Haru teams up with Blood Leopard to lure Rust Jigsaw into a duel in Akiba. After they defeat him, Haru spots him in the real world. Taku tells Haru that Chiyu is fighting alongside Nomi in Accel World. Haru visits her, and she tells him she’s pairing with Nomi by conscious choice, not coersion. After poring over information, Haru determines Nomi is staying off the lists by using an obsolete, banned brain implant chip. He confronts Nomi with this info, and Nomi challenges him to an all-or-nothing duel.
Thanks to some sleuthing and an assist by “Pard” (whom he gets to ride!), Haru finally has some leverage against Nomi: knowledge of his illegal implant that could get him expelled, and in any case would be removed as soon as it’s detected. Game Over for Nomi, right? Well, apparently Nomi still considers the changing room video he fabricated to be equal in value. We disagree. Nomi is guilty of something that can be proven, and wanting to keep that secret gives him all the motive to frame Haru. Still, the narrative treats their leverage against each other as equal, so we’ll go along with it. Rather than settle things in the real world, they’re going to have a duel in Accel.
Haru’s implant chip epiphany happened when he realized a gesture Nomi was making was of closing a virtual window, despite his not wearing a neuro-linker at that time. This suggests, in this case, Haru has a keen eye for observation and is able to connect the dots and successfully corner Nomi. Unfortunately, Haru isn’t so observant when Haru takes her friggin’ shirt off and tells him she’s in a place where he can touch her if he wants to. Uhh, she wants you, brah. Gotta at least acknowledge it. Also interesting is that in Aceel World Chiyu has chosen not to tag along with either Haru or Taku; and she’s rapidly becoming a force by Nomi’s side. Also something Haru has to watch out for: overuse of the Incarnate system leads to the Armor of Catastrophe.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Lime Bell fully heals Dusk Taker. When Cyan Pile tries to attack him, he tears him to pieces. Silver Crow gains a sinister black and red aura, but Chiyu screams for him to stop, time elapses and the duel ends. In the real world Haru and Taku confront Chiyu, who tells them she’s partnered with Nomi by choice, but Haru is convinced she’s being coerced. After a nightmare in which be becomes evil, Haru calls Hime, who comforts him. He then suggests to Taku that they seek out Niko’s help to get Taku trained in the Incarnate System. At school, the two have been implicated in the girl’s locker room camera plot.
When Chiyu healed Nomi two weeks ago, we are really pissed off. But now that we’re back to the main story, our interest in the series has been reinvigorated, like Nomi’s health. We didn’t mind her doing what she did, or even her cryptic, standoffish behavior throughout the episode, because it means more conflict for this triangle of friends who can’t quite catch a break. This punk Nomi has been dropped into their lives, an he’s determined to fuck with them mercilessly. In fact, he gets Haru so angry, there’s a possibility he’s summoned the Armor of Catastrophe. There are great moments of Haru getting pissed off…and his “Evil Pig” nightmare is pretty disturbing, both to him and us.
His brief visit with Hime is pitch perfect. She probably knows something is wrong, and part of him wants to ask her for help, but he doesn’t; they just relax together and enjoy the scenery. It’s a nice time out that helps Haru for the trials he faces the next morning, when Nomi has framed him and turned the whole school against him. What’s great is that Haru is done being intimidated and messed with. It shows growth and maturity. He’s not going to live another day like he used to, looking down and fearing forhis safety. He’s going to fight back, and he’s going to ask Yuniko for help. Combined with the threat of his “Dark Side” emerging, we like where this is all going.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Black Lotus, Crikin, Dolphin and Merrow face off against Sulfur Pot and his pet legendary monster, Nidhogg, which he acquired through cheating. The young girls collect metal while Lotus and Crikin take the brunt of the fire-based punishment. In the real world, Megumi finds Hime, Ruka and Mana passed out in the dark, and decides to join the fray. Her special power forces a world transition to the ocean stage, neutralizing Nidhogg’s fire. Dolphin and Merrow pin Sulfur down and Lotus cuts the reins. Nidhogg eats Sulfur and he loses. Back in the real world, Megumi doesn’t remember her participation in the battle, dismissing it as a dream she’s going to write a story about.
This second part of the two-episode Hime mini-arc tried its darndest to be interesting, but with a boring, idiotic, one-dimensional foe whose demise was never in doubt for a second, it had its work cut out for it. The battle is dull and repetitive, and Black Lotus doesn’t seem all that useful. It takes intervention from Megumi to turn the tables, but how are her actions not cheating too? Do two wrongs make a right? And what was with the ghost of her childhood visiting her and telling her to plug in? Just seemed random.
With the series returning to the main clash between Haru and Nomi, we got the feeling the characters Hime met wouldn’t be getting any more screen time anytime soon…which is fine with us. With five episodes left, Nomi has to be dealt with, and it’s better for the series to focus on its core characters than simply coming up with new, half-baked ones for the sake of variety.
Rating: 4 (Fair)
Kuroyukihime is on a class retreat in Okinawa, sharing her room and much of her time with her friend Megumi, when she’s challenged to a duel by a local burst linker named Lagoon Dolphin AKA Asato Ruka, which Hime quickly wins. Ruka and her friend/protege Itosu Mana want her to meet their master. While talking with the middle schoolers, Hime loses track of time and ends up nearly ditching Megumi, who gets upset. Ruka and Mana’s master is Crikin, a Tokyo linker she knows, and he wasn’t going to settle for anyone less than the Black King.
Anyone pissed off by last week’s Chiyu twist and wanted some kind of resolution likely isn’t going to like this week’s digression to Okinawa, but we suppose all those new characters in the second-half OP had to be introduced at some point. Even Hime can’t help but think about Haru and whether he’s in trouble without her, and Megumi notices her distraction. Watching Megumi, it’s clear she’s very attached to Hime, and this trip isn’t turning out to be the love-in she’d (unrealistically) hoped for. Thanks to Haru, she sees even less of Hime than she previously did.
While we have no idea how this arc is going to go, we did get an odd vibe from the apology Megumi was about to make before her alarm went off: is she in some way, secretly involved in Brain Burst? Less mysterious were the hotheaded, loud-mouth tomboy that is Ruka, and her mousey “seer” pal Asato. They’re n00bs, but they have heart, and their master taught them to respect the Accel World, while not being overly paranoid. As for the master, Crikin, we only get a glimpse of him: he’s red, and theres a “monster” out there he needs Hime’s help defeating. Here’s hoping Chiyu doesn’t pop out of the shadows and heal the monster.
Rating: 5 (Average)
Haru begins his training with Sky Raker, who tells him the secret to his powers of flight weren’t his wings (they were just for show), it was his willpower, overwriting the reality of the virtual world. Raker nudges him off the pillar of stone, making him climb up, but after a transition it becomes solid metal, so he must use the “incarnate system” to slice handholds and footholds into the metal. On the seventh day, he reaches the top. Sky Raker tells him how she became wheelchair-bound, and lends him her “gale thruster” to help him get back into the habit of flying, in hopes he won’t follow her path.
Obsession is a dangerous thing. Sky Raker (not Laker) developed one when she could never jump high enough; she wanted to fly. So she took the drastic step of having her legs cut off – and she made her only friend – Black Lotus – do it for her (perhaps to make her avatar more like the real-life Raker, who has artificial legs). Even two legs lighter, she could still only jump, and not fly. Haru’s different. Hime knew it when she recruited him, and Raker seems to sense it too. He can fly, wings or no. And so she gives him a crash course in Neo-like “hacking” of the virtual reality of Accel World. It’s a program with rules that can be bent..and broken.
In training to restore some semblance of his flight ability, Haru has the advantage of Accel World’s extreme time differential – since one real world day equals three Accel World years. We wish there’d been a more clear indication of how brief a time his seven Accel days actually were when he logs out and meets the real Raker, because Nomi wasn’t around to bother him. In any case, it’ll be his willpower – and Chiyu’s – against Nomi’s sly trickery. We’re looking forward to Nomi getting his comeuppance!
Rating: 6 (Good)
While dueling, Nomi uses his avatar Dusk Taker’s special move, Demonic Command, to steal Haru’s wings, then his points, leaving Haru and Chiyu devastated in the real world. With Hime gone and Haru unable to tell Taku anything, he considers erasing the game from his brain. Entering the “Bitter/Rough Valley” to duel someone, who ends up being Ash. When he can’t defeat him, he asks Ash to finish him, but instead Ash takes him to see his guardian Sky Laker, the closest avatar to flying prior to Haru.
Nomi Seiji’s reign of terror commences this week, and his words and actions leave Haru and Chiyu sobbing into each others’ shoulders in the dirt. He’s a trickster who steals other avatars’ abilities, and when he so quickly and easily takes Silver Crow’s wings away, it’s a pretty big shock. Just when you thought Haru was starting to get over his confidence issues, Nomi destroys all the progress he made and got him into a hopeless state of mind, to the point he considers simply ending it all by erasing brain burst from his nuero link.
This reiterates that being a burst linker isn’t something that is forced on anyone; it’s a choice. Linkers like Hime, Niko, and perhaps Nomi, the Accel World has become more important to them than the real world, but that’s not yet the case for Haru. He can walk away and still have a good life. He has friends who care about him. Of course, we wouldn’t have much of a show if he erased it, so instead he bumps into the ever-optimistic, chipper Ash, who helpfully gets Haru access to his guardian, who may be able to get Haru out of his funk and teach him some new tricks. We hope. We also hope Hime gets back soon, before everything is destroyed!
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Taku relays to Haru and Chiyu that Nomi is using the “physical burst” command to excel at kendo, like he used to do. Haru follows him and determines he truly is a burst linker somehow masking his signature. However, Nomi knows he’s being followed and uses electron visual masking to trick Haru into entering the girl’s shower room. Chiyu covers for him, but when Nomi later corners Haru, Nomi reports that he planted a hidden camera in the showers. With this leverage over them, he declares them his slaves. He then challenges Silver Link to a duel.
You have to hand it to Accel World, they’ve really outdone themselves creating a character we take an instant hating to. Seriously, this guy’s a Grade A PRICK. For a moment we feel sorry for him when his Kendo partners pick on him, but it’s only a brief moment, as he uses his burst skill to catch a thrown sword and merely gloats. But while he’s a piece of work who is not above cheating, blackmail, and all manner of deceptions and feints, he’s also a pretty sharp adversary; something we can’t quite say about Haru or any of his foes up to this point.
Also hand it to Accel World to make Haru ending up in the girl’s shower (and in the arms of a naked Chiyu) not descend into farce: rather than screaming and kicking Haru, Chiyu hides him: being found in the girls shower means expulsion, and she’s not about to let her modesty and indignation get her dear friend expelled. Her observations about the game being too intense are quite astute; especially in the case of people like Nomi and hell, Kuroyukihime; the game just means way too much for them.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
P.S. We take exception to Chiyu’s judging of Haru’s pizza as “not real food”. That looked like good pizza…with prawns and broccoli and everything! Not everyone has a pro chef for a mom, kiddo.
Haru and Taku help Chiyu install Brain Burst. Her avatar, Lime Bell, turns out to be a healer, to the surprise of all, as only one other healer exists in the entire game, and they’re a king. Meanwhile, the new first-year class arrives, and with it comes a mysterious boy named Nomi, who beats Taku at Kendo by accelerating his moves, yet doesn’t appear on the Brain Burst roster.
With the big Chrome Disaster arc behind them, Haru and Taku take it easy this week, obliging their friend Chiyu’s desire to join them in their online game, hopeful she can help make it more fun for them. The thing is, she knows nothing about the game, so any plans she has are kind of premature. Still, it is interesting to see the birth of a new burst linker, and she certainly seems to have potential, considering her ridiculously-rare healing powers.
This episode also sets up a possible new dilemma, with Kuroyukihime going on a third-year school trip and leaving Haru and Taku in charge of the defense of Suginami in her absence. This is a tall order, especially with the newcomer Nomi on the prowl. This kid may not show up on the Brain Burst GUI, but considering how he dominates Taku in the real world, he seems to have some knowlege of the Accelerated World, and is likely an imminent threat at a bad time.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Yellow Radio and his legion scurry away, leaving Hime, Niko and Haru to deal with Cherry Rook/Chrome Disaster. Haru is too scared to move at first, but Hime encourages him. Hime is struck down by the armor, then shot in the back by a frustrated Niko, who loses an arm. The Armor then bounds away, but Haru goes after it, using its own tethers against it and driving it into the ground in pieces. Niko delivers the judgment blow. Everyone checks their equipment for remnants of the armor, and find none, though Haru still hears its voice, as a part of the armor has infected his avatar.
And so the Cherry Rook/Disaster story is more complex than a simple matter of a subordinate going off the reservation. Turns out, Cherry and Niko were good friends at a facility for abandoned children, and he introduced her to Brain Burst, not the other way round. He was her guardian, and she was his protege – but she caught up to and surpassed him. In the real world, he was about to move away, and wanted desperately to keep in touch with her through the VR game, so he sought out the Armor of Catastrophe to become stronger. Turns out that was a bad move; since the armor doesn’t just make your stronger, but turns you into a mindless, avatar-devouring animal.
For all the build-up, he’s done in pretty easily, but we chalk that up to Haru getting better at dismissing his inherent fear of being worthless and losing – potentially self-fulfilling prophecies – and tapping into his ample potential. We also liked how Niko hesitated when she had the chance to take Rook out; she’s still a kid after all, and was hoping he could be redeemed. The transition from the dark city to the Castle in the Sky-style lush green paradise dotted with ancient ruins was a nice touch, as was the post-battle scene between Haru and Niko, who have indeed beccome friends, regardless of Niko’s tsundere insistences to the contrary. Of course, with the armor not-quite-gone and apparently lurking within Silver Crow, the second half won’t be all fun and games.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Haru, Hime, Taku and Niko are ambushed by the Yellow King, Yellow Radio, and a large force of his followers. He neutralizes Black Lotus by playing back video of her beheading Red Rider in a sneak attack. Taku believes retreat the best option, and he all but sacrifices Cyan Pile to cover the others. Silver Crow and Scarlet Rain struggle with Radio’s superior numbers, until Haru snaps Hime out of it and Black Lotus squares off with Radio himself, the first battle between Level 9 Kings. Before they can unleash their special attacks, Radio is stabbed by Chrome Disaster.
The end of last week looked like a tough spot for our heroes, as their foes had the high ground and far more numbers. Thankfully, Yellow Radio is more insterested in talking and letting the small fry fight for him; he only lifts a finger when Black Lotus comes at him directly. There’s also no nice way of saying this: his henchmen can’t aim. They do manage to dismantle much of Niko’s red fort, as Haru is busy squirming on the ground getting shocked. At this time, you can bet Niko is regretting not bringing Red Legion backup.
As for Kuroyukihime, seeing herself betray the old Red King, someone she respected and would probably be friends with in real life, is a sudden shock that drains her will to fight (“Zero Fill” ~ there’s a term for everything!), and without that, her avatar won’t move. Fortunately the shock is only temporary, as sufficient yelling from Haru wakes her up (so she can correct him about her having loved Red Rider; she didn’t). Then the silly-looking Yellow King with his silly illusory powers literally gets stabbed in the back by the very Chrome Disaster he created. But we agree with Kuroyukihime…we never liked him anyway.
Rating: 5 (Average)
Now Level 4, Haru undergoes extreme training so he’ll be strong enough to start helping his legion gain territory. While returning home he finds a tiny, cute red-haired girl in his apartment, baking cookies and claiming to be a second cousin. Suspicious of her story, he does some digging and discovers she is the second Red King, Scarlet Rain, whom he pisses off by accidentally groping her when she falls in the bath with him. She challenges him to a duel, and Silver Crow is no match for her stalwart defense and overwhelming firepower. Rather than kill him, she demands he get her an audience with Kuroyukihime, in the real world.
There’s something to be said for uncomplicated, non-mystical, straightforward stories like this one: legions of various colors led by kings vying for dominance in a virtual game. This series continues its imaginitive execution with a very cool climactic battle against his first king, even if that king is a pint-sized firecracker. We appreciated how her introduction was as a not-so-convincing cute little sister act, and for once, Haru isn’t buying it (in expressing his suspicions in his thoughts, he rather hilariously says the long-form title of Oreimo). Hime may scold him for not doing enough research on the legions, but at least he’s growing less gullible. His only mistake is being in a vulnerable position – in the tub – when she shows her true colors.
Frankly, this Scarlet Rain girl should thank her lucky stars Haru did catch her, even if he incidentally copped a feel in the process; she’d have lost her throne and possibly motor skills had she landed headfirst on the edge of the tub. He saved her life, which is why she spares his in the duel. Well, also because he’s the closest link to Kuroyukihime, whom she likely harbors a vendetta. Hime, you see, beheaded Rain’s predcessor. It could be she did Rain a favor by doing this (it allowed her to take the Red throne), but more likely than not she wants revenge. Hime is reluctant to give Haru details about her past with the first Red King one way or another, so we’ll see.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
When Haru describes how he direct linked with Chiyu and learned she wasn’t Cyan Pile, but only a conduit, Kuroyukihime gets upset and storms off. Haru refutes claims he’s going out with her, and cannot fathom someone like her actually liking him. After school they walk home, and he confronts her about it, further upsetting her. A car nearly hits them when they burst link, and Kuroyukhime uses her level 9 power to use her real body to push him out of the car’s path, hitting her. In the hospital in critical condition, and with 99% of her points lost, Haru vows to protect her from Pile, who arrives and is revealed as Taku. Haru initiates a duel with him.
This week Haruyuki Arita is a particularly insufferable little pipsqueak, and while we can’t blame him, considering his point-of-view, for questioning the sincerity of Kuroyukihime’s feelings, we can surely blame him for making things worse by insisting she must hate herself for pretending to like him, and that she simply use him like the disposable pawn he is. This is how this kid has always thought about himself; worthless. Which doesn’t make much sense considering he has such a loving, supportive friend in Chiyu up to this point, though perhaps even she has always been unable to convince him he’s worth more than dirt.
In any case, Kuroyukihime lets her guard down, and they end up in a situation where she’s the only one who can save them from a runaway car, so she does, confessing most doubt-allayingly her new-found love for him before sacrificing herself (though she isn’t killed, this is the future, after all.) Is it indeed pretty far-fetched for her to fall so hard in love with him so soon? Perhaps, but love is a many-splendored thing, and logic rarely figures into the equation. It’s also more than a little convenient that she happens to be in love with someone who’s friends with the girlfriend of one of her mortal enemies in Taku. But then again…six degrees of separation.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Car Cameos: There were a couple tight close-ups of cars, but they were of the fictional futuristic variety.
Chubby, uncool, cowardly Arita Haruyuki is constantly bullied, and retreats to the Neuro-link to get away from reality. He meets Kuroyukihime, an upperclassman with a game called “Brain Buster” that lets them enter the “accelerated world,” which slows a second down to nearly 17 minutes. The cost of such power is for him to fight in duels with other Burst Linkers. Winning nets ten points, losing costs ten, and accelerating costs one. Initially unsure of his duel avatar, Silver Crow, he manages to outwit and defeat his first opponent. Hime is impressed, but his other friend Chiyu is suspicious of her.
Accel World begins with a two-parter that throws us right into the somewhat pitiful life of a very pitiful young man who is at least three feet shorter than everyone else and drawn more crudely. We can only infer that he is a dwarf. But he’s not a confident dwarf, oh no. This kid is about as pathetic as you can get. Even in The Future, bullies make him spend all his virtual lunch money on sweets for them, else his face find their fists. In the global network, this Haru kid is has a little cartoon pig avatar, perhaps reflecting his low opinion of himself.
All this changes when a young lady named Hime frees him of his oppressors and gives him a chance to become something more, if only in the virtual world. We won’t lie; there’s a lot of explaining and exposition, but this double episode manages to cover it all relatively deftly. Like Haru, we’re still wrapping our heads around this new game and all its intricacies, and there are plenty of them. Meanwhile, back in the real world, he may be small and plump and totally lacking in spine, but he has at least two girls looking out for him in Hime and Chiyu. Their rivalry, and his progression through Brain Buster, will likely shape the episodes to come. It’s a very zany, imaginative series with some nice fight animations, so we’ll stick with it for now.
Rating: 6 (Good)