In his first impressions of Accel World, one of my favorite bloggers, draggle, calls the protagonist “fat, short and unbelievably ugly.”
I…can’t really argue with him there.
But what’s fascinating is that we have a rare model of a protagonist who looks like he’s supposed to. Ouma Shuu, for instance, is a similarly depressing character, but he’s actually pretty handsome. Arita, on the other hand, is clearly unattractive. Strangely enough, he reminds me a lot of Shinji Ikari, another pity-party teenager, whose body was heroine-chic thin and who wore high-waters.
With these clear physical flaws, the emotional flaws make more sense as they follow. Arita doesn’t have to have a dramatic background; one look at him, and we understand why he’s maybe the way he is.
While we may not be individuals that match this magical combination of being “fat, short and unbelievably ugly,” all of us are flawed – on the outside as well as on the inside. Even people who seem to have it all together are imperfect. In my teaching life, I once taught a beautiful young lady who was also incredibly smart, studious, kind, and funny. She went on to become a well-known model (and still found time to remember her former teacher). As I discovered by reading her Facebook feed, however, I found that she has the same problems and issues most of us have.
Some of us are marred even further by the effects others have had on us – whether its bullies or those who have otherwise taken advantage of us. Arita, in a sense, is the king of flawed people, and one we can identify with.
And in this show, which seems to be purposed as a fantasy for otaku, the beautiful Kuroyukihime comes in and makes an intimate connection with Arita. She saves him from his tormentors and in response, Arita decides that he’ll face up to his fears and support her in whatever way she asks. He isn’t responding because she’s beautiful (if anything, her beauty might make him more fearful) – he responds to her “mercy.”
Those unfamiliar with Christianity (which, strangely enough, also includes many Christians -_-‘) view the faith largely as a restricting religion, where we follow a guidebook of how to live. Yet, Jesus leaves us with two commandments that sound like anything but a detailed guidebook. Paraphrased, they are: love God and love others. And even these commandments really don’t need to be commanded, because they are natural responses.
When Arita is saved, his natural response is to loyally follow Kuroyukihime. A Christian who sees the depths of his or her brokenness and in Jesus finds acceptance and mercy likewise responds with loyalty – a want to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth, out of love and devotion. Even though it might be scary for us to change our lives after becoming Christian, we are compelled to out of great love.
It’s precisely as Arita says:
Even if I don’t believe in myself, I’ll believe in her words.
That’s love and devotion.