Review of Accel World (Part One)

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Accel World is a twenty-four episode anime series based on the light novels penned by Reki Kawahara (author of the smash hit Sword Art Online.) When it comes to storytelling it appears that Mr Kawahara follows the old adage of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Both the aforementioned shows feature characters playing virtual reality games, although Accel World’s setting is futuristic whilst Sword Art Online caters to fantasy/medieval fans. At the time of writing UK viewers can purchase the first part of the series, courtesy of MVM Entertainment, for the sum of seventeen British pounds (or ten thousand Zimbabwe dollars.)

STORY

The show takes place in the near future, where Internet technology has advanced to the point were users can communicate telepathically and play virtual reality games using a portable Neuro-Link. Wow I am so envious. VR games are a pipe dream for me. My net connection is so bad that I can’t even play Farmsville without suffering serious lag. Moving back on-topic, Accel World’s protagonist is a high school student named Haru Arita who is lacking in the height department, but more than makes up for it in the girth of his waist. As you can imagine Haru is a target for bullies so he likes to retreat from the real world into the sanctuary of online games.

Despite his unpopularity with the student body, Haru’s gaming prowess catches the eye of the beautiful Kuroyukihime who invites him to participate in a multiplayer fighting game dubbed Brain Burst. Unlike Call of Duty players, whose intelligence regresses the more they play that detestable shooter, Brain Burst supercharges a participant’s intellect to the point that they can ponder sixteen minutes worth of ideas within the space of mere seconds. Using said cerebral ability however costs burst points, which are only obtainable by beating opponents in a Brain Burst duel. Clearly Electronic Arts didn’t design this game, as their greedy corporate ways would demand that players cough up cash to buy points via online transactions.

ROMANCE??

Haru ultimately decides to aid Kuroyukihime in her quest to become the first ever level ten Brain Burst player. Kuroyukihime’s dreams of glory won’t be easy to achieve though, as losing battles depletes a player’s reserve of points. Any fighter whose score dips to zero will be permanently barred from Brain Burst. Ouch! That makes Brain Burst almost as unforgiving as Dark Souls.

Intermixed with the virtual reality scrapping, Accel World also features some implausible harem antics. Somehow every female Haru meets ends up falling for him despite the fact that he is an obese dwarf. One example of unlikely love is Haru’s childhood friend Chiyuri who gets jealous whenever Haru interacts with another girl. What makes this scenario even more unbelievable is that Chiyuri already has a dashing boyfriend, who happens to be a kendo champion that attends a prestigious school. I may not be an expert in what women desire, but out of those two choices I am sure Haru would not be a lady’s first pick for a romantic fling.

VERDICT

My rating for this first part of Accel World is a four out of five. I really enjoyed the twelve episodes contained in this collection and was especially impressed by the show’s visuals. The only area where the artwork stumbles would have to be the design of Haru, who looks out of place when compared to the other characters. It’s akin to watching Ghost in the Shell only to then spot that one of the cast is drawn like a character from Dexter’s Laboratory. Yes I get that Haru has low self-esteem and his appearance is a contributing factor, but the artists went a little too far in making him unattractive. I think drawing him like the rest of the cast, but making him a bespectacled nerd would have better achieved the effect they were aiming for.

Undoubtedly, given their similarities, comparisons will be made between Accel World and Sword Art Online. Out of the two I slightly prefer Sword Art Online, as it focuses more on character relationships. Viewers who prefer balls to the wall action over mushy romance may however favour Accel World in the battle of the Reki Kawahara creations. Overall Accel World is good fun, providing that you can suspend your disbelief. Brain Burst is a video game that in effect freezes time? Yeah, I can buy that. A gluttonous midget makes the hottest girls in school moist? Nah. Sorry that’s way out of the realms of possibility.

8 thoughts on “Review of Accel World (Part One)

  1. Childhood friends hold a certain sway, I think. Popular guys only hold appeal for so long. I think it’s a more likely reason for a girl to like a boy than most harem-anime reasons.

  2. Hmm maybe part of his appeal is the ‘can’t have factor’ – I’ve come across a lot of people who become interested in others once they see they’re unavailable or someone else in interested in them, people like to be rivals for someone they don’t have but wouldn’t like it if others were coveting theirs.

  3. I absolutely loved Accel World, I really enjoyed keeping up with it ongoing and I loved the cast overall. Personally I have much for love for it than SAO, which I found disappointing on many levels even if entertaining.

    As far as Haru’s character design goes, I do agree it’s a bit jarring at first and does seem a bit awkward compared to the other character designs in the series, but I feel like it makes Haru more believable. Putting aside that making Haru look like a glasses nerd would make him look extremely similar to Taku, I feel like it would make Haru look more like a hopeless crybaby and take away from his believability. I mean sure, that’s essentially how he starts off as, but when you look at this fat midget character getting bullied it’s obvious he can’t really fight back, if he looked like the other characters it would look more like he’s a pushover than someone who genuinely can’t do anything at all in response. As for the girls liking him, it is a bit hard to believe (why Chiyu is Taku’s boyfriend yet seems to have a thing for Haru continues to baffle me) but I don’t think it takes away too much from the storytelling and it’s just one of those things that happens in these types of stories, for better or for worse.

    I’m not sure if I agree with you about the character relationships though. I felt like the Accel World characters had more chemistry overall and more development throughout, the SAO cast felt really shallow to me and while their interactions weren’t necessarily that terrible, I felt they suffered a lot from how limited the characters themselves were. The relationship between Kirito and Asuna felt like a very spur of the moment deal and it seemed like they just got together for plot necessity more than anything else and got really lovey dovey all too quickly. Might be true of Accel World to some extent too (though that goes far less in the romance direction) but I guess it feels to me like there’s more room for development, whereas with Kirito and Asuna they get together and….nothing much happens after that. It’s like, they’re a couple, and they’re obviously really close (more close than I find believable personally), but it’s as though there’s no room for that relationship to grow, and I do hope I’m proven wrong with the future arcs (I believe the second arc of season 2 is supposed to be Asuna-centric) but I’m a bit skeptical about how much it can improve.

    • I’m a fan of the Kirito/Asuna pairing and hope they get more screen time together in season two. Did their hooking up happen too quickly? I dunno. The first arc of SAO takes place over two years so that seems okay to me. It’s also good to see a couple express their feelings within a reasonable time frame rather than string things along like most animes do.

      When Accel World started I kept expecting Kuroyukihime to turn on Haru and reveal that she was just manipulating him to exploit his gaming skills to further her level 10 ambitions. I felt they were setting that up as the pair keep randomly saying “I would never betray you.” That’s not likely now I guess, as it seems like she genuinely likes him. Then again who knows. She did kill the old red king without warning.

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