Accel World (2012)


Accel World (2012)

Director: Masakazu Obara
Studio: Sunrise
Starring: Yuuki Kaji, Sachika Misawa, Aki Toyosaki
Episodes: 24

A bullied middle schooler is introduced to an intense VR game by the mysterious Kuroyukihime that dramatically enhances his abilities both in the game world and in the real world.

I remember first coming across this series when it was airing in Japan and it caught my interest with its unconventional protagonist and augmented reality intrigue that reminded me of Dennou Coil. It took me three years to follow up on it and watch the entire series, but I certainly walked away satisfied with what I got. There are people who complain about Haruyuki, but I like that this series took the short, chubby kid who would be relegated to the role of the comic relief side character and put him in the protagonist's seat. Yes, he's weak, he has no confidence and he whines a lot, but he slowly but surely improves and it's not a 100% change either. He doesn't magically become Kamina or anything, but he's no Shinji Ikari who only breaks down further as the series progresses either. I have a feeling that the real problem some of the Internet tough guys who complain about him have is that he's a little too much of a reflection of their own flaws.

This isn't the first series to deal with bullying, but I can't recall any that make it one of the central themes. Now, bullying isn't a unique problem to Japan, but it seems to be a growing problem, something that came up quite a bit during my time as a teacher. I appreciate that the series takes a hard look at the issue and while it does have fantasy solutions to the incidents, the psychological impact on the characters doesn't go away so easily.

The Accelerated World and the mechanics of Brain Burst are interesting and all, but these are only secondary in interest to me. What really caught my attention that first time was the character relationships and that's the main showcase for me. The core trio of Haru, Taku and Chiyu have intriguing dynamics, childhood friends struggling to stay together amid their own individual issues and the turbulence of adolescence. Then you toss in Kuroyukihime, outwardly perfect but hiding deep insecurities. She seems wildly out of Haru's league, but their relationship isn't based on the superficial level. If it weren't for this, I'd probably denounce the pairing as blatant wish fulfillment. I could go one further, but that'd be more suited to a commentary post. Long story short, the major characters are nicely layered and even the truly despicable villain of the second arc has a fair bit going on under the hood.

There are a number of series about game worlds and I hear bad things about most of them, but for my part at least, I really liked it. As a matter of personal preference alone, I'd probably rate it a little higher, but I'll leave it as a watch that's probably worth adding to the collection.

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