Review: Real Account vol. 1, Written by Okushou,
Illustrated by Shizumu Watanabe
Hey there! Long time no see! March was a nice break from
writing. I hope you are well.
Kodansha Comics sent over a batch of their latest manga, and
one of the books that immediately caught my attention is the first volume of
their latest shonen psychological horror thriller, Real Account. Billed as a Battle
Royale with a social commentary twist, the comic shows main character Ataru
Kashiwagi pulled from reality into a purgatory zone connected to his social
media handle on a service called Real Account. Inside the Real Account Zone, if
you lose all of your followers, you die – and if you die in the game, all your
followers die too.
The death battle genre in shonen and seinen manga has become
more prevalent of late in the US licensing sphere; BTOOM! from Yen Press and Deadman
Wonderland from Viz Media are both recent entries into the genre that is
defined by the 2000-2005 adaptation of Koushun Takami’s best-selling novel Battle Royale. Plenty of recent young
adult fiction follows in its wake as well, including The Hunger Games, which
recently finished up its motion picture run. Battle Royale, as a story, reveals startling truths about the
savagery of people when forced to kill or be killed, feeding off of fiction
like Lord of the Flies and The Running Man. There’s a startling despondency
to this kind of fiction which is becoming less startling over time, as the
genre continues to grow.
The first volume of Real
Account uses social media-like games and functionality to drive mass-death
events, but the blood is so copious and the deaths so arbitrary that the result
is reader ambivalence rather than horror. The hero of our tale, Ataru, does his
best to outsmart the game’s controller, a mascot called Marble, which is all
fine and good, but really not impactful. Only a few major characters are
introduced, and unlike other entries in the death game genre, with no real
teams, no meaningful conflict between competitors, and without a sense of
direction, Real Account is basically
just letting the body count pile up and not worrying much about the rest.
Throughout, Watanabe’s illustration is passable, if a little
odd at places. Screen tone seems to dominate many of the pages, to the extent
that some of the comic is hard to read. The pacing of this first volume is also
a little rough. There are some smart pages, but overall the pace is
blisteringly fast for a genre that relies on tension and creeping fear to build
suspense and attachment to characters.
As an entry into the death game genre, Real Account’s premise doesn’t really have much to add. The idea
that your best friend could kill you in order to not die is disturbing; the
idea that your followers on Twitter aren’t your real friends… that’s not a big
leap. Real Account tries to put a
modern society spin on the death game genre, but without meaningful character
building and tension, it’s a comic that’s unlikely to go viral.