Sword Art Online – Extra Edition Review: Fan Service With a Side of Plot

To be totally honest for a moment, I had thought that Sword Art Online as an anime had come to an end with episode twenty five. It felt like it was a good place to stop, although I felt that also could have been said for the ending of the Aincrad story arc. Still, the first season did come to a satisfying close. Of course, I am aware that the story continues onward in both the manga and light novels. I found myself pleasantly surprised when they announced Sword Art Online Extra Edition, a special that would recap the series while having a story of its own.

When I saw the brief trailer for Sword Art Online Extra Edition, I couldn’t help but worry if this was going to be nothing but a fan service extravaganza with little to no plot. While there was more plot in the special than I had anticipated, it did feel a little heavy on the fan service but more on that later.

SAOEE_screenshot3Sword Art Online Extra Edition takes place after the events of the Fairy Dance story arc. In short, Yui wants to see a whale and the only way she can is through a quest in ALO that involves an underwater dungeon. But before Kirito and friends can go on the quest, the ladies need to teach Suguha how to swim. Meanwhile, Kirito gives a recount of his experience in SAO and ALO to the group in charge of investigating the incident.

Of course Kirito isn’t the only one looking back on the events in Aincrad. While teaching Suguha, the girls share their stories about how they each met Kirito. I can only assume that all the flashbacks are there to help explain the story for people who might just be getting into SAO, but it honestly felt like they wasted way too much time doing so. The special was ridiculously long because of all that, and a lot of scenes felt out of place. My only guess was that they had to do a recap in order to justify the amount of fan service that was in this special.

SAOEE_screenshot2So that brings us to one of the bigger issues of this episode, the fan service. Up until this point, fan service in SAO was very minimal excluding the very uncomfortable to watch scene that occurred near the end of the series. That one scene aside, none of the fan service felt like it was forced. Whereas in the special the whole scenario of teaching Suguha how to swim was done only so that they could put all the females in the show into swim suits. I don’t mind when fan service is thrown into a scene in an anime, as long as there isn’t too much of it and it doesn’t go over the top. Fan service for the sake of fan service can be really annoying and detract from my own personal enjoyment of a particular anime.

Although it felt a bit excessive, the fan service didn’t detract too much from the special. I really enjoyed it once it got past the massive recap of the series which was at least an hour and twenty minutes worth of the special. It was great to actually see a quest in this series as they were only ever mentioned once in awhile in the anime. But while the special was fun to watch at least once, I find myself more excited for the announcement of Sword Art Online II, which is essentially a new season that will cover the events of the Phantom Bullet light novel.

SAOEE_screenshot4But in the mean time, if you are an avid SAO fan and are looking for something to tide you over until the next season then I heartily recommend checking out Sword Art Online Extra Edition. It may spend a lot of time telling you things you already know, but you’ll have fun watching it all the same.