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As we enter the Unlimited Field, episode 23 is building up for a triumphant climax to the Dusk Taker Arc.
Hello, and welcome to the review of this installment Accel World. This week, I am writing from the comfort of a sofa-bed in Swindon - which is, strangely enough, conducive to both watching and writing about anime. Try it some time.
Anyways, this week we start with Haru and Taku's plans being put into action. Haru is surprised to find that Chiyu is tagging along for the sudden death match. According to her, Nomi wanted her to pretend to be a turncoat, then turn things around by healing Nomi when things got dangerous. After apologising, she asks for Haru and Taku to take her along anyway - because regardless, she would find a way to the battlefield. Taku is the first to agree: he reminds Haru that forgiveness is important, and he wouldn't be a Linker now if Haru hadn't given him a second chance. So, for better or worse, Chiyu is coming with them to the decisive death match.
So, after changing the location for the death match about fifteen times, they decide to meet up at the school. And from the outset it is an almighty curb stomp battle.
Just not for the heroes. As soon as the death match is agreed to, Nomi starts opening his bag of tricks. Despite not having prepared traps beforehand, he has a friend who can set them up like he was tweeting. It's that guy who appears in the intro behind Dusk Taker, called Black Vice, and he is able to sandwich people behind the plates he makes. According to Nomi, he's able to 'decelerate' within the Accel World, and as a result he can perform ambushes like the one in this episode. Yeah, don't think about that one too hard...
So thanks to Black Vice's trap, Haru is trapped between two blocks, leaving Taku at Nomi's mercy. Thanks to his Incarnate training, Taku has a way to fight back against him: namely, he can now turn his pile driver into a pretty badass sword. He has apparently gotten over his stabbing-related phobia as well. He is caught off-balance when Nomi tries to turn Taku's fear against him, but Taku recovers quickly and counters. Fans of Samurai Champloo will recognise Taku's tactical move - wait for Nomi's stab, and use the opportunity to strike a decisive blow.
Time for psychological evaluations in dangerous situations! Taku realises that Nomi has a limit to what he can steal from others. He can steal objects or parts, but he can never take the elements that make them awesome, like friendship or trust. Following his desire to be a classic Bond villain, Nomi gushes about his decision to become an aggressive player. His brother took everything he loved in the real world, and when Nomi was forced into the Brain Burst game, his brother would steal his points. When he finally gained his 'Demonic Command' ability, Nomi took the opportunity to turn the tables and take everything his brother had in Accel World. He uses this to justify all his actions - to destroy those cheap bonds and friendships that everyone else can make.
Unfortunately, Taku's victory is short lived. Having failed to leap on one trauma, Nomi decides to create one himself. Remember Chiyu Nomi uses this opportunity to torture Chiyu in front of her boyfriend. This has rather predictable results, and Taku loses a few arms in this ordeal. Which is a big ball of suck for our heroes right now. Haru has reached his lowest point.
Haru is confronted by his inability to act - accompanied by a sweet visual representation of his avatar in chains. As he slides back to self deprecation, an inner voice calls to him: don't you want to protect the things you have gained After an echo of Kuroyukihime's invitation to Accel World, Haru pushes himself and activates some new level of Incarnate - breaking free from his confinement. Though his first attack against Nomi is easily parried, Haru is back on form and willing to fight.
Now for the most satisfying moment of the episode. Nomi laughs at the cheap bonds that connect Haru and his friends, only find that he has sustained some damage. A figure on a fiery steed has appeared: Kuroyukihime has spent the last fifteen hours riding to the battlefield, and arrives to take down Black Vice and his traps. After all his smug posing, the sight of Nomi losing it is really satisfying - especially since the distractions have been disposed with, and he is forced to take Haru head on.
This episode has rectified a lot of the faults of the previous episode. The whole fight scene has been packed together with visuals, dialogue and tension, and at no point does it seem fragmented or rushed. While it is impossible to fit all of the battle into one episode, the production team managed to give this episode a fluid development which is enjoyable to watch. Haru and Taku have developed well over the space of this episode, and Nomi's motivation is expanded upon. The only static character in this cast is Chiyu - although you could argue that is part of her 'childhood friend' characterisation. The theme of 'Overcoming Yourself' is strongly resonant within the action and dialogue as well. This is an episode that reminds me why I like Accel World as a series - the plot is strongly tied into the themes, and it doesn't feel like baggage even at this late point in the series.
I am looking forward to the next episode, as always. Hopefully there will be a grand conclusion, as promised by the title 'Reincarnation'. After finishing this week's installment, I hope to see great things in the next.
See you again next week for more Accel World!