CREDITS: Okushou (story) and Shizumu Watanabe (art)
PUBLISHER: Kodansha Comics
RELEASE: Out Now
PRICE (RRP): £7.99
AGE RATING: 16+
This review was originally published in MyM Magazine. Subscribe here.
A manga about people being sucked into a virtual world where, if they die, they die for realsies? Yep, Real Account does sound like a Sword Art Online rip-off, but look past the premise and you’ll find a manga with merit of its own, especially when it comes to critiquing the way we relate to people online.
The titular Real Account (“RA” for short) is a social networking website that takes Japan by storm. In real life, student Ataru Kashiwagi is cash-strapped and introverted, but on RA he’s managed to garner more than 1,500 followers. Ataru’s success turns out to be his undoing when his mobile emits a bright light and whisks him off to a strange world – the real Real Account, ruled by the site’s mascot Marble.
Marble reveals that the minds of RA’s 10,000 most popular users are trapped and the only way out is to play a series of games. If at any point a user loses all their followers, they die. And if a user loses a game, not only do they die but so do all their followers.
This is the first thing that distinguishes Real Account from SAO and its imitators – Ataru and his fellow RA users aren’t only fighting for their own lives, but for their followers’ too. Another point of departure is that, unlike the high fantasy of SAO, Log Horizon and the like, Real Account’s deadly games are explicitly connected to the way people act online – for example, trying to get the most re-tweetts (their spelling, not ours!). Where Sword Art Online favours swashbuckling action, Real Account takes the more psychological route.
Review by Ian Wolf