Story/Art: Yoshiki Tonogai
Translation: Alexis Eckerman
What They Say:
A Japanese cell phone game called Rabbit Doubt has gone viral in Tokyo. In it, players are rabbits who must do everything in their power to uncover the wolf in rabbit’s clothing before it kills them off. The wolf, a randomly selected player, must use his wiles to create mistrust among the rabbits and knock his adversaries off one by one.
When five fans of this game decide to meet offline for fun, the last thing they expect is to lose consciousness and wake up trapped in an abandoned building with a corpse strung up in front of them and a mysterious barcode tattooed on each of their bodies. Will the virtual friends be able to pull it together in the real world and figure out what’s going on in time to avoid ending up the wolf’s dinner?
The cover here provides a nice sideways shot of the main cast in creepy rabbit masks over bloody barcodes. It’s certainly a striking image and it really manages to grab your attention. The back cover provides a summary, as well as a close-up of Yuu in the mask over a silhouetted of a staircase. The paper quality feels nice, and the increased size of the book is certainly appreciated. A few color pages are included at the front, and a very short section of translation notes appear at the back, but other than that the book is devoid of extras. Text reads smoothly, honorifics are maintained, and sound effects are left in their original form and translated.
The art here is usually fairly average, with competent yet unexceptional character designs. However, the artist does seem to have a knack for expressing emotion, and the quality of the art jumps up quite a bit in the more horrifying scenes, helping them leave a little extra impact. Backgrounds are relatively detailed and appear quite frequently.
In the cell phone game Rabbit doubt, players take on the role of rabbits who must uncover a hidden player acting as the “wolf,” who kills off the other players one by one. One day, a high school student named Yuu waits to meet up with friends from the game in real life, when he unexpectedly runs into his friend Mitsuki. It isn’t long before other players of the game start showing up, including the brash Eiji and Haruka, and a young girl in a wheelchair known as Rei. The group then heads off to have some fun doing karaoke, and Rei reveals to Yuu that she was once a TV celebrity known Hypno-Girl. Things turn nasty, however, when Eiji mentions that he overheard their conversation and brings up that she was once called out as a fraud. Fortunately, the kindness of everyone else manages to smooth things over, but when Yuu goes to the bathroom to check up on Eiji, he finds himself being assaulted by someone in a freaky bunny mask.
Upon awakening, Yuu finds himself in a barren room alongside an unconscious Mitsuki and a mysterious guy in glasses. Their cell phones are all missing, and one of the doors is locked. When Yuu tries the other door, he hurries to turn on the lights only to be greeted by a gruesome sight, that of Rei’s corpse nailed to the wall. Mitsuki awakens just in time to see what has happened, and the guy introduces himself as Hajime, another of Yuu’s friends from Rabbit Doubt. Haruka and Eiji soon appear, and the group discovers that barcodes have been tattooed to their bodies, apparently allowing them to open the doors in the building. It would seem that whenever a barcode is used it becomes bound to that door as its key, meaning that the group only has a limited number of “keys” to use in the building. To make matters worse, a disturbing message is left behind tying their deadly predicament to Rabbit Doubt, making this a “game” in which it is heavily implied that one of the players is the killer.
Tensions of course flair up, Eiji gets locked into one of the rooms for acting up, Yuu discovers that he is the only one without a barcode and decides to hide this fact, and the group discovers a stranger in a bunny mask. As they prepare to attack him he collapses to the floor, seemingly already dead. Yuu removes the mask to reveal someone none of them recognize, only for the “corpse” to jump up and try to strangle him before collapsing once again. Hajime then looks inside the mask and discovers a thumbtack seemingly covered in poison, causing him to come to the disturbing realization that removing the mask is what killed the man, making Yuu “responsible” for his death. When they use the dead man’s barcode to open another door, they discover a library with a taunting taste of freedom, a window blocked with metal bars. Things fall apart completely when Haruka discovers a file that contains information on not only the friends from Rabbit Doubt, but Mitsuki as well, proving that she has always been part of this “game.” Haruka then accuses Yuu and Mitsuki of being the killers, and when it comes to light that Yuu lacks a barcode, the group decides to bind him.
Yuu is then left behind, only to see Eiji brutally murdered through the security camera feed, unable to do anything to help. When Hajime appears and takes Yuu to check up on Eiji, the pair only find his severed hand, with the barcode still intact. Yuu then starts to suspect Hajime as the killer based on what he saw on the security feed and ties him up. After meeting up with Mitsuki, Yuu discovers a newspaper article that seems to hint that Eiji killed Haruka’s boyfriend, giving her a motive for the sick “game.” As the volume closes down, Yuu and Mitsuki open the final door, only to find a room filled with more creepy rabbit masks and murder tools, as well as one last locked door.
With a strong premise and some powerful twists, this volume does a great job setting up an elaborate mystery. You really are left wondering just who the killer may be, and things only seem to become murkier with each detail introduced. Perhaps best of all, there are even a good deal of questions surrounding the leading pair, making sure that even they aren’t entirely above suspicion. Adding to this tension are the gruesome events that seem to pop up just in time to keep the pressure on. On the other hand, the series seems a bit lacking in the “puzzle” element it seems to be setting up with the doors. Really, the characters just seem to be opening doors whenever they want, as the group doesn’t seem to have a shortage of “keys” to use. Furthermore, though there are some attempts to flesh out the backstories of the various characters, they remain largely enigmas throughout the volume. All in all, this book feels like a strong set-up for what will follow, so hopefully the next volume will really manage to wrap things up nicely.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Package Rating: A-
Text/Translation Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16+
Released by: Yen Press
Release Date: April 23rd, 2013