Sunday, January 13, 2013

Accel World Review

Overall rating: 8.0 / 10

Every popular anime has a considerable amount of haters. Surely, it should have even greater number of fans - that's what makes it "popular". Than what about anime, which have many haters - but only a very little number of fans? Well, that situation is a bit strange. Especially if the anime in question is not some kind of well known "trash", but actually the one with a pretty fine average score. The Accel World anime situation is like that. From what I've seen, the general opinion on AW of the international anime community is Haters Gonna Hate "good" or at least "fine". Very few people (I am one of them) see AW as a gem, but huge number of people hate AW and even consider it unwatchable. The funny thing is that you will be 100% sure if you are actually one of the later just by watching it for 3 minutes. If the answer is "no", then there is a good chance of you enjoying this show to the end.

The primary source of controversy regarding AW is its male lead, Arita Haruyuki. It's hard to say what provokes people more: his visual design or his personality. The facts are that Haru is short and fat, he is cowardly and he gets bullied in school. His visual design is distinct and peculiar, that's also a fact. From what I knew, Sunrise depicted Haru in the way he thinks of himself, not how he is actually meant to look like according to the novels. All the rest are not facts, but impressions. The popular impression is that Haru in the anime is ugly and miserable and that his unrealistic visual style makes his ugliness grotesque and basically doesn't fit with the show. One could also have cognitive dissonance seeing a girl (or even girls) falling for someone so ugly and pathetic. My impressions are very different. I never minded Haru being short and fat to begin with, but I think that his visual design and animation style actually make his appearance extremely charismatic and very appealing. It probably also brings some comedic touch, but that's also perfectly fine for me. As for his personality, I find it nontrivial at the very lest. The thing which probably irritates many people the most is not how unmanly he is, but that he never changes or at least shows strong desire to change. And that's what makes his character interesting in my eyes. The one thing I like about Haru is that he knows his place and never pretends to be what he is not. And he does have his own pride, on the other hand. He is probably a bit too emotional, but it just adds up to his charisma. I clearly find this kind of male lead both more interesting and more appealing than your typical Japanese schooler kind of protagonist.

Haruyuki's and Kuroyukihime's VR avatars standing next to their real bodies
Regarding AW's female lead, there were little to none controversy. Practically everyone agrees that Kuroyukihime is a godlike tier girl. There are tons of people who watched AW only because of Kuroyukihime and there definitely would be more of those if not for the fact, that she is with Haruyuki most of the time. As for me, you can guess that I don't mind her being with Haru at all. I should also note that KYH is presently in my personal ~top3 of the best female anime characters of all time. The rest of the Accel World's female cast is also exceptionally strong: I would say that all of the supporting female characters in AW are better than female leads of most of the shows I like. There is a simple reason for that. As AW revolves around the "Brain Burst" virtual reality fighting game, most of its characters are people strongly related to this game. And I surely have a thing for good looking female hardcore gamers.

While I did say that AW is about people playing virtual reality fighting game, I would also underline that it's primarily about people, not the game. Usually, when I finish watching a title, I rewatch favorite scenes from it, if there are any. Regarding AW, I've rewatched many scenes from it several times, but all of those were actually dialogues, not the battles. So, from my point of view, AW is not an action genre anime, even if it looks like one. Still, one of the most impressive aspect of the AW anime is it's pace. The very first episode is particularly strong. It does the usual job: introducing characters and explaining the setting, just doing it mostly in action, so on one hand it leaves impression of being "information giving" type of episode, on the other hand it feels very lively and eventful. It sets the pace and the whole anime maintains perfect balance between action, character development and disclosing information. I praise Sunrise for doing so great job animating the Accel World novels: they stayed faithful to the original, cut the most minor details and never lost the atmosphere of Kawahara Reki's books.

Avatars in the Accelerated World: "Sky Raker" next to Haruyuki's "Silver Crow"
I won't say much about graphics and animation quality - from my point of view it's just OK. There were monsters of graphics in the year 2012 (Hyouka and K to name some) and there were shows that looks just too shitty for the year 2012 (Code Breaker for example). Accel World is neither of those. What's much more interesting for me is music. There are two criteria for soundtrack to be considered "good": to fit its respective show and to be good as standalone piece of music. Regarding the latter, I can't say that Accel World OST is as strong as my most favorite ones, but it's just one or two steps below them. But as for the first criterion, AW's soundtrack is just impeccable. Completely brilliant. I also appreciate how they write such a magnificent piece as "Blood History" only for be used just once as the background music for the Kuroyukihime's monologue in the third episode. That's what made an already good scene remarkable.

There is only one major flaw I can see in this show, and this flaw is solely Kawahara Reki's fault. It's numbers. I highly appreciate the world of 2046 that Kawahara Reki's depicted. I like both the idea of brain–computer interfaces aka Neuro Linkers and the concept of widespread augmented reality. I also appreciate the "Brain Burst" virtual reality fighting game he described. Since I know that Kawahara Reki has zero technical background in the respective areas, I never had any expectations of him to maintain any decent degree of technical realism. That's fine with me. There is only one thing that Kawahara-san definitely could have done and should have done, but that he never did. He did not put any thoughts into numbers. As the result he totally fucked up the realism not only in technical aspects, but also in the economical ones. Inconsistencies in numbers stand out just too much, one needs only the common sense to notice them (I listed them in the second part of the review). Unfortunately, it's just Kawahara's plain laziness and remissness, Sunrise could have done nothing about that. I can't really say that those things seriously damaged my overall impressions of the Accel World anime. But they are the reason why I can't rate it higher than 8.0/10 despite it being my favorite show of the year 2012.

Continue to the second part (spoilers)

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