Collector’s Edition (1 Blu-ray + 1 DVD) / Standard (1 DVD)
Sword Art Online II: Part 1 is the latest instalment in the SAO series, following the Phantom Bullet story arc, and comes from All The Anime in both Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combi and Standard Edition DVD; each version contains episodes 1-7 and a number of extras exclusive to the Blu-ray. Based on the light novel of the same name from Reki Kawahara, Sword Art Online has become one of the most popular series in recent years.
“A year has passed since SAO was cleared. Summoned by Seijirou Kikuoka of the Virtual Division at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Kazuto (Kirito) learns of a series of bizarre murders linked to the popular VR game, Gun Gale Online (GGO). After being shot in-game by a player calling himself Death Gun, two prominent GGO players have mysteriously turned up dead in the real world. As Kazuto logs in GGO and starts investigating the mystery, he meets a girl sniper named Sinon who wields a Hecate II rifle. Is she friend or foe? Kirito enters the virtual world once more for an all new adventure!” – All The Anime
Kirito has survived Aincrad, he rescued Asuna from ALfhiem Online and now there’s a new threat, and to protect the people he cares about, he heads straight for possible death in the VRMMO – Gun Gale Online (GGO). In GGO Kirito meets a new addition to his ever-growing harem in Sinon (Shino Asada), the cool beauty sniper; her fear of her past involving an incident with a gun has lead her into the world of GGO in the hopes of conquering her own fears.
The world of Gun Gale Online is vastly different from the fantasy setting of both Aincard and ALfeim Online. Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, everything is dark and covered in smog, the architecture of the capital city SBC Glocken employs a lot of greys with vibrant neon colours scattered around generally to highlight shops and markets. Like a lot of MMO shooting games, GGO has a social hub where players can purchase weapons and equipment, as well as interact with fellow players. The battle aspect takes place out in a random field that players are teleported to in order to compete.
Given the visual styling of the GGO world, there’s a lot of contrast between the surroundings and the vibrant colours of Sinon’s hair and eyes, as well as Kirito’s lightsaber and Death Gun’s glowing red eyes. This definitely allows this arc to stand out visually as the darkness of the story is easily matched by previous story arcs.
English and Japanese audio tracks are present in 2.0 stereo only; this applies to both the Blu-ray and DVD editions. It is interesting that there isn’t a 5.1 surround option for either track; we can only assume this is down to Aniplex of America rather than All The Anime. The quality of the sound is great anyway and with the Japanese audio track generally being stereo only in most TV anime releases, this shouldn’t put fans off. Accompanying the Japanese audio track are the English subtitles which appear white on the Blu-ray version and yellow on the DVD version.
The Collector’s Edition of Sword Art Online II: Part 1 comes with a rigid box housing a digipack holding the discs plus a booklet containing information translated from the original Japanese release. Part 1 also comes with a storage box to house the entire Sword Art Online II series. Extras included on disc in the Collector’s Edition consist of Special Animation Sword Art Offline II Part 1 + 2, Original Web Previews and Textless Opening (Phantom Bullet). The Standard Edition DVD only features the textless opening due to the others being Blu-ray exclusive content only available with the Collector’s Edition.
While a lot of fans feel that we should have never left the floating city of Aincrad and would have been happy to see Kirito slowly go through floor after floor, thankfully the story moved on into newer more exciting avenues and the Phantom Bullet arc will certainly get your heart racing. Visually Sword Art Online II: Part 1 sets itself apart from those that came before it and to great effect; Death Gun’s appearance will continue to haunt my dreams and those of many others. Lives are again on the line in this exciting and heart-pounding new instalment to the Sword Art Online series.