Warning: this review contains spoilers.
A good mystery has to end on a high note. Ideally, all the clues scattered throughout the narrative should come together to form a plausible finale. Unfortunately, Doubt leaves a great deal to be desired as its chaotic and far-fetched plot twist leaves behind too many unanswered questions. The second volume begins almost immediately after the events that brought six teenagers to a secret facility, where they are challenged to play a real life version of Rabbit Doubt, a mobile phone game in which one unknown player must kill the others to win. Despite new evidence and a rising body count, Yuu-Kun is no closer to finding out the identity of his captor.
Yuu-Kun spends his time with Mitsuki, poring over files and dossiers about Rabbit Doubt players. When she passes out from the injuries Haruka inflicted on her in the last book, Yuu-Kun leaves Mitsuki with Hajime, tying the other man up as a precaution while he searches the facility for supplies. As he investigates a room filled with rabbit masks, he stumbles upon Haruka’s severed head. Fearing the worst, he runs back to find Hajime gone and Mitsuki hanged—leading, of course, to a contrived “I swore to protect you!” scene. Yuu-Kun confronts Hajime over Mitsuki’s death, which leads to a fight in which Hajime tries to explain his innocence and his belief that Yuu-Kun was the wolf. After reaching a stalemate, the two work together to track down the killer. However, this partnership doesn’t last very long as Hajime is stabbed by a figure wearing a rabbit mask. A lengthy cat-and-mouse chase ensues until Yuu-Kun overwhelms his attacker in spite of his injuries and extreme fatigue. In his last moments of consciousness, the killer is revealed to be Mitsuki, who is very much alive.
Casting Mitsuki as the killer comes with its fair share of problems. The young girl claims that the murders were meant to serve as an act of revenge for her father’s attempted suicide, which occurred after he was victimized by an unpayable debt. This event led Mitsuki to act on her father’s behalf, using the format of Rabbit Doubt to punish people for their lies and misdeeds. Eiji was tried for the deaths that occurred during a gang fight in which he was involved, as reported in the newspaper article found in volume one. Haruka’s crime is perhaps the most surprising of the group; as it turns out, she was responsible for sending young girls into prostitution and used blackmail to make money off their unsuspecting Johns. Until this moment, there was nothing in the story to suggest Haruka had such a shady past, making her history feel like an unplanned, last-minute addition. Mitsuki intends to kill Yuu-Kun because he has lied on two separate occasions: although he failed to tell the group that he did not a barcode, the more egregious lie was an instance in which he lied about being unable to spend time with Mitsuki after school. She followed Yuu-Kun and witnessed his rendezvous with another woman, a sight that drives her to kill in a fit of jealous insanity. This is certainly a distressing admission on Mitsuki’s part, but its impact is lessened by Yuu-Kun’s awkward confession that he was only seeking help in selecting her birthday present.
Hajime’s involvement in Mitsuki’s scheme also raises some red flags. After Mitsuki delivers her motive for the murders, she is distracted by a sound and wanders off, giving a wounded Hajime the chance to help Yuu-Kun. He confesses that he is not a university student, but a detective who is investigating the disappearance of people connected to the Rabbit Doubt game. His intricate cover story—his father helped him cover up the accidental death of a patient—raises important questions about Mitsuki’s methodology: how was she choosing her victims? Do the files Yuu-Kun found suggest that she researched players to determine if they’ve committed some sort of sin? If so, how did Hajime know to come up with a false history that would make him such an attractive target? Has Mitsuki’s insane quest for revenge caused her to attack people indiscriminately?
Such questions ultimately become irrelevant because of another plot twist: Rei, the wheelchair-bound pop star, is the true mastermind of the game. I tried to maintain a proper suspension of disbelief, but the truth behind Rei’s involvement and her powers were too much for me. Rei’s ability to control people using conditioning and hypnosis is so far out of left field that I wished for the simplicity of Mitsuki’s twisted reasoning. Rei’s mission of vengeance began after she suffered a public backlash against her celebrity persona, causing her parents to kill themselves; their deaths motivated her to use her power to influence the weak-minded. If one were to look back on the story from Rei’s perspective, additional plot holes surface. Is she attacking random people through her hypnotized agents or is there a bigger plan? Why does she bother releasing Yuu-Kun if she intends for him to say Mitsuki’s trigger phase and die by her hand? Why go through so much effort?
Doubt’s last-minute, haphazard reasoning makes its conclusion more convoluted than I would have preferred. If the book had ended with Mitsuki’s story, I would have been happy. I can understand the power of grief and insanity leading people to do terrible things, but hypnosis? I went into Doubt, vol. 2 expecting an enjoyable resolution, but came away disappointed instead.
Doubt, vol. 2
by Yoshiki Tonogai
Yen Press, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)