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.

Accel World: Cradle of Stars

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

For the most part this is a “downtime” volume of Accel World, a breather after the action of the last few books. We get Niko and Kuroyukihime coming over to Haruyuki’s house for a sleepover, where he suddenly goes into great detail about his family, presumably in order to make a future arc not come out of nowhere. He and Takumu are also confronted by a classmate who wants them to join her in running for the student council, something that really hammers on Haru’s “I hate myself” buttons. There is, of course, a pool episode, with swimsuits galore and Haruyuki accidentally seeing more than he should. Nega Nebulus adds to its ranks with the Chocolat Puppeter trio (complete with an explanation of why her name is written wrong in English). And we get a big confrontation with the Green team, as they discuss how to defeat the Acceleration Research Society. The cliffhanger shows that one of Green’s group is very familiar to Nega Nebulus. Who could it be?

…and then it promptly shows us who it is in a short story set after the main book, where we see a younger Kuroyukihime getting ready to level up to Level Nine with the help of her teacher and companion in Nega Nebulus. It does sort of undercut the cliffhanger considerably. I’m also not sure I like our teasing creator suggesting something that clearly isn’t going to be true. Kawahara is already well aware that fandom thought Kirito and Asuna were Kuroyukihime’s parents, and went out of his way to shoot that down. But here we see a mysterious black figure, with two swords as his main feature, who pretty much describes himself as a sword, and who occasionally shows signs that he’s not in elementary school like the rest of them (such as his knowledge of what a pencil is). It screams “COULD THIS BE KIRITO?!” so much that it clearly isn’t, but I’m not sure I appreciate the author trolling in quite this way.

We see Nega Nebulus expand a great deal in this book, as I said earlier. In addition to Chocolat Puppeter’s group challenging Haruyuki so that they can ask to join their group (which leads to the funniest fight in the book, as even Silver Crow shows he is not above eating his way out of a problem), Metatron’s “bug” form is introduced to Kuroyukihime and Fuko, and there’s a brief amusing confrontation as to who gets to be his master/teacher. Haruyuki’s life in the Accel World is expanding, with friends and loved ones. He’s still having trouble transitioning that into the real world, though, despite the basketball game a few volumes ago (which is brought up here) and despite everyone literally pointing out all the great things he’s been doing. Once you start regarding yourself as pathetic, it’s really hard to stop it, and I appreciate that we’re seeing this with Haruyuki, even if it can be frustrating.

So, since the cliffhanger was sort of given away after the fact, the real question for next volume is why is their old friend now working for the enemy? Also, wasn’t he trapped in the palace the way that the others were? And will Haruyuki run for office? Or finally choose a level-up bonus? Still a good series, despite my criticisms.

Oh yes, and don’t spend 15 pages building up why the next world will be a Space world and then have it NOT be a Space world. What was the point?