By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.
First of all, my apologies. I ended the last review by complaining that we had the buildup to “what will a Space Stage be like?” with no follow through. Of course, it’s in THIS book that we get the space stage, as before they can battle Oscillatory Universe they have to go through Great Wall, who took some of their territory back in the day and now need to test their resolve in the best shonen manner. This of course leads to Black Lotus battling Graphite Edge, which leads me to my first complaint: I’m not that fond of Graphite Edge. Usually I enjoy a character with his sort of personality, but I feel it meshes very badly into the Accel World Universe. There’s also the fact that he’s clearly meant to be a take on Kirito – just look at the subtitle for this volume. But he’s nothing like Kirito at all – if anything he’s more similar to Klein. That said, the cliffhanger shows we may get more interesting detail about him in the next book.
We also meet a few other people in the real world and see how they contrast with their burst linker selves./ Sometimes it’s not much of one – the twins from Leondis radiate “we are a cliched parody of twins” to their core, but feel much the same in the Accelerated World. And sometimes there’s a larger contrast, as we find that Chocolat Puppeter is a classic “why would anyone notice me as I’m so ordinary” heroine. This is in fact pointed out by her two companions, who note that she’s the sort that folks call cute, and they’re right. I was a bit put out that we got the buildup for them meeting Nega Nebulus in the real world but the meeting itself took place offscreen – if nothing else I always enjoy people who have fought Silver Crow suddenly realize that it’s Haruyuki. This is especially true for Chocolat Puppeter, who we recall he tried to eat in their last fight. For tactical reasons, of course.
The climax of the book (there’s also a short story epilogue giving backstory to Blood Leopard, which was OK but that’s about it) involves Haruyuki realizing that he may not be able to be with Kuroyukihime much longer – her parents are pressuring her to move to a high school away from Tokyo, or even in America. This would mean no more Accel World. As such, he wants to help her achieve her goals… sort of. He wants her to reach Level 10, but doesn’t want her to kill four Kings to do it. So he and Fuko (and Metatron, who I really hope meets Othinus some day in an Index crossover) go back to the Imperial Palace to talk once more to the young boy who is totally not the son of the Emperor or anything, Trilead Tetraoxide. Unfortunately, the book ends before we can see if they achieve what they went there for: to see if the Fluctuating Light holds the answer to Level 10.
This is, overall, a fairly typical Accel World, still sort of spinning its wheels waiting for the next big arc. That said, 18 volumes in you’ll still want to read it.