A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The lead characters display good communication, compassion, courage, curiosity, empathy, integrity, perseverance, and teamwork.
Positive Role Models
Asuna is a high-achieving teenage girl. She joins her friend Misumi in the virtual reality multiplayer game Sword Art Online and gets stuck there. She commits to learning the ways of the game, finds a way to cope with her new reality, and grows to become a leader. Misumi (who goes by Mito in the game) is supportive, friendly, and encouraging. She is a good friend and feels guilty when she fails to protect Asuna. In real life she is a fighting video game champion. Kirito is a teenage boy who saves Asuna from a lethal encounter in the game. He offers to help her with resources and training. He displays empathy and compassion. Video game developer Kayaba creates a game in which users are trapped -- any attempt to leave results in death, and dying in the game results in dying in real life. His motivations are not explained in the movie.
The main characters are all school-age girls and could be described as positive role models. Their conversations don't involve romance or crushes, thus avoiding cliche stereotypes -- while one of them is a video game tournament champion. However, some of their posing and clothing could be described as deliberately provocative.
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Violence & Scariness
Fast-paced fantasy violence takes place in a virtual world and follows the video game template. Lots of visual flair but no gore, instead slashes cause digital red wounds. Injuries include monsters being cut on the face and body.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of shots feature characters wearing short skirts.
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English language dubbed version features "ass," "screwed over," "crap," "bastard," "hell," "BS," "jackass," and "goddamn."
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Products & Purchases
The movie is part of a wider franchise that includes video games, books, a TV series, and other branded merchandise. Character plays real-life Tekken 7 video game in a tournament and actual footage is shown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief scene with characters drinking in a tavern.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sword Art Online: Progressive - Aria of a Starless Night is a big-screen spin-off of the Japanese Sword Art Online anime series with fantasy violence and some language. It is available in English, both dubbed and subtitled, with this review referring to the dubbed version. The movie tells the story of teenage girl Asuna (voiced by Cherami Leigh), one of 10,000 players trapped in a virtual reality game in which if they die in the game, they die in real life. Asuna is a character in the anime TV series and the movie expands her story from the first two episodes. She is a positive female role model and has a good friendship with her school friend and later game mentor, Misumi (Anairis Quinones). The movie has lots of fantasy violence, which takes place in the video game and is presented in a way familiar to gamers. Characters and monsters die but there is no blood, just red, digital wounds. The English dub features infrequent language including "ass," "bastard," and "crap." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A reimagining of the first two episodes of a beloved anime series, this animated adventure will feel familiar to fans of the original TV show but might take flack for its additions and adjustments. But as a thrilling, visually stunning, and breathlessly exciting anime movie on its own terms, Sword Art Online: Progressive - Aria of a Starless Night is a winner. Cinema's video game spin-offs are notoriously bad, missing the point of what made the game so compelling. Anyone who's played an RPG or action adventure game will instantly understand the visual language of Sword Art Online and its most impressive feat is capturing the feeling of being immersed in a great game.
Here Asuna gets her backstory filled in and a friend, Misumi, is invented for the movie. Their friendship is moving without being overly sentimental. Their time together is warm and realistic, with conversations about anything but crushes on boys -- a typical trap writers fall into when putting teen girls together on-screen. Their character growth feels realistic too, and when Asuna meets up with the series' male main character, Kirito (voiced by Bryce Papenbrook), her previously mysterious demeanor fades as she blossoms. With its soaring music, sizzling visuals, huge stakes, and inspiring lead characters, Sword Art Online: Progressive - Aria of a Starless Night is a recommended anime for series fans and newcomers alike.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.