From the uncreative mind that dumped Sword Art Online into your face comes his other famous light novel series, Accel World. I really don't see how people actually think Reki Kawahara's works are good. They're not. They're merely otaku-pandering wish fulfillment that's all style and no real effort put into them. Although Accel World is better than Sword Art Online, only by a little.
This 24-episode adaptation by Sunrise is set in the year 2046, where people have wireless access to the internet using NeuroLink, which is basically a computer built into your body. The story follows a junior high school student named Haruyuki Arita, who has very low self-esteem due to being bullied for his short, chubby, unnatural appearance. He spends his time in playing online games, but one day, he finds that someone beat his high score in a game that only he plays because no one else does.
That someone is the student council vice-president named Kuroyuki-hime, and she offers Haruyuki an opportunity to "break his own reality" and enter a fighting video game where the winner rules the online world and losers get kicked out. It also give him the power to move at a thousand times normal speed.
Interesting premise, I'd say, but there's a problem here: If you've read my Sword Art Online review, then most of the problems there apply here: Good ideas, bad execution. Every single episode left me utterly bored because the characters would rather explain how stuff in the show works rather than actually show it. The only time where I'm paying attention is during the fighting scenes.
Speaking of which, the presentation is good. If the art and sound is passable, then there's nothing much I can say. The fighting scenes are pretty cool, despite them feeling a bit too similar to Pokemon battles. The avatar design accompanying the fighting are also well-designed, too. Aside from Haruyuki's, the character designs are fine, nothing special about them.
The characters themselves are just as flat and boring as the execution itself. I'm beginning to think Kawahara has a knack for writing awful characters...
And holy crap, these are bad characters. Haruyuki is damn annoying. First of all, he's a big, fat crybaby who whines about everything and stuffs his face with food. It doesn't help that he's voiced by Yuuki Kaji. If you've entered this after watching Guilty Crown like I have, Haruyuki comes off as a whinier, chubby, buttugly Shu Ouma, right down to sharing the same seiyuu. Nothing againt him; I like him but there are very few roles I can think of where he doesn't voice a character that whines alot. At least Shu gets it together even though it took him longer than it should. At the end of Accel World, I don't think he ever got it together. None of his character improved, if there was any to begin with.
Now Kuroyuki-hime I have more to type about because I hate her the most. She's supposedly one of the strongest players, but she makes Haruyuki do her dirty work because she's too lazy to do it herself, which she can. In one scenario, a player whose levels are less than half of her's attempts to blackmail her and even try to kill her in the real world. She does nothing but make Haruyuki deal with him instead of crusing the guy herself. What's really odd is that none of her motivations are really explained. She chose Haruyuki of all peoplem, falls in love with him. Why? ...He's good at video games, I guess. That's pretty much it. She started out interesting but later just became a boring character whose main purpose is to be the series' sex object. Honestly, try to find one piece of Accel World merchandise where she isn't at least half-naked. Speaking of which, in the second half, she's away on a class vacation. We get two episodes of what she's up to, which consists of mostly her in a skimpy black bikini, probably to cater to the horny fanboys.
We also have Haruyuki's childhood friend Chiyuri. She's the nice, sweet, innocent girl who is in love with Haru that she's dating his best friend. Likely out of jealousy, but never really elaborated, like most things in this series. She was okay at first, but then her feelings tend to contradict each other alot. She's furious at Haru because Kuroyuki-hime's interested in him. If she's so upset about it, then why did she choose to date his friend instead of him. And for some reason, whenever she and Haruyuki have an argument, it usually ends with her getting undressed. Whatever drama that was building up is killed due to unneccesary fanservice and the chick's inability to keep her clothes on.
Like I mentioned, in the second half, Kuroyuki-hime is away, leaving Haruyuki to deal with a schoolmate named Seiji Noumi. Ugh, this little asshole made me drop the series at one point. He is a carbon copy of Sword Art Online's Nobuyuki Sugou in that he has no motivation to his actions and the stuff he does is so stupid, he might as well be wearing a sign saying "I am the villain." He talks big, but doesn't do anything to make him look like a serious threat. He just makes Haruyuki and anyone close to him his own whipping boy.
Those are just the worst characters. I don't mention the rest of the main cast because they're decent for the most part, like Takumu (Haruyuki's friend and Chiyuri's boyfriend). It's just that when you have bad main characters, the rest of the story falls with them.
There really is nothing good, let alone special about Accel World. It's just a big ball of unused ideas, cliches, poor execution, and bad characters, which leads to a bad series with wasted potential. I don't know what message Kawahara is trying to portray here... "You'll succeed at life if you're good at video games?" Uh... no! Video games can be a means to escape reality, but that doesn't eliminate whatever issues in reality that are present. That's not how life works, and anyone who thinks so definitely needs a reality check.