It is the future. (Well, it’s always the future, isn’t it?) In the year 2046, Neuro-synchronization, a technology system that allows humans to manipulate their five senses, has become widespread to the point where people can access the Internet and enter virtual worlds through a device known as a Neuro-Linker (you can’t see it in the picture, but it looks like a neck collar, but it only spans around the back from jugular to jugular). Haruyuki “Haru” Arita (that short, fat boy, right in the center) has low-self-esteem due to constant bullying. To escape the torment of real life, he logs in to the school’s virtual world network where he plays squash alone and always gets the highest score.
One day, he logs on to find his high score has been topped (and by a huge margin). He is then asked to meet the person who did this. It is the Student Council Vice-President “Kuroyukihime” (just behind Haru), who is smart, beautiful, popular and elegant, everything he is not. She offers him access to a very secret program, Brain Burst, which is a virtual reality massive multi-player online game. You have a character that you make better by winning one-on-one battles. This Brain Burst program slows time (although it appears frozen in the real world) to play this game and to potentially manipulate your real time surroundings.
Brain Burst also carries with it a painful price to pay: lose all your points and not only do you lose the Brain Burst program, you lose all memory of it plus you can never install it again. Kuroyukihime wants Haru’s help as she wishes to reach the highest achievable level, which is level 10, and meet the creator of Brain Burst in order to learn its true purpose, but in order to do that, she must defeat the other level 9 users who are known as “The Six Kings of Pure Color,” the leaders of the six most powerful factions in the Brain Burst world. Haru agrees to help Kuroyukihime to repay her as well as overcome his own weaknesses.
Two who get involved include his childhood friends Takumu Mayuzumi (guy, far right) and Chiyuri Kurashima (gal, far left). The first season is broken into two halves, with the first 13 about how Haru levels himself up and learns what both friendship and self-worth is all about and the second 13 about their run in with the rather vicious Seiji Noumi, who represents the evil side of Accel World and Burst Linkers and how our quartet band together to fend off this menace.
Initially, I was concerned this would be just another fighting series. When you enter Accel World, the system decides what your character will be. Haru becomes Silver Crow, who looks like a robot and you have to fight to gain points to move up to gain more points and power and upgrades. However, the fighting is kept to a minimum as we learn more about this mysterious world. There are not that many players as Brain Burst is not all that old, perhaps six years at the most, thus the rather secretive nature of it. Plus, since you lose all memories of it once you leave, it would also explain why the rest of the world knows nothing of it. It is an intriguing concept: an alternate world where you can spend a huge amount of time without it impacting your real life (16 minutes in Accel world is equal to one minute in the real world.)
Another concern was the physical nature of Haru. I mean, he is almost a throw-back design to the 80s (I was thinking of “Galaxy Express 999”) and the girls have larger than normal eyes, even for anime. But you have a compelling story that keeps you coming back. I would suggest seeing this in pairs of two episodes, as there are a lot of cliff hangers and that makes a single-show watch unbearable. Noumi is too typical of your arrogant villain, but it was a pleasure to see some real come-uppance, for a change. The show leaves us with a coupler ending, so if we need to have another season (and we have to, as the main story and a sidebar story have not been resolved), we can link it all up.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Very good artwork, but Haru is badly out of place)
Plot 8 (As we have a few stories going on at once)
Pacing 7 (A bity aggravating, especially with cliff-hangers)
Effectiveness 6 (Gets frustrating)
Conclusion 7 (We have a coupler, but it does reach a type of end)
Fan Service 4 (A similar show would be “Gurren Lagann”)
Overall 8 (I was really pulled in to it all)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Direct link!