Accel World: The End and the Beginning

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

The past coming back to haunt people is a running theme in Accel World. In real life, past trauma is how you get Incarnate attacks to use in the game. And events that have happened in the game have also had traumatic repercussions, particularly for Kuroyukihime and Haruyuki. Still, as our heroes continue to attempt to try to defeat the ISS kits, I was not prepared for the past to literally come back. Everyone’s still feeling out why this is happening, but in a meta way, I think part of it is that Reki Kawahara knows when he has a good idea, but then proceeds to come back to that good idea over and over again like a favorite toy until everyone else involved just wants to move on. In Sword Art Online that idea is Laughing Coffin, the Guild filled with player killers who have proved to be behind almost everything in the series. And in Accel World its’… well, that’s the cliffhanger ending, isn’t it? Is it a real cliffhanger if the reader groans?

This is another volume that is essentially one big fight, staying inside the Accelerated World as Haruyuki and company take on the Accelerated Research Society, which is not only destroying Ash Roller with its ISS kits but has also kidnapped Nico, planning to use her for some nefarious scheme. (Nico stays unconscious for 95% of the book, though thankfully she does at least wake up and get angry for the last few pages.) Our heroes divide into two groups of four, as half go after Nico’s kidnappers while the other half stay to try to get to an exit point to unplug Nico in the real world. Unfortunately, the kidnappers are very good at what they do, and the battle is mostly fought to a standstill throughout. Also unfortunately, the exit to the real world turns out to be inside a monster… a monster that is capable of a lot of awful stuff. And, as I noted before, bringing back bad memories. Literally.

This leads to the most interesting part of the book. The killing of Red Rider was sort of the spark of everything that happened in the series, and we’ve seen it in flashbacks a few times. Now we get to see Red Rider “return” as sort of a memory copy, and you can see why everyone was upset – he’s a nice guy, and seems like the shoujo hero of a book starring a shy, insecure girl. His presence, though, allows Kuroyukihime to show how she’s grown past who she used to be and has reforged her bonds, and found new ones. It’s cool to see, and the emotional beats on her side of the book are more satisfying. As for Haru and company, they get a lot less sympathetic memory copy to deal with. The first really nasty villain of Accel World is here to chew bubblegum and be snide, and he’s all out of bubblegum. Unfortunately, he’s just a memory copy, and so unable to control combining with Nico’s stolen equipment very well, which leads to… well, the cliffhanger I was carping about.

This is still a good volume of Accel World, particularly if you like action sequences. We still have more to go, as once again the arc is not finished. Will Nico be permanently depowered? Will our heroes save Ash Roller? Will Kawahara keep playing his Greatest Hits? Only one of these is certain.

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