Accel World: Kuroyukihime’s Return

Accel World 1

Haruyuki is not having a good life. Short, over-weight and bullied at school he seeks solace in unpopular games in the increasingly networked world. All that changes when an older girl; the never named but always referred to as Kuroyukihime takes an interest in him. Utilizing a mysterious program called Brain Burst allowing for a heightened and accelerated mental state, Kuroyukihime is able to frame Haru’s bullies and introduce him to a close-knit underground fighting game. A game only accessible to the young, created by persons unknown. Each fight deducts and awards points. Lose all your points and Brain Burst uninstalls and can never be regained. There are ranks and factions and the ultimate prize; level 10 – where a singular victor might find the creator and learn the program’s purpose. The only snag is it requires defeating the other rank nine players cutting them off from the program.

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Sword Art Online: Aincrad

Sword Art Online 1

Kirito is a loner gamer and former beta-tester on newly released MMO Sword Art Online. It’s the first of a new type of MMO one that requires use of a device called the NerveGear. This then allows a fully immersive experience of the RPG world; sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. On the launch day Kirito logs in and soon finds neither he nor any of the other users is able to log out. Far from being a design flaw, it transpires this was the very point of the game. The Architect of Sword Art Online has trapped the players inside his virtual world to force them to complete the hundred levels that make up the fictional world of Aincrad and get to the top of the computer generated castle. If they die in the game, the NerveGear will fry their brains. If someone external forcibly tries to remove it or disassemble it; same thing. There’s a grace period for power-cuts and network disconnects, but otherwise the only way out is to get to the very top level of the world and defeat the final boss. Suddenly Sword Art Online‘s fantasy world is truly dangerous.

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Strawberry Panic

Strawberry Panic

Astrea Academy is one of the premier all girl’s schools in Japan. It encompasses three separate establishments; Miator, Spica and Lulim. Each is famous in its own right as an excellent school and each seeks to embody specific attributes in the enrolled students. Despite the serene public appearance schools, tensions  bubble away just beneath the surface. There is a fierce rivalry between Miator and Spica, and while Lulim seems content to sit on the sidelines, the head of their council is not adverse to meddling in the affairs of the other two. The central plot arc of the trilogy centres on an annual, highly coveted tradition known as the Etoile competition. This involves the selection of a couple who is thought to best represent the three schools.

Nagisa Aoi is a transfer student who has just begun at Miator, the oldest and most traditional of the schools. In almost no time at all, she catches the eye of Shizuma – an older, seductive student who wastes little time in beginning a pursuit of the new student. Shizuma is a former victor of the Etoile competition and re-enters alongside Nagisa. Several other students also apply for the competition and the competition becomes a heated conflict between the three student councils who do not see eye to eye on many issues. Nagisa soon finds herself at the centre of a love-triangle involved Shizuma and her room-mate Tamako, while fellow Etoile competition member Hikari is pursued by both her requited love interest Amane and her room-mate. Who will become the next Etoile and how involved will the couples get?

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Introduction to Light Novels & The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Light novels are short Japanese novels targeted specifically at young adult audiences. They are one formerly lesser discussed inspiration/original form of popular anime series – this changed primarily thanks to one particular series (more on that in a second), and it is surprising to find out certain popular series began life not as manga as is a typical assumption but as a light novel. Much like manga light novels end up being produced both prior to and after other adaptations of a series; while not currently reviewable (they’re out of print) both Onegai Teacher and Onegai Twins spawned light novels. Onegai Twins in particular is unusual in taking a different ultimate outcome to the story than the anime (though for the curious essentially it switches which of the two characters is Maiku’s sister).

There are numerous ones I really want to review but cannot, lacking any kind of authorized translation or availability in the West (amongst these is Ben-To hopefully still as amusingly silly as its anime incarnation. Put simply Ben-To is a fighting anime except rather than a show of strength or skill, the scraps in this story occur in supermarkets at night over who gets to buy the discounted bento boxes. To repeat: they’re scrapping over who can buy and then eat cheap meals from a supermarket. Which is either going to sound amazing or stupid (or both) depending on your viewpoint. Where it really excels is that the series clings to this ultimate incentive behind the character’s interactions – even while others attempt to turn the combat into some kind of typical fighting situation. The regulars say ‘No’, there is no prestige or show of strength here. There is simply getting discounted food. The anime might not bear its length wonderfully well, but I was thoroughly amused the whole time. Aside from some problematic story elements/tone mis-matches), but I will be looking at Strawberry Panic, the Sword Art Online series, the Boogiepop novels and Spice & Wolf amongst others.

First though, is the series that seemed inescapable for years but now rarely gets mentioned. If you watched anime in July of 2006 you knew who Haruhi Suzumiya was. In the same way it became hard to move for shouting about something like, say, Attack on Titan in recent years, Haruhi took over for a year or two. Haruhi was huge, the praise inciting backlashes and references and all manner of hints and nods (the series Lucky Star possibly going too far with Haruhi’s voice actress playing the lead role who is in turn something of a Haruhi fan). And it all went so wrong, in a way that few people could have suspected; the demand for more episodes met with some new episodes but what felt like a joke played on the audience – the “Endless Eight” infamous for the tedium it induced. There’s a bright spot in the film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya which was overly long but otherwise well executed, but even then it became clear Haruhi could never live up to its own potential. The fatal flaw that eventually turned everyone off the series in place right from the start. So:The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

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