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Accel World Set 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Accel World
Accel World
A secret world within the virtual world exists and that’s where the next stage of human evolution will be. Complete with piggies.

What They Say:
The year is 2046. Portable devices known as Neurolinkers have enabled mankind to oversee their daily life within virtual reality networks. But the advancements in technology have yet to provide a solution for the growing number of victims of bullying.

Haruyuki Arita is one such student who finds himself on the lowest social rungs of his school. Ashamed of his miserable life, Haruyuki can only cope by indulging in virtual games. That all changes when Kuroyukihime, the most popular girl in school, approaches Haruyuki with a cryptic proposal: to “accelerate” further, and beyond.

Haruyuki is introduced to a mysterious program called Brain Burst and a virtual reality called the Accel World. Learning its secrets, Haruyuki musters the courage to accept Kuroyukihime’s proposal and to fight alongside her as her knight.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release goes a bit above and beyond with what it does as we get the original Japanese language in stereo and the new English language track, both of which are done in the uncompressed PCM format. This gives us a good, clean and rich mix that definitely serves the show well. The nature of the show has it moving back and forth between standard school scenes and virtual world action with ease and that makes for some very good moments in each because of the way the link is used and dialogue happens without lips moving. The tone and nature of it is nicely done and it adds a nice bit of richness to it. The action side of the show works quite well too as it runs the gamut with clanging metal, swooshing sounds and other various sounds that run across the forward soundstage well. The dynamic here is solid as everything is placed well and has a good richness and depth to it where needed. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The set contains the first twelve episodes of the series spread across two discs with six episodes on each and little in the way of extras. Animated by Sunrise, Accel World has a gorgeous look to it that really comes across beautifully here. With a high bit rate that has many scenes sitting in the thirties, colors are rich and vibrant with a great sense of depth about many of them. The vibrant world of the virtual side of things is fantastic and it just draws you in all the more, whether it’s the grime of it or the designs of how Kuroyuki portrays herself. The real world scenes are just as striking in their own way with great flesh tones, no banding issues or any other problems. It’s simply clean and beautiful throughout, making for a highly enjoyable presentation.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release works as one would expect as it has a great piece of character artwork that showcases the strength of the designs and animation of the show. The front cover gives us the pairing of Kuroyuki and Haru together with them in their virtual personas, which is certainly a great mix of beautiful and comical, while also giving us Kuroyuki in her battle mode as well in the background, which is given more weight as the blacks and purples of it are set against the white background. It has a great set of colors and while some of the detail is lost because of all the black, it’s definitely distinctive and appealing. The back cover goes for more of a pink approach here with a white background that keeps it light and airy while bringing in some of the usual virtual aspects that you’d expect from a show like this. The premise is kept simply and we get a good breakdown of the discs features and extras along the right. We also get a number of good shots from the show spread across it. The remainder has the production credits and the usual logos along the bottom. I do still wish they would use a more traditional technical grid but that’s simply not happening. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release goes with a lot of clips from the show playing throughout it and that works well to set the mood since there are so many stylish pieces to use. The colors look great and stand out well as we get a good look at both the characters and action from it. The navigation along the bottom gives us the logo, which actually is bigger than we usually see for something like this, and the basic selections just over it which is all done in a nice virtual style that fits the theme of the show well. Submenus load quickly and easily and are quickly accessible during playback as the pop-up menu as well. The discs are locked though in terms of language so you can’t change on the fly or play in Japanese without any subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty basic as we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as twenty-two images in still form of character design artwork.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series written by Reki Kawahara of Sword Art Online fame and illustrated by HiMA, Accel World is a twenty-four episode series that definitely goes for an interesting look at times and a modern feel with its technology, showing us where things will go easily in the next decade or two when you get down to it. The show deals with some common themes, ones that everyone knows about to varying degrees but tend to be a bit more along the “geek” lifestyle for many, in that we’re introduced to Haruyuki, a high school student who is the subject of much bullying because of his chubby appearance. With the common nature of neruolink devices that allow augmented reality style perception in the everyday world, it’s overwhelming with what he gets to see and deal with. So he often deals with it by escaping into a virtual world where he can change his appearance and be something else. Like a piggie, it seems.

It’s an interesting shame spiral that gets him to be like this, since he does have a girl who appears to be interested in him on some level in the real world. But when he escapes into the virtual games, he demeans himself all on his own because of the way he feels, and that can be a terribly vicious cycle that can often require something radical to get him to break free of it. And he comes across just that within the game as there’s a beautiful raven hared young woman there that attempts to draw him out in the real world. As it turns out, she uses the same kind of appearance in both worlds and within the school she’s someone that holds some sway. Kuroyuki’s invitation in a public place at school with all the other students opens up Haruyuki to a lot, but it’s the program she shares personally with him that looks to alter everything as it gives him the chance to change his reality.

And that program is a doozy, as when he calls out the command in the real world, it shifts everything to the Accelerated World. It’s not a whole other world, but through the technology it lets their brains accelerate a thousand times the norm and when connected to the cameras and such around them, they can turn a second into sixteen minutes worth of paused time in which to do what they want. It’s like being able to stop time in the nick of time and then using the situation to your advantage to, say, get revenge, which is something that Haruyuki could easily do considering the abuse he’s taken over the years. Seeing his choices in this situation says a lot about him but also Kuroyuki as she orchestrates a few things with it to achieve what her goals are, which are certainly mysterious early on.

This introduction to the Accelerated World definitely brings out a lot of potential for Haru, but also a lot of challenges. With Kuroyuki being impressed by what he’s capable of, she’s able to draw him in through a couple of different ways. For one, Haru is definitely interested in the power potential there and what kind of mysterious game this is since he’s lived games since a very young age. But he’s also interested in Kuroyuki because she’s quite attractive and she treats him quite normally. In fact, at a pretty quick range in this first half of the season, she makes it clear that she’s interested in him in a more romantic way because her feelings are stronger and different than they’ve been with anyone else before. This is very, very hard for Haru to cope with since he has such a low view of himself because of his short and chubby nature. But what we also see is how it starts to take hold, partially because of the game and the world that’s open before them, but also in how the two work to protect each other in both worlds as the threats that exist because of Kuroyuki’s role in the Accelerated World. It’s a fairly natural growth in a shortened form that works quite well.

But it’s not without its issues as well as his longtime friends of Chiyu and Taku are both dealing with this shift in their friend in very different ways. Chiyu and Taku are a couple and Taku has always resented Haru on some level because of the way Chiyu is always so concerned about Haru since he’s been abused by so many others and is generally an introvert that’s too involved in his games. When they discover what’s going on with Kuroyuki, Chiyu is just plain distrustful – and Kuroyuki of her thinking she may be playing at a game of her own as a secretive opponent – while Taku just takes it all the worse since he just sees how involved Chiyu is getting and some of the awkward situations that arise between her and Haru as Haru is investigating Chiyu for Kuroyuki. It gets mildly complicated but it works functionally well and makes for some really, really good scenes as all their relationships slowly change and grow because of the friction that exists between them.

While we get a lot of material in the real world – and it’s not just fluff that’s designed to be silly as it all has a strong point to it as it builds the characters together – we also get a lot of action within the Accelerated World. Because of how any area can be turned into a virtual duel between sides, albeit ones that get tweaked with a layer over it to make it less normal, we get a lot of matches going on as Haru tries to build up his skill set. This has a really fun look to it as we see him dealing with the nature of the game and the mechanics behind it, taking to it quickly, but we also see that he’s one of those types that brings something new to the game. It’s straightforward in a lot of ways early on as the participants fight, and there’s a real value to it since you can lose your access to the game world permanently if it goes badly, but it has a nice hook in that nobody can fly and all the virtual designs avoid anything human looking in faces. That depersonalizes it in some ways, but it’s a nice twist from the usual where we just see detailed and familiar human avatars. Here, their mechanical natures and coatings are part of how they exist and plays into the battles well.

Naturally, Haru brings something new to the table since he’s gifted as he becomes the first participant in the secretive seven year history of this game and device to actually fly in-game. With silver wings, he becomes Silver Crow and struggles with the kind of combat that goes on here and adjusting to flying since there’s nobody that can really help him with it. It’s an aspect that’s definitely interesting and unique, but the show doesn’t really take much advantage of it in the first half beyond painting Haru as someone who is unique within the game. He does become a bit of a celebrity because of it and that draws more people to him that helps us to explore the structure of this game, the people involved and some of the goals. It’s a bit traditional in some ways as we get the edges of understanding the four “kings” that are the power players, the legions that follow them and some of the history of the game, but it’s largely foundational material here.

In Summary:
Having watched Accel World when it was simulcast, I was drawn to the show in a lot of ways because of the beautiful animation, the fun of the concept itself and the way it gave us some interesting characters and shuffled them out for awhile while also having some solid dynamics to work with when it comes to the relationships. I did find that on a weekly basis, it didn’t connect completely and felt a bit off as it felt like a lot of it was about character leveling for Haru. But watching it in a marathon form here, you can see a much clearer picture of what it’s trying to do and the overall themes of it all. The action for the show is good and I like the twist to the designs that dehumanizes a lot of it and the concept of the neurolink and how people interact in their daily lives is really fascinating and closer than I think we can imagine it is. But the big draw for me really is all about Haru as we get someone who is truly struggling because of his physical nature and his interests as he’s been ostracized. Gaining power doesn’t truly change him – it’s the connection with Kuroyuki that will draw him out into being who he can really be. And seeing the beginnings of that within the larger picture here makes for a thoroughly engaging show that has me looking forward to more, and wishing it had gotten another season.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Character Art Gallery, Accel World Promo, Clean Opening, Clean Ending

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: November 26th, 2013
MSRP: $54.97
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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