Accel World is an anime adaptation of the light novel series by Reki Kawahara. The light novels have been very successful in Japan, having already been adapted into two manga series and two unreleased video games (to be launched on the PS3 and PSP).
The anime, slated for 24 episodes, began airing on April 6th. It’s directed by Masakazu Obara – a relative newcomer to the directing scene, and the adaptation’s writing is done by Hiroyuki Yoshino – who has done some screen writing work for Code Geass and Macross Frontier. The anime is being produced by Studio Sunrise. Sunrise has worked on a number of very impressive and well-known titles including Kekkaishi, Cowboy Bebop, and Mobile Suit Gundam. English rights have been picked up by Viz Media.
The show carries a rather interesting plotline. The year is 2040, and a technology called Nuero-synchronization has become widespread. This technology has become perhaps even more commonplace than the internet in our society. Nuero-synchronization allows people to manipulate their own senses and allows users to access virtual worlds. Schooling takes place in actual buildings, but lessons and homework and such are all done digitally.
Our protagonist is a short, fat high school student named Haruyuki Arita. Haru harbors a lot of self-loathing, and that self-hatred is accentuated by his virtual reality avatar. Where his classmates have beautiful versions of themselves in fantastical costumes decorated with neko ears or gossamer wings, Haru’s avatar is a two-foot tall pig. His two best friends are now dating, and Haru feels extremely alone. Not to mention he’s being bullied every day at school. And Haru’s only escape is a long-forgotten version of virtual squash at which he is completely undefeated.
But Haru’s life changes forever after he meets up with the high school Student Body Vice-President, Kuroyukihime. She not only stops his bullying issue, but also introduces him to a secret program Brain Burst. The Brain Burst program allows those who can use it to accelerate their brainwaves. Thus, in the virtual world, time all but stops for them, allowing users to react smartly to any situation they are presented with. But the program is more than just that. Haru quickly finds himself in the middle of a cut-throat fighting-style MMO game in which all of the individuals with the Brain Burst program are fighting in order to take points from one another. Points are vital to those with the program, as every time a user accelerates, he uses up one of his points. Once the points are gone, the Brain Burst program deletes itself and users are no longer able to accelerate.
Over the first four episodes, Haru is attempting to deal with high school drama on top of adjusting to this new program he has been gifted. He also doesn’t know what to make of Kuroyukihime’s attentions. Episode Four throws a pretty big wrench into the plot of the show, which surprised me considering how long the show has left to run. No spoilers here, though, you’ll have to watch!
To be honest, I’m a little lukewarm on Accel World. The art is very good in every respect except for Haru. I’m not entirely sure why the decision was made to make Haru so… comical in appearance. Short and fat I can understand. And that appearance is important to Haru’s character. But he is so short and rotund in comparison with the other characters of the show who are much more typically anime-styled that it seems to break what could be a moving character. The show moves pretty quickly, and often times feels over-dramatic, even for a high-school anime.
That isn’t to say the show is bad by any stretch of the imagination. The animation is very smooth and the voice acting is lovely. None of the characters have voices that are overly grating, at least thus far. The dialogue is good as well, and the subject matter is interesting. The show just has a few quirks that make it a bit difficult for me to give a fully positive recommendation.
But, if you like science fiction shows or high school dramas (which there are plenty of out there these days), Accel World has a lot to offer. It’s certainly more interesting than a lot of the shows that came out last season. It may not be a ground-breaking show that will challenge your worldview, but it is certainly worth a watch.
Check out Accel World on Hulu.