Accel World: Snow White’s Slumber

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

I was a little grumpy with the last volume of Accel World. After feeling that the Armor of Catastrophe arc went on far too long (a fact the author also agreed with me on), seeing it return as a Mark II made me slap my hand to my forehead. Fortunately, we were near the end of this arc when it appeared, and so it’s taken care of in one volume, though not without considerable sacrifice. More importantly, there’s a lot of really interesting discussion about the nature of Accel World in general, as well as its forbears. Striving for a meaning and purpose in life is something we see a lot of in the real world, but in the Accel World, the meaning and purpose of life may actually be a tangible thing, given that it was created. What’s more, the nature of Metatron reminds me very much of the nature of Kizmel in Sword Art Online; a sense of “these supposed NPCs have gone way beyond what everyone thought they would do’.

A lot of this volume, given that Haruyuki is separated from Kuroyukihime, focuses on the relationship between him and Metatron, who would likely have risen up fairly high on the list of ‘harem candidates’ were it not for the events later in the book, and even so the epilogue shows there may be hope. I admit I could have done without the “I speak like a tsundere princess” thing, but I really did like the discussion they had, which also shows how clever Haruyuki is, piecing together stuff that’s been bubbling around inside his head for the last 15 volumes or so. She also gives him the strength to finish off the bad guys before they get even more powerful, and (hopefully) get ris of the ISS kits making everyone lose it in the real world as well, though that last part remains to be seen. Everyone else got a lot of good stuff to do as well, and there was some nice development of Nico, who gets her armor back… mostly. There’s even a heartwarming festival to end things!

Except that what most everyone will be talking about is the arrival of White Cosmos, the White King who we’d never seen before, the power behind the Accelerated Research Society, and Kuroyukihime’s real-life sister. Given this is a Kawahara villain, it’s no real surprise that her goal appears to be to drive everyone in the game to total despair. Subtlety is not why you read this author. I suspect that she’s mostly going to be used to drive character development for Kuroyukihime, who wisely (and with Haruyuki’s help) chooses not to fight her just now. And of course to contrast the ‘girl shrouded in black who’s really kind vs. girl who looks white and kind but is secretly manipulative and awful’. Again, subtlety is not on display here. But it makes for a nice, dramatic scene, and would look pretty cool animated.

Given that we’ve wrapped up a long arc here, I would not be surprised if the next volume is lighter in tone. In the meantime, fans of the series shold enjoy this new volume, especially the talk between Haruyuki and Metatron.

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.

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?