- March 11th, 2013
Reading Accel World, which is a cool manga by the same guy who did Sword Art Online. The main character is basically meant to be a really average looking guy, with self-esteem in the Marianas Trench, whose only skill pretty much is video games. And even then, it's not like he boasts about it, or even considers it a plus. Stuff happens, he gets sucked into a virtual reality fighting game by a really attractive girl who happens to be from his school, only the "game" allows you to accelerate your brain massively for a short period of time, which he then uses to avoid and mildly humiliate the bullies who have made his life hell. Virtual reality fighting occurs, some huge secret is at the core of the game, best friends are lost and found, stuff happens.
Of course, then I made the mistake of reading a few forum conversations about it. Rage ensued. People picking on Haru's physical appearance, lack of social skills, tendency to run away and cry a lot, I have a bone to pick with you.
...Isn't the fact that Haru's kind of average-looking and really nerdy about 80% of the whole point? He's a victim of bullying and isolation, he spends most of his life avoiding people and playing games because other people have ground him down to the point where he doesn't believe he's worth anything any more, and he's proving that it's not necessarily about what you look like or how well you can fit in, but what you do and how you do it. That's essentially the whole point of his character arc. Yes, he is rather overweight and not a sugoi kawaii bishie, and I for one freaking really appreciate that. It's really nice to see a character who isn't just turned out from a stereotypical shonen hero mold. If you want one of those, go read oh, pretty much any other shonen manga in existence
Being isolated, ignored, constantly told you're worthless and you'll never be worth anything, those things are all real spirit killers. Especially when it's multiple people, over a long time. You start to wonder if maybe they aren't right. Maybe they know more about you than you do. You start to question yourself; why can't you be normal, like everyone else? Why can't you act like a normal person, look like a normal person, like the same hobbies as normal people? It eats away at your self-confidence, little piece by little piece, until one day you wake up and the voice in the back of your head that used to tell you everything was going to be okay and that you are perfectly fine as you are has been replaced by a mocking chorus of other people's voices. It gets to the point where even when you're alone, you can still hear other people questioning your appearance, your manner of speech, your clothes, your hobbies. No matter what you're doing, someone else is always laughing at you. And no matter what you do, pretty much, those people will never back down or leave you alone once they know they can get to you. Running away may not be the solution, but without support and without the people skills and charisma, it's really freaking difficult to find another way.
And of course he has no social skills, he's isolated, nerdy, and bullied. That sort of thing doesn't really help one gain oodles of charisma, or help with the ability to talk to other people without constantly wondering what they're thinking and what the hell are you doing thinking you might be able to hold a conversation like a normal person.
In short, guys, congrats. You are basically the same as the people who make Haru's life hell. Well done. Why are you even reading this manga if you don't like the main character? It's not strictly speaking a unique concept. Hell, go read SAO again, if it'll stop you complaining about a main character who is not normal, and tries his best to grow stronger without massively changing who he is.
p.s., to the people hoping that "Haru's looks will change to match his new character", well, at least you're slightly better than the people who are denying that Haru's changed at all, but y'know. Way to miss the point entirely. He shouldn't have to change his looks! He shouldn't have to fit a "normal" mold" at all, if he can learn to be happy with who he is. Seriously.