The Sword Art Online franchise is one with many peaks and valleys. While I’m fond of the “trapped in a digital world” concept and felt that the first chunk of episodes from the original series were solid, it quickly went off the rails and became a melodramatic (and at times, exceptionally uncomfortable) series that never really kept my attention in the same way that those first ten or so episodes did.
With the release of Scherzo of Deep Night — the second of the Progressive movies that retells the story from Asuna’s perspective with some minor changes — I thought it could be fun to jump in and see if the story catches me a bit more in this format. Though it’s still covering events from within the first ten episodes, Scherzo of Deep Night was completely satisfactory. It didn’t blow me away, but the great action and charming character moments made it enjoyable enough.
One major issue many have with Sword Art Online is that the two main characters, Kirito and Asuna, are a bit too perfect. They’re effortlessly strong, charismatic, kind, and rarely face any kind of difficulty. Since Progressive is from Asuna’s point of view, we do get more of her perspective here, which provides her with a bit more depth than the series did. She struggles more, and her friendship with non-canon character Mito gives her a bit more room to grow through flashbacks. Kirito is still pretty perfect, but I don’t think any one movie has enough time to make both characters more grounded.
Mito’s guilt over convincing Asuna to try Sword Art Online and indirectly causing her to be stuck in the game is an interesting angle, as that sort of conflict feels like a natural result of such a situation. There are likely many similar stories from different players in the world of Sword Art Online, so this storyline reminds you that a lot of these players are just teenagers trying to get out alive.
The fight scenes are dynamic and exciting, with the final battle against an enormous golem standing out as a highlight. While Scherzo of Deep Night‘s action sequences certainly stray from the idea of an MMO, the health bars are enough of a tether to remind you now and then that the characters are all in a game. The flashy slashes and strikes are fun to watch, providing you with some thrills in between the more character-heavy moments throughout the film.
Some of the best parts of Scherzo of Deep Night are when the cast is allowed to relax. Whether they’re arguing over a hot meal or sparring with one another using fruits and vegetables in a hot spring. These moments provide the main characters with development outside of battle, making the world of Sword Art Online feel a bit fuller. It’s also easier to get invested in the characters thanks to these moments, making the emotional beats a bit stronger as a result. That being said, the fanservice-filled hot spring fight is a very silly idea, but that sort of thing is to be expected from this franchise.
The dramatic moments can certainly lean into melodrama, but it isn’t as egregious here as it is in later seasons of the series. The core group and their issues — working together, surviving, placating major guilds, and dealing with psychotic player killers — are entertaining, and the stakes feel real since everybody’s survival is on the line. The voice acting helps sell these parts as well, as the passionate delivery reminds you that the English cast has been doing these roles suitably for nearly a decade.
Sword Art Online -Progressive- Scherzo of Deep Night is a pleasant sequel that fixes some of the issues with the original series while providing enjoyable action scenes and lighter character moments. It won’t change the minds of anyone that is disinterested in SAO as a whole, but Scherzo of Deep Night serves as a breezy watch for those remotely interested in the franchise.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7.5 equates to “Good” and is a successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.