Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night is a sci-fi action-adventure anime film based on the Sword Art Online: Progressive light novels that Reki Kawahara wrote, and abec illustrated. It is also the sequel to a film in 2021 entitled Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night. The film was produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Ayako Kōno. This post will have spoilers.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the twenty-second article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on February 4, 2023.
This 100 minute film begins with a scene which pulls you into the world of the sword-wielding characters, specifically Asuna (voiced by Haruka Tomatsu) and Kirito (voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka), her trusty companion. They are helped by Argo (voiced by Shiori Izawa), a female information broker, who sometimes hides in the shadows. Although the two major guilds are together at the beginning, conflict erupts between the two factions, and someone behind the scenes is making them go head to head, leading to a deadly battle, with death in this game world meaning one dies in the real world.
The animation and definition during the fight scenes shows that the work by A-1 Pictures is top-notch, and makes clear the film is more than the simple description on Wikipedia, IMDB, or in Crunchyroll’s promotional material. This is no surprise since this Japanese animation studio has produced acclaimed series like Black Butler, Fairy Tail, From the New World, Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, along with others such as Engage Kiss, 22/7, and Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku.
Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night does not shy away from showing blood, death, or anything of the sort. This fits with the film’s action scenes which involve swords, magic, and agility. At the same time, there are scenes where it is much more low-key, like when Asuna, Kirito, and Argo have a meal together at the beginning of the film, or when they do treasure-hunting, going into a cave together.
It is interesting how close Asuna and Kirito are despite the fact they don’t see themselves as a couple, regardless of teasing by Argo to that effect. In fact, their closeness only becomes more pronounced when Kirito saves Asuna from two unsavory people, and a bunch of other monsters head their way, with Asuna admitting her fears.
As Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night goes forward, you sympathize more with the characters, and their struggles, especially when Asuna has her sword stolen after she falls into a trap. Its funny that Kirito does not know there is a party on December 31, and is a bit annoyed as a result, even though he knows a lot about the game, Sword Art Online. The heartfelt scenes in the film pull you in like no other.
This film wouldn’t be an anime without some fan service, although it is very mild, and not as extreme as those anime which feature women with big breasts or tight-fitting clothes. Asuna fights Argo when they aren’t wearing many clothes, as Argo tries to prove her abilities after Asuna says she is worried about Argo going to extreme lengths to get information on mischievous people, even if it puts her life in danger. In the process, their mock fight proves that Argo is more than worthy to defend herself.
Beyond this, the music and character designs, by Kento Toya and Yuki Kajiura respectively, go hand-in-hand with the other elements of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night. For one, they allow scenes, like Asuna and Kirito sitting other on a beautiful hillside, to maintain your interest, and make you want to keep watching the film to see what happens next.
More than anything, this film is about determination and cooperation, even against those who want to off other players, known as PKs or Player-Killers. This is shown through the drive to keep the party between the two factions going despite those trying to scuttle it to gain a rare item which will boost one group but not the other.
The intensity of some scenes is one of the strong suits of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night, as is the action sequences as shown through the view of playing a game, or without it. The same can be said for the characters, whether in the raiding party of Asuna, Kirito, and others, or somewhat mysterious ones like Mito (voiced by Inori Minase), who appears to be “gathering materials” in the forest at first.
She is one of the more interesting characters, as she isn’t sure she wants to join in fighting the game boss, and betray anyone “again”. The fact that Asuna and Mito duel one another, with Asuna using her sword and Mito her scythe with a chain, shows how close they are, as they were originally best friends in the human world, and willing to sacrifice anything for their goals. I would not be surprised if some fans ship both characters after watching this film, especially as Mito says she won’t let Asuna die, which builds upon the previous film which had their bond between one another as a key part.
One of the best parts of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night is how it can be easily watched without having to watch the prequel. I hadn’t watched that film before writing this review, and had no problem understanding what was happening. This was helped by the number of flashbacks and a relatively simple storyline. It was not like Steven Universe: The Movie when there was a part of the film when all the protagonists did introductions of sorts as part of a song.
I also found it very touching how much Kirito cares about Asuna, but also sees the bigger picture. That makes him intriguing, as he was a former beta tester on the game, even though Mito says that she doesn’t like him.
I enjoyed the final parts of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night, when they the raiding party of Kirito, Asuna, Argo, and their friends, fight together for a common goal, and work well. Without giving away specifics of that battle, I can say that the film remains action-packed, and the boss they fight is a next-level enemy in more ways than one.
I liked the interweaving of magic with the rest of the story and the music fitting with the action. The ending of the Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night sets up a possible sequel, as the player-killers are still out there. While I felt like the film’s climax, and ending of the scheme by the two miscreants, was too easy, there is a twist at the end which throws that into question.
As mentioned earlier, the film’s character designs were by Kento Toya and music was by Yuki Kajiura. Their experience shows through in this film. Toya previously worked on acclaimed series such as El Cazador de la Bruja, Canaan, Lycoris Recoil, Le Chevalier D’Eon, and Somali and the Forest Spirit. Additionally, Kajiura has worked on shows such as Noir, My-HiME, Princess Principal, Fena: Pirate Princess, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Eir Aoi also did a great job of performed the film’s main theme, “Shinzo”. She is a well-known singer in Japan who has sung important tracks within Fate/Zero, Sword Art Online, Kill la Kill, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, and many others. Her music really moved the film forward in a way that no one else could have done.
Apart from this, Kaede Hondo, Yūsuke Kobayashi, Hiroki Yasumoto, and Tomokazu Seki, the voice actors for Liten, Morte, Agil, and Kibao respectfully, are seasoned in the industry. They’ve voiced characters in Magical Girl Raising Project, I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, Your Lie in April, Bodacious Space Pirates, Spy × Family, and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, to name a few.
Like many anime films, those in Japan have seen Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night for many months before those in North America and Japan. In fact, the film was released on October 22, 2022 in the country, delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the process, it earned over $8 million in Japan, half a million in Hong Kong, and over $170,000 in South Korea. These numbers don’t count the earnings in other parts of the world, whether in Latin America, Asia, or Europe. It will also be screened in select U.S. theaters in February.
All of this relates to what Kim Morrisy wrote about delays in Aniplex shows, that COVID-19 showed the weakness in animation production pipeline, and that the company, which distributed this film, has been “less than transparent” about past delays. This has accompanied by ramping up production as a result of the pandemic, instead of down. Hopefully this changes in the future.
Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night will be streaming on Crunchyroll on February 3rd.
© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.
Voice Acting: 5