Real Account – Vols. 1-2 (Manga Series)
Written by Okushou
Illustrated by Shizumu Watanabe
Published by Kodansha Comics
Suitable for ages 16+
The fear of the addictive nature of video games and new technologies has always spawned horror stories. In anime like .Hack or Sword Art Online, players who once enjoyed gaming with friends become trapped in the virtual world of the game. Even more intensely, if they die in the game, their bodies in the real world will also die.
The manga Real Account has a similar theme to this, but takes a slightly different approach. In it, a social networking service exists called Real Account, or RA. It merged many different companies together into one site, allowing users access to many kinds of services. These services are what drew in its large user base. With fun games to play, and coupons for real life goods, Real Account has become a staple in recent years. But out of the blue one day, 10,000 random RA users’ minds are sucked into a virtual world that mirrors the website.
In this virtual world, all the people stuck there are pitted against each other for survival. They are forced to play various games to attempt to “win” the whole kit and kaboodle. Supposedly only one person will get out of the gauntlet alive, so it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. However, another big part of this Real Account game is the amount of followers a player has. If their number of followers drops to zero, they will die. Another twist is that if a player dies in RA, their followers do too. And it doesn’t matter if those followers are also trapped in the virtual world, or the real one. So the stakes are incredibly high.
Ataru Kashiwagi is the main character in Real Account. Never relating to his classmates, he convinced himself that his RA friends were more “real.” But with the rule that your followers die along with you, Ataru’s many “friends” quickly stop supporting him. Only Ataru’s sister follows him, thus keeping him alive. Throughout these first two volumes of Real Account, Ataru works to gain more followers as he helps others along the way.
Whenever another “you die in the game, you die in real life” virtual reality anime or manga comes along, it comes with tempered expectations. They have to bring something new to the table to avoid being considered a copycat. Real Account very easily breaks the stereotype by having a social media service be their platform rather than a video game. This is something fresh and unique, and it’s done especially well.
The “games” that are played to pick off people by the dozens (sometimes thousands) are related to various parts of social media. One such game requires players to search for the darkest post (called “tweetts”) on each other’s accounts. Like say for example, an insult to a great friend behind their back, or confessions of a crime committed. By revealing these hidden secrets, it’s supposed to cause that person to lose all their followers, thus killing them.
It is actually during this game in Volume Two that a huge plot twist is revealed. And this isn’t an expected climax, but rather a personal reveal into Ataru’s past. We don’t want to give it away, but it’s an insanely unexpected moment. And for something so intense to happen only in the second volume, it’s safe to say Real Account will probably continue to be a thrill ride.
Speaking of thrill ride, every moment in Real Account really keeps you on the edge of your seat. The different types of games played are unpredictable. When you think you might have an idea of how this all will continue, everything gets turned on its head. The rules of the games are changed left and right, so there’s no way to really predict a pattern thus far.
Real Account really is about revealing the darkness in humanity. It shines a light on the heartless things we would do to save our own lives in times of true despair. There are some characters who think nothing of killing others if it means they can survive. It’s this terrible side of humanity that really puts Real Account on the map. It’s frightening to read, purely because of how realistic the situations are. If you were at risk of dying by following someone on Twitter, but could guarantee your own life by unfollowing them, wouldn’t you?
As of Volume Two of Real Account, absolutely nothing has been given to explain the reasons behind this happening. The events are constantly being broadcast across the world, so everyone is privy to the results. Those who are following players stuck in RA have an especially good reason to watch, because they could die too. While Marble (RA’s mascot) is the only revealed evil we’ve seen thus far, it’s clear that the RA CEO is most likely behind all of this. Could he be planning to pull something crazy in the real world as well? Or does he just have a Christopher Nolan’s Joker complex? “Introduce a little anarchy,” and all that.
It’s difficult to predict where Real Account will go from here, but that’s part of what makes it great. The series has a lot of twists and turns only two volumes in. Real Account breaks the mold on “you die in the game, you die in real life” stories by revolving around social media. It’s brutal in that it shows the villains that lurk within us all when our lives are threatened. And also serves as a unique look at how prevalent social media has become in our modern world. At the least, it certainly makes you think twice about following back that stranger who added you on Tumblr.