Final Review: Accel World

DISCLAIMER: Anime reviews on this blog will attempt minimal to no spoilers unless otherwise noted. If a review seems dull or shallow, it’s because I’m trying to make sure not to go into too detail for those who are actually interested in the show before or after reading the review or those who have yet to finish the title. If you want further details, there are usually tons of reviews that can be found elsewhere on the internet. Furthermore, anime reviews in general are the sole opinion of the author writing it and thus differ across the users. There is no such thing as a “right answer” only a majority agreement. You are free to have your own opinions and thereby free to state and/or argue/debate in the comments section below or on the Fansub TV Forums. The review is not necessarily meant to serve as a recommendation but rather a personal opinion of having completed the series.

Accel World is based on a series of light novel by the same author who wrote the ongoing Sword Art Online. Accel World is set in a futuristic setting (year 2046) where kids now have access to virtual reality networks. However, only a select few are able to access a program known as Brain Burst, which allows the user to put themselves in an accelerated world (hence the title) MMORPG like game. The story focuses on Haruyuki Arita who is constantly bullied due to his physical appearance. Only in virtual reality games does he feel he can excel and have his mind at peace, that is until his high score in his favorite game is beaten by the prettiest girl in school, Kuroyuki-Hime. Through their meeting, Haruyuki’s life has began to change. Accel World aired during the Spring and Summer 2012 anime seasons, was simulcasted by Hulu, and licensed by Viz Media.

Accel’s World overarching story is nothing special really. It’s the run of the mill sci-fi setting with a virtual reality game attached to it. However, the Brain Burst concept is pretty cool albeit a bit ridiculous at times (e.g. physically accelerating (Physical Full Burst I think?). Having read the first arc of the light novels, I thought this show had some potential in it. The first arc of the show is pretty much Haruyuki getting used to the game and Kuroyuki-Hime, the exiled black region king, getting back into the game after her betrayal. The overall motive is to get to the “mysterious” level 10 status, which supposedly no one has done as it required defeating a level 9 opponent permanently. This aspect of the story gradually slips away as the series progresses, especially in the second cour where the supposedly worst arc of the novel to date is animated. Indeed, Noumi’s character is unlikable, and not for just being a jerk but also uninteresting overall. There is little development in this second half of the series as Kuroyuki-Hime is not only left out but we don’t really get anywhere with any other character’s development. Chiyu is now in the game and that’s really about it. Story wise, it hit a high point at the end of the first cour and probably should have ended it there and then do a 24 episode adaptation after that if this second arc was truly the worst arc. Character wise, Haruyuki’s character is somewhat unique. You don’t see many fat characters really running the show. Taku is rather annoying with the whole friendship concept and constantly repeating that after he becomes “good.” Conclusion wise, it’s a fitting conclusion that wraps up the current arc but probably not the best note to leave off on. Pacing is overall solid though.

Art is pretty nice for this show. Solid details with appropriate levels of CGI. Character designs are okay but generally well drawn and crisp. Animation is by Sunrise, a studio known for mecha designs. Accel World is no exception with mecha like designs of duel avatars. Outside of Brain Burst though, the animation could use some work but not much to really complain. Visually speaking, the show is quite pretty. However, when too many effects get on the screen (e.g. some of the fire/flame effects), the show begins to mix and match colors making it difficult on the eyes. Considering Sunrise has been doing Gundam AGE and Phi Brain for the last year, this is definitely one of their better animated titles recently, especially when you look at say Natsuiro Kiseki’s animation quality and occasionally Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou. Can’t necessarily say the same for Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon though.

OP1 is by May’n, ED1 by KOTOKO, OP2 by ALTIMA, ED2 by Sachika Misawa. OP1 is okay but lately I haven’t been a fan of May’n’s songs despite what others say about it. ED1 is great and is arguably the best song of the show. It is by KOTOKO, who is showing that she really is coming back strong after weakening for the last few years. Still nowhere near as her mid-2000s prime though. OP2 is also solid with ALTIMA continuing to show that they are a solid group outside of the two Shakugan no Shana themes they debuted with. Sachika Misawa, who is also the seiyuu for Kuroyuki-Hime is making her grand singing debut with ED2. It’s not a bad song to start and she’s got quite the voice to boot. I potentially look forward to more songs from her. Background and sound effects are quite solid for this show all around. Seiyuu is also strong overall with a Sachika Misawa requiring a bit of applause. A lot of people seem to dislike her as Kuroyuki-Hime. Yes, the “grand speech” from Black Lotus was probably not the best it could have been but I think she did a fine job in the overall role. You could easily pull another experienced “hime/oujo-sama” seiyuu and do the same thing but for a primary debut role, I think she definitely tried and did the best job she could have. I, personally didn’t see a problem with this.

Enjoyment? As I said before, the first cour was definitely enjoyable. The second not so much. Accel World’s second arc was very fortunate to be in a season with low anime quality and the boring portions of Sword Art Online as well. In any other season, say Winter 2011, Spring 2011 or even Fall 2011, I think this show would have been blown out of the water and discarded. Presentation seemed generally faithful with a proper balance of improvement and action. We do nee more character development though instead of Haruyuki winning with sheer will power, especially if he wants to change how he is perceived by others.

Overall, Accel World is a fine and easy watch. It’s difficult to say right now whether Sword Art Online or Accel World is the better anime (NOT LIGHT NOVEL!) as they both have their fair share of flaws at this point. Personally, I prefer Sword Art Online  as Accel World currently takes Dennou Coil and makes it into a more shounen action title. If I had to recommend stuff, Dennou Coil would definitely be at the top of the list followed by .hack//sign, and then maybe Accel World. Hopefully, however, that with the supposedly boring arc out of the way, we’ll see a future adaptation of the more interesting arcs. On a side note, the ED video was completely out of place in the final episode. Also, who is this “Sacchan.”

Story and Character:

  • Premise (0.5/1): Sci-fi/futuristic setting is pretty bland. Brain Burst is a cool concept though.
  • Character Personalities (1/1): Haruyuki’s character is relatively unique. You don’t see many fat leads. Not to mention his avatar is literally a pig.
  • Character Development (0.5/2): We need more character development. The show is lacking in both Haruyuki and Kuroyuki-Hime’s past. They keep saying “forget about it” or “I don’t want to remember it” but it doesn’t give foundation to the story then.
  • Character Usefulness/Presence (1/2): I’m surprised that with the mention of all these legions, particularly the yellow one that we didn’t see more sneak attacks or all out wars. Outside the four leads, the rest are generally forgettable. Heck, Kuroyuki-Hime was forgettable at one point due to not showing up for much of the second half.
  • Pacing: (1/1): Pacing is solid overall. The show adapted what it could in 24 episodes while staying relatively close to the original source.
  • Reasonable/Plausible (2/2): Deductions aren’t at the level of Hyouka but there’s definitely some “decent critical thinking” going on in some of the explanations, despite being easy at times.
  • Conclusion (1/1): Overall strong conclusion and finally closes off the boring arc. As expected, Kuroyuki-Hime reenters the show.
  • Total: 7/10

Art and Animation:

  • Backgrounds (2/2): Very detailed. For a supposedly futuristic setting, it keeps it simple like Dennou Coil.
  • Character Designs (1.5/2): Harayuki is unique. Avatars are decent looking and nice to see some variety. Real world though, kinda bland but at least “realistic” to some degree.
  • Fluidity (1.5/2): Good overall but a lot of repetitive motion. Typical Sunrise for recycling animation.
  • Visuals/Special Effects/Flashiness (1.5/2): Good coloring. Overall visually appealing. Tries to hard to mix incompatible colors when there’s a lot of other things going simultaneously.
  • Art and Animation “Expectation” (1.5/2): Good quality from Sunrise, especially when compared to their recent works: Horizon, Gundam AGE, Phi Brain, Natsuiro Kiseki.
  • Total: 8/10

Sound and Music:

  • OP/ED/Insert Themes (2.5/3): Themes are solid overall. Least liked theme is probably OP1, but that’s just me.
  • Background Music (2/2): Solid with memorable tracks.
  • Sound Effects (2/2):  Very well done, especially in the virtual worlds
  • Seiyuu (2.5/3): Good overall with shout outs to Sachika Misawa at doing a great job in her first main role.
  • Total: 9/10

Enjoyment:

  • Amusement (1/2): Great for first half. Second half felt like it was dragging its feet too much. A lot of repetition.
  • Weekly/Next Episode Anticipation (2/2): Despite lacking amusement, this was one show I looked forward to every week.
  • Presentation (1/2): Second arc feels disconnected from first arc. It felt more of “let’s get Chiyu to join us” and “we can do things without sempai too”
  • Re-watchable (0.5/1): Has some rewatch value. It tries something slightly new and the shounen battle aspect can be interesting to those looking for a decent virtual reality setting.
  • Recommendation (1/2): Dennou Coil is significantly better than this, but may not be good for newer audiences. This show at least gives you the bread and butter of “standard” anime in a virtual setting. .hack//Sign is arguably better than this though.
  • Value (0.5/1): Has some long-term value if we get a sequel, which is very possible given the popularity of the novels in Japan. Not to mention Sword Art Online is also ongoing as well.
  • Total: 6/10

Preliminary Score: 7/10

Final Score: 7/10

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