Accel World Part 1 (DVD) Review
There seems to be an increasingly frequent trend in anime of late with series taking place in a time which is so interconnected with the internet that the human psyche, personal connectivity and gaming are inextricably linked. The latest of which to hit Aussie shores, thanks to Hanabee, is Accel World. Comparisons to Sword Art Online aren't completely unwarranted after all the same writer, Reki Kawahara, is responsible for the manage and light novels for both series.
Haruyuki, poor short, shy Haruyuki. Completely unremarkable to the naked eye, Haruyuki's real-world exterior hides an incredible online presence wherein the young man is an incredibly talented gamer with an untapped potential. Untapped until he meets Kuroyukihime, Black Lotus.
Haruyuki is a really sweet kid with some serious self-confidence issues. At time it's almost painful to what how crippled he is by his own insecurities. That said, every cringe-worthy moment that he's put through helps to compound the joy that is felt when he manages to spread his wings in the virtual "burst world". This is just one of the ways that light and shade are used within the story. Visually we see short, round Haruyuki's avatar as a lithe and lethal robot which inhabits a rusted, lifeless world in stark comparison to the bright, vibrant natural world.
Production studio Sunrise are known for their quality work and that's due in no small part to their creative teams which included not only animators but also writers. Screenwriter Yoshino Hiroyuki (Guilty Crown, Code Geass) does a great job of bringing seemingly disparate characters together at just the right time. Instead of starting off with a massive cast, each character is introduced in due course giving them each a chance to tell their own story. If there's one thing that a good story needs, it's character development and Accel World has it in spades. All of the main characters are introduced with some form of shortcoming and evolve into something more, something greater. Sure, at times the dialogue gets a little heavy handed, particularly considering that it's coming from a bunch of high-school kids, but for the most part it's very strong. The first couple of episodes are a little heavy on the exposition but this does an admirable job of speeding up the pace of this first season so that we can jump straight into the thick of it.
The visuals are consistently great across the board, just as you'd expect from Sunrise. Unfortunately the copy that I got my hands on was the DVD version. While in no way is the DVD quality poor, but considering how great it looks, I can only imagine how fantastic the Blu Ray would have been. The colours are vibrant, the lifework sharp and the blending of CGI and traditional animation was barely even noticeable. Add to that some distinctive character and mecha designs and you've got a very pretty piece of work on your hands.
This is a fantastic introduction to the world of Accel Saga and the fact that I've been left wanting more speaks volumes. Not only is the series itself a tasty treat but the packaging is too. Coming in a slimline jewel case (which unfortunately already has a broken 'open' button) with what I'm guessing is a clear sheet of acetate, the cover art seems to hover like a digital projection. These are the kind of finishing touches that make for more than just a DVD release, it's a collectors item.