Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night Has an Inescapable Flaw Holding It Back
There’s a key flaw holding this movie back from its full potential.
For the most part, the Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night film is everything it needed to be.
Continuing the retelling of the plot of the series’ first cour from the perspective of Asuna, the movie offers a new perspective on the premise that kicked off one of the biggest anime series in the past decade. Not only that, but it does so with fresh new ideas and storylines, most all of which allow the series’ female lead to play a bigger role in certain events while also expanding upon her relationship with the new original character Mito.
Adding to these elements are some exemplary moments of Sakuga and a general level of animation quality that puts the standard series to shame. It makes the movies’ battles stand out as truly stunning feats of animated combat, while also helping to sell the beauty of the series’ first fantasy setting exceptionally well.
And yet, it’s hard not to walk away from the second film in the Progressive series and feel a little disappointed. While it still has the strengths listed above, the elements related to the story and narrative lose some of their staying power compared to the first film. This isn’t due to the plot wearing thin, or even to the new content created specifically for the films falling flat.
Instead, it’s due to a major issue that the films were bound to run into, and which they come up against hard in Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night. That issue is simple: Even when Asuna acts as the protagonist, the story always falls back on having Kirito play the hero.
Yes, the series’ messiah of video games can’t help but make an appearance. Whether to serve the same role he did in key moments from the main series or to steal the finishing blow against a movie-original threat, he remains the character the franchise can’t help but point to as the coolest main character around. He’s there to save Asuna from any given threat, and will swoop in to move the plot forward while she watches in the background.
All the while, Asuna looks on, acting more like a companion at best or a damsel in distress at worst. If she’s lucky, she might get to cry in fear of a problem Kirito takes care of; or, talk about how cool he is and how much she wants to follow his exploits, join in on his journey, and otherwise dive head-first into the passenger’s seat while he takes the wheel.
It’s nothing to be surprised by of course — Kirito is and always will be the series’ go-to hero who gets built up as indescribably cool, and every other character won’t shut up about this fact — but it still feels like the laziest move the film could have made. Not only does it lessen the value of the films’ supposed main character, but it also actively tosses any character development she could have experienced into the gutter.
It’s beyond depressing, especially considering Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night had a perfect base it could use to develop Asuna further compared to the original show.
In the first film, actual time and effort went toward digging further into what Asuna experienced and how she responded to the life or death situation she was thrust into. She was shown to actively work with people other than Kirito to grow stronger and advance her own adventure by battling monsters and establishing a friendship with her friend Mito who was trapped in the game alongside her.
The second film, meanwhile, seems terrified to allow Asuna’s struggles or ventures take center stage. To be sure, there are a few segments where the focus is put back onto her, but these are quickly shelved so that Kirito can come back into the leading role.
Even her relationship with Mito, which served as a major driver for the first film’s plot, takes a back seat to her interactions with Kirito. The friends’ struggle to move forward following a moment of cowardice by Mito, and the real introspection into how traumatic what they’re going through would be, makes way for moments where Kirito gets to be impossibly awesome while Asuna literally can’t handle how cool and stoic he is.
All of this raises the question of who Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night is for, and the simplest answer is that it’s for fans who love what Sword Art Online already offers. It’s still a fun enough film with great animation, and those who enjoy seeing Kirito be an unstoppable force of wish fulfillment won’t leave disappointed.
Everyone else, and especially those hoping to see Asuna take center stage in some new and interesting ways, will need to make peace with the fact that the Progressive film series is and very well may continue to veer away from their most promising selling points. They may still course-correct for future films, but if this movie is any indication, it’s more likely that they’ll play it safe and boring.
Twinfinite was provided with an advance screener of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night by Crunchyroll. The film is set to release in North American theatres on Feb. 3.
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