kskkskkskkskkskkskkskksk by めたりかん
Ah, Kawahara Reki. Arguably the world’s most successful fanfiction writer. Everybody knows his most popular work, but this post will be about something else. In year 2008, when Dengeki Bunko was accepting submissions for their famous newcomer prize, he decided to submit a piece and snagged the Grand Prix. He did it with what’s now known as the first volume of Accel World. Though this story has always been in the shadow of SAO, it still continues and has been animated. My first contact with the series was its comicalization – I saw a chapter in Dengeki Bunko Magazine in 2010. Two years later, the anime, which I’m a fan of, aired. And in summer 2014 the first volume of the novel series was translated and published by Yen Press. I’d been at my most financially miserable place ever back then, but I still ponied up the money and bought it. Since it’s December now and life is at its most peaceful time of the year for me, I gave it a read for the second time to write a bit on it. Also, I finally got the second volume. So, what’s it about?
The distant future. Suginami-ku, Tokyo. Arita Haruyuki is a caricatural fat middle school kid. As if he wasn’t insecure enough, he’s also being bullied. After school, he escapes from his miserable real life into the net through a Neurolinker, a miniature virtual reality device – no bulky headgear required. If only reality could be abandoned in favor of the virtual… One day, a pretty girl – a chuuni-byou patient called Kuroyukihime frees him from his oppressors and introduces him to a certain game known only to the chosen few. An illegal app, which, through the miraculous powers of technobabble, can speed your mind up so much that reality slows down to a crawl for its user – it can pretty much stop time. This technology is used to play an MMO fighting game of sorts called Brain Burst – when time stops for the normal people, duels between the players happen. The origins of the game are a mystery. And so a life of adventure begins for Haruyuki. He’s now one of the few Burst Linkers. He receives a duel avatar put together by the game based on the contents of his mind. A cool two-word name, with one of the words being a color describing his potential. And in the future, he’ll join a Legion to fight in a giant virtual turf war on maps based off real locations together with his newly made teenage friends. Before all that happens, though, Haruyuki will have to fight off (and convert into an ally) someone threatening Kuroyukihime – she had been a top player before she was banished from the accelerated world. The enemy will turn out to be Haruyuki’s friend (this novel has four characters, what a mystery).
Accel World sure is a fun piece of pop-lit. It’s a nice teen novel about the struggles of a person with inferiority complex, which many will relate to even if they’re not fat. Maybe even too nice and subservient to people’s wishful thinking. The characters are all a likeable bunch. Kuroyukihime is lovable. Taku is a treacherous bastard (I hear he betrays Haruyuki again, a few volumes later). Ash Roller is plain ridiculous – his idiolect got toned down in the translation, sadly. Its most outstanding feature, though, must be the setting. Middle 21st century is a place where the reality-augmenting Neurolinkers are nothing out of the ordinary and people call photos “screenshots”. The game the characters are playing is impressive in its rules and described in detail. It really makes you agree that net games are so much better than reality. You’re fighting alongside likeminded kids for supremacy over the city, after all. Ain’t it cool? And all that is served as a Shounen Jump-style battle comic, but in novel form. What else do you want?
So… anime or novels? The first volume (200 pages) was adapted into the first five episodes of the show, which is quite a lot. If you try watching those episodes, you’ll see that they’re extremely fast-paced and stuffed with information. You might want to pause every few minutes to process all that content and make sure you understand everything. It’s a testament to how dense the novel is. This exposition-heavy story is best consumed in literary form, so I’m leaning towards reading it as the superior way of experiencing Accel World. Expect me to read the subsequent novels soon, too.