Either the Friday of or the day after, I was having a discussion about what I put on my top ten list with my buddy selfresh. It was essentially why I chose Accel World on the list and not Sword Art Online. It was quiet obvious to me that Accel World was a better anime compared to SAO, but he disagreed on the basis of the male protagonist of Accel World, Arita Haruyuki, being too annoying and/or whiny.
Without getting to ahead of myself right at the beginning, I am making this post to point at, as a reference, why Accel World is superior to Sword Art Online in all ways, at least in my opinion. And before people think that this is me outright bashing SAO, I would like to point you to my awfully lonely post where I defend the anime. I’m not saying SAO is bad, but compared to Accel World, there is no match.
For those that don’t know, both original light novels were written by the same person, Kawahara Reki. And the fact that both deal with online games is even more of a reason compare them, similar subjects handled in different ways.
To start out I want to compare main male characters and their love interests. All four character have different personalities and the relationship between them have some connects, but for the most part, Haruyuki and Kazuto are the “heroes” of their series.
Arita Haruyuki vs Kirigaya Kazuto (aka Kirito)
The big difference between Haruyuki and Kazuto is that Haruyuki is often unsure of himself throughout Accel World; Kazuto is less concerned of what people think of him, so he can blindly go into a conflict without much thought.
Some people may find Haruyuki’s personality annoying because he isn’t as hero-like compared to Kazuto, but I would argue that being insecure and working though it is way more heroic than just being brave without the struggle. The real question is, why do people insist that all protagonists must be a curtain way and meet this criteria, otherwise they are annoying?
As for Kazuto, he isn’t much of a character; he is mostly flat though both arches of Sword Art Online. Because he was a beta tester of SAO, Kazuto always had a head start from all the other player, and you could see the “hero” in him right out the gate.
The benefits of being a hero didn’t stop even when fighting the final boss of SAO early. The only way Kazuto was able to defeat the boss was with the random insertion of plot armor, where the hero never dies for no other reason, but to continue the plot.
Unexplainable events happen a lot more in Sword Art Online compared to Accel World and not being able to explain something in the story, looks bad for the series. Which is why I would say, Arita Haruyuki was a better developed and better overall character.
Kuroyukihime vs Yuuki Asuna
Very similar, strong females that act as support for their love interests. Asuna looses her characteristic of being the strong female in Sword Art Online during the ALfheim Online arch, mainly because she stays trapped inside the virtual world waiting for Kirito to save her. All the wild we have a very powerful Kuroyukihime who, more or less, guides Haruyuki though Accel World as his senpai.
As far as love goes, there wasn’t much development in either of the male female relationship, but specifically Kuroyukihime, she wasn’t that involved with the series. Kuroyukihime was the mentor of Haruyuki and his love for her, served as inspiration for becoming stronger.
Yuuki Asuna was also a plot device as well, but in a more classic case of damsel in distress, at least in ALfheim Online arch. However, all though SAO arch we can see her as strong yet kind women, but there wasn’t much else to her.
These vague examinations of both characters kind of show how weak both were in all sense, no real development of the characters and not much personality besides them being strong, kind, and love struck women. I really don’t think we have a say, for sure, that either were a great lover character.
The overall story in both anime, can be separated into two logical parts. For Accel World we have Haruyuki being introduced to the Accel World, establishing his fighting style and relationship with people in said world. The other part was the rival appearing, who cased a good amount of trouble for what was the Black Legion. As for Sword Art Online, you can see the two part break quiet clearly with its two arches, Sword Art Online and ALfheim Online.
The most significant conflict during Accel World was the appearance of Noumi Seiji who stole Haruyuki’s bread and butter, his wings. Noumi was quiet the manipulative one, who basically got Silver Crow and Cyan Pile to give his avatar, Dusk Taker, Burst Point all because of a blackmail that Haruyuki fell for.
In Sword Art Online we have two main evils for each arch, Kayaba Akihiko, the creator of all things virtual world MMOs, include Sword Arts Online. The other villain was Sugou Nobuyuki who is the former director in RECTO, the company that produced SAO. He took off with 300 test subject for the next virtual reality world, after the completion of SAO arch.
Now, I’m a fan of well explained antagonist because if a character is evil for evil sake, you have a less interesting villain and it unveils the week foundation of what the conflict in the story is. With that said, I would argue that Noumi Seiji was the best fleshed out antagonist of the three. Him being bitter because he was bullied by his older brother is childish, but you have to remember that Noumi is in high school and the complex started in middle school for him.
Compared to both foes in Sword Arts Online, Kayaba more or less just wanted to have a fun experiment with people and Sugou was jealous of Kayaba for his talent. Simple reason and both are adults doing this for a job is a bit weaker, in my opinion. Which is why hands down, Noumi is a better antagonist overall and actually far more vicious, while having an actual resolution to his arch.
The string that connects each character together revels a bit more of the personality of each character, making it very important in developing believable relationship and characters. A common relationship in both series was a childhood friend, Kurashima Chiyuri from Accel World and Kirigaya Suguha are the familiar females that can be represented as childhood friends, since Suguha is more of a cousin to Kazuto.
I would consider them both having some attraction to the male protagonist, some might be more subtle than others, Chiyuri, but you can tell they have feeling for them. Also the base relationship with Haruyuki and Kazuto never really go into detail so we have a weak link in the chain of all that connect them, beside them always being there for their male companion.
Next is male bonds, that could almost be considered ‘bromance’. The people that fit the bill are Mayuzumi Takumu, from Accel World, and Klein or even Agil, fro Sword Art Online. Takumu being another childhood friend of Haruyuki, so it’s a nature fit; however, we have Agil who is basically a merchant that helps Kazuto throughout SAO, selling and buying things from him. While Klein was one of the first players Kazuto met in SAO and shows up near the end of Sword Art Online as the final real life end of ALO.
There isn’t much to say about Agil or Klein since they arn’t that much apart of Sword Art Online, however Takumu is a much bigger apart of Accel World.
Takumu could have been considered a frenemy to Haruyuki because of his jealously toward Haruyuki, when Takumu perceived Chiyuri’s kindness toward Haruyuki as something more then what it was. Even when Takumu was already Chiyuri’s boyfriend, he was still very insecure about himself and on the flip side so was Haruyuki, feeling like he got in the way of his friends relationship. That common ground made a stronger tie in the knot of friend after all their conflict was solved.
Having that mini roller coaster of a relationship, made for a more interesting progression of the relationship with Takumu and Haruyuki. Which is precisely why I think Accel World’s relationship building is far more mature and built much stronger bonds compared to Sword Art Online.
My goodness this was a lot long than I though it would be, but there is my argument laid out into several sections. And as far as the sections go, we have 2 win and 2 ties for Accel World. And as I said in the beginning, this is not to bash Sword Art Online, I actually enjoy what it had to offer. However, the first few episodes were the most interesting parts of anime and it teetered off into a teenage power fantasy that no long long resembled what the original few episodes were. All the while, Accel World kept to what it was and actually had decent, more believable characters.