Title: Doubt (2007)
Author(s): Tonogai Yoshiki
Genre: Mystery, Shounen, Psychological
Sometimes when I'm shopping in Barnes Noble, I look at potential new series to get into, even though I really shouldn't. Being the bibliophile that I am (and subconscious hoarder), I can't resist involving myself in a new fictional world. This is one of them that I happened to come across.
There's a game going around Japan called 'Rabbit Doubt'. The premise of the game is that all of the players are rabbits in a colony, and one amongst them is randomly chosen to be a wolf that infiltrated the group of rabbits. Every round, the wolf kills off a rabbit, and every round, the group tries to figure out which of the rabbits is actually a wolf in disguise. Sometimes the kids who play this game decide to meet up in person, and Yuu, Mitsuki, Rei, Hajime, Eiji, and Haruka have done just that. Unfortunately, one of them has decided to take on the mantle of the wolf and has already killed once. Who is the wolf, and can they be stopped before everyone meets a very unpleasant end? [Source: MyAnimeList]
If you know me, it's no surprise that I would be into something like this judging by the cover. So, I've briefly talked about this series in my first impressions of Judge, but I'll reiterate and expand on my thoughts about this series. I really enjoy survival games, from Hunger Games to Battle Royale. Something about the concept is very exciting and with the right psychological elements and well established suspense, you can easily create a very enjoyable piece of work. So, what did I think of this mystery chase of horror?
Upon reading about halfway of the first volume, I was instantly hooked to what was going on with our group of characters and figuring out who the wolf was among them. [note: Yen Press printed a 2-in-1 version of the series and this is the version I own] When I start getting involved with a mystery along with the story's characters, that's a very good sign that I'm really going to enjoy myself. Like most stories, you're going to find yourself liking and disliking people, which obviously affects your decision making on who the "wolf" could possibly be. There's plenty of action to keep you hooked into all the twists and turns of the story. The story does a great job of keeping the reader on their toes and questioning who the culprit could be along with the characters. Another thing I enjoy is that it doesn't rely on gore, but focuses on this guess who cat and mouse chase. There's some interesting obstacles our group of "rabbits" must face to figure out who the wolf is and escape, such as the individual barcodes that can be used only once to unlock doors. This limits their choices of exploration to escape alive together. There's also a couple or so surprises to throw you and our characters off the real wolf's trail.
As much as I enjoyed the premise enough to continue to read more of Tonogai Yoshiki's works, Judge and eventually Secret, I will admit that by the time I got to the second book (volumes 3 and 4 in the original print), the story did drag a little longer in certain places. The slow areas fortunately, and obviously, didn't turn me off from reading further as I still felt very invested in the remaining cast of characters and ultimately revealing who the wolf is. Somehow I ran across a borderline spoiler that didn't reveal the conclusion or anything, but more so an expression of disappointment. Unfortunately, I understood that slight disappointment when the wolf was revealed and partially with the open ended resolution to the story. Without knowing the premise of Judge, I assumed that it was a continuation, but it ended up being a separate story all together with a slightly similar survival game vibe.
Despite my disappointment toward the end, I still would recommend Doubt to survival horror game fans. The story keeps you thinking and the characters really make you feel involved with figuring out this murder mystery. There's not too much gore, but it does have some very effective horror imagery/gimmicks to it to keep you satisfied on how messed up this game is. Even though the story drags toward the latter half, you'll still feel the need to keep going and find an escape from the madness with our characters.
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