HomeReviewsSword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Scherzo of Deep Night

Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Scherzo of Deep Night

With eye-catching action and a straightforward narrative, this animated adventure is a pleasant look at the early years of the popular series.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This article predates the Odd Trilogies website.
It was originally published on Film Yap.

Sword Art Online has become quite the property since it boomed in popularity in the early 2010’s. In the span of just over a decade, the Japanese light novel series has led to a popular anime, several spinoffs, a myriad of video games, and now theatrical films. With the mainline series on a break since 2020, the property has been currently focusing on adapting one of its spinoffs, Sword Art Online Progressive, into theatrical films. This began with 2021’s Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night, an action film that follows the beginning of the series but completely through the eyes of series favorite Asuna. With no signs of stopping (and plenty of ground to cover), the next installment comes just over a year later with Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Scherzo of Deep Night.

For those unfamiliar with the Progressive spinoff, it is a series dedicated to Sword Art Online’s Aincrad arc, fleshing out the story about ten thousand users that have been trapped in a deadly video game with no exit. The first film, Aria of a Starless Night, followed a young Asuna (Sub: Haruka Tomatsu; Dub: Cherami Leigh) as she survived, came into her own as a fighter, cleared the first of one hundred floors in the game, and met her new partner: Sword Art Online protagonist Kirito (Sub: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka; Dub: Bryce Papenbrook). In Scherzo of Deep Night, it has been a month since all of the users were trapped in the game. Now with the fourth floor completed, Asuna and Kirito are planning to enjoy the fifth floor while getting ready to celebrate New Years Eve. While roaming the new floor, Asuna stumbles onto worrisome information.

After an accidental encounter with shady players, Asuna and Kirito discover that one of the major player guilds is planning on finishing the fifth level boss alone, hoping to obtain something that’ll turn the tide in their favor. Worried that this will lead to a war between the two biggest guilds in the game, Asuna and Kirito must make a tough call to keep the peace between the guilds. In order to succeed on their call, they’ll need help from a scrappy info broker and a friend from Asuna’s past. With time against them, will Asuna and Kirito succeed? 

One of the biggest benefits from the Progressive films is that a lot of the baggage that many might associate with Sword Art Online (especially with its later story arcs) is absent here. There is definitely still hilarious “gamer speak” here and there but what truly pulled me into giving Scherzo of Deep Night a chance is its dedication to fleshing out the story that starts the whole franchise. I fell out of love with the anime years ago but I can still admit that the Aincrad arc was genuinely enjoyable to watch at the time, making it probably the one Sword Art Online world that truly deserved more development than it initially got. While the mainline anime constantly skips through the time spent in Aincrad, Scherzo of Deep Night plants itself firmly into Aincrad to give it a straightforward, fun narrative that gives Sword Art Online fans (and fans of the anime’s early episodes) a delightful revisit to the world. It also helps that fans who were introduced to the franchise through Aria of a Starless Night can jump into Scherzo of Deep Night without feeling like they need to watch the anime to understand what’s going on. 

While the story is a delightful change of pace, the biggest selling points of Scherzo of Deep Night are definitely the animation and action. The film is very pretty at times, sticking very much in-line with the anime’s visuals yet differentiates itself just enough when the action starts. While there is a gap in the middle where it focuses more on the story than action, that all fades away once the latter half of the film kicks off. From eye-catching moments to fun choreography to a score that goes harder than it has any right to, Scherzo of Deep Night really shines when the action takes center stage. While I can see how some fans might be disappointed by how light the narrative of the film is, I think very few will complain about the engaging action and animation that animation studio A-1 Pictures provides Scherzo of Deep Night.

As much as I enjoyed the animation and action, I must confess that I have a soft spot for how Scherzo of Deep Night develops the relationship between Asuna and Kirito. One of the best decisions in giving the Aincrad arc more time to breathe is to give the duo more time to develop, hinting at their budding romance a bit more organically than the original anime. It also helps that a dedication to give Asuna more of a presence in the story leads the audience to like Kirito more, giving a character that’s overly angsty in the original anime more time to show his silliness as well as how much Asuna truly matters to him. With that said though, nothing that is done for the duo in Scherzo of Deep Night is revolutionary. However, considering how important their relationship will become for the franchise’s later arcs, I genuinely appreciate giving the duo more time to have a friendship that leads to a more authentic romance down the line.

Overall, Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Scherzo of Deep Night is a straightforward, enjoyable time that gives the franchise’s first arc much needed development and levity. There’s not a lot special about the film itself but what is there just feels like the type of story the franchise needs, focusing less on “win the war” levels of stakes and more on the growing relationships between old and new characters. As someone who doesn’t consider himself a fan of the franchise anymore, I’m happy to say that Scherzo of Deep Night is the type of anime film that does the best elements of its mainline series justice. This should definitely tide fans over until the next SAO project is announced. In the end, I’m just glad to come out of a Sword Art Online film pleasantly satisfied.

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Freelance writer out of Indianapolis. Co-host of Odd Trilogies podcast. Whether it's films or television, I'm always down to watch!

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