Image Source: アニプレックス on YouTube

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale was released as a normal film in Japan, but last week it got the “4D” treatment complete with rumbling seats, fog machines, and smell-o-vision.

After watching Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale on the big screen late last month, I planned to see it again—which I did the following day. I didn’t expect to see it a third time, but when I heard it was getting a second release here in Japan in 4D, I changed my mind on that—for better and for worse.

We Saw the New Sword Art Online Movie

For those of you who don’t know, many major Hollywood blockbusters get a 4D release in special theaters across Japan. These 4D releases have vibrating seats, fog machines, sent machines, wind blasts, and a device that squirts water in your face. Recently, following the popularity of the Girls und Panzer movie in 4D, more and more anime have been getting the 4D treatment.

Now seeing Ordinal Scale was not my first time at the 4D rodeo so to speak. I’d seen Star Wars: Episode VII in 4D last year and greatly enjoyed the experience—well other than having water blasted across my 3D glasses anyway.

Luckily, from the start, this was not a problem in Ordinal Scale—the film itself was not converted into 3D so there was no need for the pesky glasses at all. Rather, the most major aspect of Ordinal Scale in 4D is the seat movement.

In the aforementioned Girls und Panzer movie, seat movement was used exceptionally well. Each tank caused the seat to vibrate differently—with the seats only jerking strongly occasionally. In Ordinal Scale, on the other hand, you are thrown around violently on a constant basis.

Each time on screen that a monster hits a person, the seat is slammed in that direction—and when such attacks come in quick chains, as they do in Ordinal Scale, it can be more like riding a mechanical bull than watching a movie. It is no joke nor understatement to say that during each action scene, I had a death grip on the seat’s cup holder just to keep myself from being thrown to the floor.

I never thought a feature film would need seat belts, but life has apparently taught me otherwise.

Fun and surprising though this way, it was markedly more difficult to actually watch the film while being thrown about. Had I not seen the film previously in 2D, I doubt I would have been able to follow the quick-cut laden action scenes.

Other than the seat movement, the clashing of swords were accompanied by flashing strobe lights and fog machine smoke whenever debris was thrown into the air on screen. But what really adds to the movie experience are the few moments of the film that are smell related.

Image Source: アニプレックス on YouTube

The first of these is the smell of the cakes Asuna, Lizbeth, and Silica order at Wagnaria in the first few minutes of the film. It’s one thing to see delicious-looking food; it’s quite another to smell it. The second puff of scent comes as Asuna takes a scented bath before being called out to play Ordinal Scale. The final smell-o-vision moment comes at the emotional climax of the film where Kirito embraces Asuna. As he buries his face in her sweater, we get a faint smell of her perfume. It was a great light touch that made the scene a bit more real.

In the end, seeing Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale in 4D was an entertaining experience, but not one I would recommend to people who haven’t seen the film at least once before. The seat movement, flashing lights, and fog machines, while fun, distract from the film rather than add to it. But if you’ve seen it before, the 4D experience really is a fun different way to take in the movie.

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale in 4D was released in Japanese theaters on March 12, 2017. The film will be getting an English dubbed release (of the non-4D version) on April 22, 2017.

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