SAO: Ordinal Scale – Special Interview with Tomohiko Itou

Translator’s Notes:

Sword Art Online -Ordinal Scale- is an upcoming film to be released in 2017. It will feature a completely original story but familiar characters will return. It will be set between Mother’s Rosario and Alicization. This interview with the director of most of the SAO anime, Tomohiko Itou, appeared on the official site.

Translation Credits:

Translation – defan752

Editing – CJ

What is the new world that «Sword Art Online The Movie» will be challenging?

“The game that Kirito is newly challenging, is a world (AR) on the border of reality.”

Kirito and Others who are Challenging the New Game

— The awaited news of the movie version of «Sword Art Online» has arrived. What kind of work will it be this time?

This time, we began discussions with the thought of “let’s make a new game”.

Then, the original author Kawahara-sensei said “How’s this for the content”, and raised several suggestions.

The producers and I discussed for a while, then allowed Kawahara-sensei to write the plot.

Using this plot as our basis, Kawahara-sensei and I wrote the script as we discussed.

As a result, it turns out that we took an approach quite different from all the VRMMORPGs up until now.


— This time, Kirito and company will be challenging a newly conceptualized game by Kawahara-sensei, am I right?

This time, the game won’t be using VR (virtual reality), but AR (augmented reality). When we began (the discussions), I told Kawahara-sensei that “it’d be very interesting if we could experience a world like «Sword Art Online» in the real world”. For example, wouldn’t it be interesting to “be able to battle monsters on streets and in shops near you”?  “Familiar sceneries transforming into game space”, and so on, also seemed fascinating. Since we’d been writing adventures in virtual worlds until then, we thought it would be quite intriguing if we could write a story about “a world on the border of reality”. And we were like ‘Oh, then AR seems to fit our needs (to achieve the interestingness)’.


— Among the «Sword Art Online» live music performances, there was a huge event to the TV anime world in February 2015 called “Sing All Overtures”. In that live performance, Kajiura-san revealed one of her insert songs in the movie live. Will there be any difference between the live performance this time and the one before?

We’re glad to play for the first 30 minutes of “Sing All Overtures” (footage recorded and included with the «Sword Art Online Music Collection»). The live performance this time would feel like an extension of the last one. Thanks to that first 30 minutes of live performance, the staff understood that “it’s okay to organize a live performance”, and that we’re able to make the live performance this time happen. Of course, we’d like to have a richer, more impressive performance.


— In «SAO» right now, one would don a VR headset such as the “NerveGear” or “AmuSphere” to sink (FullDive) into a virtual world, experiencing it with their whole body, and going on adventures in different worlds. The “AR” this time uses the real world as its basis, and allows one to adventure in the real world through intensifying data information. Recently, AR games that use location information (GPS) have become a hot topic…

Indeed. Actually, I tried playing with them before. I feel like they (the technologies) still have a long way to go, but in another sense, AR games have already gotten a foothold in life. Although we call them games, perhaps it’s better to call them a lifestyle. After AR becomes prevalent, I believe they’ll slowly change our environment. The game this time will probably become something like those that everyone now plays on their mobile phones. The movie will be set in 2026, but I’ve wondered before if something like its setting might unexpectedly happen when we get there.


The Possibility of Making the New Game Device “Augma” is very high?!

— Will devices like the “NerveGear” and the “AmuSphere” appear?

The device that will appear this time is an AR information device named the “Augma”.

It probably has a greater likelihood than the “NerveGear” (VR device in the SAO world) of being realized.

I think it’s a more realistic gadget. We actually pleaded a manufacturer of head-mounted devices to design Augma.


— Eh?! So it’s really the experts that are designing it..

The design is super cool. It’s pretty interesting to have such seriousness on the team of the long-awaited movie version.


— What’s the game that Kirito and company play with the “Augma” like?

The name of the game is «Ordinal Scale». There’ll be monsters, of course. But we can’t reveal exactly what kind of monsters yet.  


— «OS» is an RPG in which “AR” monsters will appear in the real world… right?

Since this game uses the real world as its stage, after everyone sees the movie, I think they’ll have the feeling that “Kirito and company are battling at where I normally am”… As to how it’s different from Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online, I’d say it’s the appearance of the battle scenes. I think there is some realism in «SAO». The ability of swords to clash and fight against each other, for example. But the swords this time are just visualized through AR, so we couldn’t achieve the SAO quality. In regards to art and animation, since the pictures of the sword fights from Season 1 and Season 2 are mostly sealed away, we have to think on our own as we work. We need to be imagining, “if this game existed, how would everyone fight” as we plan.


—  That is very important. Although you drew Kirito as he was called, the “Black Swordsman”, in VRMMORPGs before now, this time it’s AR, so you’ll need to draw Kirigaya Kazuto’s real-world fighting stance, right?

Occasionally we’d like to show the newbie moments of Kirito (Kazuto) in an unfamiliar game. (laughs) This time, there won’t be any of the “Kirito starting off very strong in new games” kind of thing.


— In regards to the timeline, when is this story set?

Season 2 (Mother’s Rosario) ended in the middle of April 2025, so it’ll be after that. The story picks up roughly two weeks later. I think anyone who’ve seen Season 1 and 2 of the TV series would make connections and be surprised like… ‘Wow, is that character coming out?’, and so on.


Please tell me about its highlights as a “movie”.

— During the making of this new project, what are you, Director Itou, paying attention to?

The very fact that this isn’t a TV series. I’m like “what is a movie”. And I’m fighting my hesitation. Anyway, recently there’ve been many anime that are shown in cinemas, but since the SAO movie is building off of the TV series, I felt like, can I call it a “movie” or a “cinema animation”? To be honest, whether it’s become a “movie” is where I hesitate the most. By combatting that, we’ve realized that we want to get the feeling of “producing a movie”, so we took out the drafts of the past cinema animation projects sitting in our drawers at home, and we still went like ‘Hmmm, I don’t get it’. It’s a huge problem.


— How long of a work is this?

It’s a completely original work, and going by the planned storyboard, the work’s running time will probably be more than 100 minutes. We’ll probably be able to compress it into 120 minutes.


— That’s pretty epic.

Well, yeah… There’s a ton of action scenes, too…


— Seems like it’s quite a challenge for you and the production team. Kajiura Yuki-san from the TV series will still be in charge of the music, right?

At this point, it’s either Kajiura-san or nobody. When I was chatting with Kajiura-san, she told me that “«SAO»’s soundtrack will be something that people would know what’s happening within three seconds”. Like “He’s strong!” or “That’s scary!” or “He’s gonna lose!” or so… Since this kind of “opening” is very clear, I can confirm once again that “This matter is very important for «SAO»”. Her soundtrack greatly assists the anime. I’m very much looking forward to the soundtrack this time.


— So, it’s a completely new work this time, and including «SAO»’s fans, there will be many people eagerly waiting. At this point in time, is there anything that the everyone should look forward to?

Veteran fans will definitely wish for the studio to “make that”. We can understand this. But we think that we “need to move forward”. We’ll follow the current «SAO» style, and try new approaches. We want to create a work that both «SAO» fans and people who haven’t seen «SAO» can enjoy. This is the wish of our production team, and we’d like to achieve that somehow. We want to create a movie that when one invites someone else, like, “let’s watch SAO”, everyone in the party can enjoy. It’ll be entertainment that has both action and romance; rather than calling it a family film, it’s better to call it a date movie. We hope that everyone will enjoy our work from these perspectives.