Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Aug 3rd 2013
There's a hot new cellphone game in town called “Rabbit Doubt.” In it players form groups filled with “rabbits” and one hidden “wolf,” and the rabbits must try to figure out who the wolf is before they are killed. Yuu has been playing the game for a while now, and he and a group of other players, who have never met in person, decide to have a meet up. They go to a karaoke box, but while there are knocked unconscious and transported to what appears to be an abandoned mental institution. The game of Rabbit Doubt has just become real, and if Yuu doesn't figure out who the wolf is...well, you know the story.
You could be forgiven for thinking that every other manga that seems to come out appears to be about some sort of game made flesh, or at least about teenagers trying to survive while isolated from the rest of the world either by an accident or a contrivance. Doubt by Yoshiki Tonogai most definitely falls within these parameters – the characters are all players of the cellphone game “Rabbit Doubt,” they're all in their (late) teens or possibly early twenties, and they have suddenly found themselves dancing to a madman's tune in a real life version of the online game in an undisclosed isolated location. Before you completely write Doubt off, however, this compilation of the series' first two volumes does many things right, and with more of a mystery than a survival base, it proves to be an enjoyable read.
The story begins with Yuu meeting up with his perky childhood friend Mitsuki. Mitsuki's out shopping with her policeman father, but Yuu is waiting for four people he knows from the game. They've decided to have a real-life meet up to get to know each other, and Mitsuki ends up tagging along. The group seems fairly normal at first, with thuggish Eiji, brassy Haruka, and quiet Rei. The fourth member of the gang, Hajime, seems to have messaged Eiji that he can't make it, and so the newly formed group heads off to karaoke. This is when things start to prove your parents right about not trusting people you meet on the Internet. Clearly at least one person has some secrets and another harbors some dark aspects, but it all seems pretty normal until a guy in a rabbit mask knocks Yuu unconscious with a wrench in the bathroom. When Yuu wakes up, he, Mitsuki, and the formerly missing Hajime are in a locked, barren room. Hajime claims that he wasn't at the meet-up earlier because Yuu had texted him a different location – which clearly goes against what Eiji said initially. Small hints, clues, and traps are carefully woven into the dialogue as it goes on, with some seeming like red herrings and others screaming so loudly that the seasoned mystery reader finds herself believing that they must be false clues.
It is apparent that Tonogai put a lot of thought into these volumes. Text bubble placement is generally deliberate so as to conceal something, little discrepancies, such as the one mentioned before, lard the text, and by keeping us firmly inside Yuu's head, we are privy only to what he knows. Other characters have outbursts and accuse this or that person of being the wolf, but there is always a question of whether or not they mean it. Someone has to be lying, after all, possibly even Yuu himself.
For all of this, however, there is also a slight sense that the story is being rushed or that we aren't being given enough solid information in order to solve the mystery. These are seemingly contradictory sensations, but both crop up from time to time as the story goes on. While it is nice to know that there are only four volumes (two omnibuses) to the series so that it has to give us some real answers relatively soon, there is also the concern that those answers will all be jammed into the final chapter without us being given sufficient time to put the pieces together ourselves.
Tonogai's art maintains the mood of the piece very well in most places but has a few odd notes that can jolt the reader out of the story. For example, the rabbit head masks are appropriately terrifying, scarred as if the bunnies were fresh from Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory with big, gleaming eyes that seem somehow dewy even in black and white. Then you have Mitsuki, who appears to have half a sandwich sticking out of her hair and that hair is shorter in profile than when she is seen head on or from afar. The building gives an appropriately foreboding air, and the presence of medical accoutrements certainly adds to the fear, however, so whatever issues there are can be mostly ignored.
Doubt is a more mystery-centric variation on the game made real theme that seems to be popular these days, and as such manages to be intriguing even as it retreads some ground we've spent a lot of time covering in recent months. The pacing can feel off at times and characters have issues in design, but overall this is a fine entry into the genre and ones that readers who tend to prefer mystery to survival stories can appreciate.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Good mystery elements, settings feel appropriately foreboding. Keeping us in Yuu's head works, lots of little clues scattered about. Page flipping back and forth is required to get all of the details.
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