Accel World Part 1 (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 274 minutes approx.
In 2046 technology has advanced to the point where humans are now able to manipulate their five senses through a virtual system called Neuro-Synchronization, which allows them to access the internet and play virtual games via a small neck brace on the back of their necks called Neuro-Linkers. One thing that hasn’t been eradicated in the future is bullying as chubby high schooler Haruyuki “Haru” Arita knows al to well, being the subject to much abuse on a daily basis. His only outlet for his frustrations is virtual games where he proves to be quite skilled and adept. This catches the attention of the school Student Council Vice-President, Kuroyukihime, who invites Haru to join her in an exclusive Accelerated World called Brain Burst.
The .hack franchise has a lot to answer for incurring, as is often the case, numerous imitators and similarly influenced works, of which Accel World is the latest, albeit with its own modern day twist. Accusations levied towards its originality, appearing on TV at the same time as the first series of the Sword Art Online anime, are erroneous since both were created by Reki Kawahara. Perhaps if Kawahara-san spread his creative wings a little further and tried something different such immediate comparisons wouldn’t have been made.
And indeed there are a few notable comparisons to be found between the two shows – the loser kid in the real world becomes a hero in the virtual world; online alliances become real life ones; a mini harem is eventually formed around our unlikely hero (afraid so) – but there are enough fresh ideas and substantial differences to keep the main similarities limited to the concept rather then the actual content.
For a start no-one is trapped inside any virtual games so the characters are caught up in any inexplicably flawed quest for power from a deluded and despotic game developer; the cast are free to log in and out at their leisure. The goal however is slightly similar in that Kuroyukihime desires to be the first player to ever reach Level 10 in Brain Burst to make its creator and learn the reason behind its creation and needs Haru’s help, impressed by his speed in the game she watched him play.
As mentioned earlier Brain Burst is an “Accelerated World” where real time is temporarily slowed right down to such an infinitesimal rate that it appears to be frozen. Those who have accelerated adopt their regular avatars – Haru’s, without any hint of irony or subtly, is a small pig – and are free to move about as normal. However in the actual Brain Burst world the avatars are far more sophisticated, often taking on sleek robot forms. Haru is known as Silver Crow and later develops wings, a rare phenomenon that helps increase his fighting skills and facilitates his rise up the ranks.
In Brian Burst, Kuroyukihime is known as Black Lotus, the Black King, but has been lying low since beheading the Red King in her quest to reach Level 10. Black Lotus is ready for her comeback with Haru’s help but it will take more than two people to fend off the other kings and their clans and true to form, allies come in the shape of former enemies. One of Haru’s very few real life friends is Chiyuri Kurashima who is dating their other friend Takumu Mayuzumi, a successful good looking guy and everything Haru isn’t. When Chiyuri begins to act strange Haru discovers her Neuro Linker has been hacked by someone named Cyan Pile whose true identity proves to be a shocker. Later on, Haru meets a red haired lolicon tsundere named Yuniko Kōzuki, who clams to be his cousin, but this is clearly a lie. Who is this perky newcomer and what does she want with Haru? And why is she so antagonistic towards Kuroyukihime?
The above summary takes place across the first nine of the twelve episodes in this set, which should give you an indicator of how much ground is covered in this series so far. To give Kawahara credit, there is little messing about and the emphasis squarely on the story with only the rarest of moments allowed for frivolity and jocular distractions. No incongruous beach set episodes or clothes shopping expeditions here (for now at least) which is a relief although Yuniko’s arrival does see Kawahara succumb to the hackneyed accidental nudity/boob grab silliness that blights every harem comedy know to mankind.
It may disappointment many to see a show like this descend to such tawdry depths, albeit downplayed for the moment, but the bigger issue is the lead himself, which undermines any (for wanting a better term) credibility of the harem genre. Haru is a short fat kid looking like a dwarf with everyone towering over him, while sporting a girth almost commensurate to his height. We get it – he is a loser, a bullied child and a geek and while this is anime, surely they could meet us half way when expecting us to buy into this ludicrous fantasy of Haru being lusted after by so many girls by making him look somewhat potentially plausible?
While the story is far more consistent then Sword Art Online this show also boasts some impressive visuals courtesy of Sunrise, the highlight being the virtual worlds our cast inhabit. While the regular worlds are bright and cheery, Brain Burst is dark and foreboding, a mixture of a post apocalyptic landscape with modern city architecture. The battle scenes are frantic and explosive and the avatar designs are a suitable combination of cyberpunk and standard video game fare.
Accel World doesn’t stray too far from the virtual reality crossover world of similar shows, and has arguably one the least convincing lead male protagonists seen in a long while which is likely to harm its appeal. It is however deceptively engaging and a rather fun watch and should bridge the gap for SAO fans waiting for its second series.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Rating – ***
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