As the photo immediately illustrates, Doubt is no manga for kids. The grotesque juxtaposition of bunnies with blood, scars, and eeriness should demonstrate this key point. The fact that this is created by one of the illustrators for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (aka When They Cry), an even creepier, more violent manga, doesn’t hurt bringing this point home. Of course, for someone like myself that can be quite cool, but let’s get to the plot shall we?
The story begins with a rather creepy tale about a wolf who sneaks into a group of bunnies disguised as one of them and then one by one tries to kill the bunnies. The bunnies realize that one among them is a wolf, and that if they kill the correct one then they’ll be safe; otherwise, they’ll all die as the wolf feeds on. The manga then states this is such a game and suddenly transitions to a group of kids. The kids meeting for the first time in person on this occasion due to their involvement in a cell phone game called “Rabbit Doubt”. Auspicious, no?
Well the main character, Yuu, already knows one of the girls Mitsuki, but the other three players are new to him. One of the kids doesn’t even show up at all. Anyways they meet and comment how they get along like old chums. Shortly after though, we see Yuu knocked unconscious by someone with a rabbit “head” on and Yuu finds himself, his companions, and the missing player, all trapped in a lab. Suddenly they realize the game they imagined may not be the game they are playing, as one of the characters has been killed and stuck to a wall, while each of the others have bar codes now for one-time use for doors, letting them slowly discover their evil surroundings.
Will they find the “rabbit” in disguise? Or will the wolf win? That is the game “Rabbit Doubt.”
This concept alone was intriguing enough for me to start reading it immediately, and for those who liked the Saw series then you’ll probably see some parallels (less gore however). Thankfully, unlike Saw the story Doubt doesn’t continue needlessly on; in fact the whole manga is only 4 volumes long. Admittedly, there are some cliché points to the story, especially Doubt’s similarity to Agatha Christie’s most famous work “And Then There Were None”, where each character meets fortuitously on an island and slowly their troubled back stories are revealed and characters one by one disappear. Change island with underground creepy abandoned lab and bingo, you pretty much have Doubt. Doubly cliché is that this story follows a bunch of teens, but then again 99% of manga are about teens anyway it seems. Neither point really bothers me though because it’s either what I expected, or in the case of the Agatha Christie comparison especially, a really good book to homage. That said, I wouldn’t let either of those points bother you too much.
Instead, what you should appreciate about the book is not only the character development, especially for Yuu, but the added mystery of the barcodes. Unlike Saw, the characters have free movement except for the doors. Only certain doors are opened by certain barcodes, thus if the characters want to escape they have to rely on each other to open the doors. Thus the players are forced to participate in the game that suddenly became all too real. Add in some creepy bunny heads, and the ever-present question of “who’s the wolf?” and I think you’ll find this to be full of twists and suspense.
In closing, I know many of you will read this based on the premise alone, and personally I did quite enjoy the manga. Sadly there is no US release yet and it can only be found via fansub sites; however, reading this volume by volume instead of chapter by chapter would greatly help keep the intense pace of the story together. Much like Death Note in its final volumes, the story gains a complexity that seems beyond explanation, but equally like Death Note there is at least a fairly solid wrap-up of the main story, with some room for a possible adaptation (or so I hope). All in all, if you’re into creepy mind-twist mysteries like Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” then I highly recommend Doubt.
Score: 4 out of 5
[Not licensed presently in US]