Fan art. Source

At the urging of someone close to me, here’s my review of Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, based on my having attended the US premiere in Hollywood.

It’s a fascinating look at a “what if” situation. Specifically, it continues the situation introduced by the series itself, so I’ll go over that briefly before digging into the movie.

In the TV show, Sword Art Online (SAO) is the newest of a near future’s virtual reality (VR) massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). In this fictional future, VR terminals, called NerveGear, completely immerse players, temporarily shutting down their real-world body’s motor and sensory functions. That means that usually, users must log in someplace comfortable, like their beds at home, or a secured location. One player does so from a place that’s not their home, but it’s a spoiler, so that’s all I’ll say about that.


Screenshot from SAO TV series


At any rate, there’s a significant event in the SAO game world, attracting all players to the same location. It’s thousands of individuals. The event is one unique to the game world, created by its lead developer. What happens is a terrifying thing: an ominous entity appears and tells them the game’s real objective. The only way to leave the game is to “win” it, by conquering the final boss in the highest dungeon. All players are affected by this condition. They cannot log out!

Unspoken is also a terrifying secondary condition. Dying in-game results in real-life death. The first season of the series is then the adventures of the main protagonist, Kirito, and the friends he gathers in-game. Kirito has gaming experience, and specifically with an early release (beta) version of SAO, which leads to his having fine-tuned skills and knowledge of the game’s behavior. He’s quickly labeled a “beater” (beta cheater) due to that when he’s found out. That pushes Kirito to go solo, refusing to team up formally with any other players. It drives him to quickly level up to be the first to conquer and progress through the massive 100-level dungeon. He later has trouble and finds out that the higher levels require huge teams, so he must have allies, and it progresses from there.

Gun Gale Online, from SAO season 2. Sinon and Kirito.

The second season takes place in a post-apocalyptic, shooting-based world, Gun Gale Online (GGO), that, while safer than SAO, had it’s own real-world connection to a problem player. It deals with a slightly different set of real-world issues as well. It’s worth a watch.

I was late to the screening (80-minute drive directly from work), so I arrived at the tail-end of the movie summarizing this 2-season plot. The film is watchable, on its own, due to that. It’s been more than couple years since the SAO game ended, and many “survivors” of SAO were admitted to a unique set of schools to complete their real-world education and (not mentioned) rehabilitation, after having spent years logged into another world. Some, like Kirito, had also joined other VR worlds after SAO or joined its newer, fantasy-based successor.

There exists in the post-SAO future an augmented reality (AR) game, called Ordinal Scale. This game exists as a separate visible (to players) overlay on top of what they see in the real world, via a less bulky head-mounted display, much like Google Glass. Unlike VR games, players must be physically conscious and, importantly, real-world locations matter. If you’re thinking of Pokemon Go, it’s a logical evolution of that type of AR game. In Ordinal Scale, there are boss battle events put on nightly, which rewards the players participating, if they manage to virtually survive and if the boss is defeated. Players receive short notice as to the location, which is usually either an existing public space, or a cordoned off space, so there’s a controlled safety factor the game’s developers are aware of.

The movie begins, however, with Kirito, and the others, noticing strong things happening to players, and specifically to SAO survivors, after some of the battles.

The movie’s worth a viewing so that I won’t go too deep into its plot. It’s related to the events in the original SAO game, but for a character not seen in the show, but with a connection to many SAO players. Ordinal Scale does touch upon a few of the current worries around AR, but the fictional world also offers some interesting solutions to some, such as having specifically planned-out places for players to safely gather. It also encourages exercise, which a VR player like Kirito quickly finds is hindering him a bit until he comes up with a creative solution to help him progress. He and others notice that the bosses are bosses they’ve seen in SAO before, giving them a useful leg up on dealing with them and also ensuring they do the most damage, which affects their ranking.

The number 2 ranked Ordinal Scale player also is a key figure and appears to be an SAO survivor as well, which quickly gains the attention of Kirito and his girlfriend, Asuna, who recognizes him first as a former guildmate from SAO. They’re concerned that this player is connected to strange happenings stemming from Ordinal Scale, and Kirito gains a rival since one can’t make it to #1 without going through #2.

There’s also a virtual idol appearing in many of the boss battles, Yuna, who also happens to be a pop singer with many fans in their real world, and who has an upcoming concert in a major arena. She serenades players as they battle, granting both a bonus buff at the beginning and granting an experience point boost to the top player for each victorious battle. There something strange about her, and many don’t know if she’s a real life person, or a virtual idol, like Hatsune Miko. This ambiguity does matter, but any more description of her is too much.

If fantasy-based action appeals to you, this is a must-see. If you have an interest in AR or VR, I’d say give it a look as well. It’s a great adventure, nonetheless. I do want to see it again, not just to see it from a further back row, but because it is entertaining. I’m giving Ordinal Scale a top recommendation, and I do hope that more anime series get a movie if this one does well in a wider release. US release is March 9, so mark your calendars!

Rinko and Takeo. Source: Anime Show


With his muscular build and tall stature, Takeo Gouda is not exactly your average high school freshman. However, behind his intimidating appearance hides a heart of gold, and he is considered a hero by the boys for his courage and chivalry. Unfortunately, these traits do not help much with his love life. As if his looks are not enough to scare the opposite sex away, Takeo’s cool and handsome best friend and constant companion Makoto Sunakawa easily steals the hearts of the female students—including every girl Takeo has ever liked.

Source: MyAnimeList

Basically, Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!) is the story of how Takeo found a love connection, despite his own personal challenges to that endeavor. This is also while he’s learning how to deal with some basic situations of romance, such as dating and showing affection to his special someone.


Takeo Gouda – The main character. It’s his love story being told here. He’s a rather tall and muscular teenager at Shuei High School. He’s very good at sports, but also somewhat intimidating. He often is very selfless and kind, even to strangers. Sometimes, he’s unaware that his friendly actions sometimes contribute to that intimidation factor.

Takeo and Suna cosplay (even more at this article based on this tweet.)

Makoto Sunakawa (Suna) – Suna lives next door to Takeo, is one of his classmates, and has been his friend since childhood. He’s considered good-looking and friendly, and, as a result, the girls Takeo had crushes on often fall for him. Take leans on Suna for advice and Suna sincerely helps Takeo in any way he can, to the point where he’s willing to put his own happiness second to Takeo’s.

Rinko Yamato – A student at Koizumi Girls’ Academy, whom Takeo encounters during a fateful subway trip they both were on at the beginning of the story. She is talented at baking sweet foods, which Takeo happens to enjoy. She quickly becomes Takeo’s love interest.

Ai Sunakawa – Older sister to Suna and a student at Ousaki University in Nagoya. Takeo is also friends with her and admires how kindly she treats others, just like her brother. Takeo sees her much like an older sister…


It all starts with a rescue. Take comes to the rescue of Rinko when she was being groped on a subway. It is then that he falls for her. Most of the remaining episodes deal with Takeo’s efforts and struggles to overcome his own perceived inadequacies, such as lack of romantic skill.

The story takes place from a bit of a mix of perspectives, floating through the thoughts of mostly Takeo, but also from his girlfriend’s when those shifts might make sense. Misunderstandings are often sorted out after those involved tell each other how and why they acted as they did. I’m thinking that this is likely a core takeaway of this series since it’s clearly applicable to reality.

It’s also clear that once those around him who are not his friends are able to understand that Takeo has a good heart, that he quickly begins to have better relations with classmates, gaining friends in the process. His large (for a high-school student) size and good fitness level are also, as he discovers, things that make him uniquely attractive as a person. This likely stemmed from a time where Takeo took further heroic action. After that, there was almost an immediate shift in perception of him. No longer was he seen as an intimidating loner, but as a very admirable member of the community, or even a hero.

It was shown to the viewer, early on, that Takeo was never a loner since he has, throughout this story, had a very good friendship with Suna, who had been his friend for several years. Takeo is, at first, very envious of Suna’s charm and approachability. Many girls are drawn to him and usually ignored or were afraid of Takeo, even after he tried to confess his feelings towards them. Rinko, after the rescue, sees that Takeo is a good person and becomes his best cheerleader throughout.

Rinko likes to see Takeo enjoy sweets
Yay! Prize! (Source)

It’s Takeo and Rinko’s courtship and dealing with the bumps of the early parts of that that are the main focus of nearly every episode, with a brief aside for being good friends to Suna through an emotional struggle he also had relating to his own family.

Speaking of family, it’s also clear that Takeo’s personality is greatly influenced by his parents, with his mom being the strong parent, and his father being sensitive and supportive. Both parents were very supportive of Takeo’s and Rinko’s relationship, and this is while a new member of the family was on the way. Learning about Takeo’s parents was also a heartwarming part of the show. Take would probably not have been who he was if he wasn’t trying to model himself around what he saw as the best qualities of his parents as well as of Suna.


This story is complete and does have an ending that could very well lead to further adventures, but considering that what’s been told so far is very solid, it might (might!) be OK to have a break from this story, to let it settle in.

I wasn’t sure I’d like this upon first glance at the online synopsis (quoted above), and I was not even sure I could relate to Takeo, not being particularly athletic or tall myself. It was the honest romance that hooked me. This is a sometimes light-hearted, optimistic love story. It’s also a story of friendship and family. I think that’s really what makes it worth a watch, even if you aren’t a hopeless romantic like me.


I like it because it is real

I_Can't_Understand_What_My_Husband_Is_SayingThat’s from my friend Carissa, in her review of episode 10 of  I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is SayingThat sums up, pretty well, why I like this show as well. There’s just something about how these characters feel “real”. Neither Kaoru nor her husband Hajime seem to be free from quirks or emotional hangups, but, somehow, they still have managed to remain happily married.

Both have insecurities as well, with the most recent episode digging a bit into one that I’m sure is common: worries about infidelity.  It’s not, however, presented in a cheesy or overly romantic way. Just a bit of introspection done by both, who take seriously their feelings about their side of the situation, and how it relates to their love for their respective partner. Seems like they’re both “doing it right”, so far.

The episodes are short, so getting caught up takes a short amount of time, so I recommend this series for those with a bit of a romantic side who are pressed for time to watch. It’s available currently for streaming at Crunchyroll.

Source: Anime Girl in Glasses: I Can’t Understand what My Husband is Saying: 2nd Thread Episode 10 Review

I’ll keep it pretty short, hopefully. Basically, The Croods is like Ice Age, but a human version. If you like the Ice Age movies, you’ll probably like The Croods. That’s pretty much it.