By Tsunehiro Date
Cross Account is about a “nice guy.” Daichi is an easy-going, strait-laced, and all-around ordinary dude. He thinks people should respect him because he projects himself as a normal dude. Does he put any actual effort into making friends, or having meaningful conversations? No. He thinks it should all come naturally because of the way he is. He thinks he’s entitled, and like most people who considers themselves a “nice guy,” Daichi is disgustingly unlikable.
The Nice Guy archetype isn’t one generally played straight. It describes someone who’s upset they’ve not been rewarded for their supposed good attributes. Nice Guys believe if that women show any interest whatsoever it’s the groundwork for a romantic relationship. They feel they are entitled to relationships, positioning themselves as superior to most guys, who they would probably describe as normies. The idea that you deserve a relationship with someone because you’re a good person is misguided; no one owes you anything for being a decent human being- that is something you should just be. A Nice Guy thinks of himself as morally superior and someone who obviously treats women better than a jock. In reality his mindset is fundamentally selfish and misogynistic because he objectifies women as something he’s earned as a reward for good behavior. Most stories nowadays are self-aware of the hypocritical mindset behind the Nice Guy, and challenge the concept by making them realize they do not deserve a person’s love. Re:Zero was a great example of this, where its protagonist Subaru realizes his “white knighting” for Emilia was not only unappreciated, but actively made things worse for her. It was only when he forwent his ego and desire to be her hero so she would love him, and focused on helping save people’s lives, that he broke a vicious cycle of self-destructive behaviors that had resulted in failure and rejection. Subaru became a real hero because he stopped trying to be the hero, and wanting recognition and compensation for his heroism.
Daichi might eventually has a wake-up call like Subaru did, but right now he’s nuzzled in deep into his delusions. He’s so obsessed with being considered normal that he hides his otaku tendencies and looks down upon otaku as lower on the social hierarchy himself. Yet he also looks down on the “normies,” calling them “scumbags” for having girlfriends and a fashion sense like they do. He feels that everybody should kowtow to his interests and be exactly like him. It’s no coincidence his best friend on social media is someone who he thinks is exactly like him. So by elevating his position in the social hierarchy, Daichi’s goal isn’t really to make friends, but to posses the same things “normal people” do, one of those things being a girlfriend. Daichi hypocritically sees himself as a better person than everyone else and a social outcast, projecting the reasons he doesn’t have friends as the faults of other people and not himself.
That Daichi has so many followers on social media using his honest otaku persona Mr. Harmful should lay rest to the idea he needs to hide his interests for social acceptance and friendships. While there is a social stigma associated with being an otaku and a nerd, simply liking anime and manga isn’t that big a deal. We even see so-called normal people casually talking about Shonen Jump at the end of the chapter, and when Daichi gets in on the conversation they have a very nonplussed response. So he could easily make friends anytime he wanted if he just had the confidence to admit his interests and put in the effort to talk to people. Yet, Daichi would rather be considered a boring person than an otaku. I know people like Daichi who hide their interests because they don’t want to be judged for them, but his self-depreciation doesn’t come across as honest. He’s not worried about people not respecting him, because they already don’t. He’s concerned about being judged specifically for being considered an otaku. Despite being someone who on social media claims that otaku are people like everyone else, he actually thinks of them and himself in a lower light for being interested in anime. Daichi has no personal integrity, so obsessed with being normal that he’d reject fundamental aspects of his identity for that end. He’s the kind of person that’d make fun of otaku despite being one himself. His love for anime is as fake as his normie facade. It’s really difficult for any self-identifying anime fan to relate with or respect someone like that, which doesn’t speak well for the series’ appeal considering it’s a manga.
If the series was self-aware of how misguided Daichi’s character is, then there’d be potential here. Instead it validates his perspective. The other otaku in the manga are depicted as stereotypically ugly both physically and mentally, not only being jealous of Daichi for having a female friend but also attempting to rape and blackmail her. Daichi identifies as an otaku, but the series goes out of its way to show that he’s not an otaku like them, looking down on otaku in general and characterizing them as sexual predators deserving of their social alienation. The climax of the chapter is Daichi saving his friend Mao from these otaku, which should be admirable but instead comes across as horribly misogynistic. Especially because at first Daichi hesitates to save her because she’s a normie, and he doesn’t have the right to step in as an outcast, and that she can probably defend herself so he doesn’t need to. His friend is being sexually assaulted, that is reason enough for him to intervene, but he performs some weird mental gymnastics to convince himself that shouldn’t be the reason to help. No, he decides to interfere not because it’s the right thing to do, but because “he’s a man.” As if helping a woman in trouble is inherently manly, and that’s the real reason you stop someone from being raped. The series frames this as Daichi not running away from who he is, but really it’s a moment that embraces and glorifies hyper-masculine ideals of chivalry, which the series rewards with his best friend falling in love with him because he showed off his manliness. It’s a gross message that promotes toxic masculinity and misguided ideas on what being an actual nice guy, a good person, entails.
Cross Account is the worst Jump Start in recent memory. Previous misfires may have been uninspired or poorly constructed, but none have had as awful a message and harmful an ideology underlying it’s narrative. There is potential in the social media aspect, and in exploring the true identity of Daichi’s social media friend “Poop Head,” but I can’t imagine satisfying development of these threads considering the series’ misanthropic and misogynistic perspectives. It’s funny that We Never Learn is a harem manga running in the same magazine that has bountiful and shameless fan service, and is still doesn’t feel nearly as exploitative or degrading to women as Cross Account. That series is also genuinely funny, has likable and relatable characters, and cathartic messages, none of which can be said of Cross Account. My comics-positive friend Maxy Barnard, who can find something good in just about any comic and shares my appreciation for We Never Learn, tweeted about how much he hated this series, but I never thought it would be this bad. Even after reading it, the disgusting elements of this manga didn’t sink in until I started processing my thoughts and started writing about it, and now I can’t help but agree with his assessment that this manga is “hot garbage.” Cross Account is like its protagonist; benign on the surface, but increasingly uglier the more you get to know it.