As I look ahead to what seems like a somewhat threadbare summer season, Sword Art Online is one of the shows that appears most interesting. So while Accel World is a fairly interesting show in its own right, a part of my mind is wondering just how similar the two works by author Kawahara Reki are. I’m struck more and more by just how unsubtle Accel World is, especially the dialogue – for two weeks in a row we’ve been treated (or subjected) to some of the most florid teenage ranting in recent anime. One can’t help but note that AW is adapted by Yoshino Hiroyuki, whose original works tend to be as subtle as a falcon punch to the temple (and sometimes twice as painful) and wonder how much of this theatricality comes from him, and how much from the original light novels.
In any case, I don’t mean to imply that this over-dramatic verbal style is a bad thing, necessarily – although last week’s speech by Snow Black was painfully inauthentic for me. No, it makes an interesting change from most anime to hear characters slip into Shakespeare mode and vent their adolescent angst in such an unselfconscious way. It worked better this week, the primary example being Haru’s soliloquy as he sat on Taku’s chest and ranted about Chiyuri, their childhood and Taku’s many failings as he pounded on him. And it’s that sort of speech that makes me think Kaji-san has a role where he can be himself and not annoy the hell out of me – because this is a role that demands overacting, and he’s going to overact whether the role demands it or not. I think it’s fair to say Kaji has a pretty small sweet-spot as an actor for me (as I’ve never actually found it) but this is about as close as I’ve heard.
The sense of theatricality doesn’t just apply to the verbal side of the equation, either – the symbolism in the story itself is equally grandiose. When Haru is at the end of his rope in the fight with Taku – he’s lost his arm and his leg has literally fallen off – his rebirth comes in the form of a metamorphosis that would do the most ambitious caterpillar proud, as he sprouts beautiful white crystalline wings and soars high above the Accelerated World, the wind rushing through the hair he’d have if he weren’t a metal combat suit. Taku even screams “Don’t look down on me!” – seriously, you can’t make this stuff up, and the symbolism could hardly be more transparent. Not one but too massive metaphors packaged together in one moment – that’s some impressive writing right there.
Subtle is clearly not the point here, and as I watch AW I’m inclined to think this truly is as light novel-y as any anime I’ve seen in a while. This is simple, straightforward entertainment to be consumed riding to school on the Marunouchi Line – and on that level it works more often than not, despite stumbles like last week’s stilted overreach. Everything is big and dramatic, and the love triangle is no exception – with Taku unmasked, surely Chiyuri is now free to follow her heart and pursue the one she’d loved all along – which sets off an interesting dynamic with Snow Black (and we still have to call her that, as even the cliffhangers are head-slappingly dramatic). Or perhaps… Could Chiyuri actually find Taku more attractive, with his veneer of invincibility shattered, newly vulnerable? I suppose it’s possible – and I’m not 100% buying his deathbed conversion and newfound humility, either. Whether he remains a foe for Haru romantically or generally remains to be seen, but in the Accelerated World the game is definitely on, and the newly resurgent Kuroyukihime has shed the veil of secrecy and declared her intentions openly. Let the struggle for power, inside the A.W. and out, begin.