If you’ve followed this site since the beginning, and as a result of that my reviews of Sword Art Online, you’d know that I’m not the biggest fan of this series. As much as I try to make these reviews more about the product than simply my not-so-hidden agenda, it has proven difficult to go through with a write-up and not mention my deepest, darkest hatred for most of what this series has to offer. People often ask me, as they would, why I dislike the series so much, and my answer is usually something to the tune of “It’s just terrible“, which isn’t the greatest response to a question of that kind, I’ll be the first one to admit it. Recently we at SnapThirty have received a review copy, from Madman Entertainment, of the latest Sword Art Online Blu-Ray release; Sword Art Online 2: Part Four, which contains within it the final episodes of the “Mother’s Rosario” arc.
Unlike most of my Sword Art Online reviews that begin with nothing but negativity, I feel as though this one will come as a breath of fresh air to all those reading it, much in the same way these episodes affected me. The “Mother’s Rosario” began in a simple way; a way that mostly hit me like any other Sword Art Online arc, albeit not as heavily as the one that came before it. Watching through these last five episodes has unlocked within me something I never thought I would receive from Sword Art Online; a succinct answer to the question “Why don’t you like Sword Art Online?“.
There goes a saying; “You don’t always get what you want“, which rings true in the lives of many, but sometimes you don’t know what you’ve been looking for until it’s given to you, and in that moment you are made to realise this is what you’ve been missing the whole time. Thus is Sword Art Online’s “Mother’s Rosario” arc which surgically implants a beating heart into the series I had always thought heartless. The “Mother’s Rosario” arc featured something that, had the entire Sword Art Online Anime been built around, would have made it one of the most incredible Anime series’ of all time. Unfortunately it took the story this long to give it the time of day, and more regrettable than that…it’s time with us was far too short.
Asuna is asked by Yuuki to help the guild that she leads, the Sleeping Knights. Due to its members’ various personal reasons, the Sleeping Knights are planning to disband soon, and so in order to create a lasting memory for themselves, they’re attempting to launch a single-party boss raid. But since raids are normally 49-player assaults launched by multiple parties, it will be almost impossible for just the six Sleeping Knights plus Asuna to defeat a Floor Boss… – Madman Entertainment
Out of the main character cast of Sword Art Online, “Mother’s Rosario” follows only Asuna Yuki, who is backed up by the remaining characters, though ever so briefly. For once, the series choses not to have Kazuto Kirigaya as it’s hero, instead allowing for Asuna’s character to expand in her own story wherein which she joins a small guild of warriors looking to go on “one last adventure” before their lives become far too busy to continue in the world of Alfheim Online. Considering Asuna’s caring personality, it makes sense that she would indeed join this motley crew as they attempt to make names for themselves in the virtual world before retiring their weapons and spells for good. Who would have though that, from this simple story, would rise the most enjoyable arc of Sword Art Online to date. In fact, I would say that it will remain in not only my mind but also my heart for years to come.
Unfortunately for myself writing this, and for those of you reading this with actual anticipation, to explain to you the meticulous details of just why this arc was undeniably brilliant would be to also ruin your experience of it, so I will try my absolute best to get my point across without rendering your experience of it “spoiled“: For the early episodes, the story follows through as first promised; simple but good. The story than takes a wild turn into the realm of reality as Asuna is faced with heart-breaking troubles the likes of which she has never experienced before. Through this we are made privy to Asuna Yuki’s tragic life as she battles against the ruling mentality of her Mother, alongside the loss of a friend that will scare her for an eternity. It is a level of character development we have only seen in Kazuto Kirigaya, but not to this intensity. Unlike Kirito’s backstory, Asuna’s made me feel as though there’s a reason behind all of her actions, even the ones that seem mostly insignificant.
“Mother’s Rosario” also deals with themes like illness and legacy in some incredibly heart-breaking ways. To say that this arc didn’t effect me emotionally would be an absolute lie, so I will not even attempt to mask the fact that “Mother’s Rosario” brought an actual tear to my eye. Unlike a great deal of the rest of the series, the writing in “Mother’s Rosario” was done so in a meticulously realistic way, which allowed for the voice cast of the series to perform at their finest. Finally the quality of the series’ dialogue matched that of the animation for the very first time, and nothing could make me happier considering, well…I’ve been following Sword Art Online it’s beginning.
Speaking of visuals; “Mother’s Rosario” continues to remain at an incredibly high quality, only using computer generated animation when absolutely necessary, and siphoning saved funds into more impactful combat scenes that feature some of the most intense animation I’ve seen in a very long time, but that’s what we’ve come to expect not only of A-1 Pictures but of Sword Art Online as a whole. That, mixed with a wonderfully-fitting fantasy soundtrack alongside fantastic performances by English voice actors, added to the arc’s story in remarkable ways.
“Mother’s Rosario” hit me in a way the likes of which I never expected from Sword Art Online. It hit me in the way I always wanted it to, but unfortunately never did, and it saddens me to think that this may be a singular case for the Anime as a whole, with season three being mostly a mystery for those of us like myself who do not follow the light novels this series was based off of. With multiple Anime in circulation that focus on a virtual reality world and the players within it, something has to set them apart.
Up until this point in time, my view of Sword Art Online was that it featured nothing I havn’t already seen before, and nothing to make it the unique individual in a crowd of what look to me only as clones of one another. “Mother’s Rosario” had actual heart. In a matter of five episodes, “Mother’s Rosario” made me feel an array of different emotions! The same emotions that, originally, had been slain by Sword Art Online itself. “Mother’s Rosario” has forced me to do many things, but nothing more startling than giving it a perfect score. Well done, Sword Art Online…you beat me.
Experience the world of Sword Art Online II for yourself, get it at Madman Entertainment’s online store: Click Here.