Accel World: Archangel of Savage Light

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

The author jokes in the afterword about how once again he said that an arc would wrap up in the next volume… and once again it did not, with this volume ending on yet another cliffhanger. It could be a sign that the author has difficulty bringing things together, but honestly with Accel World you don’t really mind. The main plot is interwoven into the individual arcs, so we know that solving the ISS Kits and rescuing Ash Roller is not going to stop the Acceleration Research Society anytime soon, just as we know that eventually Haruyuki is going to have to meet Kuroyukihime’s sister, even though we still haven’t seen her either. For now we have this volume, which is mostly in two chunks. The first involves rescuing Aqua Current by taking on another of the Four Gods guarding the Accel World equivalent of the Imperial Palace. The other involves taking on Metatron, who has the laser that Haruyuki thinks he can now repel. Sadly, before that they have to take on Magenta Scissor – again.

The cover features Blood Leopard and Aqua Current, who turn out to have a closer relationship than previously expected. The role of ‘parent’ and ‘child’ is an interesting one in the AW universe, as all it involves is getting another person into the same game you’re playing. That said, in the AW universe there’s good parents and bad parents, and we get an example here with Avocado Avoider. He was invited into the game, then the other players saw his power wasn’t really “useful” and proceeded to essentially kill him right there. You’re never allowed to forget that Accel World is actually a game, and that means that it invites the worst of gamer mentalities. Haruyuki’s playing for the fun of it, the curiosity of winning and the bonds he forms is contrasted with the agenda of Magenta Scissor, who wants everyone to be equal in abilities, point, and everything else – it’s fair, but is it really any fun? That said, her behavior at the end of the volume here suggests she may not be as hardcore about it as she sounds.

The other big revelation here involves the “villain” of the piece, Metatron. We see our heroes going after her laser and coming up with a very clever plan… which then goes to hell when Metatron decides to come down to the ground to attack them right there. It’s always wise to not assume what your enemy plans to do. That said, Metatron appears to be fighting a battle herself, and with Haruyuki’s help is able to get past it… only to reveal that she seems to be EVEN MORE POWERFUL now. I’m interested in seeing where she goes from here, especially as she’s now apparently providing Haruyuki with power in order to rescue Niko (oh dear, please tell me she’s not going to be part of the harem). The cliffhanger was rather abrupt, but plausible – you knew these goons were not just going to let Nega Nebulus waltz in and destroy them. And the harem antics were there but minimal.

Kawahara, with this series, has succeeded in making it one where you want to get the next book immediately after reading the last one. Sadly, we have to wait for September now. Will he finish the arc this time? Mmmmmmmaybe?

Accel World: Signal Fire at the Water’s Edge

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

A lot of what I’ve seen in Accel World has been the author recognizing, lampshading, and attempting to either fix or downplay the faults that we’ve seen in his previous series, Sword Art Online. The lead here, Haruyuki, is if anything even more powerful than Kirito, but while Kirito does have inner turmoil (something the anime was not that great in bringing out), Haruyuki is all inner turmoil. Kirito spends most of his time in SAO either solo playing or reluctantly partnering up; Haruyuki cherishes working with people and forming friendships. Also, while Kirito may be your typical light novel hero and amass a harem of girls who like him, Haruyuki is short, stout, and has twice the number of girls after him. And what’s more, with the exception of the current Alicization arc, Kirito’s problems tend to be easy to solve, while the Accel World narrative never quite wraps anything up, and things just continue to snowball forward in one broad narrative.

Niko is on the cover, and it has been a while since we’ve seen her, even though the book is filled with reminders that the last several books or so have only happened over a period of a few days. She shows up as some other Brain Burst user, who seemed very similar to Kuroyukihime, was being evil, and thus some of her legion took it upon themselves to challenge Nega Nebulus (which now has a new addition as another old face we’re already familiar with returns to the fold). It’s all a misunderstanding, but reminds us that the Acceleration Research Society is still trying to get their way, which involves parasitizing as many users as possible with ISS kits, including sadly a very familiar face. Niko shows up in order to apologize for the rash actions of her legion and also add some muscle in their fight, along with Pard. And they’ll need the help, as they decide they can’t afford to wait any longer, they have to attack Metatron NOW.

The book, as always, is well written, with lots of funny moments, good fights, and emotional scenes. My favorite scene was probably the most chilling, though, which is where Niko notes how safe they feel around Haruyuki. She’s quite to point out that it’s not that he’s a “nice guy” per se, it’s just all female-type avatar users have a certain fear of being found in the real world, and Haruyuki, who knows a ton of them, doesn’t trigger that fear. He cares about what they think, and listens to what they say. For an author who I have yelled at for going to the “rape as drama” well far too many times, this is a surprisingly nuanced take – and all the more chilling for it, as all these girls are 15 years old or less by definition. It’s something that girls have to deal with every day in our real world, and it’s sad and yet very realistic that even in the future, female gamers still risk getting attacked.

The author lets us know this is going to be another multi-book arc, though honestly, as I noted above, this book feels far more like one long narrative than SAO ever did. I really want to find out what happens next. The 14th book better arrive soon.

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.