Accel World is an anime that I really didn't need the 3 episode rule for thankfully. It had its hooks into me by the end of the first episode and now that I've seen the first 5 episodes, I'm pretty interested in where it's going. (I couldn't stop after just 3, which is a good sign).
I'm not going to say that everything was rosy from the get-go. I was genuinely worried with the relatively slow start to the plot proper in Episode 1, but it was interesting enough and kept my attention through to Episode 2 so even if I wasn't giving it the 3 episode rule, I would have continued on.
From there on, it accelerates (yes, I know everyone reviewing this will be making that pun).
The story is set in the maybe-not-so-distant future and relies on the technology that everyone has a computer being beamed into their brain. Augmented reality times a million basically. Someone has discovered how to use the technology to effectively freeze time and allow certain users the ability to move about in the virtual world at 1000x speed (so that a single second lasts 16 minutes and 40 seconds for users of the special program).
What is there for these special users to do but battle it out to steal points from other players in order to continue being able to accelerate.
We follow your standard prodigy at video games that is introduced to the world, Haru, who has a pig avatar that is cuter than I feel comfortable admitting. In real life though, he's short, fat, and basically last at everything. Although he clearly fits the mold of the anime character that is the best in the world, his real-life insecurities add some depth to his character and I can imagine a lot of people feeling refreshed that he's not just good at everything.
For some reason, most anime don't have a problem at having characters be just freaking geniuses at everything, so his emotional insecurities based on his real-life physical lack does add a depth to the show.
He's recruited by Kuroyukihime (koo-roh-yoo-kee-hee-may) to accelerate, and her character is quite interesting also, although she does not believe in personal space apparently, as she downright molests Haru's pig avatar in these first few episodes. She's the character on the cover in the image above.
Finally, we have two childhood friends of Haru's that are currently dating, Taku (M) and Chiyuri (F). Their relationship with each other and with Haru is interesting too to be honest.
I'm really looking forward to where things go from here. I'd say the first arc of the show finished in Episode 5, and now a bigger stage is set for the future. It's a 24 episode series, so there's still plenty of time left, but I'm hopeful that it will live up to its title and not have a period of dragging in the middle.
The art is crisp and clean, and the virtual world is very cool also. It seems to have a pretty high budget for the action and I currently have the ending theme stuck in my head. My one gripe is the style of some of the online world accelerated avatars — it's a personal gripe, but the organic mech look isn't my favorite aesthetic.
I should mention that I've had the dub on in the background as I'm working, and the voice actors do not impress. When the action picks up, they do alright, but in the everyday conversations, I really find them kinda' annoying. I'll be trying out the sub when I can give it my full attention and will probably abandon the dub for now.
I'm interested in hearing what you guys think of the show. Please don't post any spoilers past the 5 episode mark in the comments. Thanks!