By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.
Everyone has things they’re good and bad at, and realizing that is one of the best ways to stop being frustrated. To Reki Kawahara’s credit, I think he’s aware of his strengths. He writes good battle scenes. Especially these days, when he’s got years of experience that Sword Art Online (which, let’s remember, is mostly ported from his almost 20-year-old webnovel) does not. And this, the 21st volume of Accel World, finally gets to the big fight against White Cosmos that we’ve been waiting for for about a year now. As such, it should not be too surprising that this is one of the stronger volumes we’ve had in Accel World for some time. It also helps that, in among the action, which is exceedingly well-timed, there are also several plot beats that we’ve had hanging around for a while now that we actually get answers to. Not everything, of course – the reason White Cosmos are doing all this is left vague – but enough that the emotional payoff of the book is very satisfying.
We’ve spent a lot of time taking all sorts of precautions to make sure that Nega Nebulus are as prepared as possible to attack White Cosmos. It should therefore be no surprise to find that everything goes spectacularly wrong almost immediately. The group is forcibly taken to the Unlimited Neutral Field, then it’s transformed into a Hell Stage. 90% of the cast are caught in a “kill you over and over till you permanently die” trap, though fortunately no one permanently dies. Indeed, the biggest twist of the book is someone NOT dying. Sort of. In amongst this, Silver Crow and Lime bell are able to escape, but there are endless numbers of traps still waiting for them… heck, even the upper strata where Haruyuki can confab with Metatron proves to be attackable by our villains. How can they possibly win?
This isn’t all just fights, of course. The reason the fights work well in these books is the emotional beats we get along with them. Chocolat Puppeter helping to given everyone a leg to stand on, and also providing the best cliffhanger ever. Magenta Scissor, still in the throes of her heel face turn. Trilead Tetraoxide, outside the palace for the first time in the series, kicking a lot of ass. The villains are no less impressive. Kuroyukihime’s sister does not put in an appearance, of course, but we do get the snow sprite of the title, as well as a Rose Red to go with her, who proves a bit more noble than their counterparts. And there’s also the reveal on who the major power behind all these surprise moves is, why they’ve been coerced into doing it and who their parent is. It’s a great emotional climax.
So, well done, excellent book in the series. Next volume promises to be the equivalent of a Phoenix Wright trial, which could be very awesome.