Accel World: The Red Crest

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

Why do we play fighting games? That’s the question being asked many times over the course of Accel World, and the idea of winning and losing seems to linger in some people more than others. Certainly in the case of Wolfram Cerberus, it’s a matter of life and death, especially as, for some odd reason, his Accelerated form seems to have multiple personalities, a la the legendary dog it’s named after. For others, it’s a way to bond with friends, such as the new character we meet here, Chocolat Puppeteer. Sadly, her friends have been infected with ISS kits, which leads to a chilling new revelation: you can now be infected against your will. Fortunately, Haruyuki and Chiyuri (and it’s nice to see the two of them team up without an overdose of sexual tension) manage to help her and temporarily save the day. Unfortunately, that just means that the enemy changes their focus, and the reader realizes that yes, this is another 4-5 book arc.

As for Kuroyukihime, we finally get the answers we’ve been waiting for since the first book – why did she kill Red Rider, and what drove her to leave her family? The answer turns out to be the same thing, unsurprisingly. Kuroyukihime may be strong and a guiding light to Haruyuki, but she’s also horrible at anything regarding subterfuge, much less outright lying, so it’s no surprise that she’s played like a sucker by White Cosmos. It’s nice to see Haruyuki has matured enough to take this calmly and offer support, even when she’s sobbing on his shoulder – a few volumes ago he would have been a total wreck. (It’s possible the author saved all the total wreck parts for the short story at the end of the book, which features 200% more Fuko teasing than normal, but also goes into the circumstances of her birth and dealing with being born without legs in the real world.)

It’s looking as if things might come to a head at the school’s culture festival, which may turn out to be a disaster as they’re all supposed to be keeping their real-life identities secret. As is usually the case with Accel World, the battles are well-written and concise, and I rarely find myself getting lost in technobabble. (It’s very clear that he wrote a lot of this after he had more experience, whereas Sword Art Online sometimes shows off his immaturity.) I’m not entirely sure if this will wrap up in the 13th book or not – at least, this particular arc, I’ve no doubt that White Cosmos is the Big Bad and will be part of whatever final End Kawahara has in mind – if he has one, the series is well over 20 volumes in Japan. That said, I’m perfectly content to let him slowly spin his tale – the fanservice may occasionally grate on me, but for the most part Accel World has developed into one of the most solid, dependable light novel series being put out by Yen.

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