On Mar. 1, about 600 excited Sword Art Online fans gathered at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater, a Hollywood landmark. Guess what was happening!
That’s right - the series’ first ever movie venture, Sword Art Online - Ordinal Scale, finally in the US! Having been released on Feb. 18 for Japanese audiences, just 11 days on the big screen was enough to earn more than 10 billion yen with a whopping 1 million tickets, and its meteoric rise is showing no signs of slowing down.
Meanwhile, the majority of US fans finally had the chance to enjoy Ordinal Scale (with the original Japanese audio and English subtitles) on Mar. 9 at over 500 theaters, with not one single state left out of the Sword Art Online fever!
Ahead of this was the Mar. 1 premiere in Hollywood, thrilling Los Angeles fans with the appearance of 6 special guests all the way from Japan, including Ordinal Scale director Itou Tomohiko and the author of the original light novel series, Kawahara Reki. The guests also held media-exclusive group interviews before the screening began and finished the night with a talk session and photo opportunities open to both their eager fans and the media.
We’re now proud to present an exclusive insight into Sword Art Online - The Ordinal Scale, straight from its director and the author who started it all!
– Compared to the TV anime, was there anything difficult about making the movie?”
Director Itou: It was a long period of time, so it felt different to before. With TV, after making one episode it’s possible to adjust the next, so being unable to do that was a big difference. It was also difficult to maintaining the harmony between our senses with the other staff.
– There’s probably quite a large difference in one’s view of the world between VR and AR, so what made you choose AR?
Kawahara: I wanted to try something new, a world different to any before, but I also chose AR because I wanted to experience the warmth of one’s flesh and blood, the real body of the characters.
– Will there be any plots focussing on Asuna in the future?
Kawahara: My original works included one called Sword Art Online Progressive, and over half of it has Asuna as the main storyline, so it’s possible that it could be adapted to anime.
After the interview, the various guests and cosplayers from Japan lined up on the red carpet for a star-studded photo opportunity.
The voice actors behind the English dub also had their chance to shine alongside cosplayers for each of their characters!
After the screening ended, the audience was treated to a special Sword Art Online message just before the guest talk session.
– What was the most interesting thing during the production progress and what was the most challenging for you?
Itou: Everything was challenging when we were in production, and there was just about nothing fun. I’m happy that I’m able be doing promotion tours like this, having completed the movie.
– How was it seeing American audiences? Have you made any interesting discoveries?
Kawahara: Japanese screenings are often very quiet, but American audiences give very good reactions so I’m really happy to be able to experience that. However, there’s also some laughing in unexpected parts, so that’s very interesting.
Abec: Japanese people hold it in even though they must be thinking it’s funny too. It’s great that we were able to see everyone’s reactions first-hand here.
– Can you tell us how much of the international market you had in mind when planning the promotions?
Miki: Aniplex really took the lead here, but more than anything, everyone got really pumped up for us so that’s why we were able to take on an international challenge like this, and I’m very thankful for that.
Kashiwada: After the SAO TV anime broadcast 6 years ago, we heard from Aniplex of America that it’s been popular both in the US and other countries and now we’ve come this far. That’s how it feels. We’re also very happy to have the ever-busy Mr. Kawahara and Mr. Abec actually come down and watch.
– As an animation director, how was animating the movies different from working on the TV series - in terms of the time or energy you spent?
Adachi: We spent about a year from the announcement to its release, and it was my job to release key visuals and get everyone even more excited. While making announcements little by little, I received good and bad opinions from a lot of people, and there were times when it got tough. However, I’m extremely happy to finally be here unveiling the movie. I’m also very proud to have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful animators and creators.
– There are 3 new characters: Yuna, Eiji, and Dr. Shigemura. Did you come up with them when you wrote the story?
Kawahara: When I was first writing the story, all it had was actually Yuna and Dr. Shigemura. Afterwards, the director said to me, “There aren’t enough rivals.” However, I didn’t have any images of a rival and I was really bad at it, so in regards to Eiji, I spoke with the director and we then decided.
Itou: Yes, that’s right. He had a bit of a creepy impression, so I was thinking of him.
Kawahara: So we made him thinking about my image of “cool”. But in the end, he turned out to become a character who also carried so much sadness. And he does a bit too many bad things so he might end up having to go to jail (laughs).
The end to this amazing night was marked by a photo opportunity, where all fans and guests gathered to celebrate this Sword Art Online milestone.
If you missed out on this exclusive early screening, never fear! Simply look out for Ordinal Scale at a cinema near you in the US or Canada. Don’t forget to let us know what you think!
This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article written by Daiki Nakata.
Photo by Daiki Nakata.