That was downright metaphysical by AW standards…
Well, without question that was a pretty dramatic change of pace from the last few Noumi-dominated episodes. This was the sort of story that I suspect would have had a lot stronger impact on me if my buy-in to the series were a little more solid – to be honest, I’ve kind of wavered for the last month or so (in fact, my interest in AW has fluctuated quite a bit almost from the very beginning). I think Sky Raker’s story was quite well-told on its own terms, but my current skepticism for the series as a whole undercut my suspension of disbelief a little bit.
What we had, in fact, was a sort of super-condensed one episode training arc, with Endou Aya putting on her most beatific Nadeshiko voice as Haru’s gentle master. There was a Buddha-like quality to Sky Raker all through the episode in fact, giving Haru the equivalent of Burst Linker koans to try and help him regain the ability to fly. Her back story is pretty interesting – a girl who’d lost her legs in life (as we find out late in the episode) who dreams of flying in the accelerated world, and comes as close as anyone ever did before Haru. She sacrificed her virtual legs to the effort, in fact, believing they were holding her back – and it was her friend Kuroyukihime she asked to cut them off for her. This is a very Buddhist concept – the attachment to the material preventing the soul from taking flight.
In fact one could, if they so chase, paint the whole Accel World scenario as a kind of quest for Buddhist enlightenment – but that would require several leaps of faith, and probably giving Kawahara-sensei way too much credit. In any case, Sky Raker is a bit too messianic for my tastes, but she did plant the seeds of some interesting ideas – that it was the flying that gave birth to the wings for Haru rather than the other way around, for starters. Essentially her philosophy is the “Incarnate” system (another extremely Buddhist notion) – that power is inherent in all burst linkers, latent in most, and all they have to do is get in touch with that power and they can do whatever they set their minds to. To this end, she gives Haru a little nudge off her ivory tower, promising further lessons if he can make his way to the top – and proceeds to offer him bread and wisdom to help him get there.
On an island, this was quite a good little story – considerably more thoughtful than most of what’s served up in AW. What strikes me is that the line between wisdom and obsession in the AW, just as in the RW, can be a blurry one – and that Sky Raker can certainly be said to have crossed it. Still, that experience has left her wiser, and she seems to see it as her duty to share that wisdom in small ways with the likes of Ash Roller, and in more substantive ways with those like Haru who have more soaring ambitions. I like the notion that the bigger the scars one carries from their real life, the more potential they have as a burst linker – if there’s any profundity in this series, that seems to be where it resides.