Saturday, June 2, 2012

Anime Survivor: Spring '12 - Week 6.2

First off, an apology.

I know I wanted to review Kids on the Slope weekly for AniMaybe, but I suppose I have learned the hard way that weekly (or even monthly) reviews for the same show is something that I am not exactly built for. I found it difficult to do when I covered Rio: Rainbow Gate! and Dragon Crisis!, and even reviewing Puella Magi Madoka Magica was somewhat of a burden. I would rather judge by watching a show just once or all the way through, not by placing flags along the way.

You will get a Kids on the Slope review out of me soon. It's just that freaking good for a noitaminA junkie like myself.

That's probably why I'm hoping to finish this Anime Survivor thing soon. There hasn't been a lot of feedback on this new approach of reviewing, except for that one person on Twitter who was utterly shocked I dismissed Mysterious Girlfriend X this week. (Sorry, @ABCBTom. Had to be done.)

So let's get right to it. The tenth show gone from Spring 2012's Anime Survivor is...

Selling Points: There have been some pretty notable anime shows that have dealt with the use of the Interwebs, mainly the metaphysical approach towards what happens when one hacks into the human brain with peripheral devices (Serial Experiments Lain, Ghost in the Shell, Paprika). A few have taken some interesting approaches (Summer Wars's dichotomy between virtual reality and a family reunion, for example), but for the most part there has always been some human element behind the trip into electronic ether.

Accel World just goes straight for the jugular and reminds us that it's all just a game, really.

One of the most insecure male leads to date, Haruyuki Arita is at the epicenter of all bullying victims, using the near-future's virtual world network to escape from reality. Short, chubby, and prone to run from conflict, he fits his virtual avatar, a cartoonish little piggy, to a T, but all the time he's used to play virtual squash alone has made him quick. Apparently, this speed has caught the eye of "Kuroyukihime", the school's popular student council vice president, and she gives Haru a "Brain Burst" program that allows him to accelerate his thoughts and movements beyond human capacity.

There is a cost, of course. In order to have such access, you've gotta earn 'em, bub. The underlying virtual MMO is a post-apocalyptic fighting sim where armored players must defeat each other and level up for more Brain Burst points. While Haru learns the ropes and reluctantly adapts to this "game", Kuroyukihime has her eyes on loftier goals, looking to level up high enough so she can meet Brain Burst's maker and ask him of his intentions.

Of course, the show isn't without other characters, as Haru suddenly finds himself to be a target, now that he's protecting the virtual world's most polarizing figure in Kuroyukihime, a.k.a. "Black Lotus". With both friends and enemies looking to challenge him for his points, what will become of Haru, and how will this help the weak-willed piggy become a man?

Defense: I'm a bit surprised to find Accel World this far up the ladder of success. All signs point to this show being just another battle drama disguised as a middle-school comedy. There is evidence of possible harem-play surrounding our dumpy protagonist, including common female-character tropes and an awkward "my-cable's-too-short" scene between Haru and his best friend's girlfriend.

However, there appears to be something deeper to Accel World than just comedy, and a lot seems to be from the interactions between Haru and Kuroyukihime. While my suspicions are that Kuroyukihime has deeper intentions and could be more of a "Black Widow" to Haru, it's refreshing to see the sort of relationship the two share. While Haru is proud just to have someone depending on him for a change, Kuroyukihime seems to have some sort of adoration towards Haru and tends to show fits of jealousy. In a way, this is a bit of a flip from typical love stories in anime where the lesser-appealing male protagonist crushes on the central female and earns her love in the end.

Considering this show is slated to go 24 episodes, there is bound to be more interactions, especially between all of the other fighters observing these games, but it seems to me that Accel World is bound to live and die by the revelations that come from Haru's rise in status. However, we should also point out that director Masakazu Obara (The Girl Who Leaped Through Space) and screenwriter Hiroyuki Yoshino (Guilty Crown) have worked together on the Mai-HIME series. There could be some good synergy there.

Final Decision: In the end, it really came down to the simple idea that Accel World is a battle manga that never made it to Shonen Jump or at least a more futuristic version of .hack//SIGN. While it's cool to see a different sort of hero in a faster version of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots on the screen, there's really no unique message that I'm getting from the show.

Perhaps the harsh reality is that there is surprisingly little action in Accel World. Minutes drag on with lengthy explanations from Kuroyukihime that initially confused me, yet because of the cable-link technology, conversations turn into discussions without the lip movement. It feels like the cheater's way of animating the show without having to move as much. When the battles do commence, it feels anticlimactic compared to other robot-armor battle shows, perhaps due to the time limit put on matches.

I wouldn't at all be surprised if Accel World turns into an Animatrix series that was left off the final roster years ago. All signs appear to be pointing towards the "shocking realization" that the real world really is that desolate battleground on which other Brain Burst fighters fight constantly. That wouldn't be too bad of a plot, but unless Accel World can find a twist that doesn't involve this scenario, the show will just end up becoming another video game.

Next Week: Anime Survivor is trimmed down to the Final Four!

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