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.)
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.
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.
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.