Sword Art Online II Part 3 (“SAO Part 3”) sees legendary swordsman, Kirito, and his team mates return to Alfhiem Online, a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (“VRMMORPG”) in which they have previously delved into in order to save Asuna, Kirito’s partner, both in game and in real life. Now, Kirito returns to reclaim the highly sought after weapon, Excalibur.
SAO Part 3 is the latest volume of the acclaimed anime series, Sword Art Online and consists of a short collection of episodes. The volume begins by reintroducing us to each character and the relationships each has with Kirito. We are given a feel for what life is currently like for each character and it appears that all is seemingly well. That is, until Kirito gets wind of the opportunity to claim Excalibur. Thus the adventure begins.
SAO Part 3 was a little different compared to previous volumes of Sword Art Online. Kirito’s quest to claim Excalibur focused more on ‘gameplay’ rather than story, with much of the traditional Sword Art Online action sequences and sword fighting mechanics being brought back into the heart of each episode. This was something that was lacking in SAO II Part 1 and 2. Whilst the story aspect was a little dull in my personal opinion, SAO Part 3 did well to return to the series’ roots, that is, to focus more on the RPG (role playing game) aspect as well as giving each character a voice and role to play.
SAO Part 3 also brought the series back to its fantasy genre, allowing for a greater deal of imagination in terms of in game NPCs (non player characters) and monsters. Compared to SAO II Part 1 and 2, which was much darker, SAO Part 3 takes viewers back to the original, lighter feel of the anime.
To bridge the gap between SAO II Part 1 and 2 and SAO Part 3, Kirito and gang are now joined by Sinon, the elite sniper who fought alongside Kirito in Gun Gale Online. I wasn’t quite sure why Sinon was added, as to me, it appears that she is just another competition for Asuna, Kirito’s girlfriend/ in game wife; not that Asuna ever had to worry about competition. In Alfheim Online, Sinon, a bad ass with a bow and arrow, seemed out of place. Was she to overstep and be the hero instead of Kirito? Is she then technically better matched to be Kirito’s partner?
I was rather disappointed with the Excalibur story arc, spanning only 3 – 4 episodes, SAO Part 3 didn’t seem at all bothered with portraying Excalibur as the powerful sword we all know it to be. One would think that such a powerful and sought after weapon would mean greater difficulty in attaining it. Kirito’s claim to Excalibur seemed rather rushed and lacking in any real, gripping, plot. I felt that this could have been explored into a lot more.
Instead, the last two episodes of SAO Part 3 took a completely different spin. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it introduced a new powerful character called Zekken and a new potential threat that Kirito and gang will need to go up against. However, personally, I prefer a flow and a proper break between each story arc. The Zekken arc could have been introduced in a new volume, allowing for a deeper story and exploration into the Excalibur arc. Nevertheless, SAO Part 3 ended in suspense and I have an inkling that this may be a story line wherein Asuna shines. Bring it on.
If you’ve been following the Sword Art Online anime series, Part 3 is naturally the next volume you’d want to watch. If I were to be honest, I’d say that the Excalibur arc is a filler and that of the two, you’d be better off just watching the last two episodes of the volume. Nevertheless, check it out here.