Collector’s Edition (1 BD / 1 DVD), Standard (1 DVD)
It’s the final part of All the Anime’s Sword Art Online II release and the conclusion to the Mother’s Rosario story arc. Sword Art Online II: Part 4 is probably the one part I was most excited for and with good reason – it’s short and sweet but one hell of an emotional journey.
“ARC 3: MOTHER’S ROSARIO Hearing rumors about an undefeated player known as Zekken, Asuna decides to mount a challenge. Zekken has been seeking opponents to duel for an ultra-fast 11-hit combo original sword skill. Not a single challenger has been successful so far, will Asuna succeed where so many have failed?” – All the Anime
We continue on from the two episodes in part three that focused on the Zekken the absolute sword mystery and Asuna’s fateful encounter with Yuuki. With Yuuki’s very forward nature, Asuna is soon face-to-face with Yuuki’s guild, the Sleeping Knights, and quickly propositioned into helping them clear one of the floor bosses in the floating Aincrad. Not only does this take Asuna aback somewhat but they wish to do it with only the seven of them, Asuna included. A feat surely embarked upon by several squads of seven known as a raid party. To take on the floor boss with just the seven was a feat Asuna didn’t think possible until they tell her they have tried on the two floors previous. Although unsuccessful on those attempts, they were always beaten out on their return by a raid party hence their decision to include another person to fill out their party to the maximum of seven.
The main theme throughout this story arc is not really on the events that take place in the VR world but the motivations behind each of the characters. Kirito is noticeably absent through much of this arc as it’s more about Asuna’s relationship with her mother and Yuuki’s, plus her guilds, terminal illnesses and wanting to leave a lasting mark on the VR world. It’s great to see Asuna get a bit more depth to her character and her relationship with her mother was a very interesting story. Her real-world struggles strike a stark contrast to her strong appearance in the world of ALO. Yuuki’s, on the other hand, is a story full of sadness and a strong will of resilience, courage and optimism. I won’t go into much detail on this as it’s probably, though short, one of the best arcs in the entirety of Sword Art Online.
As expected, A-1 Pictures continue with their impressive visuals in part four and while there’s some good action to be had in the VR world, it’s in the real world where I feel this arc shines. Not just in terms of the story but also the visuals; the real-world segments have had a great deal of attention dedicated solely to it. The fantasy setting of ALO and Aincrad really bring about a visual contrast between the two worlds. The sharper visuals of the real world gives it a realness that compliments the story elements perfectly whereas the VR world feels suddenly a lot more dreamlike.
This release continues with the opening theme, “Courage” by Haruka Tomatsu, Asuna Yuuki’s voice actress, as well as “Separate Ways” for episode 24, again by Haruka Tomatsu. Also continuing is the ending theme “Shirushi” by LiSA. As I stated in my review for part three, I cannot think of one theme song for Sword Art Online that isn’t a joy to listen to and I stand by that statement. I also mentioned that the visuals for the opening and ending theme were quite interesting if you pay attention to what’s happening in them and this holds true even more so within part four.
The Collector’s Edition of Sword Art Online II: Part 4, as with parts 1, 2 and 3, comes housed in a digipack holding the discs, plus a booklet containing information translated from the original Japanese release. Extras included on disc in the Collector’s Edition consist of Special Animation Sword Art Offline II Parts 8 and 9 and Original Web Previews, which are exclusive to the Blu-ray disc. Both Blu-ray and DVD of the Collector’s Edition also include Textless Opening and Ending animations, as does the Standard Edition DVD.
As usual, All the Anime's Collector’s Editions for Sword Art Online come with some great extras both physical and on-disc. While Sword Art Online II: Part 4 might only include 5 episodes, they are some of the best episodes of the series so far. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Mother’s Rosario story arc, I think the balance between real-world and VR elements are perfect and it makes for a really compelling and emotional journey. If you’ve been following this awesome story so far then you’re certainly in for a treat with Sword Art Online II: Part 4!