Accel World [Anime Review]

Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment

Title: Accel World
Anime Studio: Sunrise
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Action / Romance / Sci-Fi
Released: April 27th, 2020
Classification: 15
Language: Japanese / English
Discs: 4

From zero to hero Harayuki Arita’s life is about to change when he befriends the aloof Kuroyukihime. A respected member of the student council, she hides a sinister second life that was once thought to be long dead. Except Kuroyukihime is looking to revive her former life and she needs Harayuki’s help.

But entering her world is fraught full of danger especially for a novice like him. Can Harayuki rise above his weaknesses and become her knight in shining armor?

Accel World was a real surprise. I’ve found the VR based anime that have popped up have been a bit of a mixed bag. Knowing that this was based on a series of light novel by Reki Kawahara, the creator of Sword Art Online, made me a little wary. You see, SAO always felt poor compared to .Hack// to me. This though had a lot going for it.

The main protagonist, Harayuki Arita, really stood out for me. Far from the typical shounen pretty boy, he’s a short, overweight lad, who suffers from daily bullying. While a lot of the characters in the series seem to fit the normally expected art style, he actually comes across as looking like he should be in a show aimed at younger viewers.

He’s interesting too. He has a handful of friends, is great at online gaming, and of course, gets the girl in the end. However, he still feels pretty hopeless, which is absolutely a result of the bullying. As a result, he suffers from self doubt and his development is slow. That works well, and opens up a really nice arc about him losing part of his online character, and having to overcome that. As protagonists go, he’s a wonderful creation.

That’s not to say that the other cast members are weak either. The core cast fit their roles well and, though sometimes feeling like tools to progress Harayuki, they each have enough personality to stand on their own. I particularly liked Harayuki’s childhood friend Chiyuri Kurashima. She’s a good friend to him and plays a pivotal role through the story.

The world itself is also well thought out and, at times, feels very real in terms of being a natural progression from our own world. The Neuro-Link augmented reality set up is familiar aesthetically but suitably advanced enough to feel futuristic. That there are some real-world rewards to playing Brain Burst makes it logical that people would actually want to participate in what is actually quite a stressful game.

The animation is strong too, with the real world scenes looking absolutely fine alongside others from the same era, and the game scenes being suitably dynamic. The regular avatar designs are fairly generic, but in a way that fits within the world setting. Meanwhile, the Brain Burst avatars are a little more varied, but still take some clear influence from other genres. The soundtrack didn’t really stand out to me but wasn’t in any way bad, and both the dub and sub cast performed well.

There was one downside to the series though. Despite the 24 episode run time, we don’t get to see the cast reach their ultimate goal. Don’t get me wrong, we certain tie off enough loose ends to be satisfied, but it’s such an enjoyable story, it feels a shame to not see them reach the heights they’re aiming for. Now, this is due to the series only adapting the first four light novels, so there’s an option to continue the story there. I just wish we had gotten another run to show us more of the world.

Overall, Accel World is a wonderful series. Featuring an excellent protagonist, a good mix of realism and fantastical elements, and an enjoyable story, it scores an easy 4 out of 5 from me. Well worth picking up.

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