[gallery link="file"]

When you think of Okinawa, you think of sunshine. When you think of sunshine, you think of the seaside. And when you think of the seaside, you think of Aquaman.

For those people who read the Accelerated Summary, you will remember that I am a fan of the wonderful emotional tapestry of the Accel World. It tantalises with promise of psychological depth, darkness and something more than the average Summer anime offering. This is what depresses me about the last two episodes. The Dusk Taker arc has been so tantalising, and the last cliffhanger prepared viewers for the arc's conclusion. The timing seems right for an amazing technicolor deathmatch. So why is this the episode devoted to a beach episode filler

I am mostly tolerant of fillers in other series - they allow manga artists to write new material, and when thought is put into these episodes, they add depth to series. The problem with Accel World is that the opportunities to add extra layers to this series are squandered. This is ignoring the fact that this anime is based on a series of novels which are so far ahead that filler episodes are not required.

For those who were asleep during episode 18, Kuroyukihime is on a class trip to Okinawa with her good friend Megumi. Thanks to some Brain Bursting hijinks, Kuro discovers that there is a small contingency of Linkers in the area, who are under threat from... something. Oh, and one of them is a screw-like guy that she remembers.

Roll on episode 19. Kuro agrees to help, and as if guided by a gigantic Plot Arrow, the threat suddenly finds the Linkers. And it's a dragon, with cannon-fodder Sulphur Pot riding on top of it. Battle commences immediately.

The whole ordeal of the fight feels like 'Shonen by Numbers'. The pink and blue Linkers, who I dub the Forgettagirls, stand back and comment on how 'powerful' the Sulphur/Dragon combo is. Crikin joins the fight and, like his appearance, his performance is a little screwy. As expected of background characters. Kuro takes on the Goku mantle and begins to strike the dragon but - shock! - Sulphur Pot wasn't using his full power! His avatar adds gunpowder dust to the air, allowing for pretty explosions. Which also takes out Crikin's mech form - you know, the one shown in the second opening, and given a grand total of one minute's screentime That would have been a nice surprise, had the Giant Robot Form not been revealed seven episodes before Crikin's introduction...

Anyway, everyone's in despair. Cue random appearance of Megumi. Guided by the scientific phenomenon of plot related spiritual manifestation, she joins the battle as easily as charging a mobile phone. Turns out that she used to be a Linker, who conveniently remembers and forgets this fact for the purpose of turning the entire digital battlefield into an ocean. Having done everything she possibly can, Megumi promptly disappears.

Oh yes. By the way, the Forgettagirls can transform into mermaids.

After a few slices, the dragon turns on Sulphur Pot, and the bad guy we've only just met is forced to respawn elsewhere. Thanks are given and taken, Kuro gives Megumi a gift for being such a good friend, blah blah, then they're on a bus. Episode ends.

This episode was an opportunity to learn a little more about Kuro - whether she has grown, or whether she still has issues teaming up with Linkers, post-massacre trauma. Answer She's boringly fine with it. Instead of exploring this element of her character, we are instead introduced to a cast of characters with weirdly overspecialised abilities. The Forgettagirls can become mermaids, which would be cool if the majority of Accel World was not an urban setting. Crikin can turn into a mech, but only if he can find enough metal and stack it up for use. Not such a difficult resource to find in AW, but the amount of time it takes to build (ultimately) useless mech outweighs the benefits. Background character Megumi also qualifies, for the reasons stated above. It would be alright if this bunch could join the main storyline in some way, but with this level of overspecification, their story arc would have to centre around a rendevous at the local net cafe-aquarium.

This was less an invitation to the Accelerated World, and more an invitation to the World of Aquaman.

If it were fun to criticise this episode, I could continue writing this review all day. (How did ex-Linker Megumi join the fight, if Brain Burst irrevocably uninstalls itself How can spiritual manifestations appear in AW's scientific setting And what kind of psychological disturbance results in mermaids ) Instead, I am filled with disappointment with this lost opportunity to bring another layer of depth to the Accel World. Please, roll on episode 20: I want to accelerate away from 19 as soon as possible.