Judge: Volume 1 – review

Yoshiki Tonogai comes back with another interesting locked-room psychological game with a more interesting premise that involves the seven capital sins.

It was Yoshiki Tonogai that made me interested in reading psychological and thriller manga. Doubt was my first psychological series but it honestly did a horrible job in creating the reason for everything – the reason behind all that thrilling death game. Since the scanlation for this series is far from done, I'll be looking forward to going through these licensed translations and cross my fingers to a better conclusion compared to Doubt.

A group of sinners who bear the guilt of the seven deadly sins has been gathered in an old courthouse to face judgment. To leave this place alive, they must offer up a sacrifice – one of their number. As the trial begins, who will the gavel fall on first? [volume synopsis]

Judge basically goes around some death game in relation to the seven capital sins – envy, lust, sloth, wrath, gluttony, pride greed. There are nine players and each of them is guilty of a capital sin. This first volume opens well with the background of our main character, Sakurai Hiroyuki. The story further delves into the nature of the game itself – explaining the basic rules and some quick personality check on the people playing it. This volume also gives off some interesting questionable things about the story itself such as the basic why is this happening? and who is behind this?. These questions were probably my first questions in Doubt and this time around, I’d like to see more proper answers.

The progression is good and the cliffhanger of this volume gives off that annoying WTF’s going to happen next? feeling in a good way. If you’d think clearly about things (given that you never sneaked at the forever ongoing scanlations) the story can progress to the expected path with this guy dying for the first judge as expected or another path may be taken by the manga since it’s Tonogai-sensei that wrote this and if you’re familiar with Doubt you’d know that he’ll just push all the unexpected things through whatever it takes just to create that uneasy and thrilling atmosphere.

Throughout the volume, the characters introduced were Hiro (the main character), his brother, his childhood friend, and the players of the game Judge.

At this point of the manga, I’d say that the characters aren’t exactly strong yet Hiro, as the main character, was established well through the opening scene of the manga. Throughout the game, some characters have become quite distinct due to the way they reacted on things such as the horse (name not given yet) who’s very short tempered, the lion (name not given yet as well) who seems calm and maybe the calculative type, Kazu (whose background story was given) who shares the same sentiments as Hiro, and Nobuyuki (the bear) who’s so dead scared of everything that's going on and refuses to look back and accept what caused him to be sent to this game.

The characters aren’t very sympathetic as of this point or maybe it’s because of the nature of the manga. Three background stories were given and none of them would definitely move anyone to tears. But I guess moving readers into tears isn’t exactly the point of this manga. Really. Its whole point is to make readers think about what’s going on and how the players of Judge themselves would go about the things that are happening. With regards to that, I’d say that it’s working out nicely and I’m honestly counting on better interactions between the characters as more volumes come out (the 2nd or was it the 3rd? opens more stuff on the game and the characters starts getting more aggressive. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on them).

The art is great. Its greatest appeal is Tonogai-sensei’s paneling arrangement and those animal masks.
Tonogai-sensei’s paneling arrangement is as great as ever. Having read Doubt, I’d say that the same strength applies. The atmosphere of the psychological game is very well applied that it’s very easy to get into the series if you’re a fan of the genre. The volume is filled with spread pages to create a better feel of what’s going on. Also, what’s very noticeable in his style is how things are shown clearly – everything was shown to the readers such as the lack of doors on the way to the old courthouse and the taped package inside the VCR cabinet.

In an all honest opinion, I’m not a fan of Tonogai-sensei’s character designs. If I have to describe them in one word, I’d say they’re plain, as simple as that. The problem about it is that his main character doesn’t have anything special about him. You’ll just remember him because you keep on seeing him but giving special characteristic or physical representation as a character (aside from their obvious masks) there isn’t anything distinguishable from him. Hiro looks pretty plain to me but I guess that just makes things looks a little ‘realistic’ – rather it makes Hiro a bit more of a natural character.

As for drawing faults, I think that there were a few (or maybe my perspective was just wrong). To name those that I’ve immediately noticed (there are two), the scene on Hiro’s back story where his brother was on his way to his work and the countdown timer on Judge. The first one, the drawing was probably at fault – the direction Atsuya was heading. While it isn’t exactly a big deal, it still bothered me. The bigger fault is the countdown timer. Now let me explain that. The timer goes around HH:MM:SS (hour:min:sec). That’s the basic frame of a countdown timer at this was also shown the second chapter of the manga. The time was consistently shown throughout the manga but the problem rises on chapter four where the horse gets pissed off and talked about the time being ten minutes to go. The timer suddenly showed 08:49:-- . Seriously? That seemed to break away from the story. Really. Earlier it was 1hr more, then this 08:49:--, then less than an hour (images shown below). Anyway, that was a pretty disappointing fault (or maybe this was just me looking things on another perspective and could be at fault myself). I’ll just be counting on that on the following volumes, things will go better and clearer.

First of all, the volume’s cover is pretty nice. It’s very similar to doubt – showing all the players with their masks, it’s very dark and very eye catching. The first pages are colored showing a few snippets of what’s going on in the game while Hiro is still MIA before proceeding to his back story. It’s a pretty smooth and light opening (but I guess that's obviously how the manga opened in its serialization as well). Each chapter ends with an animal representation of a character which is pretty cute (HAHA). The ending of the volume gives a preview of the second volume which will be release this November. Interesting stuff there :3

As for the outlook I have on this manga, I’d say that it won’t really be outstanding. Really. I’m expecting things to go around a little messier (in a good way) later on in the series. Anyway, looking at this volume, I’d say that it opened the series nicely with its smooth pacing. Questions are opened up. The characters are starting to be steered at the end of the volume. The outcome of the first judge is obviously something to look forward to. The mystery behind the reason of this game is intriguing.

I think that this is quite recommended for those who like psychological stories. Grabbing the volume is honestly nicer for this kind of series because it allows you to look back on the previous things that went on which is something quite tedious to do when reading online scanlations.

I was able to get a copy of the volume through the annual Book Fair here in our country over at Fully Booked booth/section so I personally don’t know where else to get it but I’ll try to request it on some manga store when the 2nd volumes comes out :3 For international readers who’d like a copy, you can probably order it over at Amazon.com. This manga is licensed by Yen Press.

disclaimer: all images are scanned by yours truly. this is the reason why the spread pages scans have a fold at the middle. also I did this because the translations are different from fan scanlations. I want to stay true to Yen Press's work. I will not scan the whole manga, if you'd like to read the entire volume, I suggest you go buy it and support the mangaka, the publishers and the licensed translators(:
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