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Sword Art Online II, Part 3 (Limited Edition) [Dual Format] [Blu-ray]
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ARC 2: CALIBUR
News spreads among the players that the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur has been discovered inside ALO. This was actually the very sword that Kirito and Leafa found in the underground realm of Jotunheim several months ago when they saved Tonky. Hearing the news, they decide to acquire Excalibur before the other players. Summoning Asuna, Klein, Sinon and the others, they set off for the dungeon in Jotunheim for an exciting new mission!
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?
Contains episodes 15 19, which include the full Calibur Arc and the start of Mothers Rosario. All episodes feature the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles.
- Episodes 15 to 19 on DVD and Blu-Ray
- Collector s Edition Slipcase
- 56-page booklet
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Taking place shortly before the New Year; 'Calibur' begins with Kirito and Leafa (Suguha) reading an article about the Holy Sword of Excalibur revealing itself in ALO. Kirito remembers seeing the sword during one of their misadventures in Jotunheimr, a frozen realm beneath the World Tree in Alfheim. Realising it won't be long before other players go after it, he and Leefa form a party with their friends Asuna, Lisbeth, Silica, Klien and Sinon, to retrieve it first. However, there's more at stake than just a rare item. Jotunheimr was frozen by Thrym, the King of the Ice Giants, who plans to massacre all its peaceful creatures, before turning his sights to Alfhiem. Kirito and the others are contacted by Uror, Queen of the Lake, who gives them a quest to defeat Thrym and free Excalibur, so her world can return to normal. With the help of Yui, their faithful AI companion, the group has to fight their way through a frozen pyramid, before the game triggers Ragnarok - an event that will destroy all of Alfhiem.
Then, in 'Mother's Rosario'; New Aincrad finally reaches Floor 22, allowing Kirito and Asuna to repurchase the log cabin they once shared together. One night, while doing their homework, Lisbeth tells Asuna about Zekkon, an undefeated swordsman who's been challenging players on Floor 24 every day since the New Year. Asuna decides to challenge him/her after learning they beat Leefa, Lizbeth AND Kirito. Before she can, however, she has to deal with some personal matters at home.
Starting with 'Calibur', I'm thrilled they decided to do a story like this - purely because of how much action and nostalgia they included. In many ways, it's reminiscent of the 'Extra Edition' special: all the well-known SAO characters team up on a quest, which expands the world of Alfhiem while making numerous references to Norse mythology and previous episodes - the only differences being the quest's location and Sinon joining as the seventh teammate. Despite its short length, you almost get the feeling that this is what the series 'should' be about. The longer story arcs do succeed in developing the characters, and giving us the right balance of action and emotion. But they sometimes struggle with their subplots. As a result, many characters get left on the sidelines, with little or no involvement with the main story. 'Phantom Bullet', for example, mainly focuses on Kirito and Sinon, while Asuna and the others hardly get any screen time. In 'Calibur', however, everyone is part of the same mission, and there's no subplot to sidetrack us. What's more, the episodes give off a unique overtone. It might sound strange, but I think this is the first story - other than the 'Extra Edition' - that centres on the game itself. There aren't any real-life death threats or hostage situations here. It's just a group of friends going on an adventure and enjoying the virtual world as players were meant to. For gaming fans, this might be what they've been waiting for all season.
I also love how they focus on the group as a whole, instead of distinguishing main and secondary characters. All eight of them (including Yui) have time in the spotlight to showcase their individual skills; whether it's Kirito with his leadership, Lisbeth with her weapon maintenance, Silica with her beast-taming abilities, etc. It's great seeing everyone featured so prominently.
Regarding individual personalities, no one character stands out more than the others. However, we do experience a different side of Klien. Before now, I've often passed him off as the typical (failing) ladies-man, who's mostly there for comic relief. But in 'Calibur' we see just how loyal and duty-bound he is. He takes pride in his avatar being a samurai and thus feels obliged to follow their moral code. He prefers traditional methods of fighting, as opposed to using magic, and never turns his back on somebody in need. There's even one instance where the group comes across a damsel (Freyja) in a cage. Everybody agrees it's probably a trap - including Klien himself - but he can't bear to go against his code of honour, and so he frees her. It ends up being the right choice because Freyja is essential to obtaining Excalibur. As Lizbeth says: "[Klien] can be a dork, but [he's] got heart," (episode 17). And that's why his teammates respect him.
It's also nice to see Sinon having a proper social life after everything she's gone through in the series. Since 'Part 2', she's converted her avatar from GGO and started playing Alfheim with Kirito and the others (as a Cat Sith archer). She's a powerful ally and maintains her confidence from 'Phantom Bullet'. Although now there's a bit more charm to her. Sometimes she likes showing off and making the other girls intentionally jealous - which personally I think is brilliant. It's small things like this that prove she's not the same reclusive, trauma-ridden girl we met at the start of the season.
Even Leefa has more personality in this. Being the group's most experienced ALO player, she has a strong connection with Alfheim and doesn't want to see any part of it ruined. On top of that, it's gratifying to see how much she's bonded with Kirito - her once distant cousin - through playing ALO with him.
All in all, 'Calibur' is a welcome change from the 'Phantom Bullet' arc. And it makes a thrilling transition into 'Mother's Rosario'.
Speaking of which, although we only see two episodes, 'Mother's Rosario' is looking to be the most unique story of the series so far. Back in 'Part 1', I had my suspicions about why Asuna wasn't featured as much as Kirito - and why she appeared in episode 1 before he did. It turns out my prediction was right. 'Mother's Rosario' is the first story to feature Asuna as the main protagonist - not Kirito. It's also the first time we get introduced to her mother and home life.
For those who don't know, Asuna was born into a wealthy family, with higher-class parents. Unfortunately, this lifestyle isn't all it's cracked up to be. From the moment we meet Mrs Yuuki (Kyouko), it's clear Asuna doesn't have the best relationship with her. She detests her daughter playing virtual games. She thinks the school she attends is just an asylum for SAO survivors. And she certainly doesn't approve of her relationship with Kirito. She's so strict about Asuna going to college and marrying into a noble family that she makes arrangements for her without consent; specifically, hiring a tutor and moving her to a new school. Asuna, of course, hates these plans because they'll mean spending less time with her friends. This lack of freedom gives her more reason to value her virtual life.
It's obvious, by this point, that Asuna plays virtual games as a means of escapism. She even admits that she wasn't one of the players fighting to go back to her family when she got trapped in SAO. In fact, before meeting Kirito, she had nothing worth going back to; he was the one who taught her to live her life freely and be happy with the choices she makes. I'm glad they place more emphasis on why Asuna fell in love with him because it justifies her falling somewhat into the 'girlfriend' stereotype - i.e. she doesn't have any plans for the future except being with Kirito. But I digress.
The conflict between Asuna's real and virtual life is a heavy subject to tackle because of its relatability. Some people do feel disconnected with the real world and want to abandon it for something better. Some do have parents who insist on deciding their lives for them. It's up to these people to gradually leave the comfort of their fantasy worlds and take control of their futures - like Asuna. True, in the virtual world you can be an invincible warrior, with a home and loving family. But once you log out, you have to face the realities of living, no matter how harsh it is.
On a different subject, there's Zekkon. The undefeated swordsman is a girl named Yuuki, who admires Asuna's fighting style. What's interesting is how we know nothing about Yuuki at this stage. In fact, we learn more about Agil and his wife in this volume than her. Plus, it's incredibly suspicious how her avatar name (Yuuki) is Asuna's surname. We'll have to wait and see what adventures lie in store for these two.
As for everything else in 'Part 3', it's more of the same SAO material. Sometimes there's emotion; Asuna returning "home" to the log cabin (episode 18). Sometimes there's humour; Kirito yanking Sinon's tail (episode 15). And sometimes you get unexpected surprises (e.g. references to '7 Up' and 'Friday the 13th').
In conclusion, 'Part 3' is everything fans have been waiting for and more. Aincrad and Alfheim blend their worlds to form an exciting, new reality. Characters past and present fight alongside each other. And the stories delve into territories they never have before.
I would highly recommend this volume to all fans of 'Sword Art Online'. If its content is anything to go by, 'Part 4' will be an epic conclusion to one of the greatest anime series I've ever seen. I will be reviewing the last part very shortly. So until then, stay tuned.
STORY & CHARACTERS
Continuing not long after the events of the Phantom Bullet arc we are given a short average story arc, which is disappointing considering how good the previous one was. The Calibur arc isn't even that long; it's only three episodes long. this results in some parts, mostly the beginning, being rushed in order to move things along at a decent pace. If anything, this story arc is just fan-service. No, not the bad kind. I mean the way the characters interact with each other within the game outside of a life-and-death scenario, as well as seeing what kind of in-game quests are in the game they're playing.
The Mother's Rosario arc appears to be a little different, as it focuses on Asuna rather than Kirito. This is fine for Asuna fans but if you're like me and prefer Kirito, or every other female character in this series, then you maybe a little disappointed. Having said that the first two episodes of Mother's Rosario have interesting set-ups, and give us an idea as to what Asuna has to go through in the real world. This is interesting and does give us more of an insight into Asuna's character, but I still would have preferred a story arc with Lisbeth or Silica as the focus since they are the most under developed characters so far.
Mother's Rosario seems to be going in the right direction and is already a little more interesting than the Calibur arc. It also introduces us to new character Yuki.
ANIMATION & SOUND
The animation is, like the previous set, about the same animation as the previous episodes, though the biggest difference here is the quality of the opening. The first opening was good and has a great song, while the animation in the second opening is a little more impressive and with a song which isn't as good as the first but goes well with the second opening. There is also a second version of the opening for the Mother's Rosairo arc, so it is worth watching twice just to see the differences.
The background music is also a little bit more noticeable as it brings back some familiar Sword Art Online tracks, as well as some similar but new tracks which go well with the setting of the two new story arcs. The music here is a little bit of an improvement over the Phantom Bullet music.
The only new cast member that is worth mentioning is Erica Mendez (Ryuko Matoi in Kill La Kill, Akari Shiodome in A Lull in the Sea, and Aladdin in Magi The Labyrinth of Magic and The Kingdom of Magic series) who plays Yuki. I've only seen her in Magi, so I'm sure some people might find it weird that she doesn't sound like a young boy here. Either way, she was a good choice to play Yuki and her voice suits the character. How well she'll play the character can only be told by watching the upcoming episodes.
I'm going to repeat what I added to my Sword Art Online season one review; and that is that if you are waiting for a complete season or two part set of Sword Art Online Season one and two then you'll be waiting an eternity, as it was confirmed a while ago by Manga and Aniplex that they can only do four part sets. Like before I can only recommend this to people who have bought or plan to buy the previous sets.
If anyone is interested you can buy the original Sword Art Online novels and pre-order the upcoming releases, or there's the manga adaptions that are also available.
As for the content we are treated to the second arc: calibur and the start of the the 3Rd arc: mothers rosario the latter which will conclude in the forth and final volume of the series.
In conclusion these deserve your attention, view them, enjoy them, admire them on your shelf
The five episodes here are good episodes. The three star rating is mainly because of the full price of the dvd for essentially half the amount of episodes you got for the same price on part 2
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