Seeing as I have a few anime reviews to get through, I thought I’d try something different this week. I recently watched Accel World and Btoom! from MVM Entertainment, both series about video games and virtual worlds… so I thought I’d make them fight each other! We’ll go through a couple of key points about each series and give them ratings out of 10, then tally it up to pick a winning show.
Accel World is the brain child of Sunrise Studios (Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass) and Flying Dog (.hack, Sengoku Basara) set in the not-so-far future of 2046. Haruyuki Arita is a young boy who finds himself on the lowest social rungs of his school. Ashamed of his miserable life, he can only cope by indulging in virtual games. But that all changes when Kuroyukihime, the most popular girl in school, introduces him to a mysterious program called Brain Burst and a virtual reality called the Accel World.
Btooom! is also from is also the product of Flying Dog and Madhouse Studios (Cardcaptor Sakura, Metropolis movie) and based around a video game. Ryouta Sakamoto suddenly finds himself stranded on a mysterious island, equipped with a day’s worth of provisions, a bag of bombs, a strange crystal embedded in his left hand and a huge gaping hole in his memory. But it doesn’t take long to figure out what’s going on. Someone is attempting to recreate the ultra-violent Btoom! game in real life, and the island has been filled with an army of other unwilling players, each armed with one of the multiple variants of explosive weapons called BIM. There’s only one way off the island: kill seven other people before they can kill you! Can Ryouta repurpose his game based skills fast enough to survive?
In some ways, these two shows are quite similar in terms of plot as both revolve around teenagers’ obsession with video games and how it affects them in the real world.
In Accel World, teenagers wear special necklaces that hook them up to the internet and a virtual world where everyone has their own avatar. Some of them have a special programme called “Brain Burst” installed, which takes things to the next level with a virtual fighting game. The story starts by explaining the concept of the game, such as levelling up and clans, then moves on to virus and hackers. There’s a fair amount of plot and thematic progression, so each episode (26 in total) feels like part of a story and there’s very little filler, giving it a 7/10.
Btooom! has a slightly darker plot as the characters are uprooted from their normal lives and thrown onto an island where they have to kill each other in order to escape. There’s definitely a “Battle Royale”-esque element to it all and no shortage of insane people wanting to kill each other. You can’t escape and recuperate in the safety of the real world here, as you can in Accel World, which makes the whole scenario feel that much more hopeless and dangerous. All in all, a good action anime. For that reason, I’m giving Btooom! 8/10.
To be honest, I didn’t feel either series had exceptionally strong main characters. The main draw for me was the worlds in which they were set but everybody has different tastes.
Accel World has a more intriguing leading male character. Haruyuki is quite possibly the only fat main character I’ve come across in anime, which is quite refreshing. He starts off extremely whiny as you might expect but he does learn to stand up for himself eventually. Plus, his avatar in the online world is a pig, which is super cute. The leading female character, Kuroyukihime, is your rather stereotypical ‘serious cool pretty girl’ – cut from the same cloth of a lot of other anime girls but certainly not a bad character in herself. The thing I struggled to accept the most about the whole series is actually her OTT confession of love for Haruyuki early on in the series. I appreciate anything can happen in anime but talk about an ‘odd couple’.
I actually preferred the secondary characters in Accel World, namely the other avatars such as Red Rider and Dusk Taker who I found a bit more three dimensional. If you’re not overly fussed about super developed characters but like seeing lots of different avatars fighting, Accel World is your kind of show. I’m going to give it a collective 7/10 for characterisation.
Btooom! really let itself down in terms of characters for me. For a supposed NEET, Ryouta is very good-looking and pretty well built, which made his character itself a bit more unbelievable. That said, he isn’t completely two dimensional in that he’s only ever angry or mopey and goes through a lot of emotions during his time on the island – angry, distressed, terrified, resolute etcetc. Our heroine Himiko, however, is a complete pain in the backside. There has never been a more useless and dim female character in anime. It’s very hard to take her seriously when her breasts (bigger than her head) are bouncing about every two seconds and, better yet, reflecting bombs and defying gravity.
To be fair, Btooom! only has 13 episodes to develop its characters whereas Accel World has 26 but I still felt it was lacking for good leading characters. Again, I preferred the secondary characters like the bumbling businessman Taira and mysterious Nobutaka. The anime is based on a still-running manga and, to its credit, ends mid-series so there is a lot left to be explained about characters in the series. Still, I can’t give it more than a 5/10.
Both series have very lovely animation and great fight scenes – always a plus!
Accel World’s benefitted from some well-known art directors. Nobutaka Ike worked on the likes of Paprika and Takafumi Nishima on Monster and Steins Gate. I particularly enjoyed the fight scenes, which were very sharp. 8/10.
I really loved the animation for Btoom! The island looks beautiful, the characters sharp and deaths gory without being over the top. For this, it draws with Accel World and gets a nice 8/10.
Accel World has a fantastic soundtrack, some of my favourite songs being ‘Silvery Wings’ and ‘Blood History’. There’s a big range of orchestral, jazz and guitar music thrown in there. It gets another 8/10 for this.
My favourite song from Btooom! is actually its opening theme, which really ‘gets you pumping’ as they say. I didn’t think the soundtrack was spectacular compared to Accel World, so will give it a 6/10.
And the winner is…
I’d heard good things about Accel World, so was keen to check it out when MVM released it. Overall, I enjoyed it and marathoned the whole series in three nights – a good sign. I’m one of those people who is drawn in by animation and music as much as plot, and for this reason the series wins with a collective 30/40!
Btooom! caught my eye from the beginning because of its plot and cool opening theme. The manga has very positive reviews but I feel the anime didn’t live entirely up to its potential because it only had 13 episodes to work with and had a girl with breasts that defied physics. If you like explosions and action anime, it’s still worth checking out with a healthy Sophie rating of 27/40.