By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.
Last time I said that this volume would likely finally get to the fight with the White Legion, and that is technically true, but it takes almost 4/5 of the book for us to get to that point. If Sword Art Online’s biggest fault is that it doesn’t flesh out its world or characters enough, and that the pace is too breakneck, Accel World has the opposite problem: the worldbuilding is excellent, but at the expense of the pace, which leads to readers wanting to skin through things to finally get to the fights. There is a minor battle here between Silver Crow and a bottle of Isodine – sorry, Povidone-iodine, but even that feels rather shallow as Iodine Sterilizer feels like an expy of Ash Roller. It is, frankly, a relief that a big villain finally appears to take on our heroes towards the end – and indeed, he’s the biggest villain we’ve seen, towering over the landscape, and might be a little more terrifying if he wasn’t depicted in the illustrations as looking like a giant Snow Bunny.
(The fanservice covers we’ve seen lately are also starting to irritate me – the illustrator’s always had that issue, I know, but this one in particular promises an attention to little girls that the text thankfully does not have.)
The first chunk of the book deals with Nega Nebulus and Prominence uniting to form a single legion, as promised. There is a bit of grumbling on the red side, both from folks who are a bit annoyed given that Black Lotus is the one who killed their former leader and also by the aforementioned iodine bottle, who just really wants to fight Silver Crow. On the Nega Nebulus side we have Cyan Pile and Magenta Scissor, both of whom are feeling guilt over the part they’ve played in past events and are looking for a chance to repent. After this, we get a relatively fluffy chapter which has the twins we met a while back from the Blue legion discovering what they think is a spy… only for it to turn out to be Trilead Trioxide, who is meeting secretly with Crow and Lotus. Some good character work here, and also more “TRILEAD IS THE IMPERIAL PRINCE OF JAPAN!” without actually saying this out loud.
The best part of the book is the final section, which once again gives the chocolate trio some heavy lifting to do as they find themselves first on the scene of battle, and therefore being forced to face off against a foe much bigger than they can really handle – but they try their best. I also liked that by now everyone knows that Haruyuki’s big flaw is that he frets too much, and that he does so much better when he forgets how difficult this is supposed to be and just plunges right in. And I admit I laughed out loud at Magenta Scissor asking if Bel and Pile were going out, which is followed by Bell asking “huh, are we?”. What was one of the bigger plot points in early books has fallen so much by the wayside that half the main couple doesn’t even seem to care anymore, and it almost feels like Kawahara mocking himself (while, of course, keeping Chiyuri free to be part of the potential harem pile).
So things have inched forward to the point where we’re actually fighting, and there is yet another cliffhanger promising things will get worse for our heroes. Still, I admit that after reading most of Accel World 20 my overall feel was “GET ON WITH IT!”.