Judge Volume 6
The series by Yoshiki Tonogai about kids forced to murder each other concludes in this volume, and that’s pretty much all you need to know, that here’s where the story ends. I wrote about the first couple volumes of Judge, but I quit talking about — and paying attention to — the intervening books, because it was just about spinning out the suspense, which wasn’t very effective.
I’m trying to recall if the three twists in this volume were foreshadowed at all in previous books, and I can’t come up with anything. (Then again, it’s been a while since I read the previous volumes.) “Surprise! It’s really…” works best if there’s been some kind of hint prior, so the reader can connect up the strands, but that approach would be too subtle for this kind of series.
There are a lot of revelations here, as though quantity of shock reveals can make up for the ham-handed way they’re dumped on us. There’s a whole other group of victims mentioned in passing, as well as a major conspiracy of corruption as motive for the entire setup. It’s a lot of information to take in, all the more so since it’s delivered in large chunks of exposition. Character motivations don’t always match up once the secrets are out, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be looking back and analyzing this series in depth. It’s odd, though, that we’re supposed to believe whatever a character says, even though we know at least one of them is a liar and murderer.
Since Judge, like most manga, was originally serialized, the surprises do make sense, structurally, as cliffhangers between chapters and teases to bring readers back. It’s not great reading in one big chunk, although if I had tried to read this series chapter-by-chapter, I’d be even more lost, particularly once the double-crosses are revealed.
No one comes out looking good in this series, least of all the reader for sticking with what is ultimately a pointless exercise in reveling in sadism. (The publisher provided a review copy.)