When the cleverest thing about something is the cover.
As a person with a mild interest in survival game-type stories, it would seem that Doubt would be a perfect title of me, especially as released in omnibus form. Actually, in general I have a become quite a fan of the omnibus release format – I love being able to pick up large chunks of stories at a time, and I also think its resulted in me trying out titles I may not have bothered with otherwise, although if I’m honest, I must admit that I seem to have had little luck with those I’ve tried out so far. Unfortunately, Doubt is yet another title that falls into the loss column in this regard.
Doubt has a simple premise – a new cellphone game, called “Rabbit Doubt”, has taken Japan by a storm, and a bunch of people who play together have decided to meet in real life. Rabbit Doubt is basically the game Mafia, or even Clue, as one player is a “Wolf” who is killing the other characters, and the other players are Rabbits who are trying to work out who it is before the Wolf kills everyone. Five of six of the people from the group meet up and go to do karaoke, there’s some tension, and then, BOP!, everyone gets hit over the head and dragged off to an abandoned building to play out Rabbit Doubt in real life. Oh, and they also get branded with barcodes that can open locked doors in the building, except each code only works once, and the only way they can get out of the game is to either find their way out or to have killed the Wolf.
While there’s nothing terrible about Doubt, there is likewise nothing at all to truly make it stand out from a crowded field of similar stories. The whole thing is simply too shallow; its fine as a disposable read, but that hardly makes it worthy of recommendation, especially given the plethora of options out there for the North American manga reader. The characters are bland, and the scenario itself never really catches one’s interest enough to engage the reader – where in other stories that present mysteries, I would be curious to at least know who was responsible, here I honestly don’t care at all. Even occasional bones tossed to the reader – one character doesn’t have a barcode, another wasn’t with the group originally, the characters are all apparently being punished for past sins – fail to pique my curiosity. I would in particular critique the whole “they did something bad, now they’re getting their just deserts!” angle, as it invites rather unfavorable comparison to one of the highest-selling books in the world, Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”. Unsavory pasts aren’t really all that thrilling if we are told what they are almost immediately and if they conform to fairly standard tropes – guy got kicked out of boxing because he was involved in a massive fight? Ho hum. Girl was a fraudulent psychic? Oh, my, haven’t seen that one done dozens of times already!
Now, I mentioned the cover, so let me explain – the cover flips open to reveal a nearly identical picture of the cover, except with the heads of each character exposed instead of beneath a rabbit head. Its nifty, and I do quite like it, although it hardly saves the entire effort.
In the end, I just don’t care what happens next. The seemingly harmless childhood friend who seemingly gets caught up in the thing accidentally (or is she harmless and is it accidental?!) could turn out to be the one pulling all the strings, and it still wouldn’t compel me to drop the cash for the next and final omnibus. If you like survival game stories, you’d be much better served picking up Vertical’s release of Limit instead, or, hell, grabbing The Hunger Games. This one just isn’t worth it.