Grim_Noir Entertains Doubt (and Doubt Entertains Him, Too)

 

RabbitDoubt-Volume 1

Title: Doubt – Volume #1

Storyteller: Yoshiki Tonogai

Cover Art: Yoshiki Tonogai

Translation and Letterer: Alexis Eckerman

Publisher: Square Enix

Licensed by: Yen Press

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

Swimming through the chum-laden waters of Saw wannabes (like Avengers Arena), I was caught by surprise when the trappings of Yoshiki Tonogai‘s twisty and twisted manga, Doubt Volume 1, rasped across my lizard brain. The deserted psychiatric clinic, the serial killer in an expressionless mask, the parade of teenaged victims…it all seemed rather…familiar. Then the Fair-Play Whodunit elements surfaced and set the hook deep in my prefrontal cortex.

Anyone who has ever played the childhood party games Werewolf or Mafia will instantly understand the cellphone game “Rabbit Doubt” that the characters in Doubt play. The premise is simple: Find the liar. In the game, a wolf in rabbit’s clothing is hiding among a colony of rabbits. Every night, the wolf eats a rabbit while the others sleep. Every morning, the rabbits try to guess who the wolf is by hanging a rabbit. If the rabbits hang the right rabbit (a.k.a. the disguised wolf), they win. If no one is left but the wolf, then he wins.

Murder Room

The trouble begins when six of these players agree to a meet-up and end up kidnapped by one of their number who is playing the game for real. Worse yet, this “wolf” sees all the “rabbits” as liars and, therefore, deserving of death. (Ain’t that always the way?)

What makes Doubt rise above the pack, is its mix of Eli Roth, Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. The murderer IS one of them. The trap IS escapable. Or is it? For, while the murderer is playing “fair” by the rules of the game, he (and therefore, the author) is working very hard to sow dissention and paranoia in the group; making it more and more difficult to trust anyone.

You would think this would be simple to solve in the two volumes (twenty total chapters) and with only the six characters that are in the entire story. Glancing at chapter one will not dissuade anyone of that opinion. Everyone is so trite and perky that you would swear they should be hanging out at The Chock’lit Shoppe with Archie and the gang.

However, Tonogai gives us characters who have either method, motive or opportunity for one of the murders, but never all three elements for all of the murders. You begin to realize that chapter one was about the social masks people wear when they are on their best behavior. Under those masks, everyone has secrets they hide from other people, but which ones would a psychopath think are lies worth killing someone for? When a former patient of the psych ward shows up in one of the rooms, Volume One shows us what a real brain-screw it can be.

Doubt in Red and Black

And then, there’s the doors…

The electronic doors add a logic puzzle mini-game feel to the proceedings: Each of the kidnap victims awakes to find a henna tattoo of a barcode somewhere on their body. Each tattoo can be used to control just one of the electronic locks in the deserted psychiatric facility where they are being held. Obviously, the murderer has a skeleton key of some sort that allows him or her to travel the grounds with impunity. CATCHING someone not being where they claim to be is the trick. (Making the book a bit of a Howdunit, as well.)

 

Tonogai the Writer is strongly backed by Tonogai the Artist. Tonogai began his career as the artist for the Higurashi manga series, so he really owns this territory. If you watch, the early chapters start very bright, with a lot of pure white and pure black, using gray only when necessary. Later, as we get deeper and deeper into the psychiatric facility, Tonogai shows us 50,000 shades of shadow and murkiness to play up the mood of dread and fear the characters are experiencing. Ultra-tight close-ups accent gruesome impalements, dismemberments and decapitations. And every murder leaves a bloody mess in its wake.

And that bloody wake was the perfect bait to draw me into this world. Tonogai has landed me and I’m flopping around in the bottom of his Doubt boat, gasping for air, with my money in my hand, eagerly waiting for the concluding Volume 2 to come out at the end of July.

The Liar Must Die

 

Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or Friend on Facebook to end his self-delusions.

 

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