Another pretty solid episode, all things considered. Grabbing headlines will be the reference to Sword Art Online, of course – it’s impossible to ever really forget that both series have the same author, but this was the first overt reference I can recall that confirms they inhabit the same universe. Uncovered by Haru in full “Hardy Boys” mode, the NervGear was a nice homage to SAO – but it was its successor as VR gear, the neural implant chip, that mattered to the story. I’m not sure I would have taken the approach Haru did once I had that information, going directly to him and laying all my cards on the table – hell, I might just have exposed him flat-out with a sneak attack. But then I guess we wouldn’t have our epic conclusion.
As is often the case with AW, the side characters were more interesting than the main cast. The Red Legion is definitely the most entertaining for me, and Blood Leopard – “Pard” – is quite a handful. First of all, it’s a great character design to look at. Throw in her constant use of net acronyms and her special talent to go into vampire mode and her amusingly patronizing yet protective attitude towards Haru and she pretty much owns every scene she’s in. She’s quite the font of knowledge too, including the useful tidbit of information that the incarnate power is actually what leads to stuff like Chrome Disaster’s cursed armor, which makes me wonder why Sky Raker didn’t think to warn Haru about that dangerous aspect of using it.
The other interesting element of the ep was, of course, Chiyu undressing in front of Haru and telling him “touch me if you want”. I’ve no doubt that she’s planning a double-cross of Noumi and that she’ll be the key to his final undoing, but the dynamic between she and the Hardy Boys continues to be a weird one. It’s always seemed obvious to me that Haru was the one she was really in love with, and it’s hard to take her actions this week any other way – though Haru’s reaction to that surprising development was rather blasé. The whole business with her teaming with Noumi seems underdeveloped to me and not very involving, but what I want to know is what happens to the relationships between she, Haru and Taku when they all admit the truth about who she really liked – a truth that they all know deep-down anyway. Can that friendship possibly continue under those circumstances, even after she’s helped them take down Noumi?
So the series conclusion looks to be the epic “winner take all” battle between Dusk Taker and Silver Crow, which – to repeat – probably isn’t the path I’d have chosen if I were Haru. Effectively he’s given sneaky-pants Noumi an honorable way to settle things, and it’s obvious that Noumi will try and pull a double-cross no matter how many conditions they agree to. Of course there’s Chiyuri’s inevitable double-cross to trump that, and I suppose that’s the essence of Haru’s “I’ll believe in
the me that believes in you”. As usual with Kawahara I actually find myself more interested in the setting than the characters, and I’d love to see more of the dueling ground in virtual Akihabara – I think that might just be the most interesting environment in Accel World.