Accel World: The Rivalry of White and Black

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

Last time I said that this volume would likely finally get to the fight with the White Legion, and that is technically true, but it takes almost 4/5 of the book for us to get to that point. If Sword Art Online’s biggest fault is that it doesn’t flesh out its world or characters enough, and that the pace is too breakneck, Accel World has the opposite problem: the worldbuilding is excellent, but at the expense of the pace, which leads to readers wanting to skin through things to finally get to the fights. There is a minor battle here between Silver Crow and a bottle of Isodine – sorry, Povidone-iodine, but even that feels rather shallow as Iodine Sterilizer feels like an expy of Ash Roller. It is, frankly, a relief that a big villain finally appears to take on our heroes towards the end – and indeed, he’s the biggest villain we’ve seen, towering over the landscape, and might be a little more terrifying if he wasn’t depicted in the illustrations as looking like a giant Snow Bunny.

(The fanservice covers we’ve seen lately are also starting to irritate me – the illustrator’s always had that issue, I know, but this one in particular promises an attention to little girls that the text thankfully does not have.)

The first chunk of the book deals with Nega Nebulus and Prominence uniting to form a single legion, as promised. There is a bit of grumbling on the red side, both from folks who are a bit annoyed given that Black Lotus is the one who killed their former leader and also by the aforementioned iodine bottle, who just really wants to fight Silver Crow. On the Nega Nebulus side we have Cyan Pile and Magenta Scissor, both of whom are feeling guilt over the part they’ve played in past events and are looking for a chance to repent. After this, we get a relatively fluffy chapter which has the twins we met a while back from the Blue legion discovering what they think is a spy… only for it to turn out to be Trilead Trioxide, who is meeting secretly with Crow and Lotus. Some good character work here, and also more “TRILEAD IS THE IMPERIAL PRINCE OF JAPAN!” without actually saying this out loud.

The best part of the book is the final section, which once again gives the chocolate trio some heavy lifting to do as they find themselves first on the scene of battle, and therefore being forced to face off against a foe much bigger than they can really handle – but they try their best. I also liked that by now everyone knows that Haruyuki’s big flaw is that he frets too much, and that he does so much better when he forgets how difficult this is supposed to be and just plunges right in. And I admit I laughed out loud at Magenta Scissor asking if Bel and Pile were going out, which is followed by Bell asking “huh, are we?”. What was one of the bigger plot points in early books has fallen so much by the wayside that half the main couple doesn’t even seem to care anymore, and it almost feels like Kawahara mocking himself (while, of course, keeping Chiyuri free to be part of the potential harem pile).

So things have inched forward to the point where we’re actually fighting, and there is yet another cliffhanger promising things will get worse for our heroes. Still, I admit that after reading most of Accel World 20 my overall feel was “GET ON WITH IT!”.

Accel World: Pull of the Dark Nebula

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

It goes without saying that Sword Art Online is just SLIGHTLY more popular than Accel World, by a factor of about 100. This despite the fact that I think that in general Accel World is the better written title, mostly as Kawahara learned form the mistakes he made in SAO. It serves him well in this 19th volume, which is, once again, almost entirely setup for the next big series of battles. The subtitle sounds ominous, but is actually suggestive of the larger plot: Kuroyukihime’s group is going to storm the White Legion territory, but there just aren’t that many of them. What’s more, Kuroyukihime herself needs to stay behind. What’s the answer? More allies. We already have the new snack-based trio that joined last time. And we have Niko and Pard. Perhaps Ash Roller. But is that enough? Can we get some former enemies on our side? What’s more, perhaps we can even… merge two legions? The author makes this sound pretty dramatic and exciting, which is good, because more than any other AW book to date, this is all conversations.

The former enemy is Magenta Scissor, which is not too much of a surprise. The surprise is who comes to fight/debate her into switching sides. It’s not Haruyuki, and I like that the cast has grown large enough that we can have scenes like this not need to feature him. Instead it’s Chocolat Puppeter, who engages in a water-based battle with her partner Avoacdo Avoider before getting to the core of Magenta’s cynical philosophy, much of which stems from her real life watching Avocado (who, it is hinted, has a learning disability in real life) get bullied by the other kids in the hospital they were both in. She also has a condition I’d never heard of, but (like everyone in Accel World) helps to explain her avatar in general. Again, a reminder that a good core of Brain Burst is based on childhood traumas.

The start of the book finishes up the conversation in the Castle, with Graphite Edge (who is feeling less like a Kirito gag and more like a takeoff on the typical blockhead shonen hero, though he’s smarter than that) divvying out information as slowly and obliquely as he can, but we do get an awful lot of plot and background details here that feel important. Accel World is, as far as I know, not ending anytime soon, but the pieces of what needs to be done before the ending are still in place. And, much like its parent series, we are also dealing with “NPC” characters who nevertheless pass every test of sentience out there. I’m not sure if Metatron’s fate will mirror Alice’s, but it’s plain to see what sort of things Kawahara was interested in and researching as he wrote this.

So this is a solid volume in the series. The 20th book sounds like it will begin the next “books of mostly fighting” arc, but I’ve been fooled by that before. Till hen, enjoy this book of mostly talking.

Accel World: The Black Dual Swordsman

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

First of all, my apologies. I ended the last review by complaining that we had the buildup to “what will a Space Stage be like?” with no follow through. Of course, it’s in THIS book that we get the space stage, as before they can battle Oscillatory Universe they have to go through Great Wall, who took some of their territory back in the day and now need to test their resolve in the best shonen manner. This of course leads to Black Lotus battling Graphite Edge, which leads me to my first complaint: I’m not that fond of Graphite Edge. Usually I enjoy a character with his sort of personality, but I feel it meshes very badly into the Accel World Universe. There’s also the fact that he’s clearly meant to be a take on Kirito – just look at the subtitle for this volume. But he’s nothing like Kirito at all – if anything he’s more similar to Klein. That said, the cliffhanger shows we may get more interesting detail about him in the next book.

We also meet a few other people in the real world and see how they contrast with their burst linker selves./ Sometimes it’s not much of one – the twins from Leondis radiate “we are a cliched parody of twins” to their core, but feel much the same in the Accelerated World. And sometimes there’s a larger contrast, as we find that Chocolat Puppeter is a classic “why would anyone notice me as I’m so ordinary” heroine. This is in fact pointed out by her two companions, who note that she’s the sort that folks call cute, and they’re right. I was a bit put out that we got the buildup for them meeting Nega Nebulus in the real world but the meeting itself took place offscreen – if nothing else I always enjoy people who have fought Silver Crow suddenly realize that it’s Haruyuki. This is especially true for Chocolat Puppeter, who we recall he tried to eat in their last fight. For tactical reasons, of course.

The climax of the book (there’s also a short story epilogue giving backstory to Blood Leopard, which was OK but that’s about it) involves Haruyuki realizing that he may not be able to be with Kuroyukihime much longer – her parents are pressuring her to move to a high school away from Tokyo, or even in America. This would mean no more Accel World. As such, he wants to help her achieve her goals… sort of. He wants her to reach Level 10, but doesn’t want her to kill four Kings to do it. So he and Fuko (and Metatron, who I really hope meets Othinus some day in an Index crossover) go back to the Imperial Palace to talk once more to the young boy who is totally not the son of the Emperor or anything, Trilead Tetraoxide. Unfortunately, the book ends before we can see if they achieve what they went there for: to see if the Fluctuating Light holds the answer to Level 10.

This is, overall, a fairly typical Accel World, still sort of spinning its wheels waiting for the next big arc. That said, 18 volumes in you’ll still want to read it.