by Yoshiki Tonogai
published by Yen Press; $12.99 US
The author of Doubt, Yoshiki Tonogai, returns with another series about kids wearing animal heads trapped in a warehouse where they’re killed off one by one. However, Judge has more to recommend it than Doubt. (Although don’t get me wrong, that was quite the adrenaline ride, even if the end made little sense.)
As you can see from the cover, there are different animals this time around. They’re themed, to match the seven deadly sins: the pig is gluttony, the bear sloth, the horse wrath, the lion pride (ha), the fox greed, the (cat? wolf?) lust, and the rabbit, for some reason, envy. The kids trapped under the heads are presumably all guilty of the sin corresponding to their mask, a setup we know more about (thanks to chapter break illustrations) than they do.
In the prison the characters have been placed into, they’re given instructions. Every time a timer reaches zero, every 12 hours, they need to “judge one another’s sins” and sacrifice someone. Four of the original nine will survive, if they follow the rules.
In between scenes of them arguing and freaking out, as one would do in this situation, we get flashbacks to individuals and what they’ve done. I’m curious enough about what could be so bad to put them in this situation, and who’s behind it, to keep reading. There are different levels of trust and deception on display, and I’m sure those who get killed will be shown to deserve it, since that’s the point of this kind of vigilante justice story.
Their back stories provide the series with more content than just cat-and-mouse games in the warehouse. The first chapter, for instance, shows us Hiro and his feelings for his brother’s girlfriend, a jealousy that leads to tragedy. Hiro’s the “normal guy”, our focus character in the later life-or-death situation.
The first challenge comes with the need to convince everyone to participate, or they’ll all die. It’s a very Japanese struggle, figuring out how to get all of the group to go along in spite of their individual interests. And instead of figuring out how to escape, they aim simply to stay alive until they can be rescued.
The cliffhanger is finding out how the first vote goes — which we’ll discover in the second book, due in November. (The publisher provided a review copy.)