I’m not usually a great fan of shounen fighting anime. Endless combat sequences tend to wear thin pretty quickly. But sometimes one comes along with such interesting characters and such an intriguing story that it does grab my interest. So far Accel World (Hulu link) seems to be in this category.
Like Dennou Coil the first episode begins with a demonstration of future computer technology. But while that show featured “cyberglasses” which we might actually be able to buy in a few years, this one is set in 2046 and the characters wear “Neuro Linkers” which let them plug their brains directly into the Internet. (Which they call the “Global Net”.)
The main character is Haruyuki Arita (Yuuki Kaji), a short pudgy first-year middle school student who is bullied by the older boys.
Haruyuki has two close childhood friends.
Chiyuri (Aki Toyosaki) is your stock tsundere childhood friend who acts like she is secretly in love with the hero even though she yells at him a lot.
Takumu (Shintarou Asanuma) is tall, handsome and kind, not to mention a rising young Kendo star. He and Chiyuri are dating, though there a plenty of hints that she secretly likes Haruyuki more.
After being forced to buy lunch for the bullies Haruyuki runs away, locks himself in a bathroom stall and logs into the school network’s virtual game room.
Haruyuki’s online avatar is a cartoon pig which is rather cute but suggests that he has pretty low self-esteem.
Chiyuri’s avatar is much cuter.
Haruyuki catches a glimpse of the school’s most popular girl, surrounded by her admirers.
She goes by the name of Kuroyukihime (“Black Snow Princess.”) Sort of like Snow White (known as
Shirohime Shirayukihime in Japanese) but edgier.
Kuroyukihime has taken note of Haruyuki’s skill at games. She invites him to meet her at lunch the next day in the Senior Lounge. Once there she offers to “cable” with him, which means directly connect their Neuro Linkers with a cable for a private conversation.
This is not the sort of series that has really obnoxious fan service. Still there is some fan service and much of it involves the practice of Cabling which the kids consider akin to sex. Not only is it a very intimate connection but you could also pick up a nasty virus or other malware if you do it with the wrong person.
She doesn’t give him a virus but she does offer him a probably-illegal program called “Brain Burst.” Now if someone were to suggest that I should install a program called Brain Burst in my brain I would be pretty reluctant, but Haruyuki is a pudgy 13-year-old boy who is desperate to impress a beautiful 15-year-old girl. He immediately agrees.
Brain Burst allows you to do something called “Burst Link” which speeds up your mental processes by a factor of 1000 while letting you keep full access to the Internet. You can stay like that for up to 30 minutes. That’s 30 minutes of your subjective time; to anyone not using the program it would seem like 1.8 seconds.
This is obviously very useful but it comes with a price. To continue to use Burst Link you have to participate in an online fighting game and defeat other players. If you lose too many times you will permanently lose access to Brain Burst.
The game is played in a dark foreboding virtual world using CGI avatars.
Chiyuri is suspicious of the developing relationship between Kuroyukihime and Haruyuki. She may have a personal interest in the matter but she also seems to have good reason to be worried about Haruyuki getting hurt.
Let’s face it, the beautiful and popular Kuroyukihime is unlikely to be interested in Haruyuki for his fine manly body. All she really knows about him is that he has a talent for games, which she wants to make use of. She’s seductive and manipulative and she seems willing to go to great lengths to get what she wants.
I don’t want to imply that Haruyuki is a total loser. For one thing Chiyuri loves him and she knows him better than any of the other characters do. Also he clearly has the True Gamer’s Spirit, as befits the hero of this sort of story.
Nevertheless how much he gets hurt will depend on how much of a dark side Princess Black Snow really has.