Werewolf is a game for 7-20 people. The idea is simple. You live in a village beset by evil lycanthropes who are eating townspeople left and right. Each turn is split into two phases, night and day. Two or more players are “werewolves” who have the power to remove a player from the game during the night phase. The villagers then (along with the werewolves) discuss the killing and it impact and choose a player to hang during the day phase. Any player hung divulges their identity. Werewolves win the game if only the werewolves remain at the end of the game, and the villagers win if they manage to hang all of the werewolves.
This, with a few exceptions, sounds a lot like the basis for the plot of Doubt, the new omnibus manga from Yen Press. Players of Rabbit Doubt “a cellphone game that has taken Japan by storm” meet to hang out and go to a karaoke room. While there, the players, who really aren’t important honestly, except one girl has the power to hypnotize people (surprise, this is the big reveal). Strangely, all the folks at karaoke are knocked out and arrive at an abandoned psychiatric facility where one of the players (the hypnosis girl) has been hung. One person in the facility is the killer, all the rest are rabbits. Now everyone gets to play a real game of Rabbit Doubt!
If you sensed some apathetic hand-waving in that last paragraph, you have keyed into the biggest issue with Doubt. By a large margin the biggest flaw with Doubt is its lack of well-defined characters. The only thing that passes for development is a collection of small character tropes that aren’t even exploited; there is nothing to differentiate each character from one another. Without differentiation, there is no unique behavior. So Werewolf (Rabbit Doubt) which is normally a very brainy game based on intuiting another person’s goals and will from their behavior and speech, is turned into a husk of itself. Everyone acts shady, everyone does weird stuff, everyone attacks other people for strange reasons, and no one’s personality shines through. Maybe that is the point, but it makes for dull reading. If a major character in a comic book dies and you are supposed to care, but don’t care at all? That’s a huge problem.
The art is gritty, and serviceable. It also has the tendency to give a lot of things away if you know where to look, which is obviously the point. You can miss stuff on the first read through if you aren’t paying enough attention to small details.
(BIG POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT IF I’M RIGHT BUT I HAVE LIKE A 0.001% CHANCE OF BEING WRONG ABOUT)
Another problem of note: the solution to the opening problem of “who is the werewolf” is so obvious. You don’t have to be a genius to see that the “dead” hypnotist is actually alive and controlling another character in the game. The hypnosis angle is far fetched at best, mostly because of reality and the kind of stimuli you would need to force people to murder a bunch of people, but we’ve seen it in media before (Jason Bourne is a great example in literature and film). Honestly though, who cares how the violence manifests itself? Without well informed characters, there’s not really a point.
Basically Doubt needs a lot of things to make it work, and the best tool it has at its disposal is smartly created, well-developed, rational players. Without good players, Doubt isn’t a very interesting game. And metagaming the “who is the werewolf” problem the way this book does (see big spoiler alert for speculation I know I’m right about) is a cop out. What could have been a really fascinating book turned out to be severely disappointing in content, style, and delivery.
For Fans Of: Durdling horror movies where things are supposed to be logical but nice try no cigar, Saw 4, great ideas that whiff on execution
Final Verdict: Not Recommended