By Tsunehiro Date
Friendships formed online are often anonymous, and the more abstracted your interactions the less you know about a person. For example, if you were communicating with someone only on twitter you wouldn’t know what their voice sounds like, what their real name is if they’re using a handle, or what they look like if they don’t post selfies. Hence, the more distant the relationship the more uncertainty there is as to whether a friend’s online identity is genuine or constructed. As Catfish depicted, it’s very easy for someone to lie about who they are on the internet, and the truth can hurt when you finally meet someone and the image of them you had in your head is shattered.
So it’s easy to see why Nanoka was so worried about meeting Mr. Harmful for the first time. Mr. Harmful is her only real friend, but he knows as little about her real self as she does about his. But because he’s admitted to being a hardcore fan of her idol persona, there’s this lingering sense that his idolization of her would prevent him from seeing her as a friend if he were to find out. He would probably still be in love with Nanoka, but they could never have the same relationship. He’s the only person she can be herself around, and the only place she can escape from the pressures of her daily life is by talking to him on Donkey Ears, so losing her friendship with him will also cost her only outlet to express her interests and vent her frustrations freely.
Check out our review of Cross Account #2
It’s an interesting role-reversal to have the idol be the one whose more afraid to meet her fan. In a sense, Nanoka is the one who’s really getting to meet her hero, and her concerns that the rose-tinted vision she has of him will be shattered has so much more emotional stakes behind it because of her situation. Especially because Nanoka is in the privileged position to recognize who Daichi is while protecting the anonymity of her online persona, adding a guilty tinge to the proceedings. There’s tangible trepidation and tension as Nanoka goes through meeting her procession of fans, nervously anticipating when she’ll be face to face with Mr. Harmful. This only incenses her palpable fear when she starts second guessing herself and starts hoping he doesn’t actually show up. This really helps makes her sense of relief after instantly recognizing who Mr. Harmful is on first sight feel genuinely cathartic. Against all odds, her internet friend is actually who he said he was, and his feelings for her are genuine. It’s actually quite emotional when she reflects on how Daichi’s crush helped her start to love herself more, and gets to thank him for that in person without exposing her online persona to him. The emotional through-line of this chapter is well handled, finally exploring the tenuous aspects of social media friendships and the catharsis of meeting someone who means so much to you in an interesting, endearing way.
With this chapter, Nanoka’s arc has firmly planted itself as the emotional center of the series and what will make it worthwhile going forward. Date seems to have a far better sense of what her character actually wants and the obstacles in front of her, and has written her in a way that is believable and empathetic. If Cross Account was exclusively about her, then it would be so much easier to recommend. However, Daichi’s the main character, and his self-righteous personality and the misogynist slant of the writing are still repugnant. Cross Account’s exploration of a social media love story has potential, and this chapter showed Date is capable of delivering on it. Still, unless Daichi’s characterization gets fundamentally rewritten, it’ll be hard to be invested in this romance. Because right now, I can’t help but think that Nanoka deserves better – both in terms of having a better love interest than Daichi, and being in a better series than Cross Account.