Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First Impressions – Accel World (Episodes 1-2)

[Hadena-Asenshi] Accel World - 01 02 (Preair) [720p][5DADC7BA].mkv_snapshot_11.22_[2012.04.03_22.19.31] [Hadena-Asenshi] Accel World - 01 02 (Preair) [720p][5DADC7BA].mkv_snapshot_23.58_[2012.04.03_22.34.28] [Hadena-Asenshi] Accel World - 01 02 (Preair) [720p][5DADC7BA].mkv_snapshot_42.34_[2012.04.03_22.53.03]

It’s fair to say that the first two episodes of Accel World exceeded my expectations in every way.


You may want to check out your window for flying pigs (appropriate with this show) because I’ve actually found a role where I don’t hate Kaji Yuki.  In fact, it’s (shudder) possible that I might even like him.  Even more so than with Kouichi from Hanasaku Iroha – the role where I found him most tolerable – Kaji seems to have found the ideal part in chubby, self-loathing put-upon loser Arita Haruyuki.  His nasal whine fits the look and personality of the character, and there’s just enough but not too much seriousness in the story to suit an actor who doesn't fare well with outright comedy or drama, but respectably with slightly ironic fantasy.

Above and beyond that, I thought this double-episode premiere was really excellent on all fronts.  I have to give credit to Sunrise, because of all the major studios they seem the most able to bend and twist their visual style to the point where you’d never be able to identify some of their shows.  They’re best known for their mecha and hard sci-fi series of course, and those do tend to share a common visual style, but this futuristic school story is something quite different than what I’m used to from them.  I would have guessed Silver Link or even SHAFT, probably, and I never would have pegged Obara Masakazu (Mai Hime) as the director.  He does a fine job here with both the school scenes (familiar in any time) and the VR ones.

There’s a lot of imagination in this project, based on the light novels by Reki Kawahara and HiMA.  It’s sometime in the not too distant future, and the students at Haru’s middle school regularly slag off their real-world classes and venture into a global net that’s something of a cross between Dennou Coil and Summer Wars.  The latter is more prominent in the Brain Burst world introduced to Haru by glamorous second-year Kuroyukihime (Misawa Sachika) who invites the bullied boy to the upperclassmen-only lounge and downloads the program to Haru via a (gasp) wired connection via the ports each student has in their neck.  I love the way all of this is presented, with an almost balletic miming of their online behaviors in empty space, and highly entertaining and creative sound effects.  The VR worlds themselves are a marvel of eye-catching sights and arresting sounds.  In the world of Brain Burst, consciousness is accelerated to 1000 times the real world – it’s a select club – and Haru has a shiny alter ego called Silver Crow, crafted from his own subconscious self-loathing and fear.

There plenty of drama in Haru’s real life too, even setting aside the bully Kuroyukihime saves him from.  There’s his osananajimi Chiyuri (Toyosaki Aki), who tried to watch out for Haru but only humiliates him in the process, and their athletic and handsome friend Taku (Asanuma Shintaro).  Taku is an elite athlete and seems to have a more than friends relationship with Chiyu, and Haru strives desperately to keep him from finding out about the humiliations he’s suffering.  The whole bullying angle is certainly nothing original in anime, but it feels fresh here - and at least Haru seems fairly bright and sensible when he's not being tortured by wolves.  There’s a conversation in the second episode where Haru tries to make Kuroyukihime understand why he feels so unworthy to be with her that reaches very close to profundity.  She tells him – quite rightly - that he’s the one that’s putting the distance between them with his horrible self-image – that in reality (or virtual reality) they’re only two metres apart.  But what she can’t understand is how hard it is for someone who’s been stepped on and abused his whole life to see himself as anything other than a doormat, unworthy of speaking with a Goddess like her.  Of course what she later gently tries to tell him is that she has very dark issues herself but that’s a matter for another episode.

I did struggle at first with Haru’s appearance, I admit.  He’s a dead-ringer for Eric Cartman for "South Park", and his super-deformed form looks totally out of place, and then there’s the matter of his global network avatar – a pig.  Why, of all things for a bullied fat boy, choose a pig?  But if you can get past that, the look of the series is fabulous, and the animation in the premiere is smooth and texturally complex.  The soundtrack is a great mix of guitar and orchestral pieces, and really contributes to the mood.  Yes, the adaptation is written by Hiroyuki Yoshino, and that worries me – I don’t think I have to explain why.  But this is an adaptation, not an original work, so I’ll hope for the best.  There’s no denying that he and Obara-sensei have delivered up a stylish and captivating premiere.

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22 comments:

  1. The_Magus_KillerApril 4, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Escapism from the real world at its finest. Strangely, I can relate since to the protagonist I'm kinda fat (but not that fat) like Arita, and I also play online games.

    Shoutouts/Expy:
    Artia's opponent - kinda looks like Ghost Rider
    The robot dude bystander w/glasses - Mechazawa from Cromarty High School
    Kuroyukihime - Mio from K-On!
    Silver Crow - Kamen Rider/Sentai series

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    1. The_Magus_KillerApril 4, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      I mean Arita. Sorry for the typo. XD

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  2. I actually thought this was from IG or Xebec at first but wow Sunrise?
    GE I have the exact opposite thought on Yuki Kaji, it feels like he's ruining a great show for me. I would have preferred Hiro Shimono to him, as this novel is supposed to be a bit silly so his comedic touch would great in it, although I doubt he has the experience that Yuki Kaji has as a hmmm "hetara."

    Really liked Kuroyukihime though. Her plan to get the bullies of his back was hilarious. Overall a good show to look forward to in Sunrise's capable hands, minus Yuki Kaji, Onora.

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  3. I must be dreaming. A character by Kaji Yuki that you like. I think I see pigs flying outside lol.
    /a/ actually hates him with a passion, giving him the name 'Fat Fuck' or 'Fat Shoe'.

    Anyways, I dont have an explanation why the author made Haru a replica of Cartman but I can explain
    why a pig. In the novels and manga he actually created a cool avatar to use but Araya stole it and forced him the pig avatar. And it was the deadline for submitting the avatar so it can't be changed.

    And it was pretty great, this premiere. Though the animation of Silver Crow and the others looks a bit weird.
    And Kawahara is pretty good when it comes to the dramatic parts where relationships to others are focused. A good example would be the conversation of Haru and Kuroyukihime in the second episode.
    I'm only ahead by a bit on the source materials as they arent many translated ones so after some weeks we'll be on the same group but I know this will be good.

    In summer actually another novel by Kawahara is being adapted. Sword Art Online.
    If you like this then you'll like that as well.

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  4. Yup, looking forward to SAO as well.

    I dunno, this part just feels right for Kaji - I very rarely found myself distracted by disliking his voice, which is unusual. Of course Hiro Shimono would have been a good fit (though he's a bit long in the tooth to be playing middle schoolers) but Hiro seems to be dropping out of the go-to pool for lead roles.

    That makes sense about the pig - so why didn't they explain that? Does it get explained later in the novels?

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    1. I vaguely remember it being explained pretty early on, but after this. Maybe episode 3/4?

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    2. enzo oh my i just checked about the stuff that made this anime and thi is suprise.the guy who did mai hime which had a half point that turned all around 180 degrees is the dir­ector of this anime and the guy who made The guy made GC and Seikon no Qwaser.and also was Com­posed series such as Dance in the Vam­pire Bund, Fractale, Sora no Woto, Macross Fron­tier and Denpa no Teki Kan­ojo is the Com­posed of accel world Not to men­tion he did some Darker than Black .by those stuff it sound like a dark anime.what do you think is this suprised this pepoles did this anime?

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  5. It was just explained briefly in a monologue in the novels. Right before he saw Kuroyukihime in the VR world surrounded by students in the first episode. Could be left out entirely or will be inserted in a dialogue where they'll make Hime ask why a pig.
    Minor detail left out but yeah it may be trouble to leave details like this.

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  6. Enzo. Be prepared. The darkness and seriousness is coming soon.

    And to my mind SAO is way better than Accel World. I could not finish 1 volume of Aceel world (It being animated seems much more tolerable) but for SAO... I went and bought it on my last visit to Japan.

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    1. P.S. They scraped some funny lines.
      E.g. Burst Link brings one, to the social camera world. Which is why places like under the table has no shape or color. Cause no camera is pointing there. Anime "Stop looking at my legs" = "The social camera is pointing there, you can see my pantsu..."

      ...If you know your panties are visible... close your legs????

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  7. I was pretty hyped about Accel World when I saw the trailer but then I read the first 9-10 chapters of the manga. It started off somewhat promising but then it felt like it degraded into mediocrity. Well, being mediocre isn't too bad I suppose but now I have guarded expectations for the anime.

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  8. Interesting.
    I'm not as allergic to Yuuki Kaiji as you normally but really had a hard time with him here.Of course this could just be me having a hard time with the MC period.
    I'd rather seem him in a role like the novelist from un-go or his role in deadman wonderland.

    This pretty standard shonen stuff so far (in a very weird way it gave me Air Gear vibes,protag who's bullied is contacted by mysterious girl he thought was out of his league and that doesn't go over well with his childhood friend) but for some reason I get the feeling there's more under the surface,notably with Kuroyukihime not wanting to show her fighting avatar.

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  9. I didn't mind Haru's voice (and I generally haven't had a problem with Kaji Yuuki, he did well as Issei in High School DxD), but the character is completely unbelievable. He'd built his own little world inside one of the games available. He would have channeled his rage at whoever beat his score. It's the whole "when you only have 1 thing left" dynamic. Most of the rest of his reactions work, though that character would have never gone to the lounge. Which is the root of the problem. If they want to go the "split realms" route with the character, then they have to show that already being there.

    But the show's biggest flaw is the game. Unless there is more rules we haven't seen yet, no one would bother ever playing like they're showing. The Burst Points are simply too valuable in the real world, so you'd figure out ways to "farm" them. Beating a higher level apparently produces more points than the defeated lost. Then means you can get several people together and farm up points. Further, you'd bring people into the world wholly to farm them for points. No one would ever battle in the open like that. Which renders the entire plot/world/interactions as pointless. Unless they invent some way the system prevents the farming.

    I did like the production though. It looked nice and the setup could be interesting, but like Guilty Crown (same writer, geez), there's already massive problems with the world building that, if not solved, render the story pointless.

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    1. Patience, more things will be explained in the next few episodes about these fights.

      But you got one thing clear. Kawahara has a bit of a weakness with world building. There are lots of things that can be expanded regarding the general scope of the game and plot but somehow Kawahara kind of stumbles on that. It's a bit hard to imagine the descriptions of the places he's describing and about the terms/rules/other stuff. That comes with writing a sci-fi novel I guess.
      But from what is translated on AW and SAO, I'd say AW is broader than SAO in terms of what it can do.
      I still prefer SAO though. Because Asuna and Lyfa ;)
      And Kirito has more swag than Haruyuki even if both of them have some issues.

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    2. You really can't have "world building" problems in media when it's about specifically constructed worlds, over our "real" world. It's the reason why most attempts at Game-based series fail badly in the logic department.

      There could be a really great story here, but it always suffers from the "well, if you'd just gone around the corner and shot the guy, we wouldn't have needed to spend 15 episodes in this story arc" logical flaw. It really removes you from the series, which is sad. There's a lot that could be really good here. But if the world problems persist, it's pretty boring to watch, unless there's something else you really want to see. (In .hack//Sign's case, the music & visuals were gorgeous to watch)

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    3. But now you are complaining about how you expect the show to be flawed in the future rather then about what is actually going on. Why not wait and see how those issues are handled before you make a judgement?

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  10. I still need time to get over Arita's voice reminding me of Shu. I got over it (for the most part) in Aquarion Evol, so I hope it will only be a matter of time here as well. Even worse, Arita's pig avatar (unfortunately) reminds me strongly of Super Pig, an anime series from the mid-90s. Not to say I watched the series, but I do remember seeing a couple of episodes from my childhood.

    I would love a Brain-Burst right about now, when finals are coming up. 1s=16 mins? GIMME

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  11. Wow, lots of hate here - this is obviously a divisive premiere. I thought the world-building was pretty creative, but maybe the anime built on what was in the novels.

    And no, I didn't hate Yuki Kaji here. Go figure.

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  12. Making a fat ugly chibi midget, out-of-place looking character as the main guy is one bally move, I give the makers credit for that.

    But no one has the problem with the same old BS premise of how he still has gorgeous women going ga-ga over him without him doing much? My gah, these makers just don't give up on this plot device, do they? I'm so ticked off on this BS (probably my anger increases as the main character's loserness goes up). Somehow the school's queen is basically an unofficial girlfriend about half episode in and to top it off, he has another beauty as a childhood friend who makes him home-made sandwiches and puts off with his jerkishness. Good grace! No wonder the male youth over there is so passive; look at what they are being fed constantly. The Guilty Crown connection is lesser concern, compare to this silliness.

    Well except for this deal-breaker BS, I'm more or less in forgiving mode for the rest of the show as there are a whole lot of worse stuff out there. Could've been a lot worse, oh I don't know, like, Guilty Crown?

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    1. Come now, he's not that ugly, he's a South Park character.
      And a cute heroine is a must for eyes candy, lol.
      The reason he uses a pig is explained in one page in chapter 01 of the manga.
      And I like how they explained how Accel World works since the very beginning. It doesn't need to be something really makes sense, as long as it's explained.
      This is so different with Guilty Crown. How could hearts / souls turn into mechanical weapons? How could human's blood and flesh turn into sparkly-semi-transparent crystal?
      Writer : "Bham! Live with it!"

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    2. While I also dislike the deformed main guy so is there a reason why the girl doesn't care. She isn't very interested in real life after all, so his net skills matters more to her then his looks. The childhood friend doesn't look exactly to be his either.

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  13. there is very good reason why his avatar is a pig and bullid it will be explained in the next episodes

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