Accel World vs Sword Art Online: Which Series is Better?

Accel World vs Sword Art Online: Which Series is Better?

Virtual world animes were all the rage around the release of Sword Art Online, and creator Reki Kawahara was a major force behind this. Not only what Sword Art Online insanely popular, and still is among many, it aired nearly concurrently with another of Kawahara’s works, Accel World. These two animes both feature virtual worlds accessed through a neural link, yet are surprisingly different overall.

Accel World, written by Reki Kawahara, stars a short, chubby high schooler who feels outcast from society and is consistently bullied. He consistently escapes to an online virtual reality any chance he gets. After meeting a girl who introduces him to a fighting game that occurs by accelerating brain waves, he finds a place where he can find more success than he could in the real world.

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Sword Art Online Visuals Comparison

Sword Art Online, also written by Reki Kawahara, stars a talented gamer who guides others through a virtual game where the only way to leave is to die. These two stories share some big similarities, such as finding one’s “better” self in a virtual reality game. There are some major differences, however, that set them apart from one another, and make one feel far superior to the other.

One of the immediately apparent differences comes with the animation quality. From the first episode of each show, it’s easy to see that Sword Art Online has a much higher production value. The animation is smooth, the fight scenes clear, and the characters feel as though they’re living beings in motion.

Accel World, on the other hand, doesn’t quite deliver the same quality. There are many scenes of characters standing perfectly still, and the show can look at times more like a slideshow than an animation. The fight scenes are explosive, but difficult to track. The animation just simply doesn’t compare.

The Music and Characters of Accel World

The music is another point at which these two animes differ greatly. Sword Art Online presents a gorgeous score that perfectly accentuates every moment from combat, to the more quiet moments. Accel World‘s soundtrack feels more standard for anime, with many of the tracks not being quite as memorable as those in Sword Art Online.

Another major aspect of these two animes is obviously their respective protagonists. In this department, these stories vary greatly. Kirito is the star of Sword Art Online and a template for many isekai protagonists to come. He is exceedingly confident and capable in nearly everything he tries over the course of his show. Any struggle he faces can generally be overcome by him committing enough willpower to it.

Haruyuki is almost the exact opposite of Kirito. He is timid, doubtful of his own skills, lacks any form of confidence, and admittedly isn’t even very good at the central online game of his story. Haruyuki seems to either luck his way through many of his situations or be helped along by any number of side characters. His lack of confidence is Haruyuki’s defining character trait, in the same way that Kirito’s overconfidence is his.

Virtual World Stories

There are some more minor aspects of the stories that, while not necessarily capable of being deemed bad one way or the other, are certainly different. In Sword Art Online, the stakes of the story are the characters’ very lives. Dying in the game means death in real life, and killing another means killing another person. This adds a lot of weight to many of the story arcs, as every battle could mean the end of any character.

Accel World has similar, but overall very different stakes at play. The ability to Brain Burst means the ability to not only access the virtual fighting game, but also the ability to cheat on tests, excel at sports, and generally succeed more in life. Brain Burst gives its users the ability to take their time reacting, learning, and adapting. Dying in this world means losing access to Brain Burst, and losing access to your memories of it. This doesn’t quite hold the same stakes as actual death, but they still are valid for the characters of the show who are afraid of losing their status.


Background characters are another minor point. The background characters in Accel World serve more as set dressing for the story of the main characters. It’s rather clear when a given character is more likely to be a main feature of the story. There is some of this as well in Sword Art Onlinebut nearly any character could suddenly be majorly important and every character carries some weight when they’re taken out.

At the end of the day, these two shows serve much of the same purpose as far as animes go. They are power fantasies for those that feel a kinship with the main characters of each respective show. Both take place in a virtual world that allows one to be anything they set their mind to, and this virtual world holds some stakes to losing at it. Beyond this, however, the similarities end, and there are some objective aspects of each that leave Sword Art Online on top.

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