Author: Reki Kawahara
Accel World, vol. 1
Haruyuki has, like basically all kids his age, spent nearly his entire life connected–to the global net, the school net, etc. He spends a good bit of time in full virtual reality dive too; being a skillful VR gamer is certainly an improvement over being a fat, unpopular kid who’s bullied at school then goes home to an empty house. One day–to the shock of the entire school, especially Haruyuki–Kuroyukihime, one of the most beautiful and popular girls in school, asks Haruyuki to share a direct link with her during lunch period. Which is basically tantamount to saying they’re dating. Not that they’ve actually even spoken before. Actually, Kuroyukihime has noticed Haruyuki’s extreme speed in VR games and introduces him to a special program called “Brain Burst”–a program that overclocks the brain and allows the user to think so fast that just a few seconds stretches into a half-hour reprieve. Also, it allows users to duel in highly-realistic game settings. This seems right up Haruyuki’s alley, but what does Kuroyukihime really want from him?
I was thrilled to find another light novel by the author of Sword Art Online, and I must say Kuroyukihime’s Return delivered, although in a slightly different flavor. I’m pretty sure Accel World: Kuroyukihime’s Return is Kawahara’s first light novel, but it’s remarkably developed and easy to read for all that. I think he does a great job depicting lonely middle-school kids who just want to be known and accepted as themselves. Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime are great foils for each other in that regard; they’re absolutely opposite ends of the social spectrum, yet each is lonely and misunderstood. Together, they find a certain resolution, unusual as it is. I found it interesting that these two are so wrapped up in “Brain Burst,” to the point that they sometimes act and think as though it were a matter of life and death. A part of me thinks “this is addictive, almost drug-like. Scary.” But then, for kids who feel trapped by life, an escape where you can give it your all and feel like you’re accomplishing something really might be worth more than a lot of “real life” stuff–especially if it’s an escape that you share with someone special to you. I think the blend of drama/romance with sci-fi/tournament/pseudo-mecha/gaming ideas is nicely done, but I do think the story is most accessible to those with some exposure to networking and gaming already. Kuroyukihime’s Return was definitely an enjoyable and refreshing read that I would recommend; I’m looking forward to a second volume!