Accel World Review

This is review number eighty five. I’m trying to wrap up the Spring 2012 lineup since they all closed their doors pretty recently. I have a lot more to see though. I’m currently reviewing anime from three different seasons. Oh boy, I feel tired.

The anime I’m reviewing today is Accel World. It’s a twenty four episode anime about a fat kid bagging the hottest girl in school. Lucky bastard. It’s Shounen and it’s very nice, I guess.

Story

Accel World is about Haruyuki Arita, a fat kid who is being bullied by his classmates. He hates the real world and escapes in a virtual reality world where he builds up high scores on his favorite game, Squash. One day, he was surprised to find his high score toppled by someone. It crushed him. As he lay on the floor defeated, the most popular girl in his school, Black Snow Princess, approached him. She asked him if he wanted to change his life. He said yes. She offered a way to do it. All Haruyuki had to do is to install this program she gave him. This program is called Brain Burst and it has the power to make time stand still by accelerating a person’s brainwaves in the real world. He uses the power of Brain Burst to get rid of his bullies and he was happy. However, he soon realized that Brain Burst is more than a useful tool to improve his life. The program is actually a virtual reality massive multiplayer online fighting game and he has to collect Burst Points in order to keep the program. If he can’t then he’ll revert back to his normal. Something he doesn’t want to do.

Taking the Pants Off

After being disappointed by Arcana Famiglia, I finally got to review a Shounen anime. I’ve reviewed a lot of genre but following the seasonal list, there is always a lack of Shounen and I didn’t really expect Accel World to be one. I thought it’ll be a weird pervy anime. This anime is action packed and very complex. I must admit though that it was a refreshing anime to watch because it followed the Shounen rule but pushed the boundaries as far as it could. The outcome is a big swing and a miss though. I have mixed feelings after watching this anime because I do realize it tried to innovate the genre but it sacrificed a lot to achieve it.

First of all, this anime is very complex because it has a lot of terminologies in it. The Brain Burst game is also very detailed. I actually thought the anime was adapted from an RPG game but, to my surprise, it was originally a light novel. I love the detailed explanation of the game. Brain Burst is a fighting game and as you fight, you gain points. You use those points to level up. The highest level is ten and the prize to reaching that level is that you’ll meet the creator of the mysterious program. However, when a player reaches that level, the game permanently uninstall and forever vanishes from this world. To prevent that, the level 9 players called a truce and divided the stages of the game to themselves to rule. The avatars the players use are created automatically by having the game access their mental traumas. The avatars are manifestations of the player’s fears and weaknesses. They have abilities unique to them and they are divided into color classes with their own strengths and weaknesses. The game accelerates your brain so one second in the real world is 1000 seconds in the virtual reality world. There are a lot more to Brain Burst that the anime gradually reveals but that’s the basics of it.

The anime starts from scratch which means it establishes the status quo. It introduced the characters and their role in the anime. That took six episodes to do. The feeling out process is long because the Brain Burst game was slowly introduced the same time the status quo is being established. It will intrigue you though because the game is so inviting. There is one thing the anime didn’t explain that much and that was the setting of the anime. It is set in Tokyo in the year 2046. The world has gone virtual and almost everything is high tech. The people in this place use Neuro Linkers, a device you can attach to your neck and it basically acts as a computer projecting holograms that only you can see. You can type with a keyboard, send emails, phone a friend and even play virtual reality (VR) games with it. It’s a pretty cool device that I would like to own. Anyways, the status quo of the anime took six episodes to establish. It’s mostly about Haruyuki slowly discovering the inner workings of the game while slowly being enchanted by the most popular girl in school. He is grateful to her because he gave meaning to his life and has sworn to become strong enough to protect her. Miss Black Snow Princess is a level 9 though so she does most of the protecting. She fondly likes Haruyuki though. She has feelings for her that she has never felt before when it comes to boys. Stop right there.

This is where I find the game to be innovative. I’ve been accustomed to the normal guy with no discerning abilities becoming “the one”. I like teenage heroes like Yosuke from Yu Yu Hakusho, Saito from Zero no Tsukaima or even Shuzo from Now and Then, Here and There because they depict the “normal” and scrawny type of hero that we gradually admire as they get stronger. They are the type we can relate to so I find it a bit off putting to see a four foot tall character that has short limbs and a rounded body to take the role of a hero. I like cliché because they aren’t really bad; they’re there for a reason. Cliché help us familiarize with the characters or the anime. I don’t want a 300 pound damsel in distress. I don’t want to see an infant getting raped in a hentai. I don’t want the bad guy to win in the end. So seeing a fat butter ball for a hero? I don’t like it. I dub him the anime version of Cartman from South Park. Do you see the similarities? Haha. I find it innovating though because Accel World’s hero is not cut from the same Shounen cloth most anime is. He’s original, unique and interesting. As much as I hate him getting it on with a hottie like the Black Snow Princess, I give props to the anime for giving us a hero we would never sympathize with. I just don’t like the fact that he gets the hot girl. I’ve seen characters like him be nothing more than comic relief but never a hero. I’m an open minded guy but this hero just never clicked with me. Maybe it’s time for fat guys to be heroes. Maybe. We shall see. In the meantime, I am against it. I am against this:

And this:

And f*cking this:

He maybe fat but he does have a personality fitting of a Shounen main character. He has a massive inferiority complex that he constantly battles with every time he faces a problem. I admire the fact that he faces all of his problems head on and overcomes them. He started out as this kid being bullied by others but he slowly transform into a dependable standup guy who scores the most popular girl in school. His inferiority complex adds some spice to the fights in the anime. He’s the “I can’t do it” type of person at first but he rises to the occasion and fights back. I am guilty of jumping up my seat seeing him take the offensive in fights because it was cool. Fights in Shounen anime should be cool and this anime did a great job at it. There is a very small cast in this anime and they are all introduced in the first half. There were also a lot of plot points introduced in the anime. The anime did a great job pacing the story that the events in the anime weren’t overwhelming.

It takes you six episodes to get a grasp of the anime then the remaining first half of the anime was about the first arc. I don’t want to spoil much about it but it had a lot of plot points in it that was nicely told by the anime. The most important part is that you understand the anime’s appeal. This anime is an Action/School anime. If you’ve seen some JC Staff anime then you know what I’m talking about. This anime is about the Brain Burst world where Haruyuki is slowly trying to become strong along with his friends and his *sigh* lover. It’s also about his real life. The complicated friendship he has with his two best friends, his school life and just his life outside the game world. The anime focuses all the action and bad assery in the Brain Burst world where anyone can punch anyone and it focuses all the comedy, fan service, romantic teases on the real world. It smartly maintains its balance through that simple means. It’s a great way for the complicated story to make sense. It’s also a smart way to flesh out the characters. After the first half, you’ll easily understand the anime’s appeal and its great potential.

The first half of the anime was really exciting. It was Shounen with an added twist. The incorporation of the RPG element enhanced the genre and made the anime more interesting. I wish I could say the same for the second half. The anime took a bit of a hard hit after episode twelve. The rest of the anime featured one single arc that badly hurt the potential of the anime. Here’s my gripe with the anime. It introduced conflict among the level 9 characters who are dubbed as “kings” and I was wide eyed excited when I saw two level 9 characters beat each other in the first half. I wanted more of that. I wanted to see the anime introduce the remaining kings. The anime also introduced a plot point where Haruyuki and friends are under the new Black king’s legion and they are expanding their territory. I was hoping to see more of those territorial fights in the second half. The thing I was excited the most though is that the anime will continue the story of Haruyuki attempting to reach the highest level and end the game. Can you imagine all of those exciting plot points clash and merge and eventually deliver an action packed second half? It’s the ultimate Shounen cliché that I was excited to see. This anime did a lot of great things in the first half that it’s only obvious that it raises the bar on the second half.

The second half of the anime actually never mentions any of the established plot points in the first half and introduced a new one. I’m fine with that because this might end in five episodes or less. In fact, the entire story of the second half could end in five episodes but the anime decided to spread it out to twelve episodes. The first major arc in the anime took six episodes so it felt like an insult when the anime cop out in the second half. The pacing was dragged and the story had a lot of plot holes in it.

I must admit that I loved the villain in the second half. He was the ultimate jerk that literally had the main characters lick his feet. I love his arrogance and his smug face really pushed my buttons. The reason he was so effective is because the story was dragged out for twelve episodes. All the fights in the second half had this arrogant bastard be on top with his underhanded tactics. As a villain, he was very effective but the idea that I could’ve been watching the level 9 kings beat each other instead of seeing the main characters act helpless for ten episodes just ruins the second half for me. All the progress of the first half was halted just so one guy, ONE GUY, could beat our main characters. I love his manipulative personality but it isn’t enough to make the second half interesting. Since the pacing was dragged, the anime had a lot more talking than fighting. The first half did have a lot of it too but the second half has way too much of it. I was even skipping some of the scenes because I wanted to see some action.

The twist in the end of the second half was unexpected though so I give them points for that. Since the story was so weak at that point, the twist came out at a very smart time. It’s still not enough to make the second half better though. Haruyuki was made to look very weak despite his progress in the first half just to accommodate the length of the second half. To see the main characters get mopped to the floor, formulate a plan and then have another character defeat the bad guy is pretty painful to watch. Maybe the anime realized that it couldn’t cover much of the light novel in twenty four episodes so it decided to cop out on the second half. If that’s the case, I don’t mind seeing twelve episodes of the anime rather than twenty four.

Sight and Sound

The character design in the anime is pretty simple. In the real world, the anime is pretty restrained in terms of design. Nothing really stands out except for Haruyuki, the anime version of Cartman. I really hate the guy. Almost everyone is your typical anime character except for him who is as tall as a coffee table. The girls are your typical frail types and it’s mostly a blend of cute and sexy that makes the characters stand out. Black Snow Princess is pretty hot, especially when she cosplays. I love that big butterfly wings when she in the VR world. There is a large range of costumes in the VR world which I really like because it captures the RPG appeal of the anime.

Most of the Shounen art style appears in the Brain Burst world. All of the characters in this world are really awesome. Most of them are like human sized mechas crossed with a Sentai outfit. I really like it because no characters look alike and the details on the characters are pretty nice. Some of the characters remind me of those cute little robots in Medabots and most of them are just goofy looking ones with some basic shapes. There is a large range of character design here too which captures the MMORPG appeal.

The fight scenes are really great. The anime utilizes shaky camera techniques to amplify the scenes. The use different angles on most of them like when Haruyuki is flying or when a bunch of missile rockets scatter in the air makes the scenes more exciting  The fight scenes themselves are pretty straight forward but it is used to enhance the story as well. The anime is pretty smart in doing the storytelling in the fights which makes them a lot more exciting.

The anime had two opening songs. The first one is “Chase the world” by May’n. It’s your typical Shounen opening. It has a fast beat, some impressive instruments and Mayn’s voice is really nice. The opening basically summarizes the first half. It introduced all the characters, even the side characters, which was a bit misleading. At least there was no spoiler which is good. The second one is “Burst The Gravity” by ALTIMA. It’s like the first one, really. It’s a fast paced song with a catchy beat. It again summarized the anime introducing all the characters that appeared in the second half. Maybe it was a way to keep viewers interested but, boy, they were very precise in the characters appearing in the OP.

The anime also had two endings. The first one is “→unfinished→” by KOTOKO. It oddly has the same beat and energy as the OP songs. I do love the flashy ending sequence with the open windows swirling around the characters. It was very unique. The second ED song is “Unite” by Sachika Misawa is honestly the same. Four songs of the anime sound the same. I’m not really good at critiquing music so they basically sound the same to me. Not one slow ballad in the anime. Shounen over kill much?

Overall Score

8/10 “Great first half, weak second half”

I have mixed feelings for this anime but for an impartial review, it is pretty good. It’s a satisfying Shounen anime with all the fixing and it captured the world of MMORPG pretty spot on. The fight scenes are exciting and there is much to enjoy in this anime. I recommend it.

Thoughts~

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