Doubt Omnibus Vol. 1 Yoshiki Tonogai (Yen Press)

DOUBTYEN01

4/5 – You’ll be drawn into the mystery

In the U2 song “The Fly” Bono throws out a verse that sums up Doubt in one simple phrase: “It’s no secret that a liar won’t believe anyone else.”

The popular cell phone game Rabbit Doubt has taken Japan by storm. Groups of players take on the role of rabbits, one of whom is a wolf in rabbit’s clothing. It’s the job of the wolf to deceive the other rabbits by lying about its true nature, slowly killing off each one before it is discovered. The rabbit players, simultaneously, must uncover the wolf player before they are all eaten. When a group of six game enthusiasts decide to meet in real life to have a fun night out and put faces to names, it seems perfectly innocent. It starts out that way, at any rate. One karaoke bender and a brief bout of unconsciousness later, the players find themselves locked in a desolate building, with barcodes tattooed on their bodies, and one of their number missing.  And now the game begins for real…with fatal consequences for the losers.

Some of the best games involve “reading” your opponent. Looking for a tell, a sign, or some hint of a weakness you can exploit while they’re doing the same to you. As each character in the book realizes one of them has been lying to the others the whole time, it falls not only on them to find the “wolf” player…it also falls on you, the reader, to try to figure it out as well. Each character has a motivation to deceive the others, even those who appear the most innocent.  I have my theories as to who the wolf might be, but it seems I’m going to have to wait with bated breath for volume two to come out before I find out if I’m even close.

I was expecting one type of book when I first picked up this volume. The disturbing image on the cover of six students wearing bizarre rabbit heads against a bloodstained background let me know this wasn’t going to be a book for younger readers, but one glance at the two busty females (in standard issue miniskirt schoolgirl outfits) led me to believe this would be a book high on fanservice to go alongside the gore. I was pleased to discover the opposite was true. Apparently Doubt doesn’t need gimmicks to draw you in. There’s nary an upskirt shot or an overly gory scene to be found. Tonogai has created a deep and disturbing psychological rabbit hole, and thrust us inside it alongside his characters.

A book of this kind usually has a more brutal, punkish art style with loose linework and a heavy reliance on tone and shading.  Once again, Doubt goes 180 degrees from what I was expecting. The crisp, clean artwork somehow enhances the feeling of dread. You see nearly every piece of rubble painstakingly rendered in the dingy prison the protagonists find themselves desperate to escape from. The characters themselves, while slightly stereotypical (the bad girl, the bad boy, the smart nerd, etc.) are given a good range of emotion by the artist. The fear seems real, the laughter seems genuine, and the distrust…well, that’s the whole point of the book, isn’t it?

If Doubt has any strikes against it, it’s only that we’ve begun to see a number of titles spring up that are eerily similar. The “group of people trapped in a strange place and forced to play a deadly game” has begun to appear in other titles like BTOOOM! and even in non-manga books like Avengers Arena.  What gives Doubt the edge is that instead of just watching the game being played out, you’re drawn into the mystery as well, and will spend most of the time trying to figure out whodunit along with the characters themselves.

al@comicspectrum.com
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