Accel World Part 2 (Episodes 13-24) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 273 minutes approx.
We return to the suddenly exciting life of tubby school boy loser Haruyuki “Haru” Arita whose prowess in the virtual reality world of video games has earned him the friendship of school Student Council Vice-President Kuroyukihime. Together they have combined forces in the Accelerated World called Brain Burst, under the respective online pseudonyms of Silver Crow and Black Lotus, along with Haru’s friends Takumu Mayuzumi (as Cyan Pile) proving to be a formidable team.
We open this second volume with Haru’s friend Chiyuri Kurashima having the Brian Burst installed into her Neuro-Linker and joining the team as Lime Bell, whose special power appears to be healing, making her just one of two people with this ability. While Kuroyukihime takes some time off for a holiday in Okinawa, Haru senses another Brain Burst presence at school although they never show up on the official lists. Coincidentally a new pupil at school Seiji Nomi, defeats Takumu in a Kendo match by using an acceleration power, a skill normally associated with Brain Burst users, something which Seiji shows no signs of being.
Making no effort to disguise his unpleasant and confrontational personality from the get go, there is little mystery that Seiji will fulfil the role of main antagonist for this second half of the series based on the light novels from Reki Kawahara. While there is no ambiguity as to his raison d’etre his motives on the other hand are less clear cut which forms part of the truths for our porcine protagonist and friends to uncover, while protecting the integrity of the Brain Burst world.
Aside from being a skilled and remorseless fighter, Seiji’s devious and illegitimate practices, under the guise of Dusk Taker, enable him to score maximum power points and work his way up the rankings with nary a fight to his unrecorded name. One of his key abilities is to steal away the powers of his opponents and in his first encounter with Silver Crow, Dusk Taker pinches his power of flight! In order to combat this Haru is forced to take desperate measures to regain his wings while Takaumu turns to an old ally for some imperative schooling in a dangerous fighting method in order to combat Dusk Taker’s abilities, while a shock betrayal rocks their relationships to the core, while lessening their odds of victory.
As before while the real life issues are designed to remind us that the people behind these heroic avatars are ordinary human beings, thus upping the ante in the virtual world when the two conflicting sides finally do battle. The problem is of course, that if these issues are born from personality clashes away from the online world then why are they not dealt with as such? Granted that takes all the fun out of the show but if someone beats you in a video game, what’s stopping you from kicking the stuffing out of them in real life in retaliation? As it happens Kawahara has thought of that, and not just using the old get out of everyone not knowing everyone else’s avatars either. It’s a convenient plot device but we’ll take it since it at least delivers a suitable enough conclusion to the series, which at this point hasn’t yet begat a sequel.
The final episodes are exceptionally dark and tense with some brutal battles taking place, featuring some rather violent injuries sustained by the virtual reality fighters, not to mention the decidedly unhealthy attitude of new villain Seiji. With no explanation as to what made him so ruthless and unpleasant aside from the idea of being king of the gamers, he is a rather one dimensional, stock bad guy although one thing he arguably isn’t, is bland. One of his devious acts is to set up a camera in the girls’ locker room and frame Haru for it. What a cad!
As a counterbalance to this a greater emphasis on comedy has been placed on situations away from the main plot, notably the two episode diversion of Kuroyukihime’s Okinawa trip. Set on the beach this tries to appeal to the fan service brigade, but with Kuroyukihime and her partner both being skinny girls the effect is lost making these scenes as awkward as they are unnecessary. However there is some action to be found when two young girls challenge Kuroyukihime out of nowhere, whom she defeats easily then learns they want her to help rid their online territory of a bullying presence.
It’s not enough that this appears right after a crucial plot development in the main story, making us wait for the continuation, but the content is full of all the clichés and other lazy anime tropes the show had tried to avoid thus far, with the two girls providing the moe appeal while their avatars are from magical girl stock, the aforementioned ineffective fan service and the silliness of the of the antagonist.
While Accel World stands in the shadow of its more well know, popular and better promoted stable mate Sword Art Online the evidence from this volume is that Kawahara has thought this one through a bit better. It still possesses a few cavils here and there, and tries to pander too much to a wider audience with its content, high school setting and character designs – although SAO’s latter half switch to a more harem comedy based direction was by far the more risible of the two. This series at least stuck to it core story and principles and its scope for further adventures inside the world of Brain Burst is much wider and plausible than the rather limited cachet of SAO.
In its own way Accel World is an enjoyable enough take on the virtual reality genre that can hold its head up high – even if the lead protagonist is still difficult to take seriously right to the end!
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Rating – ***
Man In Black