Synopsis: Haruyuki Arita is an overweight, bullied middle schooler who finds solace in playing online games. But his life takes a drastic turn one day, when he finds that all his high scores have been topped by Kuroyukihime, the popular vice president of the student council. She then invites him to the student lounge and introduces him to “Brain Burst,” a program which allows the users to accelerate their brain waves to the point where time seems to stop. Brain Burst also functions as an augmented reality fighting game, and in order to get more points to accelerate, users must win duels against other players. However, if a user loses all their points, they will also lose access to Brain Burst forever.
Kuroyukihime explains that she chose to show Haruyuki the program because she needs his help. She wants to meet the creator of Brain Burst and uncover the reason of why it was created, but that’s easier said than done; to do so, she must defeat the “Six Kings of Pure Colour,” powerful faction leaders within the game, and reach level 10, the highest level attainable. After the girl helps Haruyuki overcome the bullies that torment him, he vows to help her realise her goal, and so begins the duo’s fight to reach the top.
Contains minor spoilers- read at your own risk.
Accel World is sci-fi done right. The world in which the show is set is beautifully created and sets the scene for an engaging story with decent character development and despite the odd speedbump on the way; is a highly rewarding and engaging anime.
Accel World is set in 2046; in a technologically dependent society- where every child at birth is fitted with a device called a neuro linker. These devices are essentially high-tech computers controlled by brain waves- allowing you to use it without use of a keyboard or anything else; just your own mind. In particular, a special application called Brain Burst and the Accelerated World is the main setting of the show. Without going into too much detail, the world building in the show is excellent. The contrast between the real world and the accelerated world (where you can spend weeks and nary a minute pass in the real world) is stark and instantly intrigues and immerses you into the story and the main goal of the show; to become a Level 10 Burst Linker. This is where the show must be sincerely commended- as our protagonists are actually the antagonists in the big picture of the story and despite this, you still want them to succeed and feel attached to them; this is credit to the way the show and in particular the original source material is written.
I have seen many people chastise this show for the design and personality of the lead character- Haruyuki Arita. Unlike a normal anime protagonist, Haruyuki is short, fat, uncharismatic, unpopular and suffers from crippling anxiety and depression. It is rare to encounter many anime characters- in mainstream shounen/ action shows at least that tackle this area; let alone the story’s main character. I can personally relate to this character and I find him to be endearing and easy to empathise with. Speaking from experience, being of a larger build can seriously affect your mental state when it comes to interacting with those around you; even those you hold dear. This can lead to you driving them away; just like Haruyuki has in the show with his childhood companions Chiyuri and Taku. You begin to see yourself as a burden on others and that you are negatively affecting their lives just by existing in the same space as them. This intensifies as time goes on and it is almost like you erect a shield around yourself; isolating yourself from other people due to your own anxieties and distrust. Even when someone sticks a hand out to help, you insist on fixing the problem yourself; not wanting to rely on others to fix your problems, to waste their time on you: again, Chiyuri being chased away by Haruyuki- leaving their friendship fractured. Haruyuki is being bullied consistently and due to this, his mind has been severely warped; leaving him with little self-worth and in his eyes, no hope for happiness. Of course, this changes in Episode one when he finally accepts the hand of the main heroine Kuroyukihime- who introduces him to the world of Brain Burst but it is worth appreciating Haruyuki backstory and how well thought out it truly is. It is an accurate portrayal of a young teenager’s struggles with his own psyche and how, even when things get better, the effects of this trauma and abuse last throughout the run of the show.
Kuroyukihime. No real name mentioned- even at school they call her ‘hime’ which means princess in English. She introduces Haruyuki to ‘Brain Burst’ and the two become partners inside the game. Hime is known as the Black King in the game- a rouge burst linker who is the most wanted and hated character in the game. The Black King is as reliant on Haruyuki- in game name Silver Crow- as he is on her due to her past in game trauma; the reason she has become an outlaw in the accelerated world, is finally being addressed due to the companionship of the gentle Silver Crow. As a heroine, she is everything one could want- compassionate, endearing and driven; and completed devoted to Haruyuki. Her backstory is endearing and makes you want to root for her despite her being on the ‘evil side’ and she works together perfectly with Haruyuki. However, at times, she can take things slightly too far in regard to explanations and the like (dragging on slightly) and falls victim of the odd, poorly utilised trope. Despite this, she is an excellent character that has real emotional depth and is a pivotal character in Accel World.
The supporting cast is fairly strong, and I am not going to address them one by one. That would be incredibly tedious for all of us. However, one supporting cast member does stand out but unfortunately, not in a good way. Chiyuri is an incredibly irritating character and actually makes the show worse a lot of the time. She dates one of her childhood friends (called Taku) whilst having a crush on Haruyuki and acts as if she has been betrayed; despite practically attempting to woo Haruyuki whilst dating Taku. This irks me in anime and real-life, but I can let that pass; annoying but not critical. However, things do get worse as Chiyuri- eventually becomes a Burst Linker along with the rest of the Black King’s team- she almost immediately betrays them. Yes, her intentions were good but the mindset and thought behind them is so warped that it makes little to no sense; opening up a plot hole and essentially- playing for time and adding in excess, unnecessary drama to the show. Even though I was initially rooting for Chiyuri, this quickly wore off due to her incredibly irritating, irrational behaviour and I found myself swearing almost every time she appeared; especially in the final arc of the show. This is redeemed slightly in the final episode but as far as I am concerned; it is too little too late.
The story line itself is fairly strong and a strong mixture between character drama and humour is to be merited but unfortunately, it does hit a couple of rough patches. The story races through the standard introduction and party building arcs- with a few added extras for good measure before reaching its second cour. This all works well and engrosses you in the story and the world in which it is set but the occasional plot line; such as where Haruyuki and Taku fight doesn’t quite hit the right note where it seems the drama is almost artificial or overdone. In the second cour the show begins to slightly lose its way due to its reliance on Chiyuri, slightly repetitive content and almost a general lack of direction. As a one off, I quite enjoy taking the main character out of his main group and trying him in different groups and story-lines but when this happens three or four times in quick succession, it feels like the story has become disjointed and lacks direction. These dalliances do add to Haruyuki character in the end but could have been omitted or streamlined to create a more immersive experience. This arc is not all bad however, and builds up to a wonderful tense finale where the main antagonist- for this arc at least; Noumi, is one bad dude and the way the final fight pans out in particular is very satisfying and very well written. In particular, Noumi’s character is a perfect fit for the show and really adds a sinister feel to the arc. It is just a shame that the finale could have been reached 2 or 3 episodes sooner than it was. The dragging out of this conflict leaves the show in a sort of limbo for a couple of episodes where little really happens until the final fight.
In addition, the story whilst good; is nowhere near finished. This anime adapts the first four volumes of the Light Novel series. Volume 20 was published last month; meaning there is plenty of material and a recent release of a game (worldwide no less!) and a movie hint that there is a market for this show if they ever feel like making a sequel; which considering where they left the story, would be much appreciated.
The graphics in the show are also worthy of commendation- in particular, the contrast between the real world and the Accelerated World is shown superbly. The bright, striking visuals in the real world in contrast to the dystopian feeling Accelerated World is joyous and really immerses you into the world. Furthermore, the character designs; in both the real world and the avatars used in the Accelerated World are fitting and visually appealing. I have previously mentioned Haruyuki appearance but will reiterate that going with his looks- short, fat and in severe contrast with everything around him; it was a brave choice that may turn some viewers off but one that I laud. The avatars are particularly interesting and there is a huge array of Burst Linkers; each giving their own distinct feel. Yes, despite sucking as a friend and romantic interest in the show and being an all-round terrible character, even Chiyuri looks good in the show…
A quick mention regarding the music; the first and second openings both utilise a sort of techno-pop that fits the world of the show very, very well whilst not being the catchiest of tunes nor the most memorable. The first ending takes a similar approach, but the second ending song is far better in my opinion- mixing an emotional female vocal with a slow rock backing track creating a more mellow song and addressing the more emotional aspect of the show. The background music, in the Accelerated World in particular- adds the suspense necessary and enhances the viewing experience- along with some top-level voice acting; where every character’s voice fits them down to a tee. The standout for me is the emotional performance that Yuki Kaji gives as Haruyuki- adding depth and emotional value to his character.
To sum up, Accel World is a very good show that I would recommend to fans of all genres. If you can look past to the protagonist’s character design, the odd unlikable character (Chiyuri) and an arc that just about overstays its welcome before concluding in a rewarding way, Accel World is more than worth a few hours of your time due to its incredible world, relatable protagonist and a story that leaves you wanting more. I want more.
Score: 75/100 A strong sci-fi action show that is engaging, with strong character development and only a few, minor shortcomings.
Thanks for reading, tell me what you thought of the show and give it a score below!