Accel World: Deity of Demise

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

Well, technically Kawahara was correct, and the arc that lasted nine books ends here. That said,k I can’t see anyone really being satisfied with the way this arc ended. Last time I said that I didn’t really think Kawahara would do a “the bad guys win” arc, but he comes pretty damn close here, and while I get why Haruyuki did what he did, I expect that literally everyone is going to be angry with him when the next book comes out. As for the rest of the book, aside from one major problem, which I’ll get to later, this is pretty good. The beginning has things resolved by Haruyuki essentially pulling shonen bullshit out of his ass, which, well, given this is a shonen manga in light novel form, works fine for me. There’s also a lot of exposition about what to do next, who is the best person to do it, and, possibly most importantly, who will be feeding the owl when they all go on holiday.

Honestly, that’s one of the more tasteful Accel World covers. As for what happens, well, Haruyuki helps to free everyone from the latest certain death that White Cosmos has set up, but unfortunately, they’re going to have to try to free the massive monster, Tezcatlicopa, from White Cosmos’ control, which means hitting all six crowns at once with six swords. This is going to be even more difficult because White Cosmos manages to kidnap Haruyuki, meaning *he* is now the one essentially trapped and unable to do anything, the same as his comrades used to be. This means that everyone is going to have to achieve a lot of stuff without him. Worst of all, once Tezcatlicopa is freed, everyone realizes what a bad idea that really was.

My main issue with this volume, and it’s one I’ve had with Sword Art Online before (which has finally managed to move past it), is that the whole book is from Haruyuki’s POV. This means that the entire 2nd half of the volume is made up of cool fights that the reader only gets to hear about second hand, as he can’t be in them. This is frustrating for him, but it’s murder for a reader, especially after sitting through endless exposition preparing for said fights. It made this volume feel a lot less exciting than it actually is. As for the cliffhanger, well, Harukuyi’s group of players all know each other in the real world and have forged eternal bonds of fellowship, so naturally the “thanks for playing you will forget everything now” ending is going to rankle. It’s also still very unclear what exactly White Cosmos is really up to, especially in regards to her relationship with her sister. Basically, this arc may have been 9 volumes long but I’m not sure we’re that much further along.

Still, the next book promises to be a corker… oh, we’re caught up? It’s not even out in Japan yet? Ergh. Yeah, wonderful, that makes this EVEN MORE FRUSTRATING. In any case, enjoy Haruyuki watching cool things happen far away from him.

Accel World: Sword Sage of the Blue Flower

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

Accel World in general is a classic example of a series that is a lot of fun provided you don’t think too hard about much of it. This new volume was filled with scenes and moments I felt were pretty cool, but when I tried to tie them into the ongoing plot I went “hey, um, wait…”. That said, it’s not like Sword Art Online doesn’t also have that problem. If SAO is the light novel equivalent of Shonen Jump, then Accel World is its Shonen Magazine equivalent, with nice pizzazz and lots of fanservice. (Probably for the best that Haruyuki is in pig form on the cover there.) It does not help, admittedly, that we are still in the middle of this very long arc. The author promises, in the afterword, that it will end in the next book, but admits that he’s said that before and no one believes him. Oh yes, and after raising the dead, sort of, in the last book, we follow it up by… doing it again? Wow, raising the dead is EASY.

Everyone is still discussing the big plan to take out the massive sun-like enemy that’s keeping all the kings trapped, and Haruyuki’s new sword, with its heat resistance forced by the Blacksmith of Eternal Peril, seems to be the answer. He can also get training from the mysterious presence that helped him last time… but wait. If he finds out who she is in the real world, can he do for her what was done for Orchid Oracle? We then get a training montage, which is pretty cool but is, nevertheless, a training montage, so I don’t have much to say about it. And then, finally, the big confrontation, in which Haruyuki is very cool and the day is saved… oh dear, here comes the villain for another cliffhanger.

My favorite scene in the book was the party that all the girls (and Takumu, sorry, Takumu) threw him to celebrate his being the point man on this mission… and the fact that he shows up with another new girl, who just happens to be a rival for those who’ve been in Brain Burst the longest, showing up after being gone for years. You’d think there’s be a lot of jealous stares, but the mood seems to be more “Of course he has another girl to add to his pile, it is Haruyuki after all”. Actually, the biggest danger to Kuroyukihime in this book is not Centaurea Sentry, his new mentor, but Rin Kusakabe, who has apparently been reading Devil Is a Part-Timer in her spare time because she wants him to remember she confessed, and not just let it slip his mind just because he happens to still hate himself. If I weren’t reminded occasionally that everyone in the cast is between 9 and 14 years old, this would be a great romantic harem series. Alas.

I am not expecting the bad guys to win or anything, but the main Kings are certainly in a tight spot with the cliffhanger. Indeed, cliffhanger endings has proven to be one of the stronger parts of Accel World. Might have to wait a little longer for the next volume, though, as we’ve caught up with Japan mostly.

Accel World: Kuroyukihime’s Confession

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

I suspect how much readers enjoy the first half of this book depends on how invested they are in awkward teen romance. Last time we ended with Kuroyukihime inviting Haruyuki over to spend the night at her place, and he ends up accepting here, though he’s not quite sure how long he’ll be staying. As it turns out, the answer is “all night”, and there’s also a bath scene involved, which, as with everything else about this series, gets 80 times more awkward when you remember they’re both 13-14. But they are pretty sweet dorks, and things don’t really go anywhere beyond “I am depressed and want to take comfort in you”. And, as it turns out, Kuroyukihime has a lot more to be concerned about than being caught in an Unlimited EK, as her friend Megumi, aka Orchid Oracle, seems to be held hostage by the enemy… which has caused her real-world self to fall into a coma. Can they rescue her? And can Haruyuki get yet another girl to fall for him without trying?

Yes, we can add another “don’t read this in public” volume cover to the pile. In any case, one of the more important things that comes up here is Kuroyukihime opens up to Haruyuki about the circumstances of her birth, and we finally, definitively put to rest the rumor that her parents are Kirito and Asuna. (I’m not sure why anyone ever found this acceptable, unless they like grim ‘n gritty.) In any case, we don’t get her name, or the names of her parents, but we do discover that Kuroyukihime was a “machine child”, incubated in an artificial womb. While the direct SAO connection isn’t happening, fans of the Alicization arc may recognize some of the discussion here about the nature of the soul. According to Kuroyukihime, her parents regard her as an experiment rather than a child – she even has a barcode on her neck to drive the point home. It’s pretty heavy.

The weaker part of the book is in the middle, when most of the cast gets together virtually to try to figure out how to fix the huge trap they’re in. This involves lots of banter, some jealousy, and a whole lot of talking, but essentially boils down to “no, we can’t do this, no we can’t do this, hey, why don’t we try this”, only over the course of 50 pages. Things pick up again when Haruyuki teams up with Rose Milady in order to rescue Orchid Oracle, her sister, from the clutches of the White Legion. This amounts to a bunch of cool battle scenes, and Kawahara is quite good at those. Haruyuki tries to do the whole “I’m not really good at anything I just have a lot of help” whining, which promptly gets smacked down. That makes me happy. More importantly, they actually succeed in both the rescue and waking Megumi up, meaning this volume does not leave us hanging. (Well, everyone’s still in the deathtrap, but…)

So a decent volume, with some much needed revelations, but the core issue here is still not resolved, so the arc continues. Recommended to those already reading the series.