Friday, July 29, 2016

Real Account Vol. #01 Manga Review

Let the game begin!

Creative Staff:
Art: Shizumu Watanabe
Story: Okushou
Translation: Jonathan Tarbox & Kazuko Shimizu
Lettering: Evan Hayden
Editing: Ajani Oloye
Kodansha Cover Design: Phil Balsman

What They Say:
Like many of his peers, Ataru Kashiwagi has found himself addicted to the newest social networking service, Real Account. But one day, Ataru and almost 10,000 other people, get sucked into the Real Account Zone, where they have become players in a series of deadly games. The basic rules of these games are simple -- if you lose all your followers, you die in real life, and if you die, all of your followers die with you.

As these depraved games decimate the players around him, Ataru must use quick thinking and his knowledge of Real Account to win each round and return to the real world. But when true friendship determines whether he lives or dies, can Ataru really survive when the only people he can count on are his Internet friends

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
With the rising popularity of Pokemon Go and the ever-increasing Twitter account list climbing on a daily basis, I don't think I could have chosen a more apt time to check out the first volume of Shizumu Watanabe's "Real Account." Set in a world where a new social networking system (Real Account) is sweeping the nation, the manga explores a plethora of societal themes that easily parallel what life in the real world has become -- a neverending battle between reality and social media. The story centers around Ataru Kashiwagi after, for some strange reason, he and 9,999 other people get sucked into a virtual manifestation of the social network itself, lead by the DeadMau5 looking mascot of the system, Marble.

From this point on, Real Account rapidly escalates into a hyperviolent cross between Mamoru Hosoda's "Summer Wars" and Reki Kawahara's "Sword Art Online." It is revealed that if any of the "players" sucked into Real Account die, all of their followers will die along with them. What's even more intense, however, is that this entire game is being broadcast throughout the nation. This, of course, leads to widespread societal panic and the expected mass-unfollowing for many of the people sucked into the virtual world. As if losing their fans isn't devastating enough, it is immediately revealed that should a player lose all of their followers, they just flat-out die on the spot. As our protagonist's followers begin to deplete, he comes to the realization that there isn't anyone in his life that actually needs him. That is, no one other than his younger sister, Yuri. In a last-minute attempt to sever any connection she may have of potentially being murdered by an Internet mascot, Ataru blocks his sister on Real Account with the complete expectation that he will die along with pressing the button. However, to his surprise (And ours) he has one more follower that we're not particularly sure of. If only Real Account allowed you to view your own followers...

Anyway, as if the situation wasn't bad enough, our beloved Marble announces that the surviving members of the virtual world will participate in a series of games that will ultimately determine whether they live or die. The first of these games will be one our protagonist is quite familiar with, "No Answer." This game divides everyone into groups of 500 as five judges selected from within the groups assemble a jury that votes on whether a contestant is: ugly, average, or cute. If the judges' decision matches the contestant's guess as to what they will be labeled, the contestant survives. If not...they're decapitated in front of everyone -- you know, typical Japanese game-show stuff. In addition to that, if any of the judges are caught lying (Via lie-detector attached to their noggins), all five of them will be slaughtered. In the midst of the growing chaos, Ataru comes across a girl(?) identical to his sister. In fact, she was so identical to her that Ataru was convinced his sister was sucked into the game for a good two pages. Eventually, we find out that her name is Koyori Kanda and that she loves cats.

After our protagonist and Koyori the cat lady survive the first game, the second one starts right away. This one is a little easier -- all the contestants need to do is Tweet something. If the contestant is retweeted, they get to live and receive 100 yen for each retweet. If they are not retweeted...well, they die. Immediately, some of the contestants begin to use their looks or jobs to their advantage. One woman goes up on stage and tells the audience that if she reaches 10,000 retweets, she will strip nude right in front of them. Another man, a manga artist, claims to reveal the ending to One Piece should he receive 50,000 retweets. Ataru, however, overanalyzes this situation and spends a good 95% of his allotted time just trying to figure out something to write. Eventually, he elects something as stupid as, "I'll do one pushup for every RT" and winds up just barely surviving with three retweets. Unfortunately for him, he now has to do THREE WHOLE PUSHUPS.

As the volume begins to come to a close, our protagonist's sister makes one more appearance as she is visited by a very..."special" guest.

In Summary:
Real Account starts off rather quickly with only several pages of exposition before Kashiwagi is thrust into the alternate dimension of Real Account. Without much time to get attached to him or his sister, Yuri, Real Account centers solely around its general plot points, backed up by lots and lots of blood. Like, surprising amounts of blood that I was totally not expecting at all. Don't let the book's vibrant cover design fool you, as this series gets rather dark. That being said, though, the cartoonish virtual world and even the character designs themselves at times begin to distract from what's actually happening. Even though the world of Real Account pits thousands of normal people (As well as their followers on the outside) against the face of death, it never really seems all that terrifying. The constant fluctuation between comedy and horror just makes the mood shift too often for this volume to be particularly great. That being said, it's still an exciting story that becomes more and more interesting as it progresses and I'm sure will wind up being something entertaining, to say the least.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B-
Text/Translation Grade: A-

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: March 22, 2016
MSRP: $10.99

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