Accel World: The Seven-Thousand-Year Prayer

By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.

And so, at last, we come to the end of the Armor of Catastrophe arc, which was not only deliberately meant to be a long arc but also grew out of the author’s control, as he’s admitted himself in the afterword. The volume gives us a lot of what readers like about this series: good battles with some nice analysis from Haruyuki, some amusing harem comedy, some heartwarming romance with Kuroyukihime, and an examination of the nature of negative emotions and how to cope with them every day, because they don’t just magically go away merely because everyone believes in you really hard. That said, it also has some things that fans tend to not like as well: Haruyuki is not only the bestest person to ever be possessed by the evil armor, but he’s a shining magical beacon of hope for all. Oh, and he gets another girl confessing to him, and is caught with her lying on top of him, because harem comedy. It’s a balance.

The significant development here is a bit of a spoiler, but worth talking about. We learn the true identity of Ash Roller, which turns out to be somewhat confusing, meshing up a tragic tale of an introverted girl and her comatose brother with the nature of the neurolinkers that are omnipresent in this world. It’s left deliberately up in the air what’s going on here, whether Rin is literally being possessed by her brother while in the Accelerated world, or if she’s merely taking on his role to an almost absurd extent. (She genuinely seems to be unaware of what transpires without wearing her brother’s neurolinker, so odds are on the first.) That said, I admit to a bit of irritation at the fact that one of Haru’s only male friends turns out to really be a shy young girl who’s in love with him in real life. (The shyness is conveyed via an odd speech pattern – Rin talks in sentence fragments, and it’s unclear if this is a mental issue like Utai’s or if it’s meant to be natural introversion.)

That said, once again after a lot of harem tease we are reminded that at the end of the day there is only one who is top of the heap, and it’s Kuroyukihime. We get a little more insight into her real-life background – she lives alone in a very rich neighborhood, and it’s implied that the murder of the Red King in the Accelerated World had a counterpart in real life as well. That said, just as Haruyuki is a Pillar of Hope for All despite his omnipresent self-hatred, Kuroyukihime tends towards the perfect accepting girlfriend much of the time, listening calmly as Haru pours out his fears, getting the crap beaten out of her in the AW waiting for him to overcome the Disaster, and bushing cutely when he’s accidentally proposing marriage to her without actually realizing it.

So in the end Accel World has much the same strengths and weaknesses as the author’s other series, Sword Art Online. Which means fans of one will enjoy the other, and those who hate Kirito with a passion probably will find themselves getting annoyed at Haruyuki here. The next book should be standalone and lighthearted, and I fear that may mean MAXIMUM HAREM ANTICS. We shall see.

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