Can you even remember when social media wasn’t a part of your life? It seems to be something we check, look at, or are reminded of every single day. There’s no easy way to escape either unless you quit all social media apps, but if you do that you’ll lose contact with friends — so what can you do?
Now imagine if social media actually became a death machine you couldn’t escape. Real Account does just that. We check out volume 3 of this (so far) fantastic series.
Real Account Vol 3 (Kodansha Comics)
So what’s it about? The Kodansha summary reads:
It’s a simple premise: if you reach zero followers, you die. After the death of their parents, Ataru Kashiwagi and his younger sister, Yuri, depend on each other. Ataru works hard at high school and his job, and spends his leisure time on a social media site: Real Account. Eventually, he hits 1,500 followers, but he sometimes wonders how much they really care about him. One night, the screen ominously begins to glitch, only displaying: The Game Will Now Begin…
Why does this book matter?
The coolest element of this series are the challenges the characters must go through to stay alive. Like the 1987 film The Running Man the characters are forced into competitions against their will that are life and death, only these challenges all revolve around social media elements: “likes”, pictures, and followers. So far writer Okushou has proven to be quite clever in inventing death games that involve social media elements and Shizumu Watanabe has realized it with graphic visuals that delight.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
It gets a little freaky!
This volume opens as if Real Account Vol. 1 and Real Account Vol. 2 didn’t even take place. Fear not, as we are only following a new character (the twin of the previous protagonist in fact) and their experience as the game begins. This allows the creators to create a jumping on point for new readers, but also allows us to see that different character dynamics are in store for our characters. This time the main character follows a random girl so that they stay alive when all their followers unfollow them. The fact that we know a secret about the main character will keep your interest up as we see the twin is just as clever as his brother.
Once again this series proves the clever games are quite interesting. By now you should be used to the way these go down: we’re introduced to the game by game host Marble, the main character thinks about the game, he witnesses people die and live, figures out how the game works, then he cleverly figures out a way to game the system. This time the characters are thrust into a like/dislike competition where they must guess how watchers will vote when they see a random picture from their phone. While the thought process of the characters as they attempt to figure out how to live with only seconds to think is interesting, the game itself also brings to attention the falsity of social media we all experience.
A bonus round is introduced later in the book 2, which focuses on live stream culture. Marble forces the characters to spend 30 minutes attempting to gain more followers. This allows Watanabe to capture all sorts of types of live stream as characters in the game attempt to stay alive. Things get a little sexual, but all the private parts are covered up. That said it’s definitely an adult only manga!
The art continues to be strong, especially when the violence kicks into gear. The layouts vary nicely throughout and there’s some clever use of detail to bring the focus on elements in the story. For example, in one scene the protagonist takes selfies, and Watanabe draws the character with a bit more detail to bring our focus on the stupid faces he makes. The characters of course go into their cartoon selves when comedy (or extreme emotion) is needed.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Though it’s nice to see the twin character gets their own opening it runs a good 25% of this volume and it mostly retreads what we saw in the first volume. The events can’t really vary too much since the character is experiencing the same screwed up introduction to Real Account, but why the creators needed to spend so much time retreading is anyone’s guess. It’s good for new readers, but if you’ve read the previous to volumes you’ll want to just skip ahead to the death challenges.
Is It Good?
Though it takes a good chunk of pages to get going as it retreads what we saw in volume 1, it gets back into its groove and doesn’t let up.
Like the best stories, Real Account holds a mirror to our culture, showing us our behavior so that we might learn from it, but also stay entertained.