It’s not as though this episode did anything especially wrong, but at this point more than anything else I just want this arc to be over.
I confess I’m a little surprised that Kuroyukihime wasn’t looped back into the main story this week. It looks as if before this arc is said and done, something close to a third of Accel World will have been spent with the main characters separated. And nearly all of that stretch will have been with Snow Black virtually absent from the story altogether. It all seems like a rather odd narrative choice to me, and (while I won’t confess to be unbiased in the matter) this Noumi business has the feel of something that should have been wrapped up in two or three episodes. About the best argument I can make for drawing it out is that it was necessary for Haru’s development that he be out from under Kuroyuki’s wings for a while, but for me at least, it hasn’t paid off dramatically.
I think a big part of the reason for that is that I never bought Noumi as a villain, and once a couple of episode had passed it was probably unlikely anything was going to happen that could change that. I’ve rarely seen a character in a mainstream anime that screams out “Device!” as loudly as Noumi. It’s as if Kawahara spent a night over a case of beers drawing up a list of traits that would make people hate a character, than woke up the next morning, threw back two raw eggs with a half-cup of Tabasco mixed in and proceeded to write an arc around that character. Noumi’s too cartoonish for me to care enough about him to dislike him, never mind hate him – it’s his existence that annoys me, not the character itself.
But then, here we are – and I suppose the question on the front burner is just WTF is going on with Chiyuri and her seeming betrayal of her weepy childhood friends. As far as I can see she seems to be telling to truth about going to Noumi and volunteering to help him in exchange for points, but I just don’t buy the idea that’s all there is to it. My guess is she looked at the situation and decided that the only way Noumi could be stopped is if she did it herself – and she has some kind of scheme in mind to do so, something that required keeping Haru and Taku in the dark. I suppose it’s possible that she really is that much of a Judas, but that would break so many rules that I’ll remain skeptical until every other possibility has been disproved, stomped to bits and burned beyond any possible hope of recognition.
Meanwhile, we have Haru starting to fall under the influence of the Chrome Disaster that hitched a ride on Silver Crow (I almost forgot about that) and which seems to power up when Haru feels rage (and there’s plenty of that now). There were some pretty decent scenes here, including an odd one in which Haru and Taku share a microwave pizza at his apartment – a scene that somehow works because it fetishes the mundane details so much that it takes on a distinctly authentic feel. That scene also features some of the sharpest comedy of the last few episodes. It’s also interesting to see Noumi follow through on his threat to frame Haru for planting cameras in the girls locker room, which starts a cycle of bullying and social isolation that Haru is all too familiar with. Watching him urge himself not to cry as the reality of his pariah status struck him in the cafeteria was one of the more emotionally real moments of the arc, and if this can turn into a dignified look at bullying and a demonstration of real and believable growth for Haru as a character – in real-life, not as a Burst Linker – then if not justifying its length, the Noumi arc will at least have contributed something of value to Accel World.