several plotlines really well here and, as a friend of mine says, Sword Art Online is a series that attempts to try everything and he’s more or less correct – fortunately, I feel that Reki Kawahara and A-1 Pictures have managed to make it feel natural rather than having characters and topics forced in for no reason.
Prepare yourself to see many animated guns because, surprisingly, Gun Gale is a game where everybody is required to have a gun although you can also use other weapons such as a lightsaber-inspired one that Kirito wields, considering he’s best when armed with a sword-like weapon. With guns comes action and there’s plenty of it, even in the first seven episodes. One of the earlier episodes is an introduction to Sinon where we see her fight off a group of enemies alone and it’s explosive and dynamic, showcasing both her skill with a sniper and her physical flexibility. Sinon is one of my all-time favourite characters so watching her in the spotlight is exciting.
The visuals in the first season were already amazing but they’re even better in season two with well-implemented 3D imagery to compliment the 2D art, incredible lighting and shadowing effects and outstanding character design which will be remembered for years to come. It’s a delight to watch and it always manages to keep my attention, and I’m constantly in awe of how beautiful it looks. Sword Art Online is easily one of the most gorgeous anime I’ve had the pleasure to watch, and it’s so fluid in motion.
The audio manages to highly impress me too with both the Japanese and English voice-overs having memorable performances, although I prefer the English voice-over. All the actors and actresses from season one return to the roles including Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito, Cherami Leigh as Asuna and now Michelle Ruff joins the cast as Sinon – yes, this is her second time voicing a popular sniper as she voiced Yoko Litter in Gurren Lagann, another praiseworthy Anime Limited release! The OP’s and ED’s feature some of my favourites, especially the ED’s Startear and Shirushi which are performed by fantastic Japanese artists Haruna Luna and LiSA respectively, and the OST left me just as happy.
On-disc bonuses include the special animation Sword Art Offline II, a series of shorts that’ll carry onto future releases (of which there will be another three), web previews for the next episode that were shown in Japan and textless/clean openings and endings. There might not be a whole lot here but it’s nice to have the bonus shorts come over and, of course, it’s dual audio.
I wasn’t kidding when I claimed to be a big Sword Art Online fan – I love it. I love the characters, I love the story, I love the visuals, I love the music, I love the voices, and I love how it all blends together to create something truly special. I’m very aware that the series receives hate and whilst I don’t expect everyone to love it the way I do, it’s undeniably a great series that does a lot to cater to fans with various tastes – there’s something for everyone here. If you enjoyed season one then you’ll enjoy season two, and Anime Limited’s collector’s edition with its artbook and collector’s box is a real treat you don’t want to miss out on.
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