Accel World Vol. 2 - The Red Storm Princess - Light Novel Review

When a mysterious elementary-school girl calling him “big-brother” turns up at his house, Haruyuki Arita is drawn into another adventure in the Accelerated World to defeat a cursed piece of armour. Meanwhile, he’ll also have to stave off Kuroyukihime’s disapproving stares in the second volume of the hit series from the author of Sword Art Online.

The Lowdown

Three months have passed since Haruyuki Arita met Kuroyukihime and was introduced to Brain Burst. Along with his friend Takumu, he works as a part of Kuroyukihime’s legion to defend their territory and slowly level up. Haruyuki comes home one day to find Tomoko Saito, an elementary school girl he’s never met before staying at his home. Promptly freaking out, poor Haruyuki receives nothing but disapproval from Kuroyukihime when she finds out and somehow has to make this all work. Meanwhile in the Accelerated World, a cursed piece of Enhanced Armament called the Armour of Catastrophe has been seized by a player, transforming them into a berserk avatar called Chrome Disaster. Together with Kuroyukihime, Haruyuki sets off to figure out how to destroy the Armour of Catastrophe once and for all.

How Was It?

Accel World Vol. 2 is an enjoyable continuation of the series, picking up three months after Haruyuki saved Kuroyukihime at the end of Vol. 1. We’re quickly brought up to speed on Haruyuki’s training, continuing the excellent progression in his growth that has been a significant ongoing thread in the series. Additionally, Kuroyukihime’s legion still has a ways to go in defending their territory as Haruyuki’s new-found ability to fly hasn’t been mastered yet. I enjoyed that the progression in the relationships between all these characters carried through in a natural way into this volume, focusing Haruyuki and his friends as a group compared to just focusing on him.

The first half of the book is a bit low on the action, serving to set up the plot as Haruyuki finds the mysterious Tomoko Saito waiting for him at home. Predictably, shenanigans ensue when Kuroyukihime discovers this, boiling down into the usual silliness that seems to be a part of every series (Harukuyki frantically trying to hide his eroge games from the girls, walking in on them in the shower, etc.). It’s hard not to feel as though a lot of this could be cut out as it to keep the plot moving, but I did like that Kawahara didn’t let these moments go completely to waste by incorporating themes of friendship and loyalty that would later pay off well in the second half of the book.

Notwithstanding my gripes about the first half of the book dragging, one particular aspect I enjoyed was the introduction and explanation of the relationship between “guardian” and “child” in the Accelerated World. Just like Haruyuki was introduced by Kuroyukihime to Brain Burst, every person in the Accelerated World has a guardian who introduced them to the world, creating a deep bond. This was explored very well throughout the story, creating a sense of the loyalty that someone like Haruyuki has to Kuroyukihime in one sense, but also raising questions regarding the relationships each of the other characters have with their guardian. I’m hopeful that this will continue to be explored in future volumes with the potential for some interesting plot implications given the unresolved questions this factor creates.

The second half of the book is much heavier on the action, following the Black Legion’s quest to destroy the Armour of Catastrophe. This is propped up by a heap of exposition early on about the political climate of the Accelerated World and the dynamic between the “Kings of Colour” with their various legions. While Kawahara takes the time to elaborate on the nature of the world, it all continues to strike me as rather dull and silly considering that at its core, the Accelerated World is more or less a bunch of kids playing virtual “Lord of the Flies”. While much of the action involves this political intrigue, it just doesn’t seem particularly necessary aside from Kuroyukihime’s interesting past in the Accelerated World. While second half’s action is enjoyable if not very memorable, it feels like Kawahara tried to tackle too many plot strands at once, making this entire segment feel a little bit jumbled.

Haruyuki’s character development really shone through during the second half, and for me this was the most enjoyable part of this volume. I enjoyed the palpable sense of growth that Haruyuki continues to experience in both mastering his abilities as well as developing as a person. The remarkable part is that this growth continues to feel earned and believable, continuing the process started in the first volume in a satisfying manner. He’s still a bit of a coward, but I felt that Kawahara did a great job illustrating the process involved as he continues to reluctantly confront his fears head on. Furthermore, I felt this volume really did a good job getting across really engaging aspects of his relationship with Kuroyukihime, as it has become increasingly apparent in this volume that they each provide a good source of strength for one another. This pays off quite well in this volume’s final action scenes and made them stand out more than they otherwise would have. Accel World is at its best when it combines its action with Haruyuki’s meaningful character development, and this volume did a lot right in this regard as a whole.

Final Thoughts

While Accel World Vol. 2 will please those already invested in the series, it suffers from some problems that hold it back from telling its story as effectively as it could have been. It does a lot right as introducing the “guardian and child” dynamic raised some interesting questions, but The exposition scenes in the first half and the subsequent journey into the Accelerated World in the second half each outstay their welcome for no necessary reason. However, I really enjoyed the character development that Haruyuki continues to receive both personally as well as within his relationship with Kuroyukihime, elevating this volume beyond the largely dull political dealings which Kawahara continues to struggle to effectively establish.


Accel World Vol. 2: The Red Storm Princess was published by Yen Press on November 18th, 2014. Authored by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by Hima the series is currently ongoing and published by ASCII Mediaworks’ Dengeki Bunko imprint. The series has received a one season anime adaption and volume 5 will be published in English on November 17th, 2015.

Verdict:

C+

Date of Publication: November 18th, 2014

Translator: Jocelyne Allen

Author: Reki Kawahara

Publisher: Yen Press



Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka