Reviews: Accel World

A step up from Sword Art Online

Accel World is sometimes thought of as a Spiritual Successor to Sword Art Online, but it is one in a good way, showcasing the author's growth as a writer.

The plot involves Haruyuki Arita, a fat, short boy who's often bullied, meeting up with the enigmatic Kuroyukihime, who invites him to play the game known as Brain Burst, where she's one of the top players. Brain Burst turns out to be more than a game, though, and Haruyuki finds himself drawn into a fierce battle to understand its secrets and its true purpose.

Brain Burst is quite well thought-out, albeit not like many that exist (for example, of the roughly 1,000 players, everyone has a unique avatar with special abilities based on its color, and has a surprising amount of tactical depth.

There's a good amount of worldbuilding, and the author nicely shows a futuristic Japan along with and the various implications certain technological advances will have for society.

The characters involved in the various battles have a good variety of abilities, with surprisingly good interplay between them. As I said before, it's not much like a standard video game, since the abilities are said to be derived from past traumas that the player s experienced, but it's a well-designed combat system that leads to entertaining battles and unconventional strategies.

The characters are an interesting and well developed lot. They, more than anything else, are deeply flawed, and struggle with issues such as low self-esteem, jealousy and guilt, all of which realistically impact their character arcs, hold them back at crucial points and are not easily remedied. Their friendships and potentially romantic relationships are also affected, as while their bonds are fragile, those involved care for one another, leading to many touching moments. If you consider Kirito a Marty Stu, Accel World will likely be a good change of pace.

Of course, while this is a good story so far, it's also not likely to end any time soon, for better or worse. As of this writing, twenty volumes have been released in Japan, while only five have been translated in the US, and the anime only covers the first four. A lot has happened thus far, but the readers and heroes are a long way from discovering the secrets behind Brain Burst.

All in all, I highly recommend Accel World.
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