Accel World First Impressions – The little piggy goes ‘squee’

It has been a long time since the last anime that explored the virtual world, in fact the last I can remember was probably a .hack series, and there hasn’t been one of those for a few years at least. Such series can be quite interesting, and since they are both set in the real world and the virtual world of video games, online chat rooms and much more they naturally open themselves up to all manner of weird and wonderful goings on. Something that is immensely appealing about them, since they can incorporate elements of fantasy and science fiction, while still being rooted in the real world.

Accel World introduces us to a less than ordinary protagonist, at least in terms of his overall physique – Arita Haruyuki is short and chubby, something that is a welcome break from many other male protagonists who all seem to have a perfect physique, even if they aren’t all that sporty. While such protagonists are not necessarily a bad thing, it’s always nice to have something of a change, if only to demonstrate that there are other body types and sizes in the world. And arguably there are cases where protagonist types are there to cater to the ideals and desires of certain Japanese fans, aka, the Otaku, although its important not to over generalise here.

Haruyuki is living what at first appears to be quite a terrible life, he is constantly bullied and is a bit of a pig (quite literally), and his only refuge is seemingly a virtual squash court where he consistently gets the high score. It’s a classic case of someone who does not like his or her life attempting to escape reality, of course in Accel World, due to the technology that is present it appears possible to almost literally escape reality. What’s interesting is that it is possible to really feel sorry for Haruyuki at points during this episode, since his life really does appear to be terrible.

There are numerous anime out there where the protagonist claims to be a social outcast with a terrible life, however, there are very few that truly are. Haruyuki’s character design may appear to be a little strange at first when you consider that every other character appears to be ‘normal’, however there is method in this madness. Haruyuki is portrayed as an outsider; quite literally, his character design is so different from any of the others that your eyes will always be drawn to him. Of course, having said that, there is a certain element of having a short and chubby character that does quite fit, and can feel out of place.

Now as mentioned, Haruyuki escapes his awful reality by linking into the world net, a virtual reality space where everyone has different avatars – there are clear links to MMORPGs here in terms of the world and the people in it. Haruyuki’s avatar is a little piggy, and my god is it cute – there short and chubby aspect is retained here, but fits better due to the kind of avatar it is. At this point we are introduced to our heroine Kuroyukihime (Black Snow Princess; Snow Black; Black King; Black Lotus; Hime), who introduces Haruyuki to a programme called ‘Brain-Burst’, that apparently allows anyone with it to speed up their minds to the point where the world appears to be still.

At the moment this programme appears to be a way of changing Haruyuki’s world forever, with the possibility of changing himself both mentally and physically. It’s a classic piece of science fiction with an interesting twist on changing your reality with your own hands. Of course, it is not new or unique, however, the way it has been introduced opens up a number of options later on in the series to do with Haruyuki’s view of the world he lives in, along with those who will begin to gather around him as the story unfolds.

There is at least one major problem with the series however, and that is the main protagonist himself. While the idea of a short and chubby protagonist, someone who is truly an outsider is fascinating, and seldom done in anime, there are a few problems with Haruyuki. First of all, the voice actor playing Haruyuki is the same one behind Shoe from Guilty Crown (although he also voices amata from Aquarion EVOL, and Issei from High School DxD), which does not necessarily put him in good stead. The problem with Haruyuki right now, as was the case with Shoe, is the massive, and uncontrollable angst that emanates from him.

While Haruyuki may be an outsider, he is not alone – he has his beautiful childhood friend Kurashima Chiyuri, who, may have a boyfriend of her own, but also seems to have a massive crush on him. And yet Haruyuki seems either oblivious to her feelings, or his massive inferiority complex does not allow him to accept that such a beautiful girl may love him for who he is. Furthermore there is Kuroyukihime, the school idol, and someone of immense beauty, who also appears to be attracted to Haruyuki, and even goes so far as to use a cable link to talk to him (in the series this is used to signify lovers, or those very close).

Haruyuki is therefore far from being the ultimate loner, and its his massive inferiority complex, along with the resulting angst that partly spoils the series, at least for now. And this complex does lead to a couple of scenes that did take away some of my sympathy for the character – for example when he needlessly pushes away Chiyuri’s sandwich hamper, thus ruining the lunch that she put so much effort into making. It’s little moments like these, that while are partly understandable due to Haruyuki’s character, are also pretty bad to watch and don’t do him any favours.

Now obviously Kaji Yuki, the voice behind Show and Haruyuki is capable of some good roles, and unfortunately his part in the debacle that was guilty Crown has somewhat tainted him in the eyes of many who watch anime. However, the role of Haruyuki has the potential to be quite an interesting one, especially after the events that happen alter on in the series. We can only hope that the writers don’t end up making another ‘Shoe’ character, although, considering this is a Light novel adaptation, the writing should at least be superior to that which we saw in the other series.

Overall this series has a lot of potential, and while it may be slightly ruined for some by the inclusion of Kaji Yuki in the voice cast, there is the possibility of him producing an excellent performance. The animation is excellently done, with the virtual world colourful and vibrant, the idea of a virtual fighting game that also appears to affect the real world ahs the potential to be fascinating and amazing. But, apart from my misgivings surrounding the voice cast, this first episode was incredibly enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing the interactions between Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime. It’s one thing reading them in a manga, and an entirely different one when you see those interactions animated so well. As long as the angst and inferiority complex don’t get to big, I will certainly enjoy watching Accel World.

About illogicalzen
An Illogical anime fan in a very Zen-like way.

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