Out this week in English is the latest volume of Real Account, a manga about a horror style funhouse of torture and death. To be admitted you had to have been obsessed with Real Account, a made up social media platform that took the nation by storm. Now the people inside it are being murdered if they can’t pass tests, tests that reveal how shallow and fake social media is, which makes for a compelling message about society on top of the violence!
Real Account Vol. 4 (Kodansha Comics)
REPLY OR REGRET Trapped inside the popular social network, Real Account, Yuma and Ayame must forge ahead and beat a series of seemingly endless death games. First, they’ll have to use their wits to appease a monster created by social media, but an even greater challenge awaits them soon after. In “Operation: Reply or Regret” they’ll slowly lose sleep or their sanity when faced with the threat of instant death for not replying to messages that could come at a moment’s notice. What tricks will Yuma and Ayame pull off this time in the nonstop bloodbath that is Real Account?
Why does this book matter?
To my mind there aren’t many works on the market concerning entertainment that also serves as commentary on our social media obsessed culture. That makes the series feel cutting edge. It’s also balancing adult themes with lots of crazy gore. What’s not to love?!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Oh joy, a vacation whilst I await my death. How lovely!
As the summary points out, this volume contains two new games, both intriguing in their premise and masterfully presented by Shizumu Watanabe via cool TV like graphics. One goes into the very real world of men pretending to be girls and the other about the travesty of not replying to your friends fast enough. These are the highlights of the volume as they raise the stakes (it’s either win or death), but also capture the absurdity of real world behavior. Seriously, even if it says you’ve read my text maybe I’m too busy to reply! The manga captures that anger and frustration we’ve all felt, whilst wrapping it up in a horror show type setting.
Which I might add, is an element that makes this perfect for the Halloween season. Once again, characters explode with blood in a moment’s notice if they lose (though their bodies are outside the game playing area they explode in blood geysers in the game) and there’s some added violence with the first game that appears in this volume. It involves a giant creepy baby robot and it’s incredibly strong and good at smacking people like flies. I’ll leave it at that. Later, there’s a game that if played wrong will send you into the air to be choked by chains; it’s gruesome, and while it’s certainly pushing the boundaries, it’s also in good fun due to the strange premise.
This volume also plays around with a customary manga tradition of characters feeling awkward about nudity, kissing, and the like. This is marked as a title for 16+ and it suits the demographic since that age group is nervous about dating. I can’t say it’s the prime focus of the title, but this volume takes steps towards being more adult about these themes. Characters deal with real pain either because they are rejected, or must reject another. Watanabe uses these elements to make our heroes more heroic in their need to keep their loved ones safe.
Overall the art is top notch, with little to no manga tropes to speak of. The violence looks good as always, and the layouts are well composed and easy to follow. The nudity and sexuality that’s shown in the book is tasteful and never seems exploitive in nature. There might be a underdress shot or two, but in one for example it’s of a dead girl which makes the horrific nature of the moment all the more real.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The pacing of this volume is a tad wonky – though given the nature of these manga being produced in smaller installments it’s not surprising – and that throws off the flow as you read. That includes a slow opening with Yuma being asked to join a group that runs on too long, then the games, then a flashback to Ayame’s past, with the last few pages focused on a new character back when the game started. The shorter installments makes the read less of a contained piece and more of a slow, then fast, then slow again sort of read that makes the entire volume feel uneven. It’s still good though, but one wonders if it was put together as one long volume how much better it would read!
It certainly looks awesome though.
If I had my way there’d be a Halloween show or movie based on Real Account already. This manga continues to be a delight if you’re interested in your social mores being criticized whilst blood and gore fly by!