Accel World: The Twilight Marauder

By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen Press.

This was a good volume of Accel World, though I think I enjoyed it a bit less than the other two. It can be exhausting to read for extended periods. Kirito may rub people the wrong way, but at least in game he’s fairly matter of fact and confident in himself. Haruyuki’s issues – his self-hatred, the bullying he’s endured and can’t reveal, his desperation to keep his friends safe and keep their friendship, and his tortured love for Kuroyukihime, who he still holds up on a giant pedestal – permeate his narrative voice, and while that’s excellent in a realistic way – are visceral and explain the actions he takes, and you understand why he despairs or does seemingly stupid things. But as escapism, you’re left wanting a bit. Particularly as this book has a cliffhanger.


It doesn’t help that Kuroyukihime is conveniently absent from this volume, off to Okinawa and sending Haruyuki adorable videos of herself in a bikini. (I do like that her friends whipped off her hoodie to reveal the bikini, showing that they seem to be supporting the love between the two of them far more than the rest of the school – or indeed Haruyuki himself – might.) So the new threat is dealt with by our trio of childhood friends, one of whom is brand new to Brain Burst, and given this is volume one of a two-volume set (something that Kawahara is very fond of, as SAO fans are aware), they fail rather miserably. (The cliffhanger involves the seeming betrayal by one of said friends, but I suspect that absolutely no one is actually fooled by this. (checks TV Tropes page) No, wait they were. Sigh.)

As for the new characters, Nomi will hopefully gain more depth in the fourth book, as he’s very much the sneering, posturing villain here, determined to bully Haruyuki (who is very quick to accept this, as if nothing else it must feel familiar) and keep Chiyuri as a “pet” (more casual sexism, though given Nomi is about 11 years old at least there aren’t any rape threats like in SAO.) He’s there for readers to hate and root for our heroes to destroy, that’s about all. I liked Sky Raker a lot better, who gets to be the one who trains and inspires Haruyuki in Kuroyukihime’s absence, but who also seems to have an intense backstory involving trying to rise above a disability – and how it can fail despite all your best efforts. I’d like to see that scene someday.

Of course, much of her story is there to give inspiration to Haruyuki – he’s the hero, and that means that most of what goes on is for his benefit. This can be tragic, like with everything that happens with Nomi, but it can also be hilarious, as with the return of Ash Roller, who will not stand for this meek, uncool and despairing Silver Crow, and proceeds to take him on the bike ride from hell just to pep him up. I suspect I’ll enjoy this volume more, though, once the next one comes out and completes it.

(Also, can we get an embargo on any story involving a boy trapped in the girls’ shower? Even if it’s for dramatic reasons?)

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