Accel World, a new anime based on a light novel by the same name. It’s been a while since I’m interested deeply into an anime, and I can say that I am officially addicted to Accel World. How addicted? Let’s just say I have watched the anime episodes at least three to four times back to back, and re-read the manga over and over. Not sure how long my attention span would last, but so far, this is THE anime in my brain. Heck, I even start to lose interest in Kamen Rider, my usual top notch franchise for my attention. You can tell since I replaced my Kamen Rider avatar with Haru.
So, what is this all about? Let’s start with the background, the technology, which is incredibly interesting by itself especially for a gadget geek like me. The story takes place in the year 2046. In this year, the technology to create a virtual reality directly fed into your brain is commonplace. Think Google glasses + The Matrix. Instead of glasses, the device is attached behind the neck like a collar. The device creates a virtual desktop space in front of the user’s vision where he/she can interact with a PC-like OS UI (complete with file manager, windows, email clients, viewing pictures and videos, sending and receiving files, etc). User interacts with the UI just like having a computer in front of them, where they use their fingers to touch and move the UI components. From a 3rd party point a view, the user will look like he/she is typing/moving around his/her fingers on thin air. This neuro link interface can connect to another interface via wired or wireless connection. According to the story, wired connection bypassed the built-in firewall, and only used with people that trust each other (eg. family members, lovers) as one can do malicious things without the user knowing (also portrayed in the story). The interface can also connect to a greater network (eg. a school or hospital intranet), and to the “global network,” presumably the evolution of the internet. Connecting to the global network is optional, but it is used for many things, including transferring funds and gaming. Intranets like the school network can offer their own virtual environment, even something that akin to MMORPG where students design and use avatars to interact with each other, even playing games, all in a virtual world.
In this world, CCTV cameras are also common place, especially in schools. Although not fully explored, cars are also very tightly controlled with an AI for safety to the point that accidents are rare, although there are ways to defeat the system.
Amongst the young people, exists an underground fighting game called Brain Burst. This game is not known to the adults as one of the requirements is that the user being equipped with a neuro link interface since birth. The game software basically overclock the human heart’s “clockspeed” to speed up brain activity a thousand time over, thus the user is in an accelerated state where he/she is outside the normal time plane and the world around him/her seem to freeze/incredibly slowed down. This ability called burst link, and the players are called burst linkers. This ability allows the user to gain advantage in many things in real life, but using this ability requires burst point, which is only obtainable through fighting other burst linkers.
Now to the characters. The main character is a chubby kid named Haruyuki Arita (Haru) that is frequently bullied in school. His escape venue is the virtual world, where despite his avatar being a cute pig, his activity and movements have no restriction and he is the top scorer of the in-game squash game. His performance piqued the interest of Kuroyukihime, his senpai and vice president of the student council. She invited Haru to install the Brain Burst program, allowing him to gain the burst link ability, and also fight as Silver Crow, his fighting avatar.
To a casual anime viewer, this is just the typical fighting anime (main character that is starting weak and going through pain and gain fighting stronger and stronger opponents). But for some reason, this franchise captivates me. Not too sure why. Is it the tech involved? Many western fiction often paint our future world as grim and doom despite the advance technology (Star Trek being the exception, which is why I love that franchise too). Japanese fiction seems to have a more positive spin on the future world of technology, as shown how the neuro link devices used in education and student interaction in this anime (compare this to the likes of Blade Runner, The Matrix, or Minority Report). Is it the cute characters? Is it the story itself? The great voice actors? Kuroyukihime is pretty much the staple of a loli (yeah, tons of you-know-what doujins are already made). Coupled with Chiyu-chan, Haru’s childhood friend, and future characters, it’s akin to the typical school/cute harem genre. Haru’s pig avatar is adorable too. I’m a sucker to anime depicting romantic school life.
I’m also a sucker to highly touching moments, which this anime has plenty of. In fact, here is one of the best scene in the anime so far:
Is it the awesome soundtrack? Just listen to the BGM of the clip above. The even more awesome OP and ED songs? The opening theme song is “Chase the World” by may’n. The ending theme song is “→unfinished→” by KOTOKO. Both are highly addictive fast-paced songs. I made an AMV using the opening song, reflecting the technology in Accel World, Haruyuki’s life in real and virtual world, his introduction to Kuroyukihime, funny and touching moments with Chiyu-chan, and his fight against his other best friend turned enemy, Takumu.
I’ll be following this franchise with a passion. Heck, I even signed up for Hulu Plus just to be able to watch the latest episode ahead of the fansubbers. I already ordered/pre-ordered the OP and ED CDs. The anime is fansubbed by plenty of groups (or you can catch it via Hulu Plus). The manga has also been translated. The light novel has partial translations here and there. The you-know-what doujins are plentiful. I couldn’t get the songs out of my head. It’s official, I’m addicted to Accel World! ^_^
By the way, I got the avatar from this pixiv user. Pixiv has a ton of cute drawings, but of course, tread carefully, as there are a ton of NSFW pictures too. 😉