Oct 22, 2014

Time for Judgement: Review of Yoshiki Tonogai’s Judge

Time for Judgement: Review of Yoshiki Tonogai’s Judge
by Tanya Lindquist

Imagine being kidnapped, drugged, and waking up wearing an animal mask over your head. You have been taken to a dilapidated courthouse and made to stand trial for one of the seven deadly sins. That is the opening of Yoshiki Tonogai’s Judge Volume 1, and the fast pace doesn’t stop there. Every 12 hours they must decide who should die, because as an ominous video tells them only four will survive. According to their captor, there must be a majority vote for an execution to take place. Not voting means everyone will die.

Hiro, the main character of the story, is one of the captives. He is the one character that believes everyone can survive if each time they vote it ends in a tie. Things go awry when one person receives the majority vote leading to the first execution. This leads to rampant speculation about who voted for who. Mistrust abounds and thoughts of kill or be killed come to the surface.

Throughout the manga you get a sense of claustrophobia. Tonogai’s drawings close in and make you feel each character’s feelings of being trapped. The courthouse is sparse with very little furniture or anything distinguishing one room for another. In dimly lit rooms he shades the corners, creating dark spaces making you wonder what might be lurking there.

Those familiar with Tonogai’s previous work, Doubt, may notice the eerie resemblance to that manga’s cover. These are two separate stories, but the masks are used for different purposes. In Doubt, the story is a select group of people are made to play a real life version of a popular online game. The players are rabbits in search of who amongst them is a wolf. A wolf that is picking them off one by one. The rabbits have to decide who is the wolf and kill that person first. It is interesting to see how Tonogai uses different settings and themes to explore what will people do to survive. With Doubt, what would you do to survive a game? What if you kill an innocent person? With Judge, what would you do to survive a judgement? Who has committed the greater sin and should die for it?

As of this writing, Volumes 1 through 5 were published and available in the U.S. The final volume of the series, number 6, will be released in February 2015. This particular manga is best read all at once or one right after the other in rapid succession. The first volume is highly addictive and just leaves you hanging. The stakes rise in each subsequent volume and new discoveries are to made in character motivations and secrets.

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