It has been almost half a season since the Dusk Taker arc began, but in this episode of Accel World we finally see the conclusion of the longest storyline of the series.
A few times, I have questioned whether dragging out the story of Haru and Nomi's battle over around half of the current 24 episodes was a wise move on the part of the production team. Moments like the Okinawa Diversion arc - two episodes I would prefer never to see again - extended the wait, and put off the inevitable showdown for half a month. I was half afraid Accel World would go Dragon Ball, and spend another week or two with idle battle commentary. Delaying can be a dangerous move for a fast paced series, and after Haru and the rest of the Nega Nebulous have torn through multiple foes in single episodes, shifting to a more lengthy format could be poisonous to the viewers.
It's a gamble, really. Taking so long to set up for this episode took a gamble on how long people would stay with this show. But, wouldn't you know, this time there was a huge payout. After all this time, we finally get to see Nomi's smug grin wiped clean off his face.
It seems that this particular episode had an animation bump for the first ten minutes or so. Quite rightly so: this is the showdown that needs to be given particular attention, and having substandard fighting animation would not do at this stage. There are a lot of energy effects crammed into the frames: the Gale Thruster exhausts, Haru's innovatively named 'Laser Sword', Nomi's Incarnate'd claws, and the Citron Call technique go together to create a vivid battle. Haru's will to succeed really comes across though all of this. From watching the battle, you can see how hard he is having to fight to take down Nomi. The fact that he has to manually recharge the Gale Thruster in-flight adds to the impact as well.
Okay, so he's not blowing up planets, but this fight feels like an epic achievement for him.
Also, it's great to finally confirm my theories about Chiyu's, or Lime Bell's, abilities. It seems her desire to 'go back to how things were' gave her the ability to reverse time in Accel World. Clues to this are visible in previous episodes, if you want to check: back in episode 13, you could briefly see that there was a clock inside the avatar's arm; also, every time Citron Call is activated, the target's special bar decreases, like the effort going into filling it was being reversed. As with the other psychological games, the fact that you could guess this before episode 24 was a good choice on the part of the production crew. It felt like an award to those who paid attention; and for those who didn't care about the psyches of the main cast, they were rewarded with smug snake Nomi being dropped on his head by this ability.
The following karmic beatdown is satisfying. As much as Haru sympathises with Nomi's history of abuse and extortion, he deals the killing blow in a manner that feels righteous and just. The way his former antagonist flails around is a little pleasing as well, especially when Nomi realises that his ace-in-the-hole backup is willing to let him hang. Finally, after coercing everyone around him with Brain Burst, Nomi is forced out of the game.
The rest of the episode is given up to tying up loose ends. Confirming a few theories that appeared in the Okinawa Distraction arc, losing all your points in the Accel World results in a total memory wipe of anything to do with Brain Burst. This means that there is a chirpy Nomi walking around. After seeing his eye-popping smugness, this happy-go-lucky teen version of our favourite enemy feels incredibly creepy and disgusting. I suppose this is supposed to reflect how much the Accelerated World screwed up Nomi's life: remembering nothing about the whole thing makes him a better person.
We are not just treated to a new level of disturbing material, however. We see the return of Sky Raker towards the end of the episode - Haru did promise to return the Gale Thruster to her, after all. What I wasn't expecting was the reconciliation of Raker and Kuroyukihime in this scene. This feels like icing on the cupcake, especially following a relationship upgrade between Haruyuki and his beloved sempai. All the loose ends are being tied off, quickly and neatly. All that is left is Haru's eulogy - that life is made of things that could and could not happen, moments and eternities that need to be seized. A silvery crow flies past, and he reaches out to the sky...
It feels like this series is complete. Regardless of whether Accel World continues to the endgame, with Haru finding the creator of Brain Burst, I feel that the cast and crew have provided a great conclusion to this chapter. It feels final, like a fanfare or a cadence. Not to say that I don't want to know some of the other mysteries of the Accelerated World, but I think that the production staff have created something that will endure. Time will tell if it is more successful than its sister series, Sword Art Online, but at this time I would say that we have seen the best that Accel World can offer.
And that is pretty damn good.