By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.
In general, one step forward and two steps back is the Accel World way, so I will admit that when we finally got to the big villain reveal here I was half expecting that they had in fact sabotaged the video card that Chocolat Puppeter had, or altered the footage, or what have you. Fortunately, Kawahara still knows how much is too much and how much is just enough. This may come as a surprise to those of you who just read ten straight volumes of Sword Art Online: Alicization, but hey. But yes, the plan to reveal White Cosmos as the masterminds of all the bad things in Accel World is finally borne to fruition here. Of course, there’s just one slight problem with that, which is that in order to do so, all the major players in Brain Burst are gathered in one place. It’s the perfect time to do some culling. And White Cosmos is super powerful, even though, to my annoyance, Kuroyukihime’s sister did not show up for this big battle. Basically, expect deathtraps.
There are a lot of the things I like about Accel World here. The cast all get some cool things to do. Chocolat Puppeter gets to fulfill her role as the one with the evidence. Sky Raker and Silver Crow end up making a great flying team, and Fuko in general gets a lot to do in this book. There’s suggestions throughout that there was a lot of history in this game Haruyuki missed before he was given it, and while he knows a lot of it, he doesn’t know all of it. (In particular, every single player seems to think of themselves as Fuko’s rival.) Haruyuki’s “gosh, why am I so weak and bad” mindset is virtually absent here, mostly admittedly due to the fact that there’s no time to think in this book, but the ending is fantastic, with his realization that Kuroyukihime is in fact upset and depressed, and his overture of food to cheer her up is very sweet – that said, I doubt that the cliffhanger ending we see here is going further than snuggling.
Of course, this is still Accel World, so there are also several things I wasn’t too fond of here. I’m never going to love Hima’s oversexualized tweens artstyle, and the fact that the series seems determined to show the girls “naked” behind their avatars (while Haruyuki gets to keep his shirt) and the huge chests of some of them – the fanservice in this series is ludicrous to the point where it’s hard to read in public without getting arrested. And Kawahara admits this next one himself – we’re spending more time in the game, which is okay – I mean, it’s the subject of the series – but at the expense of the real lives of these characters, and he’s absolutely right – I do want to see the group all go to Haruyuki’s farm, or the elections, or all the things he set up that have been in stasis because of these endless fighting arcs. It can be grindingly exhausting.
That said, this problem may be solved very fast unless Silver Crow and Sky Raker can do something, as most of the rest of the good guys are in a nasty deathtrap that will be hard to escape. Fortunately, we get Vol. 23 soon, and let’s look at the cover art… (sighs, slaps forehead). Maybe we’ll get 23 soon.