Accel World 02: Breaking the Barrier and Responding with Dedication

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.

Wait...I'm the protagonist? (Art by shion)

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.”

Sound familiar?

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.


15 thoughts on “Accel World 02: Breaking the Barrier and Responding with Dedication

  1. I’m actually pretty baffled by the massive negative reception the show has gotten, because honestly, I thought it was very interesting. At least, the characters were.

    I still have to write my own bit on the show, so a short version is that I think people got the wrong idea that we were supposed to find Arita sympathetic. As you say, he’s obviously a flawed person, though it’s debatable whether that came about from the bullying, or if it was his appearance and the bullying just aggravated it.

    Similarly, the student vice-president is also an interesting character, though I don’t agree that she’s a saviour. It was incredibly easy for her to convince Arita to download this mysterious program, and she quickly thought up a method for how to stop the bullying and subtly convinced Arita to take it, too. Her methods have been insanely manipulative.
    I think UTW was the only group to translate it, but her name (Snow Black) is an obvious play on Snow White. But while Snow White has all of the nice forest creatures flock to her and she spreads happiness and love, I’m willing to bet Kuroyukihime is gathering them to spread despair or suffering for her own amusement (which also reveals why he was a pig avatar in the game). Though I guess even if this is true, right now Arita does see her as a saviour.

    But anyways, I’m with you on your other main point. It’s easy to pick out people’s flaws and leave it at that, but it’s more interesting to try and figure out why they’re flawed and what their motivations are. As my old AP English teacher told me, just because you find a character to be despicable, it doesn’t automatically make them uninteresting.

    1. I definitely looking at these episodes from a short-sighted point of view. I almost never think far in advance, for example as in, “What is Kuroyukihime’s ultimate motivation?” I certainly agree she’s manipulative and you could very well be right in that what she’s doing might be villainous (which would make for a great twist…and a fitting one, too, I think). But self-contained, I definitely see her in the “savior” role, particularly in terms of how that fits in Christianity.

      I definitely agree with you about the lack of love for the show – it’s fun and contains a couple of interesting characters who are a little different from the flock (our piggy hero especially). With this season so full of interesting shows, I may end up dropping Accel World (and I might anyway – we’ll see where it goes from here), but I definitely can say I enjoyed the first two episodes!

      1. Well, she could turn out to be in the “saviour” role after all, who knows. Perhaps she just has twisted methods to achieve a good goal.
        That’s what makes it so interesting for me, I have no clue what it could end up being.

        Of course the downside of looking so much into it is that if it doesn’t do anything as interesting as your predictions, then you feel massively disappointed and you don’t like the show anymore. It’s a double-edged sword, like most things.

  2. I’ve actually just heard of this show today. I miss reading aniblogs for a few days and there is always something new when I return. I just can’t say enough how your blog posts cast a different light on anime shows in ways I would never think of. I read some posts about the show but none intrigued me as much as this post. Maybe its the way of thinking and how you see the shows.

    1. Well, thank you so much for the kind words! I try to be different, so I’m glad it’s noticed – and that you like it!

      Certainly, my purpose is different from most blogs. If I didn’t approach shows from the angle I do, this blog would be more cookie-cutter than most.

  3. “Even if I don’t believe in myself, I’ll believe in her words.” That’s getting quoted in a sermon one day! Nice post; I’ve always loved the idea of grace and God’s love and this was a nice way of putting that acrpss. Thanks for that.

  4. I’m really out of the loop when it comes to the latest anime out there. I think it’s interesting that the main protogonist is not the usual good looking types. It’s nice to know that there is a different kind of anime out there that aren’t the usual norm. Sounds like the anime would be very moving and sweet to watch.

    1. I have…tempered hopes for this show. I definitely like the “shape” of the protagonist of the show, though!

      Yeah, and it’s hard to keep track of the latest anime! I like to look at a preview or two before the new season starts and write down the few shows I intend to check out. Then I just check out other series based on what’s being blogged about.

  5. It does make sense that the protagonist is short, as it does automatically give the watcher an insight into his life just by a single glance.

  6. Kuroyukihime goes out of her way to rebuke the protagonist for calling what she does ‘mercy’ and states that she has to hide her own avatar because it is extremely ugly. It is obvious that appearances aside, she is as flawed as anyone else around, and it seems she is her own harshest judge.

    I like how she can become an inspiration for the protagonist despite the burden of self-loathing. If we could all accept each other’s weaknesses, but concentrate on learning from each other’s strengths, we would certainly be heading towards a better world.

    1. Good point. We get really caught up in flaws instead of focusing and emphasizing positives. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work to improve weaknesses, but still…

      In American Christianity today, there’s a serious problem with followers being judgmental – again, the idea of focusing on people’s sins and in part, their weaknesses. But when individuals do that, they expose their hypocrisy. After all, as Jesus said, remove the plank from your own eye first and he who is without sin, throw the first stone.

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