Where do I begin?
Title: Accel World
TV Series; Episodes 24
Genre: Action, Shounen, Sci-Fi
Accel World follows the story of Haru, a young but obese kid that gets picked on by his peers. His only solace comes in the form of his two childhood friends, Taku and Chiyu. But sadly for him the two are dating so he feels like a third wheel at best. But as fate would have it, he meets the enigmatic Kuroyuki, a girl that is like royalty at his school. She takes him in and gives him the program Brain Burst, which changes his life.
Brain Burst is a virtual reality game where players, called Burst Linkers, duke it out for points. Whenever someone directly links to the game world, real world time passes at a snail crawl due to the way the software affects the brain. This has many real world advantages as it lets people slow down time to make decisions, such as playing a sport or taking a test.
The basic premise of the show seems fun enough. It’s an excuse for characters to run about with wildly flavorful powers, battling it out for glories untold in the virtual realm. What irks me about it though is how seriously the characters take it. Sure there is the whole situation where if you loose all your points the game forcibly uninstalls itself, but that doesn’t seem that important. It’s a game after all.
The series really tries to earn some gravitas for the story by proving how important the game is to Haru, who had nothing before he starting playing. At times I can buy into it, but isn’t before long I am shaking my head saying, “It’s not that serious”.
It’s a problem that plagues the first half of the show. As a viewer I wasn’t compelled to buy into the world. As events panned out I found my disinterest to wax. Plot twists were thrown about and changes in the dynamics failed to provoke my interest. The series was trying to hard.
The second half of the narrative did make me question my first impressions. Villains are introduced who have real world ramifications. Accel World finally seemed to be taking advantage of its two settings to fullest. Storylines wove between the real and virtual to knit together a more compelling story line.
But alas, it wasn’t enough. The reward for investing twelve episodes for a mildly better series is not enough. Poor writing and lazy story boarding can do that to a show. Much of the scripting for the series is heavy handed. The movement of the scenes might jump from a snails pace to breakneck in an instant, but their emotional intensities don’t change. This one note direction just exacerbated my resentment for the show as a hole. But sadly this is not the most glaring problem. Most of it due to the characterization of the cast and their development throughout the series.
The part that frustrates me the most is that Accel World hopes to garner favor for the antagonist because of his obese stature and not a genuinely interesting personality. Haru, is a overly emotional teenager at best and a fountain of unfounded tears at worst. Neither of these are quite attractive. He doesn’t show much nuance or depth in his persona.
It’s a problem suffered by most of the supporting cast. Taku was self-depricating, Kuroyuki was controlling, and Niko was self-righteous. Chiyu was the most dynamic, showing the greatest amount of growth in the show. There isn’t much to say about them individually as there wasn’t any subtlety in the creation of their characters.
The production on the other hand was fantastic. The bright colors and wonder special effects were supported by fantastic animation. Choreography was carefully orchestrated and created some suspenseful action sequences. It was a treat week in and week out to see a fight unfold in Accel World.
While the voice acting was serviceable the music really stood out aurally. Both “Chase the world” by May’n and “Burst The Gravity” by ALTIMA are poppy tunes that are easy to sing along to. They are shining examples of the shounen standard for great songs. The closing “Unite (ユナイト)” by Sachika Misawa is of note, as I caught myself humming the tune after every episode.
Sadly, Accel World is a show with a ton of potential. I really wish that the great setting was taken advantage of. Its a great example how poor writing can be the cause for lackluster characters and story telling that ruins an experience. The fantastic animation isn’t enough to save the show. Honestly, if there is a second season, I hope it can correct the mistakes of the past.