By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.
I was a little grumpy with the last volume of Accel World. After feeling that the Armor of Catastrophe arc went on far too long (a fact the author also agreed with me on), seeing it return as a Mark II made me slap my hand to my forehead. Fortunately, we were near the end of this arc when it appeared, and so it’s taken care of in one volume, though not without considerable sacrifice. More importantly, there’s a lot of really interesting discussion about the nature of Accel World in general, as well as its forbears. Striving for a meaning and purpose in life is something we see a lot of in the real world, but in the Accel World, the meaning and purpose of life may actually be a tangible thing, given that it was created. What’s more, the nature of Metatron reminds me very much of the nature of Kizmel in Sword Art Online; a sense of “these supposed NPCs have gone way beyond what everyone thought they would do’.
A lot of this volume, given that Haruyuki is separated from Kuroyukihime, focuses on the relationship between him and Metatron, who would likely have risen up fairly high on the list of ‘harem candidates’ were it not for the events later in the book, and even so the epilogue shows there may be hope. I admit I could have done without the “I speak like a tsundere princess” thing, but I really did like the discussion they had, which also shows how clever Haruyuki is, piecing together stuff that’s been bubbling around inside his head for the last 15 volumes or so. She also gives him the strength to finish off the bad guys before they get even more powerful, and (hopefully) get ris of the ISS kits making everyone lose it in the real world as well, though that last part remains to be seen. Everyone else got a lot of good stuff to do as well, and there was some nice development of Nico, who gets her armor back… mostly. There’s even a heartwarming festival to end things!
Except that what most everyone will be talking about is the arrival of White Cosmos, the White King who we’d never seen before, the power behind the Accelerated Research Society, and Kuroyukihime’s real-life sister. Given this is a Kawahara villain, it’s no real surprise that her goal appears to be to drive everyone in the game to total despair. Subtlety is not why you read this author. I suspect that she’s mostly going to be used to drive character development for Kuroyukihime, who wisely (and with Haruyuki’s help) chooses not to fight her just now. And of course to contrast the ‘girl shrouded in black who’s really kind vs. girl who looks white and kind but is secretly manipulative and awful’. Again, subtlety is not on display here. But it makes for a nice, dramatic scene, and would look pretty cool animated.
Given that we’ve wrapped up a long arc here, I would not be surprised if the next volume is lighter in tone. In the meantime, fans of the series shold enjoy this new volume, especially the talk between Haruyuki and Metatron.